1953: In the NBA Finals, the Lakers — the version that played in Minneapolis — defeated the Knicks, 91-84, in New York for their fifth championship in six seasons. “The magnificence of the Laker triumph, adroitly engineered by the superb bench jockeying of Johnny Kundla, and amply demonstrating the devastating power of the whole club, left the 5,100 fans gasping,” the Minneapolis Star-Tribune wrote. Said Minneapolis star George Mikan: “This title is the sweetest of any of the five we have won as Lakers.” The team moved to Los Angeles in 1960.
1961: South African Gary Player edged defending champion Arnold Palmer and amateur Charles Coe by a stroke to become the first international champion at the Masters. The tournament was completed on a Monday because rain washed out play a day earlier. Palmer, who trailed by four heading into the final round, staged a huge comeback. But needing only a par to win, he double-bogeyed the final hole. “It was as if there were a thousand ghosts out there tickling Arnie in the ribs as he so desperately tried to play out a par,” wrote the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
1962: The Houston Colt .45s of the National League debuted with an 11-2 win over the Cubs at Colt Stadium — their temporary home until the Astrodome was completed. Only 25,000 attended the opener, 7,000 short of capacity. There were no reports of garbage-can banging. In 1965, when they moved into the Astrodome, the Colt .45s became the Astros.
1962: In the first game at Dodger Stadium, 52,564 fans watched Cincinnati beat Los Angeles, 6-3. “Walter O’Malley’s … playpen,” the Los Angeles Times called the $18 million stadium, set in a gorgeous location in Chavez Ravine, north of downtown Los Angeles.
“The crowd fell short by some 3,500 of filling dazzling Dodger Stadium,” the newspaper wrote, “but apparently those absentees either got lost in Chavez Ravine or didn’t even risk the traffic maze, because the management long since had announced that the opening game was a sellout.”
1976: In one of the wackiest games in MLB history, Milwaukee’s Don Money’s grand slam gave the Brewers a 10-9 win over the Yankees…until it didn’t. Shortly before Money’s hit, the first-base umpire called a timeout, apparently at the behest of first baseman Chris Chambless. The Yankees went on to win, 9-7. “To come back and win a game like that and have it taken right out of your hands with the winning run crossing the plate,” Brewers manager Alex Grammas told reporters. “I thought I’d seen it all before, but I’ve never seen anything like that. I cannot believe it.”