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THE BEST OF TIMES
Ron Fimrite
November 15, 1989
THERE HAVE BEEN GOATS AS WELL AS HEROES, AND AS MANY LOSERS AS WINNERS, BUT THE THREE-AND-A-HALF DECADES SINCE ROGER BANNISTER'S EPOCHAL FOUR-MINUTE MILE (LEFT), ON MAY 6, 1954, HAVE BEEN WONDROUSLY RICH IN ATHLETIC ACCOMPLISHMENT. THE FOLLOWING PAGES PROVIDE A YEAR-BY-YEAR CHRONICLE, BEGINNING WITH RON FIMRITE'S FOND AND EVOCATIVE LOOK BACK AT '54.
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November 15, 1989

The Best Of Times

THERE HAVE BEEN GOATS AS WELL AS HEROES, AND AS MANY LOSERS AS WINNERS, BUT THE THREE-AND-A-HALF DECADES SINCE ROGER BANNISTER'S EPOCHAL FOUR-MINUTE MILE (LEFT), ON MAY 6, 1954, HAVE BEEN WONDROUSLY RICH IN ATHLETIC ACCOMPLISHMENT. THE FOLLOWING PAGES PROVIDE A YEAR-BY-YEAR CHRONICLE, BEGINNING WITH RON FIMRITE'S FOND AND EVOCATIVE LOOK BACK AT '54.

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•La Salle beats Bradley to win the NCAA basketball championship.

•Obscure incident in Louisville: On the corner of York and Fourth, a skinny 12-year-old has his new bicycle stolen. "If I catch the kid that took my bike, I'll whip him good," he tells a patrolman. The officer, who happens to be the supervisor of boxing for the Louisville Department of Recreation in his off-duty hours, invites the boy to come by the gym he operates. The young man's name: Cassius Marcellus Clay.

•The NBA adopts the 24-second clock just as George Mikan, the league's first superstar, announces the first of his two retirements. In the championship finals, the Minneapolis Lakers defeat the Syracuse Nationals four games to three.

•Frank Selvy of Furman scores a record 100 points in a 149-95 win over Newberry College.

DEATHS. Artist Henri Matisse, 84; actor Sydney Green-street, 74; editor Walter Howey, 72, the model for Walter Burns in the Hecht-MacArthur play The Front Page; William (Pudge) Heffelfinger, 86, Yale lineman who made Walter Camp's first All-America team in 1889; sportswriter Grantland Rice, 73, the Four Horsemen poet; gangster George (Machine Gun) Kelly, 59, at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary; football coach Glenn Scobey (Pop) Warner, developer of both the single- and double-wing formations; Nobel Prize physicist Enrico Fermi, 53, atom pioneer; Jacques Brandenberger, 81, inventor of cellophane.

THE GRIDIRON. When he learned that three of his star players had been arrested for brawling and that another had been accused of rape, Michigan State football coach Duffy Daugherty responded philosophically: "Otherwise, our squad's behavior is as good as any in the country."

In the second quarter of the Cotton Bowl game of Jan. 1, 1954, Rice was leading Alabama 7-6 when Owls halfback Dickie Moegle broke loose on what appeared to be a certain touchdown run. Then, from out of nowhere, 'Bama fullback Tommy Lewis dragged him down. "From out of nowhere," in this instance, is not mere exaggeration, for when Moegle started his run, Lewis was out of the game, sitting on the Crimson Tide bench. What mad thoughts must have coursed through his mind as he saw the game and the season slipping away from his team! So he jumped off the bench and made the tackle as Moegle sped by. Rice was awarded a 95-yard touchdown, and the Owls went on to win the game, 28-6.

"I kept telling myself I didn't do it, but I knew I did," Lewis said afterward. "I guess I'm too full of Alabama."

Coach Frank Leahy resigned from Notre Dame because of illness after 11 years, 87 wins and five national championships at South Bend. He was replaced by 25-year-old Terry Brennan, a former running back for the Irish.

The co-national champions, according to the polls, were UCLA, coached by Henry (Red) Sanders, and Ohio State, under 41-year-old Woody Hayes.

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