The 1961 Mercy Bowl: A game that made a difference


By Ben Walker
Associated Press

Exactly how high the plane got off the ground is hard to say. No one could really be sure that foggy night in Ohio nearly a half-century ago. Some folks swear the old C-46, a leftover from World War II, never lifted off at all.

Ted Tollner, a quarterback at Cal Poly, was sitting over the left wing, on the side where the engine gave out.

“After we hit, it was all a blur,” he said.

The Arctic-Pacific charter split in two and caught on fire at Toledo Express Airport on Oct. 29, 1960. It was the first airline crash involving a U.S. sports team. Of the 22 people killed, there were 16 Cal Poly players, a manager and a booster.

The next year, with support from Bob Hope and a blessing from President Kennedy, a game was held at the Los Angeles Coliseum to offset burial costs, pay medical expenses and set up an educational fund for the victims’ families and survivors.

They called it the Mercy Bowl.

Almost 50 years since that game, the college postseason is now filled with 34 bowls that make millions of dollars for the schools and conferences that participate. None is held to solely benefit a greater cause.

Today, most fans don’t even recall the Mercy Bowl or why it was played.

“It did get lost,” said NFL Hall of Fame coach John Madden, who anchored Cal Poly’s lines in the late 1950s. “It’s like it just went away.”

A crowd of more than 33,000 turned out to see Fresno State beat Bowling Green 36-6 that Thanksgiving Day in 1961. Check eBay (linked here) and it’s easy to find ticket stubs — stamped with “Benefit Cal Poly Plane Crash Fund” — and souvenir programs for sale.

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Would you consider Barry Obama the ‘Jackie Robinson of American Politics?’


Whilst you ponder that, Topps collectables has produced a one-of-a-kind dual autograph card featuring Barack Obama and Jackie Robinson that will highlight a new Topps American Heritage collection that aims to tell the story of the country through sports, politics, the arts and pop culture.

Ther are 150 cards in the series, covering heroes of the revolution, explorers, inventors, writers, industrialists, military leaders, civil rights leaders, artists, entertainers, statesmen and great American events. Each of those subjects are done in Topps cards from a different year of its publication. The 2008 Election collection, for example, has 25 cards that appear to be from the Topps 1971 baseball card set.

Inserted into the package of cards are 18 “American legends,” 10 “American icons,” 44 American presidents (in the 1952 Topps design), and 10 American celebrities. Relic cards will have pieces of something from past presidents, historical places and special events.

Autographed cards of every president will also be inserted, as well as “American Legends” such as Babe Ruth, and 3 of the dual cards — such as the Robinson-Obama card.

Each 8-card pack will cost $3.

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On this date in 1951: The first coast-to-coast televised NFL title game, from the Coliseum


In the 1951 NFL Championship, where the Rams of Los Angeles (formerly of Cleveland) defeated the Browns of Cleveland, 24-17, at L.A. Coliseum on Dec. 23, 1951, it was the first title contest beamed coast-to-coast.

The DuMont Network had the rights, purchasing them from the NFL for $75,000.

For more of the story (linked here)

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Rob Parker’s pickled peppering propagates prodigious pragmatic perturbness

Rob Parker is the Detroit News columnist who, in a post-game press conference, asked Detroit Lions coach Rod Marinelli : “On a light note, do you wish your daughter would have married a better defensive coordinator?”

Marinelli ignored it. He didn’t lighten the pain that his team just fell to 0-15. It didn’t lead to any self-deprecating response from Marinelli.

Instead, Parker has been dumped on ever since.

He wrote a follow-up column explaining his special relationship with Marinelli and why he thought he could get away with some stupid humor (story linked here).

Others in the media don’t really care about his explanation ( reaction linked here).

Marinelli wasn’t in an accepting mood: “Anytime you attack my daughter, I’ve got a problem with that. In a room of stink … and as a man and it was premeditated. I think there was something wrong with that, yeah.”

Parker tries to explain himself during an appearance on ESPN2 “First Take” (clip via

Got an opinion of this snowballing mess?

Full disclosure: The Detroit News is one of the newspaper holdings of Dean Singleton, who also owns the Los Angeles Media Group, which runs the Los Angeles Daily News.

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Sports story of ’08? It’s underwater

The Lakers-Celtics NBA finals was a good one. But not the best sports story of 2008.

