Tuesday, May 11, 2004
Twenty-five years and counting
By Kieran Darcy
EDITOR'S NOTE: Page 2, along with ESPN2's "Cold Pizza," is counting down the 15 Most Tortured Sports Cities in America. Kevin Jackson is one of the founding editors of Page 2 and he can trace Seattle's sports misery back to a rainy day from 25 years ago. We also present Seattle's 10 most tortured sports moments.
Seattle fans have celebrated one NBA championship (the Sonics won it all in 1979) and one Stanley Cup (how could you forget the 1917 Seattle Metropolitans?). If you want to count colleges, the University of Washington (in Seattle) shared the national football championship in 1991. Other than that, Seattle has suffered plenty, with no trips to the World Series and no NFL playoff wins in 19 years.
10. A-Rod signs with Rangers, Dec. 11, 2000
|THE 15 MOST TORTURED SPORTS CITIES
15. Tampa Bay
14. Kansas City
11. Washington, D.C.
9. San Diego
Want to find out what the No. 6 city is? Tune into ESPN2's "Cold Pizza" next Tuesday morning. Then head back to Page 2 to read all about it.
Losing the best player in baseball hurts -- especially when you get back nothing in return. The Mariners had already traded away Randy Johnson and Ken Griffey Jr.. They hoped to re-sign Alex Rodriguez, who hit 41 home runs and drove in 132 runs for the Mariners in 2000 -- but instead he head to Texas for $252 million over 10 years, easily the richest contract in pro sports history. Yes, the Mariners won 116 games the following season, but they lost to the Yankees in the ALCS -- and A-Rod's now a Yankee himself.
9. Bo Jackson runs over Brian Bosworth
"The Boz" was simply one of the biggest busts in NFL Draft history and symbolized the downfall of the Seahawks after California real estate magnate Ken Behring purchased a successful franchise from the Nordstrom family in the mid-'80s. The University of Oklahoma linebacker was the first player ever to win the Butkus Award twice as the nation's top linebacker and Seattle selected him with the No. 1 pick in the 1987 supplemental draft. The hype surrounding Bosworth, his blond mohawk, and his 10-year, $11-million contract was immense. But shoulder injuries forced him to retire after just three mediocre seasons in the NFL, a career most remembered for one play in his rookie season, when Raiders running back Bo Jackson steamrolled over him in a Monday night game.
8. Billy Joe Hobert suspended, Nov. 10, 1992
|Is that a mohawk or a skid mark from Bo Jackson running over you?|
Huskies starting quarterback Hobert, who had helped lead the Huskies to 22 consecutive victories, was suspended by the University after a report revealed he had violated NCAA rules by accepting $50,000 in loans. The No. 1-ranked Huskies, 8-0 on the season and looking for a second straight national championship, are upset that weekend at Arizona. The program is eventually placed on NCAA probation and a team which appeared in three straight Rose Bowls has been to just one since that season.
7. Pilots move to Milwaukee, April 1, 1970
The Seattle Pilots, an expansion team, began play in the American League in 1969, and finished 64-98. Playing in Sicks' Stadium, an enlarged minor-league park which was still adding new bleachers on Opening Day, the Pilots drew less than 700,000 fans that season. The team's owners had major financial problems, eventually going bankrupt, and in the fall of 1969 they agreed to sell the team to a group led by Bud Selig that wanted to move the team to Milwaukee. But the move didn't become official until just days before the 1970 season -- and when it did, not having enough time to get new uniforms, the team simply removed the Pilots' name and logo from their uniforms, and had their new name, "Brewers" sewn in its place. A lawsuit eventually led to Major League Baseball returning to Seattle with the Mariners in 1977.
6. Mariners vs. Yankees, Oct. 17, 2000
In 2000, the Mariners won the American League wild card, then swept the Chicago White Sox to advance to the ALCS against the Yankees. Seattle won Game 1 at Yankee Stadium, 2-0, but the Yankees won the next three games to take a 3-1 lead in the series. Seattle did win Game 5, 6-2, at Safeco Field. And they had a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning of Game 6 at Yankee Stadium. But New York rallied for three runs in the bottom of that inning. Then the big blow was David Justice's three-run homer off Arthur Rhodes to the right field upper deck in the bottom of the seventh. The Yankees won the game, 9-7, and the series, 4-2.
