Shedding Their Skins
The famously futile football team of Harnett Central High in Angier, N.C., which went 0-39 over four seasons (1982 to '85) and scored only one touchdown in '84 (SI, Oct. 7, 1985), has turned things around. With one game remaining, the Trojans are 7-2, heading for the state playoffs and all but free from their ignominious history. "We don't think much about the streak," says second-year coach Ed Hiatt. "The coach before me took all the records."
Meanwhile, East Haven (Conn.) High's 3-2 victory over North Haven in boys' soccer on Oct. 28 left local historians stumped. No one could remember the last time the Yellow Jackets had won a game. After poring over microfilm of old game accounts, New Haven Register reporter Jim Fuller found the answer: The victory was East Haven's first since 1982, a stretch of 146 games. A sad footnote: Two days after the historic win, the Yellow Jackets lost 10-1 to Fairfield Prep.
He Whipped 'Em
He was known as the Falling Tree and the Eel, but the name that stuck was the Whip. That's because when Ewell Blackwell, 6'6" and skinny as a foul pole, kicked his long left leg toward third base and snapped searing sidearm fastballs to the plate, hitters, then helmetless, recoiled. With his seemingly untamed delivery, Blackwell—who pitched in the big leagues from 1946 to '55, mostly as a Cincinnati Red, and who died last week at 74 of cancer—was the most intimidating pitcher of his era.
At times Blackwell was nearly unhittable. In 1947 he went 22-8 for the Reds and won 16 straight decisions. During that stretch he no-hit the Boston Braves. In his next outing he held the Brooklyn Dodgers hitless for 8⅓ innings before Eddie Stanky grounded a single through the pitcher's spindly legs.
But what may have been Blackwell's best game came in the summer of '45, on a military field in Bavaria. Pitching for the 71st Infantry against the 76th, Sergeant Blackwell threw a perfect game, striking out 13 and leaving an indelible impression on a young corporal and Army newspaper reporter. "Anyone who saw Blackwell in that game never forgot it," says Jerry Tax, who would be an SI writer and editor for 25 years and remains a special contributor, "and two days later he pitched a two-hit shutout." Blackwell also hit .335 in an Army league rife with major leaguers.
Blackwell finished his big league career at 82-78, fading unceremoniously into retirement while battling shoulder injuries. But as so many major leaguers and so many soldiers knew, when the Whip was right, he was as tough as anyone.
Listen Up, Cal
Tired of the job? Feel the boss doesn't appreciate you? Hey, Seattle SuperSonics superstar Shawn Kemp understands. In an interview with the Tacoma News Tribune, the power forward/labor theorist elucidated the philosophical basis for his 23-day training camp absence (page 120) that stemmed from his displeasure with his eight-year, $46 million contract. Said Kemp, "Anytime people are upset about work, they should take a personal leave. If you're upset, you should take a couple of weeks off."
Head 'Em Up, Move 'Em Out