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Instant Century

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Posted: Tuesday August 03, 1999 08:44 AM

  MVP 1999: Elway lifts the Vince Lombardi trophy after winning Super Bowl XXXIII. Al Bello/Allsport

By Frank Deford

It's only July, but already I'm sick and tired of sports reviews of the century -- and I'm sure that it's only going to get more pretentious, more tedious. So, as a public service, I'm providing here an instant review of sports in the 20th century -- everything you need to know.

You're welcome.

The first superstar of the 1900s is a horse: Dan Patch. The World Series is created. Pittsburgh wins. The NCAA is created. Nobody wins. Bowl games created. Jury still out. Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Francis Ouimet, Christy Mathewson, Amos Alonzo Stagg, The California Comet, The Little Napolean, Jack Johnson, Jim Thorpe. "You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world." Fred Merkle forgets to touch second base. Oh, no! Cubs win! Really. The Indy 500:

"Gentlemen, start your engines!" The Great White Hope. The Black Sox. "Say it ain't so, Joe, say it ain't so."

Sir Barton wins the first Triple Crown. Red Sox sell Babe Ruth. Oh, no! The curse of the Bambino. Sixty home runs. "Well, I had a better year than the president." Florence Chadwick, The Galloping Ghost, The Mostest Horse, Big Bill Tilden, Johnny Weissmuller, Knute Rockne and the Fighting Irish. "Outlined against a blue-grey October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again." Suzanne Lenglen vs. Helen Wills -- the match of the century! But don't worry if you missed it: many other matches of the century and games of the century will follow! The Manassa Mauler and the long count. Go to a neutral corner, Dempsey. Go. Please: go! Oh, no! Bobby Jones takes the only golf Grand Slam. And: "Rock, someday when the going is real tough, ask the boys to go out and win one for me."

Yes, The Gipper, and Sonia Henie, too. Babe Didrikson; The Gas House Gang, Papa Bear and The Monsters of the Midway. Gene Sarazen hits his double eagle; Hank Luisetti shoots a basketball single-handed; Jesse Owens sticks it to Hitler, The Brown Bomber to Schmeling. Don Budge invents the tennis Grand Slam. The Iron Horse: "I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth."

Rocket Richard and Les Canadiens. Shoot dat puck, score dat goal: 50 in a season. Fifty-six straight games, .406, 73-0, the 14th round for Billy Conn. Oh, no! "He can run, but he can't hide."

Branch Rickey signs Jackie Robinson. "I want someone with the courage not to fight." George Mikan, Gordie Howe, Casey Stengel, Sugar Ray, The Wee Icemon, Say Hey!, Citation, Wilma Rudolph. The four-minute mile! Everest is conquered! Unitas hands the ball to Ameche -- The Greatest Game Ever Played! Roger Maris hits 61. Wilt the Stilt scores a hundred; but, it's Bill Russell and the Celtics who always win. Lakers lose again. Oh, no!

The Bear, Bobby Orr, Peggy Fleming, Vince Lombardi -- "He treats us all the same -- like dogs." Arnie and his army, Billie Jean and her gender, Broadway Joe and the AFL, Johnny Wooden and UCLA. Cassius Clay: "They all must fall in the round I call." Muhammed Ali: "I got nothin' against them Viet Cong."

Free agency, strikes, Title IX, the DH, Dr. J, Secretariat, Arthur Ashe, Richard Petty, Pele, Mark Spitz, Nancy Lopez, Jack Nicklaus. "The gentleman plays a game I'm not familiar with." Hank Aaron beats The Babe, Dolphins beat everybody, U.S. boys beat Soviet goons in hockey -- beginning of the end of the Evil Empire. "Tell it like it is:" The Lady destroys Bobby Riggs. Hooligans and terrorists. "They're all gone."

Affirmed and Alydar, Larry and Magic, Chrissie and Martina, Borg and McEnroe. "You can't be serious! The pits of the world!"

Ben Johnson sets a record, on drugs. Oh no! Cal Ripken sets a record, on and on and on. Carl Lewis and Jackie Joyner Kersee: the last heroes of track and field. Hey, Joe Montana, you just won the Super Bowl: where are you gonna go? The Greatest and His Airness arrive. Pete Sampras and Tiger, Pat Summitt and the Lady Vols, Lance Armstrong. Mark McGwire hits 70!

Turn out the lights as you leave, John Elway. And Brandi Chastain: wave that shirt one more time. Wave it high. It's such a wonderful century, Ernie Banks -- "Let's play two."

These commentaries, which appear each Wednesday on National Public Radio's Morning Edition, are posted weekly by CNN/SI.

The opinions expressed here are solely those of the writer

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