Thanksgiving Day is traditionally known for turkey and stuffing, getting stuffed on turkey and stuffing ... and football. The Detroit Lions began this NFL tradition in 1934 and with the exception of 1939-44 (when the series was interrupted by World War II), they've been at it ever since. Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys have also made Turkey Day an annual event and have been playing steadily on Thanksgiving since 1978.

There have been a lot of great games over the years, Bounty Bowls and Phil Luckett coin flips aside. Here are arguably the best of the best ...

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Chicago Cardinals 40, Chicago Bears 6 (November 28, 1929): Not a great game but a great performance by Ernie Nevers of the Cardinals. More than 80 years later, the Hall of Fame running back owns the longest standing records in NFL history -- rushing for six touchdowns and scoring 40 points (thanks to four PATs) in a 40-6 victory over the rival Bears at fabled Comiskey Park. For his career, Nevers scored 38 touchdowns in five seasons.

Detroit Lions 26, Green Bay Packers 14 (November 22, 1962): Vince Lombardi's defending NFL champions entered this game 10-0 but ran into a buzz saw at Detroit as the Lions opened up a 23-0 halftime lead and sacked Packers QB Bart Starr 10 times. It was the only game Green Bay lost that season on its way to another NFL title.

Buffalo Bills 27, San Diego Chargers 24 (November 26, 1964): In a preview of the AFL Championship Game (also won by the Bills), the Chargers took a 24-14 lead in the fourth quarter after RB Keith Lincoln threw a 53-yard TD pass to Hall of Fame WR Lance Alworth. But a safety, a 1-yard TD sneak and 2-point conversion run by Bills QB Daryle Lamonica and PK Pete Gogolak's 33-yard field goal in the closing seconds rescued Buffalo.

Dallas Cowboys 24, Washington Redskins 23 (November 28, 1974): Tom Landry's team trailed 16-3 in the third quarter and QB Roger Staubach was on the sidelines. Enter little-known backup QB Clint Longley, who led the team to three touchdowns, throwing a 50-yard strike to WR Drew Pearson with 28 seconds left to stun George Allen's playoff-bound Redskins.

Chicago Bears 23, Detroit Lions 17 (OT) (November 27, 1980): Perhaps there could be no more heartbreaking way to lose a game. The Lions owned a 17-3 lead in the fourth quarter, watched Bears QB Vince Evans run 4 yards for a touchdown on the final play of regulation (with the subsequent PAT tying the game) and teammate KR David Williams returning the kickoff 95 yards for a score in overtime for an unlikely Chicago victory.

Green Bay Packers 44, Detroit Lions 40 (November 27, 1986): In one of the wildest Turkey Day games, the Lions took a 10-point lead with just over five minutes to play in the fourth quarter. But Packers QB Randy Wright threw a 11-yard TD pass to RB Paul Ott Carruth less than two minutes later and WR Walter Stanley (who caught 2 TD passes in the game) returned a punt 83 yards for the game-winning score with less than a minute to play.

Minnesota Vikings 44, Dallas Cowboys 38 (OT) (November 26, 1987): Dallas was en route to a lost season, while the wild card 8-7 Vikings wound up in the NFC Championship Game. Minnesota took a 38-24 lead with less than 10 minutes to play, but Cowboys QB Danny White threw two TD passes to WR Mike Renfro to tie the score. Then it came down to the Nelsons (sort of). Vikings kicker Chuck Nelson missed a 46-yard field goal in the final seconds that would have won it, and RB Darrin Nelson ran 24 yards for the game-winning TD in overtime.

Miami Dolphins 16, Dallas Cowboys 14 (November 25, 1993): In the snow and slush at Texas Stadium, the defending Super Bowl champions appeared to have dodged a bullet when DT Jimmie Jones blocked Dolphins PK Pete Stoyanovich's 41-yard field goal in the closing seconds. Inexplicably, Cowboys DT Leon Lett tried to pick up the ball, Dolphins T Jeff Dellenbach recovered the muff and Stoyanovich took advantage of his second chance. The 9-2 Dolphins didn't win again that season while the 7-4 Cowboys didn't lose and repeated as Super Bowl champions.

Dallas Cowboys 42, Green Bay Packers 31 (November 24, 1994): Last season, Jason Garrett lost his first Thanksgiving Day game as head coach. But 17 years ago, he won as the starting quarterback in place of injured QB Troy Aikman, throwing for 311 yards, two scores and one interception, rallying his team from a 17-3 deficit and offsetting a tremendous effort from Packers WR Sterling Sharpe, who caught nine passes for 122 yards and four touchdowns.

New Orleans Saints 30, Dallas Cowboys 27 (November 25, 2010): As for that aforementioned game and Garrett, the Cowboys appeared primed to beat the defending Super Bowl champions via a 27-23 lead and WR Roy Williams on the end of a 47-yard pass play possibly en route to an insurance touchdown. But Saints S Malcolm Jenkins stripped Williams, recovered the fumble and it took QB Drew Brees only five plays to cover 89 yards, his 12-yard touchdown pass to WR Lance Moore with 1:55 to play proving to be the difference.

