Category Archives: History

The Forgotten San Francisco Warrior

Investigating the overlooked legacy of Denise Long, the first woman drafted to the NBA | Alan Chazaro

Illustration: Vinh Truong for The Bold Italic

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Labour had its own baseball team a century ago. It defied racism

Meet three Longshoremen players who broke the sport’s colour line in Vancouver | TOM HAWTHORN

1920-ILA-Baseball-team-MAIN.jpg

The ILA Longshoremen’s amateur baseball team pose with trophies at Powell Street grounds (Oppenheimer Park) on Aug. 20, 1920 | Stuart Thomson, City of Vancouver Archives.

On a pleasant late Friday afternoon in the summer of 1920, the best baseball players of the amateur city league gathered for a trophy presentation and an exhibition game. A temporary podium was placed atop the pitcher’s mound at the Powell Street Grounds (Oppenheimer Park) in Vancouver. A table draped in a Union Jack held three handsome trophies and a stack of boxes containing medals. Continue reading

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Leather balls and 3,000-year-old pants hint at an ancient Asian sport

They were found in the Yanghai Tombs in modern-day Northern China | ISAAC SCHULTZ

The leather balls were found in different graves in Yanghai and two were marked with red crosses.

The leather balls were found in different graves in Yanghai and two were marked with red crosses.

(NOVEMBER 17, 2020) – A LITTLE OVER 3,000 YEARS ago, a roughly 40-year-old man was laid to rest in a cemetery in what is now the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in Northwest China. He was wearing fancy pants. Possibly the oldest trousers in the world, they had an enlarged crotch area, indicating he spent a lot of time on horseback. A pair of red leather boots completed the ancient ensemble.

But perhaps the most curious component of the grave was a leather ball, around the size of a human fist. Continue reading

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This Day. Rocket’s 500th

500th Goal, "Rocket" Richard, Ville Marie Wax Museum, Mont… | Flickr

500th Goal, “Rocket” Richard, is immortalized by the Ville Marie Wax Museum, Montreal. He did score against Chicago Goaltender Glenn Hall in 1957 but it was on a slap shot from 20 feet away | Flickr

On this date in 1957, Maurice Richard became the first NHL player to score 500 regular-season goals.

The Rocket did it in 863 games, which is the ninth-fastest ever. Only Wayne Gretzky (575 games, lol), Mario Lemieux (605), Mike Bossy (647), Brett Hull (693), Alex Ovechkin (801), Phil Esposit (803), Jari Kurri (833) and Bobby Hull (861) were quicker.

The 500-goal club currently has 45 members. Only two are still active in the NHL: Ovechkin (who’s up to eighth all time with 706) and Patrick Marleau (25th at 562). The closest to joining next is Sidney Crosby, who’s at 462.

It was on March 18, 1945 that Richard became the first NHL player to score 50 goals in a season, on his way to 544 during his illustrious career, in the Canadiens’ 4-2 win that night over the Boston Bruins. And it came late in the 50th and final game of the regular season It was his 87th NHL goal.

With a file from CBC’s The Buzzer

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This Day. Simon Whitfield surprised everyone by winning the first-ever Olympic men’s triathlon

Canada's Simon Whitfield, right, currently second place to an unseen runner, leads Simon Lessing of Great Britain in the run leg in the men's Olympic triathlon across from the Sydney Opera House, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2000. (Rick Rycroft/The Associated Press)

Canada’s Simon Whitfield, right, currently second place to an unseen runner, leads Simon Lessing of Great Britain in the run leg in the men’s Olympic triathlon across from the Sydney Opera House, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2000 | Rick Rycroft/The Associated Press

Australians dominated the sport heading into the 2000 Sydney Olympics. That’s one of the reasons why triathlon was added to the program for their home Games, and why the women’s and men’s events were scheduled for the first two days of competition (Sept. 16 and 17). They were supposed to help get the host country fired up.

Meanwhile, no one expected much from the 25-year-old Whitfield, who’d never won a top-level international race. Except for Whitfield. Fuelled by borderline-irrational confidence, a nothing-to-lose mentality and just plain old guts, he hung around during the swim and bike stages and then made his big move in the closing 10-km run — his specialty. His thrilling finishing kick for the upset gold-medal win is one of the great moments in Canadian Olympic history. And he went on to add a silver with another gutsy, exciting run eight years later in Beijing. Read more about how Whitfield won gold in Sydney in his own words (and the words of other key figures involved) in this oral history by CBC Sports’ Myles Dichter with video by Steve Tzemis.

