1956: American runner Glenn Davis broke the 50-second barrier in the 400-meter hurdles by clocking in at 49.5 during a meet in Los Angeles
1964: NFL Linebacker Pepper Johnson was born (I tried really hard to find someone named Salt...but it just didn't happen)
1970: The National Hockey League allowed controversial Oakland Athletics' owner Charles O. Finley to purchase the struggling Oakland Seals franchise. The Seals were one of the six teams added during the 1967 NHL expansion, but Oakland wasn't selling tickets...so Finley tried to brand the team to all of California by renaming the team the "California Golden Seals" and altered the uniforms and colors to mirror the popular "A's" franchise. It didn't work. In 1976, the team packed up and took their talents to Cleveland where the became the "Barons"...where they sold fewer tickets than in Oakland. Two more years of loses and the league saw the Barons merge with the Minnesota North Stars on the way to Dallas.
1983: Kansas City Chiefs running back Joe Delaney (a 1,000-yard rusher just two years prior) drowned trying to rescue three young swimmers. Delaney graduated Northwestern State before being drafted in the second round by Kansas City with the 41st overall pick in the 1981 NFL Draft. After his rookie season, Delaney earned AFC Rookie of the Year honors and a Pro Bowl selection... setting Chiefs records for most yards in a season (1,121), most yards in a game (193 vs. Houston), most consecutive 100-yard-plus games (three) and most 100-yard games in a season (five)...records that stood for over 20 years. Delaney once ran for a 75-yard TD run...it was called back for an offside penalty...on the second play after the penalty, Delaney sprinted for 82-yards for a TD (which counted)...registering the longest play from scrimmage during the 1981 season. He clearly showed skill, talent and promise...but his career and life were cut short at just 24.
38 years ago on this day, Delaney dove into a pond (roughly 20 feet deep and covering 2 acres) meant for aesthetics and not recreational use, attempting to rescue 3 children screaming for help. Despite his lack of swimming experience, Delaney managed to get one child to safety... another died at the emergency room hours later and the third child's body was later recovered by police just feet away from Delaney's.
President Ronald Regan awarded Delaney the Presidential Citizens Medal saying, "He made the ultimate sacrifice by placing the lives of three children above regard for his own safety. By the supreme example of courage and compassion, this brilliantly gifted young man left a spiritual legacy for his fellow Americans."
(Delaney ran for 106 yards and had 104 receiving yards in his first professional start against Oakland)
I hope you enjoyed this edition of "On This Day..."
Finding stories like Delaney's, while tragic and emotional, manage to inspire and transpire the sporting world. It is young men like Delaney who truly make our communities better places to live. We can all learn something from those who sacrifice everything for those they don't even know.