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Sure he's an NFL legend, but who knew that Peyton Manning is also a war hero?

The injured Indianapolis Colts quarterback has a cool tie to the American Civil War, which began 150 years ago. Mark Blevins, a high school basketball coach and teacher, has uncovered a fascinating connection between Manning and Abraham Lincoln's battle to end slavery in the United States.

Peyton T. Manning from Mississippi was a confederate artillery commander for Lt. Gen. James Longstreet during the Battle of Fort Sanders. Blevins tells WBIR-TV he played a key role in what was the decisive engagement of the Knoxville, Tenn. portion of the Civil War.

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It happened on November 29, 1863, during the attempted takeover of Knoxville. Blevins says, "Longstreet came up from Chattanooga. He's coming straight down Kingston Pike. Peyton T. Manning [and] his crew is over next to the University of Tennessee campus and they're firing on Fort Sanders. So 130 years later, you have another Peyton T. Manning who played for the Vols."

More than a century later, the modern-day Manning became Tennessee's all-time leading passer with 11,201 yards, 89 touchdowns and was victorious in 39 of 45 games as a starter for the Knoxville based university from 1994 to 1997.

The lieutenant colonel Manning was born in Alabama and raised in Mississippi. He attended the Georgia Military Institute and was slightly wounded at Chickamauga in September 1863, according to Antietam on the Web.

So you're probably wondering if the confederate soldier named Peyton T. Manning is related to the Indianapolis Colts player named Peyton W. Manning.

Alas, we've been unable to find a link between the families. Historynet.com reported a few years ago that despite sharing a very unusual first name, there doesn't appear to be a connection between the Peytons.

However, the Colts' Peyton Manning's great-grandfather, Richard Elam Manning, is believed to have served for the 36th Mississippi Infantry of the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

Information about Peyton T. Manning comes at 2:23 of this report from WBIR-TV

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Julius Erving is one of the best basketball players in history. When it came to earnings, however, Dr. J's career ended just before salaries began to soar higher than his breathtaking one-handed dunks.

Erving's biggest payday by far came in the wee hours Sunday morning when an online auction closed and 144 of his possessions had sold for $3,552,627.

His 1974 ABA New York Nets championship ring fetched $460,741, the highest total ever for a sports ring. Five more of Erving's rings each exceeded $195,000. Three MVP trophies each exceeded $165,000.

What SCP Auctions had described as "the largest and most significant player basketball collection ever sold" indeed set a record for the most money brought in for one man's basketball memorabilia.

"It was mindboggling," SCP president David Kohler said. "Normally rings go for $25,000 or so. Before the sale I didn't think they'd bring $50,000. We were blown away. I spoke to Julius and he's ecstatic."

Nearly everything went higher than expected. Dr. J asked a minimum bid of only $2,000 for his high school class ring, yet it sold for $35,801.

One reason: Dr. J's former NBA team, the Philadelphia 76ers, acquired 18 of the items through the auction and plans to put them on display. As reported by Ball Don't Lie, team CEO Adam Aron tweeted the development.

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The cash should come in handy for Erving, 61, who was sued last month for an outstanding debt of $205,277.84 to a bank in Georgia. The Heritage Golf Club near Atlanta he bought in 2008 and a $2.3 million home he owns in Utah face foreclosure.

All in all, collectors spent more than $6.5 million at the auction – a new high in the dozen-or-so years of organized online bidding.

Among the non-Erving pieces that sold for eye-popping amounts:

• Lou Gehrig’s 1938-39 bat used to hit his last home run, which originated from the estate of actor Bing Russell, yielded $403,664. The only bats that have sold for more were the one Babe Ruth used to hit the first homer at Yankee Stadium and Shoeless Joe Jackson's "Black Betsy." Here is a story about the history of the bat on ThePostGame.com.

• A historic 1887 photograph and dinner program signed by baseball Hall-of-Famer Mike "King" Kelly (see below) went for $214,936, by far the highest price for a photo signed by a single player. Kohler said the only baseball photo to be sold for more was a team shot signed by the entire 1927 New York Yankees. Here is a story about Kelly and the autographed program on ThePostGame.com.

• Muhammad Ali's fight-worn trunks from the Ali vs. Frazier "Fight of the Century" sold for $173,102.

• Hall of Fame catcher Mickey Cochrane’s 1934 American League MVP trophy fetched $125,332 and a Ted Williams Boston Red Sox game-worn road jersey sold for $77,820.

All impressive numbers, all prized by new owners, but this auction started and ended with the Dr. J collection. He said a portion of the proceeds would go to the Salvation Army.

