Cleveland becomes first MLB team with numbers on back of jerseys

On April 16, 1929, the Cleveland Indians open the season with numbers on the back of each player’s jersey, the first Major League Baseball team to do so. The numbers make it easier for scorekeepers, broadcasters and fans to identify players. Cleveland wins the game against the Detroit Tigers in 11 innings, 5-4.

The New York Yankees, who had won the World Series in 1927 and 1928, were supposed to debut jersey numbers the same day, but their opener was rained out. Thus fans waited another day to see two of baseball’s greatest players—Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig—sport jersey numbers 3 and 4, which would become famous. Those numbers corresponded with the sluggers’ spots in the batting order. 

Cleveland, which changed its name to Guardians in 2021, experimented with numbers on the sleeves of jerseys for a few weeks in 1916

In 1923, the St. Louis Cardinals also tried sleeve numbers, but found the practice had a negative impact on team morale. “Because of the continuing embarrassment to the players, the numbers were removed,” manager Branch Rickey said.

The Cardinals finished fifth in the National League that season with a 79-74 record.

By the 1937 season, every MLB team had numbers on the backs of jerseys. In 1960, the White Sox were the first team to put names on the back of their jerseys. The Yankees remain the only team without names on the back of jerseys.


First US cycling club formed

On February 11, 1878, the Boston Bicycle Club, the first organization for recreational cyclists, is formed. The following year, a club is formed in Buffalo, followed by a club in New York in 1880. In the ensuing decades, as middle-class participation in cycling grows, hundreds of cycling clubs are formed across the United States. 

The Boston Bicycle Club organized various rides, from tricycle races to 100-mile rides. Less than 20 years after its founding, more than 100 cycling clubs had formed in Massachusetts, according to the Massachusetts Historical Society, catering to rider expertise, gender, nationality and more. Early bicycles featured an oversized front wheel.

In October 1879, Boston Bicycle Club members rode through the city and its suburbs in an event with the Massachusetts Cycling Club—an 87-mile round trip. For short distances, cyclists achieved speeds of 16 mph, according to the Boston Post.

READ MORE: The Bicycle’s Bumpy History

“Coming through Watertown a gentleman driving a spirited horse engaged in a race with the riders and was beaten by Terront, the French rider, in about three-quarters of a mile,” the Post reported.

In 1896, The Boston Globe highlighted the work of the first club: “The name and fame of the Boston Bicycle Club has gone all over this fair land, and is spreading to foreign shores, whither some ot its members have carried it.”

Early U.S. bicycling clubs advocated for better roads for cyclists and often became a hub for social events. With the rise of automobiles early in the 20th century, the popularity of recreational cycling waned. 

In 2020, interest in recreational cycling boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many cyclng shops in the United States reported shortages of bikes, according to


NHL game televised in US for first time

On February 25, 1940, the first telecast of a National Hockey League is transmitted over New York’s W2XBS—the National Broadcasting Company’s experimental station used to test TV technology. A viewing audience estimated at 300 subscribers watches the New York Rangers defeat the Montreal Canadiens, 6-2, at Madison Square Garden.

During the first, crude telecast, winger Phil Watson registered four points (all assists) and Bryan Hextall Sr.’s scored two goals for the Rangers.

The NHL TV broadcast came a year after the first televised Major League Baseball, college football and pro football games. The first World Series game was televised in 1947. Like the first NHL broadcast, it was flawed. Sunlight and shadows obscured the view of NBC cameras, and the network’s new and cumbersome equipment broke down.

In 1940, radio was, by far, the dominant broadcasting medium. Television use grew slowly over the decade.

By 1949, the nation boasted 1 million TV sets in use. By the 1950s, television had entered the mainstream, with more than half of all American homes owning TV sets by 1955. As the number of consumers expanded, new stations were created and more programs broadcast.

Since the first televised NHL game,  the importance of television has exponentially increased for the league. In 2021, the league announced multi-million deals with ESPN and Turner Sports to broadcast games.


US women win the first Winter Olympics hockey gold medal

On February 17, 1998, in Nagano, Japan, the United States defeats Canada, 3-1, to win the gold medal in the first women’s hockey tournament held at the Winter Olympics.  “After these Olympics, I hope the sport grows times a million,” American forward Katie King says. “Anyone who watched the (gold medal) game, they’re going to want to watch more women’s hockey.”

Said American forward Tricia Dunn: “I’m speechless and amazed that we played a near-perfect game.”

The win was especially sweet for the United States, which had lost four times to Canada in the Women’s World Hockey Championship since 1990.

After taking a 1-0 lead, the Americans dominated. Canada made the score 2-1 with a third-period goal, but the United States scored a late goal to cement the win.

Immediately after the U.S. victory, gloves and sticks sailed into the air. Karyn Bye, an alternate captain for the United States, wrapped herself in a flag as most of the rest of her teammates mobbed each other on the ice. 

