Happy 59th Birthday to Hall of Fame Red Sox outfielder Jim Rice. Born in Anderson, South Carolina on March 8th, 1953, Rice played all 15 seasons of his professional career with the Boston Red Sox. Rice’s first full season with the Red Sox was a big one. He was promoted full time from AAA Pawtucket in 1975 with fellow Red Sox legend Fred Lynn, where the two became cornerstones of the Red Sox outfield for six seasons. The two would earn the nickname the “Gold Dust Twins” for their Gold Glove caliber defense and unparalleled speed in the outfield. Rice would go on to finish 2nd in the American League MVP and Rookie of the Year voting (Rice would win both despite missing the playoffs with a broken wrist).
Rice led the Red Sox to a World Series appearance in 1975, while hitting .309, knocking in 102 runs and scoring 92 more runs. While being recognized as a terrific finesse defender in the outfield, Rice also hit for power at the plate and would lead the ’75 Red Sox with 22 home runs. Over the course of his career, Rice would lead the league in home runs three times (’77, ’78 & ’83), winning a Silver Slugger award twice (’83 & ’84) and win the American League MVP in 1978. Rice was inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 26th, 2009, and his number # 14 jersey was retired by the Red Sox two days later. Happy Birthday Jim.
Today marks the 70th birthday of “The Greatest.” Born in Louisville, Kentucky on January 17th, 1942, Ali’s original name was Cassius Clay, but he changed it when he joined the Nation of Islam in 1964. Ali is regarded as one of, if not the greatest boxers of all time. Ali picked up boxing early. Fuming because his bike was stolen, local Louisville boxing coach Joe Martin found Ali threatening to wup whoever stole his bike, but convinced him to learn how to box first. The rest is history.
His Amateur career was bookmarked by winning the Light Heavyweight Gold Medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, but Ali also won six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two National Golden Gloves titles and the Amateur Athletic Union National Title. He ended his Amateur career with a record of 100 wins to 5 losses. As a professional, Ali changed boxing. Traditionally, fighters protect their face by keeping both hands up at all times. Instead of expending energy on protecting his face, Ali focused on speedy footwork and his patented rope-a-dope to win fights. At age 22, Ali became the youngest boxer to win the title from a reigning heavyweight champion when he defeated Sonny Liston in 1964. He would loss and regain his title several times over his 21 year career and take part in some of the sport’s most historical matches (i.e. “The Thrilla in Manila”, “The Rumble in the Jungle” and “The Fight of the Century”). In 1999, ESPN voted Ali the “Sportsman of the Century” for not only his undeniable achievements in the ring, but his larger than life personality out of the ring. Happy 70th Birthday to the People’s Champion.
Early Wynn Jr. was born on January 6, 1920. Wynn, nicknamed "Gus," pitched for the Washington Senators, Cleveland Indians, and Chicago White Sox during his 25-year baseball career. Wynn was known to have a hard-nosed disposition and a fierce fastball. He threw at batters frequently enough to be labeled a "headhunter." When asked if he would throw at his own grandmother, he said, "I'd have to. My grandma could really hit a curveball."
In 1958 Wynn became the first major league pitcher to lead his league in strikeouts in consecutive years with different teams (184 with Cleveland and 189 with Chicago.) He won the Cy Young Award in 1959 at the age of 39, posting a record of 22-10, with 179 strikeouts and a 3.16 ERA to lead the Chicago White Sox to the pennant.
Upon his retirement in 1963, Wynn was the last major leaguer to have played in the 1930s to still be playing. He became one of only 29 players in baseball history to date to have appeared in Major League game in four decades. Wynn was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.
Today marks the 86th birthday of one of golf’s greatest and most influential designers, Pete Dye. Born on December 29th, 1925 in Urbana, Ohio, Dye has designed some of the world’s most beautiful and challenging courses for over 50 years. Both his Whistling Straights course in Haven, Wisconsin and his Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Indiana have played host to the PGA Championship (one of the four PGA Major Championships). His design work has inspired dozens of other great designers/architects in the field, including the likes of Tom Doak and Bobby Weed.
Dye also designed what is regarded as the scariest tee shot in all of golf, the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass. Located on in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, TPC Sawgrass plays host the PGA Players Championship every year. The most picturesque and widely followed hole throughout The Players, the 17th hole is a 132 yard Par 3 with an island green. Check out some of its most memorable moments.
Happy Birthday Pete!
Happy 55th B-day to “The Hick from French Lick”. Born in West Baden, Indiana on December 7th, 1956, Bird was a standout basketball player in high school and received a full scholarship to go play for Bob Knight the University of Indiana in 1974. However, after only 24 days on campus, Bird left Indiana and went back to French Lick. Bird was persuaded to give school another shot in 1976 by Bob King, the basketball coach at Indiana State University. The smaller campus would prove to be a much better personality fit for him. Indiana State had never appeared in the Division 1 NCAA tournament, but in his senior year, Bird led the Sycamores to a #1 rank in the tournament. Indiana State would eventually lose to the Magic Johnson led Michigan State Spartans in the 1979 NCAA Championship game. Despite the loss in the National Championship game, Bird would be selected as the USBWA, the Naismith and the John R. Wooden College Player of the Year awards.
After his senior year, Bird was drafted by the Boston Celtics with the 6th overall pick. Just like at Indiana State, his impact on the Celtics was immediate. The season before Bird’s arrival, the team finished 29-53. Led by the rookie Bird, the Celtics would finish the 79-’80 season 61-21. Bird played 13 seasons, all with the Celtics, in the NBA. He won 3 NBA Championships, 3 NBA MVP awards (consecutively from ’84-’86) and 9 All-NBA First Team awards. His career was cut short with chronic back issues in 1992, but not before winning a Gold Medal for Team USA in the ‘1992 Summer Olympics. His #33 Celtics jersey is one of twenty-one jerseys retired by the team. Bird was also selected to the NBA Hall of Fame in 1998.
After his retirement, Bird would accept the Head Coaching position with the Indiana Pacers and again his impact would be immediate. In his rookie coaching campaign, he would coach the Pacers to a 58-24 record (the best record in franchise history at the time) and would win the Coach of the Year award. After 3 seasons as the Head Coach, Bird resigned and made the transition to President of the Pacers, a position he still holds today.