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Now is a good time to start treating the Negro Leagues equally

Bryson DeChambeau's driver appears to bend as he hits a tee shot. (Getty Images)

There’s a more meaningful way than this for baseball to honour its Negro Leagues greats | Christian Petersen/Getty Images

By Jesse Campigotto

By the time Jackie Robinson broke MLB’s colour barrier in 1947 (after a cup of coffee in the Negro American League), most of the Negro Leagues had disbanded. The remaining ones followed as more of the best Black players joined Robinson in the bigs. The final so-called “Negro World Series” — between the champions of the Negro American League and the second incarnation of the Negro National League — was played in 1948. The Negro NL ceased to exist after that, leaving the Negro AL as the sole survivor. It technically kept going until 1962, but baseball historians believe it stopped being close to major-league quality around 1950, by which time the integration of MLB had cost the Negro AL much of its talent base — and thus its fan appeal. Continue reading

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This Day. Jack Johnson demolishes Jim Jeffries and the racist myth of the ‘Great White Hope’

Jack Johnson | United States Library of Congress

On July 3, 1910 one century ago this day in Reno, Nevada, African-American boxer Jack Johnson knocked out the white supremacist Jim Jeffries, triggering a series of racist attacks across the United States; about 20 Blacks died, and hundreds were injured. Johnson holds a seminal position not only in boxing but also in athletics and in the movement for the rights of all. Continue reading

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This Day. Muhammad Ali takes his stand

Pele and Muhammad Ali

On June 20, 1967, the great Muhammad Ali was convicted in Houston for refusing induction in the U.S. armed forces.

Ali saw the war in Vietnam as an exercise in genocide. He also used his platform as boxing champion to connect the war abroad with the war at home, saying, “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs?”

For these statements, as much as the act itself, Judge Joe Ingraham handed down the maximum sentence to Cassius Clay (as they insisted upon calling him in court): five-years in a federal penitentiary and a $10,000 fine.

Ali’s refusal to be drafted was an inspiring moment for many of us.

– Dougal MacDonald

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This Day. Tom Longboat Day

June 4 is Tom Longboat Day, which recognizes the life and career of one of the best distance runners to ever represent Canada. Winner of the 1907 Boston Marathon, Longboat is remembered for both his athletic achievements and innovative training methods. From the Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve near Brantford, ON, Longboat faced racism and prejudice throughout his career, including being called lazy by the press and fellow competitors over his training schedule.

By introducing regular rest into his regime, however, Longboat had a competitive advantage over other runners, who believed that they had to train at maximum effort all the time. He had a better understanding of how to train for long races and, as a result, he was fresher and better prepared than his competitors. This served him well during his career as he was known for his strong finishing sprints.

In 1951, the Tom Longboat Awards were established to recognize Indigenous athletes for outstanding contributions to sport in Canada. In the new book Reclaiming Tom Longboat: Indigenous Self-Determination in Canadian Sport, Janice Forsyth explores the history of the awards and their place within the broader history of Canadian policy and Crown-Indigenous relations. The book looks at how sport has been part of colonization in Canada while at the same time it asks how it can be part of decolonization. Through both oral and textual sources, Professor Forsyth pushes the reader to think critically about sport’s role in Canada while also shedding light on an under-told story in Canadian sport history.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Professor Forsyth about the book. We talk about her experience as a winner of the award, the place of role models in sport, and the use of mainstream sports in colonization. We also talk about sport and culture, the media’s role in telling athletes’ stories, and traditional sport and games and their role in decolonization.

Sean Graham is a historian with Parks Canada, an Adjunct Professor at Carleton University, and a contributing editor with Activehistory.ca

History Slam Episode 149: Indigenous Self-Determination in Canadian Sport

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Michael Jordan’s ‘Last Dance’: A celebration of the American nightmare

Michael Jordan

By Danny Haiphong

Michael Jordan embodies the kind of athlete and Black leader that the U.S. ruling class has gone to great lengths to cultivate.

Michael Jordan is perhaps the best player to ever set foot in an NBA arena or any arena for that matter. His achievements have inspired generations of fans and players alike. The Last Dance is a tribute to the greatness of Michael Jordan. In typical Disney fashion, Jordan’s legacy is framed as a tale of perseverance and hardship on the road to the American Dream. The documentary is a reminder that the making of Michael Jordan has always been a celebration of Malcolm X’s American Nightmare, and that this nightmare has come at great cost to Black America and the lives of working people all over the world. Continue reading

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