“I’ve coached a lot of teams at different levels, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more moved by the efforts and dedication of the players on my team,” U.S. coach Ben Smith said.

The United States followed its 1998 gold medal with a silver medal at the Games in Salt Lake City in 2002. The American women earned a medal in every Olympics since Nagano, taking their second gold medal in 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea.


Albright becomes first female US figure skater to win world title

On February 15, 1953, Tenley Albright, a 17-year-old from Boston, becomes the first American female to win the world figure skating championship. All seven judges at the event at an outdoor rink in Davos, Switzerland give her a first-place vote. Albright, who was stricken as a young child, calls the performance her “best.”

“Dressed in a light cherry-colored costume with spangles that glinted in the sun, Tenley whirled and spun around the rink, executing with disarming ease all the difficult skating manevuers in the book and some more of her own,” the Associated Press reported.

READ MORE: 8 Remarkable Female Figure Skaters at Winter Olympics

Albright performed a double axel, double loop, double rittbereer and double solchow before a sellout crowd of 4,000. “Such combinations never have been seen performed before by a woman,” a Swiss skating expert said.

After Albright’s performance, her father, a surgeon, squashed thoughts of her becoming a professional skater. “Tenley has to go to college and is too young to become a professional star,” he said. 

Said Albright: “I love skating for skating. I want to continue as an amateur.”

Three years later, at the Winter Olympics in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, Tenley became America’s first female skating gold medalist, overcoming an injury to her right ankle suffered less than two weeks earlier. “I was in great pain, but I figured for four minutes I could put up with anything,” she said afterward.

After the Olympics, Albright retired and attended Harvard Medical School—one of five women in a class of 135. She became a noted surgeon.


Lee Elder becomes first Black golfer to play in Masters

On April 10, 1975, 41-year-old Lee Elder becomes the first Black golfer to play in the Masters, considered the most prestigious event in the sport. Elder shoots 37 on the front and back nine for a 74 at the Augusta (Georgia) National Golf Club and trails leader Bobby Nichols by seven strokes. “I didn’t have any nervousness whatsoever,” Elder says after the round.

In Round 2, Elder shot a 78 and missed the cut in the tournament, won by Jack Nicklaus. Elder had qualified for the Masters by winning the 1974 Monsanto Open.

Many considered Elder’s historic achievement long overdue for the Masters and Augusta National and for a sport that had never been known for racial tolerance. The Professional Golfers Association, the organizer of the main professional tours played by men in North America, didn’t approve participation of African Americans in events it co-sponsored until 1952.

Augusta National didn’t have a Black member until 1990 (businessman Ron Townsend) or female member until 2012 (former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice).

“[Elder] was greeted with applause 31 times during his round,” wrote New York Times columnist Dave Anderson. “But it was polite applause, not really enthusiastic, not the emotional bursts that greet Ahnuld Palma, for example. And at no time was Elder’s name on the leader board where he belonged because of his historic round.”

Elder returned to play the Masters from 1977-81. His best finish was a tie for 17th in 1979.

Twenty-two years after Elder’s groundbreaking achievement, Tiger Woods became the first Black golfer to capture the green jacket, launching one of the greatest careers in golf history.

At the 2021 Masters, Elder was given the honor of hitting the ceremonial opening tee shot alongside six-time champion Nicklaus and three-time winner Gary Player. But he was not well enough to hit a shot.

Elder died on November 28, 2021. He was 87. “The game of golf lost a hero,” Nicklaus said.


Effa Manley becomes first woman elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

On February 27, 2006, baseball pioneer Effa Manley becomes the first woman elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Manley, who died in 1981, was co-owner of the Newark (New Jersey) Eagles, a Negro League powerhouse, and a huge advocate for Black ballplayers and civil rights causes. 

“She’s deserving; she did a lot for the game,” said Hall of Famer Monte Irvin, who played for the Eagles in the 1940s. Irvin, who starred for the New York Giants in the big leagues, was among MLB’s first Black players. 

“This is a historic day at the Hall of Fame,” HOF president Dale Petroskey said. “I hoped that someday there would be a woman in the Hall.”

READ MORE: How the Only Woman in Baseball Hall of Fame Challenged Convention—and MLB

Manley, who co-owned the Eagles with her husband, Abe, ran the business side for the team—Abe had little interest in that role. She eventually assumed many other duties. 

“Little by little, I found myself doing more and more, and I finally just ended up completely involved,” Manley said in a 1977 interview.  

In the 1940s, Manley feuded with the management from big-league teams, who pursued Negro League stars after Jackie Robinson’s signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers broke MLB’s color line in 1947. General manager Branch Rickey, who signed Robinson, was among her adversaries.

As baseball owner, Manley held an Anti-Lynching Day at the ballpark.

“She did a lot for the Newark community,” Irvin said. “She was a well-rounded, influential person.” 