"It is my hope that the buyers of these items will derive much pleasure from their ownership," Erving said in a statement. "I also hope these treasures initiate much discussion inside and outside of basketball circles that help to preserve my legacy."

Here's a list of the highest auction prices for items sold by Erving:

• 1974 ABA New Jersey Nets championship ring: $460,741

• 1983 76ers championship ring: $244,240

• 1978 All-Star ring: $238,853

• 1983 All-Star ring: $218.977

• 1984 All-Star ring: $218,977

• 1976 New York Nets ABA championship ring: $195,396

• 1980-81 NBA MVP trophy: $177,632

• 1975-76 ABA MVP trophy: $173,102

• 1977 NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable trophy: $168,728

-- Steve Henson is a senior editor and columnist at Yahoo! Sports. He can be reached at henson@yahoo-inc.com. Follow him on Twitter .

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It was a grand occasion, the Boston Beaneaters' 1887 home opener and the first chance for fans to watch newly acquired star Mike "King" Kelly, whose batting and baserunning exploits were exceeded only by his élan.

He'd been purchased from the Chicago White Stockings for the unimaginable sum of $10,000 after leading the league with a .388 batting average and 155 runs. He'd invented the hook slide and the hit-and-run play, and stole as many as 84 bases in a season. He liked to address the crowd between pitches, banter with the umpire and bait the opposition, blurring the lines between baseball and performance art.

After the game, Kelly was off to the Boston Theatre, then to a banquet in his honor at the Elks Lodge. Mayor Hugh O'Brien presented him with a gold watch and chain. The 5½-by-9½ rigid card-stock program given to guests was festooned with red velvet ribbons. Its edges were gold leaf, its centerpiece a studio cabinet-style photograph of the striking, mustachioed Kelly.

He'd made fashionable the notion of signing an autograph when he rose to stardom with the Chicago White Stockings under legends Cap Anson and Albert Spalding. The post-Civil War era produced the first wave of American celebrities, from Mark Twain to Buffalo Bill, from John D. Rockefeller to John L. Sullivan.

Kelly was the first larger-than-life pro baseball player, and many of the Elks had him autograph their programs as the evening progressed, whiskey flowed and toasts became grandiose.

He dipped a pen into an inkwell, and signed, "Truly Yours, M.J. Kelly." One of the programs surfaced 124 years later, and it's in mint condition. Kelly's autograph is a rarity, and this one is perhaps the most valuable ever for a baseball player.

Many of the programs never even left the building that night. Thoroughly soused, Kelly was loaded into his carriage, normally horse-drawn. But on this night Elks and other admirers lifted the carriage and lugged it through the streets to his home.

It was a great night to be a Bostonian, a great night to be Irish, a great night to be King.

Within two years Kelly was the subject of America's first pop music hit, recorded on a wax cylinder and played on the phonograph Thomas Edison had invented in 1877. The song was titled, "Slide, Kelly, Slide," which is what fans in Chicago would chant when he flew around bases in his prime. It was sung on stage by dance hall star Miss Maggie Cline and covered by numerous artists as 78 rpm records proliferated in the early 20th century, well after Kelly's death.

Within four years he was moonlighting as a Vaudeville act, reciting "Casey at the Bat," often substituting Kelly for Casey. His pet monkey sat on his shoulder and a beer or shot of whiskey was invariably in his hand.

Within seven years he'd drank himself out of the major leagues and was a player/manager for an Allentown, Pa., farm team. After the 1894 season he contracted pneumonia during a boat trip from New York to Boston and died Nov. 8 at age 36, leaving a wife and small child. Legend has it he slipped off a stretcher at the hospital, looked up from the ground and said, "This is my last slide."

In 1945 Kelly was inducted in the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. By the second half of the 20th century, the player who'd been as beloved in his era as Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle were in theirs faded into obscurity.

All the while, one of the autographed programs from the Elks tribute dinner in 1887 was preserved in mint condition, buried in a trunk beneath newspapers, letters and some other Elks mementos in the attic of a wealthy family in the West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. When the matriarch died in 1985, the family had a yard sale. The trunk of mostly junk sold for $25.

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The man who bought it was a lifelong Elks member who enjoyed collecting pins and other relics from the club's early days. So he was thrilled to find the perfectly preserved program from the 1887 dinner. He had no idea who Mike Kelly was and didn't care. He just liked the way the program looked behind glass in his home office, and there it stayed for 25 years.

A couple years ago the man's 12-year-old nephew was hanging around his office, picking up and setting down Elks memorabilia. He saw the autograph and said, "That's King Kelly! He's in the Hall of Fame!"

Now the autographed photo and program are in an online sports memorabilia auction that will conclude Saturday. The consigner -- the Elks aficionado who bought the trunk at the yard sale and kept the program all
these years -- asked not to be identified.

