10 Darkest Moments That Changed Sports Forever
I recently read a Bleacher slide show article, listing the author's ten worst bad guys in the world of sport.
So, plunging into the dark side of the world of sport, I'm creating a slide show listing ten "bad" events that changed sport forever.
Some events eventually led to good consequences, and others mostly bad, but all resulted in significant changes.
Because I am not familiar with a lot of sports, there may some significant bad events that ought to be on this list, but aren't.
So feel free to leave some comments suggesting some other "bad" events that have led to significant changes in the sports world. I think I've got most of the major ones.
1979: Boston Bruins vs. New York Rangers
On December 23, 1979, in Madison Square Garden, in New York, several Bruin players climbed into the stands to fight Ranger fans who had struck Stan Jonathan in the face with a rolled up program and had also stolen Terry O'Reilly's stick.
Mike Milbury removed a fan's shoe and beat him with it. Four Ranger fans were arrested, and O'Reilly, Milbury, and Peter McNab received suspensions and fines.
The significance of this incident is that it resulted in higher glass panels being installed in every NHL arena so that nothing like this could ever happen again.
1959: Jacques Plante's Broken Nose
On November 1, 1959, Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jacques Plante was hit in the face by a puck, shot by New York Rangers defenceman, Andy Bathgate which broke his nose.
When Plante returned to the net after getting stitches, he was wearing a mask, much to the chagrin of his coach, Toe Blake.
Plante had worn a mask in practice since 1956, but Blake had refused to let him wear it in any NHL games.
Plante refused to go back into the net unless he was allowed to wear it and Blake was forced to agree because he had no one else to take Plante's place.
Plante refused to discard the mask and the Canadiens went on an 18-game undefeated streak.
Blake thereupon withdrew his objections and the mask has become mandatory goaltender equipment ever since.
It has probably saved the lives and prevented serious injuries to countless goaltenders.
1933: The End of Ace Bailey's Playing Career
On December 12, 1933, in the Boston Garden, Bruin Eddie Shore was knocked down by Toronto Maple Leafs player, King Clancy.
Enraged, he charged the first Leaf he could find, and sent Irwine "Ace" Bailey crashing to the ice. Bailey suffered a fractured skull and required two brain operations to save his life. His playing career was ended.
The significance of this incident is what happened next year. To raise money for Bailey and his family, an all-star game was held in Toronto on Valentine's Day, 1934, at which Bailey and Shore shook hands and made up (see photo above).
This was the first time an NHL All-Star game was held, and it became a regular event in 1947. Bailey lived to be 88 and was reckoned to be the oldest living Leaf when he died in 1992.
1920: Death Of Ray Chapman
On August 16, 1920, Ray Chapman, shortstop of the Cleveland Indians, became the second major league player (the first was Mike Powers in 1909) to die, after being hit by a beanball, thrown by New York Yankees pitcher, Carl Mays.
This led to two significant changes in baseball. First, it had been standard practice for pitchers to alter new baseballs by scuffing them, sandpapering them, adding foreign substances (the "spitter) which changed both the color and shape of the ball making it more difficult to see.
Partly because of the Chapman incident, these practices became outlawed from baseball forever.
The long term result was to make batting helmets mandatory equipment, though it wasn't until 1971 that this happened.
Meanwhile, the beanball damaged the careers of Mickey Cochrane, Lou Boudreau, Ron Santo, Don Zimmer, Dickie Thon, and Tony Conigliaro.
Though the spitter may be gone, sadly the beanball is still around in baseball.
1896: Plessy vs. Ferguson
This is the sole instance on this list of a non-sports event having a lasting negative impact on professional sports.
Though there had been racism in sports, most notably involving Cap Anson, who refused to let his team play against any baseball team that had colored players, it was this court incident that led to over 50 years of racial segregation.
In 1892, Homer Plessy, a man who was seven eighths white and one eighth black, deliberately boarded a Louisiana railroad car for white people only. When he refused to leave, he was arrested.
The case eventually went to the United States Supreme Court where the decision went against Plessy.
In effect, segregation was declared legal in the United States. This had the effect of banning colored people from playing professional sports against white people until the 1940s when Jackie Robinson broke the barrier.
It also had the effect of creating Negro leagues, many teams of which were ironically funded and owned by white people.
2010: The Death of Nodar Kumaritashvili
This is the sole instance of an "ought-to-have" lasting consequences on this list.
Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was training at Whistler's luge/bobsled course during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics when he was pitched off his luge and struck an unprotected steel support pole.
He later died of his injuries. Many lugers, prior to the crash had expressed a belief that the course was unsafe. After the crash, the starting position was moved down to a lower position.
In true Canadian bureaucratic tradition, no official admitted that an unsafe course had been designed and approved and blame was placed on Kumaritashvili's inexperience, and that a crash like his had never been seen before.
In a more general sense, Kumaritashvili's death can be blamed on the striving to go "faster, harder, higher, etc." without any regard for an athlete's safety.
Supposedly the course was designed on a computer without regard to potential natural hazards. It is hoped in future, in all sports, it will lead to a design of facilities where the safety of an athlete comes first.
1971: The Dallas Cowboys
In 1971, in America, the land of the free and equal, the Dallas Cowboys decided to introduce a concept mostly known in Europe, but unofficially found everywhere around the globe, into professional sports.
This idea was the social class system. To raise additional money, it was decided to build a stadium that had sections for rich people only. Thus was born Texas Stadium, the first American sports facility to have luxury boxes.
The concept quickly spread and now almost every major new sports facility is built with the "elite" in mind. This has caused staggering social and economic changes in sports.
Ticket prices and players salaries skyrocketed. Stadiums and arenas are now priced in the hundreds of millions and billions, and now involve politicians, and special concessions involving other real estate options.
Several cities lost franchises by refusing to play ball with blackmailing sports franchise owners who demanded colossal concessions.
Most tragically, in many cases, it has become impossible for the "common fan" to afford tickets. Major league sports are now the property of an elite. The average fan gets a few glimpses if he's lucky.
1919: The Chicago Black Sox
In 1919, many members of the American League Champion, Chicago White Sox were unhappy with miserly owner, Charles Comiskey.
First baseman, Charles Gandil, got in touch with some gamblers, most notably, Arnold Rothstein, a member of the Jewish mafia, and offered to throw the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.
Eight players in all would be fingered, though there is much dispute about the involvement of Shoeless Joe Jackson and Buck Weaver.
The players would see little of the promised money and many became disillusioned and started reneging on their agreement.
Threats of violence, including some against family members, kept the players in line, and Chicago lost the series 5-3.
Rumors of a fix began circulating all through the 1920 season and on Sept. 28, Eddie Cicotte and Jackson confessed their involvement before a grand jury.
Comiskey thereupon suspended all the suspected players which cost Chicago the pennant. A trial was ordered, the confessions conveniently stolen, and the players were acquitted.
Meanwhile, fearing damaging repercussions, the owners appointed a baseball commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, and gave him absolute power.
The day after the players were acquitted, Landis banned them from baseball for life. The effects of this episode are still felt in all professional sports to this day (except the "curse" on the White Sox, which ended when they won the World Series in 2005).
It led to the permanent office of the Baseball Commissioner, and the threat of punishment for any player or official with even a sniff of a connection to organized gambling.
Other notable sports figures that would be affected to some degree by this incident were Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose, Art Schlichter, Rick Tocchet, and Wayne and Janet Gretzky.
One side effect was the excellent book and movie, "Eight Men Out".
1988: Ben Johnson
Long before Johnson became the symbol for athletic drug taking, there were rumors of it in international sports, particularly Iron Curtain athletes, especially East Germany.
But the regulation of the Iron Curtain made any formal investigation impossible.
Ben Johnson then became the first notable athlete to be caught, during the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.
The exposure of Johnson led to a crackdown on drug taking, first in the international field (especially in Canada), and which later spread to professional sports.
The NFL now has a substance abuse policy, and the many confessions of baseball athletes have cast doubts on their play and records.
But all the offenders can look back to Johnson as the man who unintentionally started the "clean up" of drug taking in sports.
1972: The Munich Massacre
In 1972, the "real world" brutally entered the "make believe" world of sports, when Islamic terrorists entered the Munich Olympic Village, murdered some of the Israeli athletes, and changed sports events forever.
Gone forever would be the easy going times of athletic events. Now security would be a top and expensive priority for almost all sports events.
Prior to that, it was hoped by the Olympic ideal that mankind could set aside its differences at least at sporting events. Munich proved that there were no rules when it came to murder, and no cultural event was safe from it.
This was the opposite image of World War I, when during temporary truces, British and German soldiers played soccer against each other. Munich forever looms as a dark shadow on all sports events.