NCAA adopts controversial Proposition 48

On January 13, 1986, NCAA schools vote to adopt Proposition 48, a controversial regulation that mandates minimum high school grades and scores on standardized college entrance exames for student-athletes to participate in sports as freshmen. The proposition, which passes by a large margin, has a disproportional impact on Black male athletes.

According to NCAA statistics, only 51 percent of Black male athletes would have qualified for the 1982 season had the bylaw already been in effect, the Hartford Courant reported. “There is no question that some of the most highly skilled athletes will not be competing as freshman,” said Wilford Bailey, NCAA secretary-treasurer, of Proposition 48.

The historically Black schools, led by Grambling State president Joseph Johnson, adamantly objected to the bylaw. “This rule will deny Blacks equal protection and opportunity. Those who proposed it, knew it,” he said.

Proposition 48 required incoming freshmen to maintain a 2.0 grade-point average n the core curriculum of 11 courses in English, math and sciences as well as score 700 or more on the SAT or a 15 on the ACT. The SAT and ACT are standardized college entrance exams. 

The day after Proposition 48 was passed, Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson walked off the court in protest before a game against Boston College.

“I’ve done this because, out of frustration, you’re limited in your options of what you can do in response to something I felt was very wrong,” Thompson said.

The NCAA has adjusted the regulation over the years, but it has remained in effect since 1986.


All-female team competes in America’s Cup sailing for first time

On January 13, 1995, America3, an all-female sailing team, wins the first race of the America’s Cup defender trials, easily beating Team Dennis Conner by a little more than a minute. The team is the sport’s first all-women team to compete in the 144-year history of the America’s Cup, the world’s oldest continually contested sporting trophy. The Cup represents the pinnacle of international sailing yacht competition.

America3 (pronounced “America Cubed”) was the brainchild of Bill Koch, a millionaire businessman and skipper of the 1992 America’s Cup-winning vessel. Koch wanted to pique American interest in the sport and field a competitive sailing team. So, he assembled a 23-member team that included female sailors, rowers and professional weightlifters to take on Conner’s team in the defender trials.

The navigator aboard Koch’s boat was 26-year racing veteran Ann Nelson, who had won more than 50 championships as part of the U.S. Women’s World Sailing team. The silver medalist in the 1984 Olympic board sailing exhibition didn’t shy from confrontation with Conner, who reportedly made crude comments to Nelson and her teammates the summer before the race.

The pre-race controversy made for great theater leading up to the race, which was expected to be an easy victory for Conner’s newer boat and more experienced team. However, Conner’s team made a critical prestart gaffe by not allowing America3 right of way, resulting in his boat having to take a penalty turn. That swung the race.

“In essence, the race was over at that point,” Conner said. “America3 had a 600- to 700-foot lead and did a good job with it through the rest of the race.”

However, America3 team lost the defender trials to Conner’s team. 

At the end of the trials, Koch was proud of what his team had accomplished, saying, “We had a top team that can compete with anyone… Next time an all-women’s team sails in the top of the competition, they can go all the way. That’s what this team has meant to the sport.”

No all-female team has won the America’s Cup.


MLB commissioner suspends players in drug scandal

On February 28, 1986, Major League Baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth suspends 11 players. including some of the sport’s biggest names, for their involvement with illegal drugs. The suspensions are the most severe in the baseball since the infamous “Black Sox Scandal” in 1919. The commissioner doles out lesser penalties to 14 other players for their use of drugs.

Among those to receive the stiffest penalty, a conditional one-year suspension, were: Dave Parker (Cincinnati Reds), Keith Hernandez (New York Mets), Joaquin Andujar (Oakland Athletics), Lonnie Smith (Kansas City Royals), Enos Cabell (Los Angeles Dodgers), Jeff Leonard (San Francisco Giants) and Dale Berra (New York Yankees), son of Hall of Famer Yogi Berra.

All 21 players played in 1986 after meeting conditions set by the commissioner.

The penalities, the result of an investigation conducted by Ueberroth, came after players testified before a federal grand jury leading up to the September 1985 trials in Pittsburgh of drug traffickers. The scandal, known as the “Pittsburgh Drug Trials,” was one of the biggest in the sport’s history.

While under oath, Hernandez estimated 40 percent of MLB players used cocaine. Even the Pittsburgh Pirates’ mascot, the Pirate Parrott, was implicated for buying cocaine.

By the mid-1980s, major sports leagues realized cocaine use was a major problem.  The same week MLB announced the conditional suspensions, the NBA suspended Micheal Ray Richardson of the New Jersey Nets for life after he failed a third drug test for cocaine.

Ueberroth’s suspensions were much less severe because none of the players had failed drug tests and the abuse seemed to be a thing of the past. “Each player I met with maintains he is currently not using any drugs. I have no reason to doubt this,” he said in a statement following the suspensions.

In 1986, Parker and Hernandez played in the All-Star Game. 

However, several of the players involved in the scandal continued to struggle with substance abuse. Willie Aikens, who played for the Angels, Royals and Blue Jays, served time in prison for cocaine distribution.