SCP Auctions estimates that fewer than 10 authentic Mike King Kelly autographs are known to exist, and most are on contracts or other documents. This is the only known Kelly autographed photograph.

Kevin Keating, perhaps the foremost sports autograph authenticator in the country, said the value should be substantially more than $100,000. And he said that no baseball autograph has ever sold for six figures on the inherent value of the signature.

"I can think of some Babe Ruth items that sold for more, but the signature was on a Babe Ruth home run ball, or a home run bat," he said. "What carries the value of the Kelly piece is the autograph itself. It's so aesthetically pleasing. If you could bring Kelly back to life to sign one thing, you'd be hard-pressed to find anything nicer for him to sign. It's breathtaking."

***

Kelly's voice is preserved in an autobiography he produced with a ghostwriter in 1888, the first ever by a baseball player. The home opener and Elks dinner of a year earlier were fresh in his mind.

"I shall never forget the opening game of the season in Boston," he wrote. "It was the most memorable night of my life."

Kelly became an active member of the Boston Elks chapter. Celebratory and charitable, blue-collar and benevolent, the Elks were a great fit for him. The Elks started in New York shortly after the Civil War, spinning off a group launched by vaudevillian Charles Vivian called the Jolly Cork Club so named because of a trick new members fell for every time.

Everyone would set a bottle cork on the bar. The new man was told that on a count of three the last man to grab his cork must buy a round of drinks. At three, everyone but the new man would remain still, so, of course, he had become the last to grab. Everybody had a good laugh and another drink.

The Jolly Cork members soon began raising money for local causes and eventually they voted on a new name. The Elks beat out the Buffaloes.

By 1887 in Boston, the Elks had become one of the few places where men of English and Irish descent mixed amiably. The Irish, long treated with disdain, gradually became accepted. Hugh O'Brien was the city's first Irish mayor. The purchase of Kelly by the Beaneaters was one more hugely symbolic gesture for the Irish.

***

Kelly became something of a labor pioneer when he and most other top players from the National League broke away from owners they believed were exploiting them and started the Player's League in 1890.

He refused to break ranks even when the powerful Spalding, owner of the Chicago White Stockings, privately offered him more than double his $4,000 salary to defect back to the NL (the American League didn't yet exist).

Kelly thought it over and, according to Spalding's memoirs, turned down the offer, saying, "I want the $10,000 bad enough, but I've thought the matter all over and I can't go back on the boys."

The Player's League fell apart after one season, however, and Kelly was never the same. Overweight and slovenly from years of boozing, he was released by Boston in 1891 and signed by an American Association team based in a suburb of Cincinnati that was known as Kelly's Killers.

He'd swim across the Ohio River after games, once nearly drowning after taking a few shots of whiskey, according to Marty Appel's biography, "Slide, Kelly, Slide." Kelly's career was coming to an end: He'd finish with a .308 average with 1,813 hits in 16 seasons, but having made an impact far beyond statistics.

Kelly went from being baseball's best player to barely hanging on.
Yet throughout his career he was an innovator and an entertainer, helping baseball become a favored spectator sport.

Saloons that long had a painting of Custer's Last Stand hanging on the wall behind the bar replaced it with one of Kelly sliding into home plate.

He was a hero in Chicago, revered in Boston and marveled at by the rest of the country at a time when exploits not eye-witnessed spread slowly through newspapers, magazines and word of mouth.

And thanks to at least two people clueless as to what they had acquired, one mint-condition autographed photograph of King Kelly has survived into the 21st century, and is about to become one of the most valued pieces of baseball memorabilia ever.

-- Steve Henson is a senior editor and columnist at Yahoo! Sports. He can be reached at henson@yahoo-inc.com. Follow him on Twitter .

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Students headed to the site of a track meet sponsored by Kearney (Neb.) State College one morning in the mid-1950's. By 9 a.m., a crowd had formed.

Marion Hudson was coming to town. The air crackled with anticipation. Hudson's coach, Wayne Armer, could sense it as he drove up with his team. Then he could see it.

"They were waiting for him to get out of the car," Armer said.

This is the way it was in Nebraska in the '50s. This was who Hudson was. When he came to town, opposing fans fell over themselves to fall over themselves. They waited for him to get out of the car.

That was long ago. By the 21st century his name produced only wrinkled foreheads and blank stares -- even by officials who had his name listed somewhere deep in their halls of fame. Why was he there, exactly? They couldn't tell you. He was gone, his legend forgotten. His sand smoothed over. His chalk erased.

In the fall of 2005, the Omaha World-Herald, Nebraska's paper of record, compiled its rankings of the top 100 athletes in state history. Comb through it. Marion Hudson is nowhere to be found.

As if all of it had never happened. As if it hadn't been blared in 30-point ink.

As if they hadn't gathered at 9 in the morning, just waiting for a glimpse.