5. SuperSonics vs. Bulls, June 16, 1996
|Soriano's homer ended the Mariners' dream season in 2001.|
The Sonics posted a 64-18 record in the 1995-96 season -- but they were overshadowed by the historic 72-10 Chicago Bulls. Still, Seattle did beat the Bulls once in two tries in the regular season, so had reason to feel some confidence going into the NBA Finals. But Chicago raced out to a 3-0 lead. Still, the Sonics did not pack it in. They won Games 4 and 5, sending the series back to Chicago. Chicago opened up a 17-point lead in the third quarter, but the Sonics cut it to nine heading into the fourth quarter. Then Toni Kukoc opened up the final quarter with a trey, and that was the nail in the coffin. The Sonics never got closer.
4. Seahawks vs. Raiders, Jan. 8, 1984
The Raiders finished the regular season with a record of 12-4, tops in the AFC. The Seahawks were 9-7 -- but had reason to feel confident going into this AFC Championship game, even though it was their first trip to he playoffs and were playing on the road. Seattle had beaten the Raiders twice during the regular season. But the third meeting was a thorough beating. The Raiders jumped out to a 27-0 lead in the third quarter before Seattle finally scored. They controlled the ball for 37:16 and outgained the Seahawks 401-167. L.A.'s Marcus Allen gained 216 total yards, while Seattle rookie running back Curt Warner, who had led the AFC in rushing, was held to a measly 26 yards. That's the closest the Seahawks have ever gotten to the Super Bowl.
3. SuperSonics vs. Bullets, June 7, 1978
The Sonics didn't look like contenders at the beginning of the 1977-78 season -- in fact, they got off to a 5-17 start, and then first-year coach Bob Hopkins was canned. Lenny Wilkens, who'd previously served as player-coach in Seattle, was brought back to coach the squad again -- and the team responded with a 42-18 record the rest of the year. They beat Los Angeles, Portland and Denver to reach the NBA Finals, and then faced the Wes Unseld/Elvin Hayes-led Washington Bullets. Seattle took a 3-2 lead in the series, but were pummeled 117-82 in Game 6. So it all came down to Game 7 -- in Seattle. It was a tight game, but Unseld's two free throws with 12 seconds left sealed the 105-99 victory for Washington. The Sonics would win the championship the following season, in a rematch against Washington.
2. Mariners vs. Yankees, Oct. 21, 2001
|Sonics coach George Karl couldn't bear to watch the Sonics' choke job in '94.|
Led by Japanese star outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, who was voted American League Rookie of the Year and American League MVP, the Mariners won an AL-record 116 games. They had to come from 2-1 down to win their Division Series against Cleveland and then faced the Yankees, who jumped out to a 2-0 lead, winning Games 1 and 2 in Seattle, 4-2 and 3-2. But the Mariners shelled the Bombers in Game 3 in New York, 14-3. Game 4, with the Mariners trying to even up the series, was scoreless through seven innings. A Bret Boone homer gave the M's the lead, but Bernie Williams matched it with a HR of his own -- off Arthur Rhodes. And in the bottom of the ninth, Alfonso Soriano hit a walkoff two-run homer off closer Kazuhiro Sasaki, the crushing blow of the series. The Yankees went on to clinch the series with a 12-3 win in Game 5.
1. Sonics vs. Nuggets, May 7, 1994
The Sonics started the 1993-94 season red-hot, winning 20 of their first 22 games. They finished the regular season at 63-19, best in the NBA, and were the favorite of many to win the title with Michael Jordan retired. They led the No. 8-seeded Denver Nuggets 2-0 in their first-round playoff series. Then disaster struck. They lost Games 3 and 4 in Denver -- including in overtime in Game 4. So the series went to a fifth and deciding game back in Seattle. The Sonics had won 14 in a row at home, and had only lost four times in Seattle all season. But Game 5 went to overtime as well. Shawn Kemp put Seattle ahead 94-93 with a bucket with 2:29 to play in OT -- but the Sonics didn't score again. A couple of blocked shots from Dikembe Mutombo preserved the unprecedented victory -- no No. 1 seed had ever lost to a No. 8 seed in NBA playoff history.