Since it’s wicked hot out there (as we used to say in the Massachusetts of my youth), I decided to throw together a list of some memorable sports feats accomplished in 100 degree temperatures. Here are five pretty impressive ones, several suggested by a couple of my Twitter followers:
● July 4, 1910 (Reno, Nev.) – Jack Johnson retains the heavyweight title by knocking out former (and previously undefeated) champ James J. Jeffries in 15 rounds. Jeffries said he’d come out of retirement “for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a Negro.” Johnson, defying the 100-degree heat, makes him eat those words (and a fair amount of glove as well).
● July 10, 1924 (Paris) – Paavo Nurmi, the “Flying Finn,” wins Olympic gold medals in the 1,500 and 5,000 meters just an hour apart – and despite temperatures that climb above 100. These, by the way, were the Games made famous by the movie, “Chariots of Fire,” which won the Academy Award for best picture in 1982. Nurmi ultimately racks up five golds in Paris, two of them in team events. (Suggested by @TheHogsdotNet.)
● June 20, 1964 (Bethesda) – Ken Venturi shoots 66-70 at Congressional Country Club, with the thermometer in triple digits, to win the U.S. Open by four strokes. They played 36 holes on the final day of the Open back then, and Venturi nearly succumbed to the conditions. “It felt like a blow torch was aimed at your neck,” his playing partner, Raymond Floyd, told Golfweek recently. But Venturi – gulping salt tablets, drinking iced tea and availing himself of wet towels in the last round – hung on to capture his one and only major. It came at a time when “he was nearly broke, his first marriage was collapsing and he had been written off as finished,” Adam Schupak wrote in the magazine. (Suggested by @BenStandig.)
● June 23, 1971 (Cincinnati) – The Phillies’ Rick Wise pitches a no-hitter against the Reds, and hits two homers to boot, on a scorching 100-degree night at Riverfront Stadium. And this, I’ll just remind you, is the Big Red Machine we’re talking about – Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, George Foster et al. Wise allows only one base runner, a walk to Dave Concepcion in the sixth, in his 4-0 victory. If it’s not the greatest pitching/hitting day in major-league history, it’s darn close. And get this: “I was coming off the effects of the flu,” Wise said last month. “I felt weak as a kitten… . I felt like my fastball was stopping halfway there. But it was my turn to pitch.”
● July 9, 1995 (Wimbledon, England) – Pete Sampras beats Boris Becker in four sets, on a day when it hits 110 degrees on Centre Court, to become the first American man to win three straight Wimbledons. “I think I won just 20 points against his serve, and seven of them came from double faults,” says Becker, a three-time champ himself. “Once he’s up in the second set, he hits those bombs and you hope for rain.” Among those in attendance is Princess Diana, who watches from the Royal Box. (Another one suggested by @TheHogsdotNet.)
The moral: Sure, the heat is stifling, but as Rob Schneider said (in more than one Adam Sandler movie): “You can do it!”