***

Hudson? From Dana College? He couldn't have been worthy of being mentioned with the likes of Bob Boozer or Johnny Rodgers or Tom Kropp, could he? Not when Hudson did what he had done at little Dana (Neb.) College, a small liberal arts Lutheran church school, instead of at Division I Nebraska, or in the pros.

Today, it would have been so simple. If he really was as good as people said, he would have played in the NFL, right? Or he'd have represented the United States in the Olympics, the way so many who saw him compete in track and field still swear he could have done. Right?

But a black man in the 1950's did not inhabit the same world we do. Jackie Robinson was playing baseball, yes, one of a small handful of African Americans in the game. But there was often an unofficial cap on the number of black players on pro rosters in any sport. And they had to make the team in pairs (always an even number; the roommate situation, you see). They weren't going to be backups or 12th men.

Go pro? Alex Meyer, a Nebraska sports historian who befriended Hudson in his later years, who unearthed him from the archives, who brought many of his old accomplishments back to light, said Hudson would simply shrug at the idea. He'd never even considered it.

Bounce around from tryout to tryout in hope of making a team as a backup? Train as an amateur for a year or two or three to try to make an Olympic team? No. No, he had his degree. It was time to move on.

Tom Osborne, who is on any list of Nebraska's all-time great athletes, had faced similar competition in his outstanding career at small liberal arts Presbyterian-affiliated Hastings (Neb.) College. But Dr. Tom also had three years as a backup and practice-squad player in the NFL to validate his talent, as memories of his exploits faded and the years rolled on.

Osborne, who, it must be noted, would remain famous for coaching Nebraska to three college football national championships, had options, back then. How many black players were on the Washington Redskins when Osborne played for them in 1960 and 1961? None.

None.

Osborne played for the Redskins. Marion Hudson went out and got a job.

And one of the greatest athletes no one has ever heard of was already fading away.

***

His athletic career began the way it would end, with a whisper. Marion Hudson, Dana College class of '56, would sign without fanfare, the way most small-college students do and have always done. It was a quiet night after school, at his kitchen table in hardscrabble north Omaha, surrounded by his parents, and a Dana coach.

Hudson died Dec. 8, 2009, after a long illness and a long life. He was 76. He was perhaps the most historically significant figure in his school's annals, having integrated Dana, as its first African American student.

The school had a tradition in those days, said Art Simon, the student president who had led the effort to integrate Dana, of helping "displaced persons" come to Dana. The students would raise a symbolic amount -- for room, board books, say -- and the college would waive the rest. It was a noble tradition, of which they were proud.

Lutheran farm kids were inspired by a speaker from the Urban League who'd described "the racial situation in America."

"That was a whole area that was pretty new to most of us," Simon said. Art's brother -- Paul Simon, later a U.S. Senator from Illinois and candidate for president of the United States -- had pushed for anti-discrimination policies at Dana a few years earlier. But that was the point -- regardless of Paul Simon's policies, the campus was still all white.

The students decided this special scholarship should bring the first black student to Dana. The idea was met with great enthusiasm within the student body.

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"I'm sure it wasn't unanimous, but it was overwhelming in favor," said Vaughn Christensen, who had been a junior in 1951.

Art Simon was still nervous. He wasn't sure what the administration's reaction would be. He went to the school president to ask if Dana would waive the tuition again, but held back a certain key detail.

He was told, sure, same deal as always. But then, word of the plan got out.

Simon said he was called on the carpet in the president's office. Eventually, he remembers it, official word from the Board of Regents was that there were already scholarships available -- there was no need to give a particular advantage or special privilege for a black student.

Well, the students said, fine. They would raise the money themselves. All of it.

Christensen gleaned cornfields. He would pick ears up off the ground, to be sold to farmers. Others were with him, classmates, teammates. Others organized car washes, bake sales, that kind of thing. They worked with determination. Someone special was coming to Dana, and they, the students, would be the ones to make it happen. They all did their part.

***

Marion Hudson grew up in Omaha, but his dad was in the military, and Hudson spent a good portion of his high school years in Alaska (where he didn't play football, but once, the story goes, set a world record for sprinting away from a bear). When he returned to Omaha Central for his senior year, he was ruled ineligible for high school sports due to transfer rules.

He never got his chance to be a schoolboy legend.

Maybe this is why so few remember him, even in his hometown.

He practiced with the Central football team anyway, just to be part of it. The story goes that Nebraska high school hall-of-fame coach Frank Smagacz had him on the scout team at offensive guard.

Smagacz loved Hudson, loved everything about him, his attitude, his intelligence, the way the kid handled himself. Smagacz coached Omaha Central on Fridays and worked as a referee at Nebraska's small-college games on Saturday afternoons. He'd heard about Dana's plan, and he touted Hudson. (By now the fundraising was piling up, and Dana coaches were on board with the idea.)

This is the guy you want for this, Smagacz said -- he'll get along with everyone, and, hey, he wants to play sports, too. It might help ease racial tension if he was part of the team.

