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June 5 in sports history: All hail the 'Big Red Head'

Yardbarker logo Yardbarker 6/5/2020 Yardbarker Staff
Bill Walton standing in front of a crowd: Bill Walton averaged 18.6 points, 14.4 rebounds and 3.2 blocks for the NBA champion Trail Blazers in 1977. © Focus on Sport via Getty Images Bill Walton averaged 18.6 points, 14.4 rebounds and 3.2 blocks for the NBA champion Trail Blazers in 1977.

Here's a look back at notable sports news on June 5 through the years.

1977: Ah, what might have been.

Before Bill Walton's career was sidetracked by foot injuries and surgeries, the "Big Red Head" could really, really hoop for Portland.

Under first-year Trail Blazers coach Jack Ramsay in the 1976-77 season, Walton averaged 18.6 points and led the league in rebounds (14.4) and blocks (3.2) per game.

In the NBA Finals, Walton was a dominating force against the 76ers. In the deciding Game 6, he swatted away eight shots, a record for a Finals game (since tied by three players), as Portland won, 109-107, for its only NBA title. He added 20 points, 23 rebounds and seven assists.

Afterward, Walton, the backwoodsmen/Grateful Dead groupie/future Hall of Famer, received universal praise in the hoops world.

"Ramsay should celebrate by spending the next few months communicating with nature." Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Dick Weiss wrote. "He should be thankful his 6-11 vegetarian center Bill Walton came out of the backwoods long enough to establish himself as the most complete center in pro basketball today."

Said 76ers coach Gene Shue: "Bill Walton is the best player for a big man who has ever played the game of basketball. We couldn't contain him. He dominated the middle, and that threw us out of our game."

"There is no better player," Ramsay said, "no more cooperative player, no better person than Bill." 

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1994: A long, long, long time ago — in a previous century, actually — the New York Knickerbockers were pretty good thanks to Patrick Ewing.

In an epic performance in the deciding Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, the future Hall of Famer scored 24 points and grabbed 22 boards in New York's 94-90 win over the Pacers.

"There had been a lot of frustration over the years," Ewing told reporters. "I've been hurt, we've been beaten by Chicago . . . this was a long time coming. I'm very happy right now. I told my wife last night, if it was up to me, we're going to Houston tomorrow."

The Knicks went to Houston to play the Rockets in the Finals, but they lost in seven games. New York hasn't won an NBA title since 1973.

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1991: In a 107-86 win over the Lakers in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, the Bulls' Michael Jordan made a hoop for the ages.

MJ glided past Byron Scott and took off to the hoop intending to dunk. As Sam Perkins came over to try to contest the shot, Jordan switched the ball into his left hand while in midair and gently flipped it in off the glass. 


"Instead of the easy one, he tries to make it hard ... I love it!" color man Mike Fratello shouted on the TV broadcast.

The Bulls went on to win the first of six titles in the Jordan Era, beating the Lakers in five games.


1992: A year later, the Bulls won another title, beating Portland in six games in the Finals. But in Game 2 of the series, the Blazers' Danny Ainge put on a show, scoring a record-tying nine points in overtime in a 115-104 win. "I'm not afraid to take the shot," said Ainge, who won two titles with the Celtics. "I'm not afraid to just blow the game."


1999: With a 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 win over Martina Hingis for the French Open title, 29-year-old Steffi Graf of Germany claimed her 22nd and final Grand Slam title. "This is the most incredible memory I'm going to have looking back on my career," Graf said of the win over the top seed.


1955: Was every Mickey Mantle home run during his career a tape-measure blast? Sheesh, the man had power.

In a 3-2 win over the White Sox in the second game of a doubleheader, Mantle, a switch-hitter batting right-handed, jacked a fastball off Billy Pierce that went an estimated 500-plus feet at Comiskey Park. According to the Chicago Tribune, the ball bounced on the left-field roof and shattered the window of a parked car on 34th Street.

Two years earlier, Mantle went yard with a blast estimated at 562 feet. In 1956, the Mick crushed another ball that might have gone 600-plus feet had it not hit the facade in right field in Yankee Stadium.


1974: No stranger to controversy during his career, the A's Reggie Jackson brawled with teammate Bill North in the clubhouse before a game in Detroit. Once close friends, the two had not spoken since Jackson accused North of not hustling earlier in the season. The players were separated by teammates. Then they went at it again.

Jackson's shoulder was injured when the two wrestled to the floor. He left the game after 5.1 innings.

"It's very bad," Jackson told the Oakland Tribune about his relationship with North. "I don't think it will ever be resolved. ... I'm just embarrassed about it, no matter who's right or wrong."


1981: Nolan Ryan holds dozens of MLB career records — for strikeouts (5,714), no-hitters (7), double-digit strikeout games (215) and more. In a 3-0 win over the Mets, the team he started with, "The Express" added another career record: most walks. With his 1,776th free pass, the 13-year veteran surpassed Early Wynn, who played 23 seasons.

"I'm not ashamed of the record," Ryan said afterward. "It means I've been around enough to pitch a lot in the major leagues."

Ryan finished his 27-year career with 2,795 walks, a record that may never be broken.

a man wearing a helmet: Happy 23rd birthday, Sam Darnold. © Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports Happy 23rd birthday, Sam Darnold.

Happy birthday ...

  • Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, the third pick in the 2018 draft by the Jets. He was the youngest opening-day starting quarterback since the AFL and NFL merged. (23)
  • Marques Colton, former NFL wide receiver who holds the New Orleans Saints franchise record for most receptions at 711. (37)
  • Robert Kraft, billionaire owner of the New England Patriots. Under his ownership, the Pats have won six Super Bowls. (79)
  • Torry Holt, former NFL wide receiver whose 13, 382 yards are 16th all time. Holt was chosen in the first round of the 1999 draft by the Rams and played 11 seasons. (44)
  • Former NFL running back Kevin Faulk, who won three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots. A second-round pick in the 1999 NFL Draft, Faulk spent his entire 13-year career with New England. (44)


2004: Ronald Reagan, who played college football, ran track and swam at Eureka College in Illinois but gained fame for his role as “Gipp” in the movie “Knute Rockne, All-American.” Oh and he also was President of the United States. He died at age 93.

June 4: 10-cent beer + MLB = Toxic brew

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