Voting by The Associated Press went this way (with event, first-place votes and total points in the voting at the end:


1. Michael Phelps’ eight gold medals in swimming at the Beijing Games (152): 1811

2. Super Bowl XLII: N.Y. Giants ruin New England’s perfect season (27): 1390

3. Tiger Woods’s U.S. Open victory leads into season-ending knee surgery (2): 776

4. Brett Favre retires, unretires, the forces a trade from Green Bay (4): 721

5. Boston beats the Lakers for the NBA title: 653

6. Usain Bolt wins three golds and sets three sprinting world marks at the Beijing Games: 589

7. The Phillies beat the Rays to capture the World Series (1): 484

8. The Mitchell Report, and Roger Clemens’ perjury investigation (3): 466

9. The men’s Wimbledon final: Nadal upsets Federer: 392

10. Men’s U.S. Olympic basketball wins gold in Beijing: 355

If there’s any doubt, here’s the voting by AP in the 2008 male athlete of the year:
1. Michael Phelps: 172
2. Usain Bolt: 5
3. Eli Manning: 4
4. Cristiano Ronaldo, Michael Beasley, Bode Miller, Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, Kerry Collins: 1

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Coy Bacon (1942-2008)


Lander McCoy “Coy” Bacon, a fierce pass rusher during a 14-year NFL career that began with the Rams, died Monday in his hometown of Ironton, Ohio. He was 66.

The cause was not disclosed in the Associated Press story.

Bacon played for the Los Angeles Rams out of Jackson State from 1968-72, when he made the first of his three Pro Bowls. He was traded to the Bengals for receiver Charlie Joiner and in Cincinnati, the defensive lineman blossomed as one of the league’s top pass rushers in the days before sacks were recognized as an official NFL statistic.

He finished his NFL career by playing four years for the Redskins.

Last year, when we did our all-time numerical roster of Los Angeles athletics, Bacon was among the best we could find at No. 79. (linked here)

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L.A.’s NFL TV coverage Week 17: A day of destiny, child


Which team controls its own destiny this final week of the NFL?

None, according to Bob Costas.

After Cris Collinsworth tried to map out the AFC playoff scenarios on NBC’s “Football Night in American” studio show Sunday, Costas chimed in: “And you know what? Thank you for not saying what we hear hundreds of times every NFL season at this point — radio, television, everywhere — talking about teams that ‘control their own destiny’ or ‘control their own fate.’ If it’s destiny or fate, folks, you can’t control it. Control the outcome, control the result, you can’t control destiny or fate.”

It even made Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick oooh and ahhh at the magnificent contributin Costas had just made, and Patrick to reference it just before Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was interviewed on tape with Bob Neumeyer, saying his team was in a position “to control our own destiny.”

Wrong, fool. You don’t know games end in ties, and you don’t know … never mind.

Destiny’s outcome for Week 17, as TV will show it to us:

== 10 a.m., Channel 2: New England at Buffalo (with Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf) Why it’s important: The Patriots have a shot at the AFC East title, but only if the New York Jets lose (see 1:15 p.m. game). The Patriots can’t get a wildcard spot. Other CBS games in this window: Kansas City-Cincinnati, Chicago-Houston, Tennessee-Indianapolis, Cleveland-Pittsburgh and Oakland-Tampa Bay.

== 10 a.m., Channel 11: New York Giants at Minnesota (with Dick Stockton, Brian Baldinger and Laura Okmin). Why it’s important: The Giants have already clinched the division. The Vikings could clinch if Chicago loses tonight to Green Bay. Other Fox games in this window: St. Louis-Atlanta, Detroit-Green Bay, Carolina-New Orleans and Seattle-Arizona.

== 1:15 p.m., Channel 2: Miami at New York Jets (with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms). Why it’s important: The Dolphins win the AFC East with a victory. The Jets win the AFC East with a victory and a New England loss. Other CBS games in this window: Jacksonville-Baltimore (if the Ravens win, they’re in as a wildcard).

== 1:15 p.m., Channel 11: Dallas at Philadelphia (with Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Pam Oliver). Why it’s important: The Cowboys clinch a wildcard spot with a victory. Philadelphia needs a win, plus a loss by Tampa Bay and/or Chicago. Other Fox games in this window: Washington-San Francisco.

== 5:15 p.m., Channel 4: Denver at San Diego (with Al Michaels, John Madden and Andrea Kremer). Why it’s important: Winner advances. Loser doesn’t. Call it a wild-wildcard game.