"Frank recommended him as a person," Vaughn Christensen said.

Dana football players would later recall that, as Hudson ran for touchdown after touchdown, Smagacz, wearing officials' stripes, would mumble to himself, "Oh, yeah, I can spot talent. I had him at guard ... "

***

Hudson reported for football practice in the late summer of 1952. His roommate was Jack Lodl, another freshman. Did Hudson seem nervous? Oh, heck no. "We were athletes," Lodl said. "I hadn't been around any blacks before, but it sure didn't seem to make any difference because he had a big smile from the get-go."

There was just something about Marion. Lodl could already tell they were going to be friends. They roomed together for three years. Marion called Lodl "Piston Legs." Lodl called Marion "Huds."

Hudson punted, kicked, returned kicks and played defense as well as offensive back. In his four years, he had the four highest single-season yards-per-carry averages in Dana history: 8.59 in 1954, 8.26 in 1953, 7.22 in 1952 and 6.34 in 1955.

"He glided across the field," said Jon Petersen, Dana class of 1956.

Petersen, a center, said, "I can still visualize being a blocker ahead of him," the way he hit the hole and was gone. That's what kind of football player he was.

At a game at a small college in Kansas during Hudson's first year, the Dana team created a stir checking into its hotel. They were told in no uncertain terms to get that (bleep-bleep) out of here. Hudson couldn't stay.

"We were all just flabbergasted," Christensen said.

Hudson could sneak up the back stairs in the daytime, but would have to sleep in the town's colored boarding house that night.

The experience would stay with his teammates for the rest of their lives. Something like that?

"Once you walk into it and you're right there in it, you can't believe it," Christensen said.

The game itself was even worse. "I'd never heard anyone get called the names he got called in that ballgame,” Christensen said. “Oh yeah, it was unmerciful."

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The Vikings were down to their third-string quarterback, with Christensen, a senior -- a lineman -- calling the plays. Well, Vaughn Christensen did what any lineman would do given the chance to call plays -- he called a double reverse. The Vikings were backed up to their own goal line, and by the time Marion got the ball he was in his own end zone.

Christensen was a guard, leading the play, and then Marion passed him, and then Marion was gone. All of his teammates were jumping up and down as he ran, whooping now, pumping their fists. They were all running with him as they trailed him. Yes! He was gone, and Dana was sticking it to them. Dana would win.

Whenever anyone talks about Marion Hudson and discrimination and the adversity in his life, the way he faced hard times that could have crumbled anyone else, they all use the same phrase: He took it in stride.

He embodied it, that day in Kansas, scoring that touchdown. There was Marion Hudson.

In stride.

***

Hudson didn't smash or break the color barrier at Dana, contemporaries say, so much as he just kind of slid right in, a seamless fit. He was home. He was perfect. He was humble. He was Huds.

There was the time he took Lodl out to a black club in Omaha, and when they first got there, it felt like the "We are going to die" scene from "Animal House." (Lodl said it ended up being one of the most fun nights he'd ever had.)

There was the time he was told by a restaurant that he couldn't eat in the dining room with the rest of the team, on a road trip. He had to eat his food in the kitchen -- where the African American cook gave him the biggest steak he'd ever seen.

Was it hard for him? Well, looking back, a few of his white friends said, they now realize it must have been. But at the time, all they knew was that it was all so natural for them. All they knew was that everybody loved him. All they knew was that he was their friend.

They saw when he was refused service, when he had to sleep somewhere else, when he didn’t get the summer jobs they got, when something just didn't feel quite right. Stuff they might not have otherwise even believed was possible had they not seen it happen to a friend.

"He had great teammates and stuff that understood and were right there with him," Hudson's wife, Ella, said. That was the thing. It felt like they were right there with him.

Hudson loved being a part of the glee club at Dana. He'd grown up in the Baptist church and had an exquisite voice. (Dr. Rodney Wead -- Marion's lifelong friend and Dana’s second black student -- noted that Huds could outrun, out-throw and even out-sing every kid in the neighborhood.) He was known on campus for his solo rendition of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." His favorite spiritual was "Little Jesus Boy."

The Dana glee club traveled all over. One man tells a story, of the Dana glee club appearing at his church when he was a teenager. Marion Hudson sung "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." The man said this appearance, especially Hudson's performance, inspired him to attend Dana College.

That man? Dr. Myrv Christopherson. He would graduate from Dana. He would go on to serve as Dana's president for 19 years.

***

Hudson graduated with a bachelor's degree in history and education. By all accounts he was a smart man. He was an affable man. He was a kind man.

He was so smart, Ella once said, he could have been a weatherman.

"He could have done anything he wanted to," she said.

