Dan Daly: Pardoning their sins

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Pardons, pardons, pardons. ‘Tis the season to be issuing pardons. Why, just the other day, President Bush handed out 14 of them, like so many Thanksgiving turkeys - with more to come, no doubt.

Which got me thinking: Who would I give pardons to if I were the Supreme Being of All Sports? Which athletic figures, past and present, deserve to be relieved of their suffering, their regret? The list of candidates, as you might expect, is long, but I’ve narrowed it down to a workable number - 14, believe it or not - who are worthy of immediate forgiveness.

So … by the power vested in me by, well, me, the following are hereby pardoned:

cWally Pipp (posthumous): For sitting out a game with the New York Yankees in 1925.

Over the decades, Pipp’s name has become synonymous with “slacker.” According to legend, he asked for a day off that season because of a headache and never got his job back. Why? Because the rookie who replaced him, Lou Gehrig, went on to play in 2,130 consecutive games.

Subsequent research suggests, however, that Pipp was benched that afternoon because he was in a batting slump. And indeed, he hit just .230 that year, down 65 points from the year before. If anything, he was an iron man, rarely missing a game, and a swell first baseman to boot. He deserves better.

— Ralph Branca: For living with the ignominy of serving up the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” - Bobby Thomson’s pennant-winning homer for the Giants in the 1951 playoff against the Dodgers.

We’ve since learned that (a.) the Giants stole signs that season, and (b.) Thomson may well have known what pitch was coming. It’s time to right a wrong.

— Roberto de Vicenzo: For blowing the ‘68 Masters by signing an incorrect scorecard - on his 45th birthday, no less.

De Vicenzo, from Argentina, was a terrific player who won tournaments all over the globe, including the ‘67 British Open by two strokes over Jack Nicklaus. Yet he’s remembered more for his gaffe than for his golf. This must change.

For one thing, it was his playing partner, Tommy Aaron, who mismarked De Vicenzo’s card; Roberto simply failed to catch the error. For another, De Vicenzo still would have had to beat Bob Goalby in an 18-hole playoff to win the green jacket, hardly a certainty.

— Fred Brown: For throwing that pass to North Carolina’s James Worthy that sealed Georgetown’s fate in the closing seconds of the ‘82 NCAA basketball title game.

CBS has shown that play, it seems, in the lead-in to every Final Four telecast for the last 25 years. What a cross to bear. Forgotten is that the Hoyas nearly upset a team that had two future Basketball Hall of Famers, Worthy and Michael Jordan, as well as Sam Perkins, who scored more than 15,000 NBA points.

— Scott Norwood: For missing a game-winning field goal for the Bills on the last play of Super Bowl XXV.

This has nothing to do with Norwood being an Alexandria native who went to Thomas Jefferson High. This has to do with fairness.

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About the Author
Dan Daly

Dan Daly

Dan Daly has been writing about sports for the Washington Times since 1982. He has won numerous national and local awards, appears regularly in NFL Films’ historical features and is the co-author of “The Pro Football Chronicle,” a decade-by-decade history of the game. Follow Dan on Twitter at @dandalyonsports –- or e-mail him at ddaly@washingtontimes.com.

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