A team wins nearly 100 regular-season games and goes on to the World Series. Then, in the off-season, it starts dumping top players: home run sluggers, .300 hitters, pitchers with fine ERAs. We must be describing the liquidation of the Florida Marlins, right? No, we're talking about those original closeout kings, the 1914 Philadelphia Athletics, who went 99-53 before losing to the Boston Braves in the Fall Classic.
The following winter, at the direction of their cost-cutting owner/manager, the legendary Connie Mack, the Athletics sold, traded or released eight players, including star pitchers Chief Bender (17-3, 2.26 ERA in '14) and Eddie Plank (15-7, 2.87) and future Hall of Fame infielder Eddie Collins (.344, 85 RBIs). Bad news, Marlins fans. Philadelphia went 43-109 in 1915, the first of seven straight last-place finishes.
A Gentle Warrior Says Goodbye
Last Saturday night in Atlantic City, thanks to judging that was outrageous even by boxing standards, George Foreman lost a 12-round decision to a personable young man named Shannon Briggs. Afterward, Foreman declared the evening the last stop on what has been an improbable ride. "I don't think I'll be boxing again," he said after just his fifth; loss in 81 fights. "But I'm not going to cry. I had a wonderful career."
Goodbyes are rarely final in boxing, but since Foreman is 48, and probably has enough money socked away to forever satisfy even his own prodigious appetite, it's possible to take him at his word. After all, Saturday night was supposed to have happened 10 years ago. When Foreman, all 300 pounds of him, announced in 1987—a decade after his most recent fight and 14 years after he'd held the unified heavyweight championship—that he was making a comeback, fans figured it was only a matter of time before some youngster delivered an age-appropriate whipping and sent Big George back to his cheeseburgers and his ministry in Houston.
But for Foreman time proved as wondrously elastic as his waistband. A scowling destroyer in his first incarnation, one of the hardest punchers the heavyweight division has ever seen, Foreman was relentlessly affable this time around, reinventing himself as the Baby Boomers' favorite big guy. In the ring, though no longer so fearsomely destructive, he evolved into a much cagier and more efficient fighter. On Nov. 5, 1994, he knocked out Michael Moorer to win the WBA and IBF titles, becoming, at 45, the oldest man to hold a heavyweight crown.
Over the next two years Foreman relinquished both belts rather than sign for mandatory defenses against dangerous opponents. Then, in a burst of jesuitical reasoning, he declared him-t self the "linear" champion: "Nobody has whipped me, nobody has knocked me down. I want to stay around until somebody licks me."
Saturday's opponent didn't seem a likely candidate. Though big and strong, with a record of 29-1, Briggs, 25, was known as much for his golden dreadlocks as for his ability as a fighter. He stood up to some thunderous blows from Foreman, and while he never fully stopped retreating, he did fire back throughout the fight. "I could have done more," said Briggs.
He'll get his chance. But Foreman, it seems, has fought his last good fight. "It's time for the young guys to chase the young guys," said the guy who for so long has seemed younger than them all. "The way to beat George Foreman now is to outsmile him and outsell him."
That'll be the day.