Yet, it was never easy for him after college. He lived in Minnesota for a while, had a daughter there. But Minnesota did not work out. He returned to Omaha, where at last he met Ella, the love of his life. He adopted her daughter, then they had another. They became foster parents, and adopted the two kids they were taking care of. Then, they adopted two more. Their house was full. Their hearts were full.

But Marion was laid off from one job. And layoffs hit him again at another stop. He did anything he could. He sold cars for a while. He sold vacuums door to door.

"When times were tough, when he was looking for a job, I'd say he had too much of an education," Ella said.

Yet again, Marion Hudson took it all in stride. At his funeral, a tribute from his daughter Hallie described a father who could make her laugh until she cried, and cooked her special breakfasts when she was feeling down.

Marion was a stay-at-home dad for a while, when his youngest kids were little and work was scarce. Their youngest daughter had health problems. He would fix her feeding tubes. "Marion was such a workaholic," Ella would say. But then, his health problems surfaced, too. He'd had asthma, and diabetes. Strokes would follow. Then doctors had to amputate both legs.

Ella tried to hold it together, to handle it all. But at last Marion had to enter a care home, where he spent the last several years of his life.

"Marion has been such a fighter. He's not a quitter," Ella would say.

Lodl said the last time he saw Marion, Huds was better than he had been in a while. But by the time he died in December 2009, Marion had been in poor health for a long, long time.

The funeral was a small, quiet affair, a cold December day with snow on the ground. A few old friends telling a few great stories. And the music! Marion music.

Swing low, sweet chariot.
Coming for to carry me home.

***

Let's remember a little more. This was a road basketball game at Buena Vista (Iowa) College, and Dana was on the fast break. Teammate Larrie Stone let loose with a perfect pass, and Hudson caught it just past the free-throw line. "He just took one giant step," Stone remembered, and rose, up, up, up, and slammed it like he was throwing a thunderbolt. Stone had never seen anything like that before.

He'd never heard anything like that before.

"I thought the building was going to come down," Stone said.

The place exploded. In Stone's memory, this may have lasted several seconds; it may have lasted minutes. The crowd went crazy ... for Hudson, a player on the opposing team.

That was Hudson. He was so incredible, he could move even opponents to stand and cheer.

He wasn't a great basketball player. He was a good player capable of big games and jaw-dropping feats. He was Omaha World-Herald college player of the week once. He scored 31 points in a game once. He scored 11 points in the last 10 minutes to help Dana win once. He could dunk like no one had ever seen. But he was probably never the best player on his own team. Which was fine. The players had fun together, and the guys loved him. He was the ultimate teammate. He was always the ultimate teammate.

"When I entered him in 12 events, he didn't have too much to say about it," his track coach Wayne Armer said. "He went out and did it."

Those 12 events came in the 1954 conference championships, and Hudson entered them all, preliminaries in the morning, finals in the afternoon. In his last event of the meet he anchored the 880 relay with a 220 leg and his teammates caught him in a blanket at the finish line -- partly to hug him; partly, to hold him up. They wanted to be right there with him.

Huds did it all. He ran the 100 in 9.9 seconds, broad jumped more than 24 feet, cleared a 6-foot-4 high jump without aid of the Fosbury Flop technique, and was the first athlete in Nebraska history to throw the javelin more than 200 feet.

One tale has him leaping completely over the broad-jump pit.

(So why wasn't Hudson a top prospect for the U.S. Olympic team, the way his contemporaries say he should have been? Well, he was one of the rising stars in the country, in the javelin, one year. Then, javelin technology went through the roof. Dana College got one those "new" javelins. It broke. And that was the school's budget for new javelins.)

He once scored 38 points in a single meet, and in 1955 scored 28 points to lead Dana to the Central Church College Conference track title. That was huge. Dana was then, as always, a small school with very little resources. (So little, in fact, the school shut down in the summer of 2010.) But the Vikings were champions, that day.

He picked up the javelin -- they mean that literally; one day he just picked it up and threw it -- and was the best the state of Nebraska had ever seen.

"We were afraid to let Marion throw the javelin in practice," Armer said, "because he might kill somebody." Who knew how far it would go?

He threw it into history. In 1954 Hudson was the event's champion at the Drake Relays, when that was arguably the biggest open college track meet in the United States. He outscored all the Big Seven Conference schools combined, that meet. When he won the javelin, the chatter in the stadium was, "Where is Dana? Where is Dana?"

After Marion Hudson, everybody knew.

***

That was some 57 years ago, and Hudson's once-legendary exploits have been lost to time. His old friends and teammates can get prickly when asked about him. It angers them that he's been forgotten, that his legacy was so easily swept aside.

There should have been something permanent done to honor him while he was alive, they say, grumbling. But Dana College didn't do it in time. After years of poor health in a care home, Marion died. Then came word that the football field at Dana would be renamed in Hudson's honor in the fall of 2010. But the summer before he would have been so memorialized, the small, cash-strapped school shut its doors for good.