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Breaking news that can be fixed? Women who don’t have ‘it’ have a tough time breaking into TV sports


William Houston of the Toronto Globe and Mail has a piece filling its Saturday edition with this headline and story:

Well, you can read it yourself (Story linked here).

The highlights, as Playboy cranks up its latest Sexiest Sportscaster contest (we won’t bother linking to it again… you can find it):

ESPN’s Linda Cohn on the fact women are getting more opportunities to prove themselves: “That’s the positive. The negative, and it’s out there, is a current trend, which is to go for looks first and then knowledge. And that’s disconcerting.”

NBC and HBO’s Andrea Kremer, who started in print journalism in ’82 and worked for a long time at ESPN, says: “There are women who grew up loving sports, and, by the way, they do television, or they write about it or talk about it on radio. And then there are women who think they want to be on TV, and sports is a cool thing. And I do think the audience knows the difference between the two. So I just hope people are getting into it for the right reason.”

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College football bowl TV lineup: Part II


Now we get into the meat by-product portion of the college bowl’s sirloin steak happy meal:


==5 p.m., ESPN and Poinsettia Bowl from Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego: No. 9 Boise State (12-0) vs. No. 11 Texas Christian (10-2) (with Rece Davis, Lou Holtz, Mark May and Todd Harris)
Official bowl site linked here.
Comment: How’d this matchup come about, when all the money they had to lure these two teams came from the San Diego County Credit Union? Someone should trade this off with the International Bowl, played right before the BCS title game.


==5 p.m., ESPN and Hawaii Bowl from Honolulu: Hawaii vs. Notre Dame (with Dave Pasch and Andre Ware)
Official bowl site linked here
Comment: Otherwise known as the University of Hawaii’s 14th game of the regular season. A 6-6 Irish team earns a trip to Honolulu, where they try to find a lei big enough to drape over Charlie Weis’ shoulders.


==4:30 p.m., ESPN2 and Motor City Bowl from Ford Field in Detroit: Florida Atlantic vs. Central Michigan (with Todd Harris and Ray Bentley)
Official bowl site linked here.
Comment: Presented by Ford, GM and any other John Elway car dealership you can find still in business. FAU and CMU arrived via their own private jets.


== 10 a.m., ESPN and Meineke Car Care Bowl from Charlotte, N.C.: North Carolina vs. West Virginia (with Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman and Rob Stone)
Official bowl site linked here.
Comment: The ACC ended up with 10 bowl-eligible teams, and North Carolina could have done much better than 8-4 overall. Instead, they practically get a home game. West Virginia, third in the Big East, had hopes of better days as well.

==1:30 p.m., ESPN and Champs Sports Bowl from Orlando (Fla.) Citrus Bowl: Florida State vs. Wisconsin (with Brad Nessler, Bob Griese, Paul Maguire and Holly Rowe)
Official bowl site linked here.
Comment: The poor stepchild of the Florida Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, this one brings Bobby Bowden another chance to keep pace with Joe Paterno in the oldest-coach-alive contest.

== 5 p.m., ESPN and Emerald Bowl at San Francisco’s AT&T Park: Cal vs. Miami (with Joe Tessitore, Rod Gilmore and Quint Kessenich)
Official bowl site linked here.
Comment: If the ballpark isn’t filled with all Cal Bear fans, then something’s gone nuts.


==5 p.m., ESPN and Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.: Louisiana Tech vs. Northern Illinois (with Pam Ward and Ray Bentley)
Official bowl site linked here.
Comment: Started in 1976. Lost its juice soon afterward. Shouldn’t this be played in Philadelphia?

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Oh, yeah, now take the Chargers


Two weeks ago, NBC dumped out on the San Diego-Tampa Bay game because it felt the New York Giants-Carolina game would mean more (link to story here).

And we’re not taking away from how the Giants-Panthers turned out.

But Sunday night, NBC suddenly decided the Chargers were a decent choice.

The net said that the Week 17 Denver-San Diego game from Qualcomm Stadium, which will now miraculously determine the AFC West title, is a flex-schedule choice for the Dec. 28 5:15 p.m. window. It had been a 1 p.m. kickoff for CBS before the decision.

The need for this game came about after the Chargers beat the Bucs, and the Broncos lost to Buffalo.

“Next week these two teams will go at it and play for the division title,” said NBC’s Cris Collinsworth, “and probably the happiest guy on the planet is Ed Hochuli because his call will not decide this division.”

==More on the story (linked here)

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