A couple of November sports distractions from the past
Do you need a break from political chatter? Let's remember a couple of sports stories from this week years ago.
Back in November 1966, the great Sandy Koufax retired. He had won 165 games with a 2.76 ERA. Between 1961 and 1966, he may have been the greatest pitcher in baseball history: five ERA titles and 129 wins! Add three Cy Young Awards to that, plus a perfect game in 1965.
Koufax was also brilliant in the postseason: 4-3 in with a 0.95 ERA in four World Series. One of those three losses turned out to be his last start: game 2 of the 1966 World Series against the Orioles.
I never saw him pitch. I do recall running from school to watch game 7 of the 1965 World Series. He broke my heart that afternoon when he blanked the Twins and clinched the Dodgers' second title in three seasons.
In 1971, Koufax was elected to the Hall of Fame. He retired at age 32.
Over at the football field, the Jets visited the Raiders in Oakland this week in 1968. It was a classic AFL contest between Namath's Jets and Lamonica's Raiders. However, most people remember something else about that Sunday.
At around 7 P.M. Eastern time, the movie Heidi changed football and TV forever:
With just 65 seconds left to play, NBC switched off the game in favor of its previously scheduled programming, a made-for-TV version of the children’s story about a young girl and her grandfather in the Alps.
Viewers were outraged, and they complained so vociferously that network execs learned a lesson they’ll never forget: “Whatever you do,” one said, “you better not leave an NFL football game.”
The game between the Jets and the Raiders was already shaping up to be a classic: It featured two of the league’s best teams and 10 future Hall of Fame players.
By the game’s last minute the two teams had traded the lead eight times. The game’s intensity translated into an unusual number of penalties and timeouts, which meant that it was running a bit long.
With a little more than a minute left to play, the Jets kicked a 26-yard field goal that gave them a 32-29 lead.
After the New York kickoff, the Raiders returned the ball to their own 23-yard line.
What happened after that will go down in football history: Raiders quarterback Daryle Lamonica threw a 20-yard pass to halfback Charlie Smith; a facemask penalty moved the ball to the Jets’ 43; and on the next play, Lamonica passed again to Smith, who ran it all the way for a touchdown.
The Raiders took the lead, 32-36. Then the Jets fumbled the kickoff, and Oakland’s Preston Ridlehuber managed to grab the ball and run it two yards for another touchdown.
Oakland had scored twice in nine seconds, and the game was over: They’d won 43-32...
Before the game began, network execs had talked about what they’d do if the game ran over its scheduled time, and they decided to go ahead with the movie no matter what.
So, that’s what NBC programmer Dick Cline did. “I waited and waited,” he said later, “and I heard nothing. We came up to that magic hour and I thought, ‘Well, I haven’t been given any counter-order so I’ve got to do what we agreed to do.’”
Thanks to the Heidi game we get to watch the last seconds of the game!
Let me add a personal note. My brother and I were watching the Jets-Raiders game. Our little sister was waiting for Heidi all day. Unfortunately, we couldn't run to the internet to get game updates back then. We did not learn about the final score, or the Raiders' comeback, until my dad read the sports pages the next day.