The stands in the stadium that would have been named for him are empty now, just crickets and whispers and ghosts. The last thing that would have kept his name alive is fading away. Chains on the doors. But this was where Hudson was great, once. This was where a brave man burned bright. Stand now, at the edge of the field, feet on the track. Close your eyes and you can almost hear it.

A javelin rides on the wind.

Full Story >>

This story is a special from LostLettermen.com, a college football and men's basketball site that regularly contributes to ThePostGame.com.

The Penn State scandal has engulfed the country, making the victims of sexual abuse the focus of more attention.

It has been the work of former Colorado and New Mexico kicker Katie Hnida (pronounced "NYE-duh") to put abuse victims front and center all the time.

A soccer player growing up in Littleton, Colo., Hnida was the first woman to compete in an FBS football game – kicking in the 2002 Las Vegas Bowl – and the first woman to score in an FBS game in August 2003, when she booted two extra points for New Mexico against Texas State-San Marcos after she transferred to Albuquerque.

But before she suited up for the Lobos, Hnida was a sexual abuse victim as a player at Colorado, where she was invited as a walk-on freshman kicker by Rick Neuheisel in 1998.

She described in detail to then-Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly for a February 2004 story how she was abused by Colorado teammates.

[Related: Jerry Sandusky's Book 'Touched' Gets Ripped]

Citing Hnida, Reilly described her plight as a "kind of sexual hell you can't imagine," which allegedly included teammates exposing themselves in the locker room, inappropriately touching and, in one 2000 case, raping her.

"I always thought rape was some guy coming out of some dark alley with a knife," Hnida said in 2010. "So it really kind of left me in a state of shock."

"She endured more abuse than one person should have to bear," former teammate Justin Bates told Reilly.

Hnida also told Reilly that she didn't go to Colorado coach Gary Barnett to complain about the treatment because she was "terrified" to do so because Barnett didn't want her around anyway.

He made that known in 2004 comments to the Denver Post in which he blasted Hnida for her play when the real issue at hand was the abuse that she allegedly endured under his watch.

"It was obvious Katie was not very good," Barnett said, according to the newspaper. "She was awful. You know what guys do? They respect your ability. You can be 90 years old, but if you can go out and play, they'll respect you.

"Katie was not only a girl, she was terrible. OK? There's no other way to say it."

Those comments led to a temporary suspension of Barnett in 2004 and -- coupled with a sex/recruiting scandal and poor play on the field -- ultimately led to his departure from Colorado in 2005.

But that didn't take away the hurt for Hnida, who -- like the alleged victims of Jerry Sandusky -- will have to live with what she endured at Colorado for the rest of her life.

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But Hnida hasn't sit idly by since leaving college football.

Hnida wrote a book in 2006 titled "Still Kicking: My Journey as the First Woman to Play Division One College Football," in which she talks about her college career on the gridiron and the abuse.

Hnida even returned to Boulder in 2008 to speak about her horrific experience on the Buffaloes football team.

[Related: Where Are Colt Brennan And Timmy Chang Now?]

She also works tirelessly to support victims of abuse by sharing her story on college campuses. And Hnida has worked in tandem with organizations like The Joyful Heart Foundation, which works to raise awareness for victims of sexual, domestic and child abuse.

However, Hnida hasn't given up on playing football. Last year, she played for the Fort Wayne Firehawks of the Continental Indoor Football League and also has played for two semi-pro teams, the Colorado Cobras and KC Mustangs.

Hnida, now 30, is listed as living in St. Petersburg, Fla., and is also an active speaker who travels to schools and universities to spread her message and prevent sexual assaults like the one she had to live through.

You would have hoped that Hnida's scandal would have encouraged Penn State assistant Mike McQueary, former head coach Joe Paterno or athletic director Tim Curley to speak up and go to the police after alleged sexual assault by Sandusky against young boys in 2002.

But none did and sadly we are once again in a position where no one stood up for sexual assault victims, lives have been tarnished forever and college football faces one of its darkest hours ever.

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Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes Sunday as the Patriots smacked the Jets 37-16. It was the 117th win for Brady and Bill Belichick, the most for a quarterback-coach combo in NFL history.

Here are the other four duos in the top five. Except for the active players, everyone on this list is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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Bill Belichick, Tom Brady

117 wins, Patriots. On Sept. 23, 2001, Mo Lewis knocked Drew Bledsoe out of the lineup, giving Brady his chance. Brady, who jumped over Damon Huard in training camp to become the No. 2 quarterback, was drafted in the sixth round out of Michigan. Belichick is the only coach to win three Super Bowls in a four-year span and was the first to go 16-0 in the regular season.

Don Shula, Dan Marino

116 wins, Dolphins. Marino was the first quarterback to throw for more than 5,000 yards in a season and finished his career with 61,361 yards and 420 touchdowns. Shula coached two Super Bowl champions with the Dolphins, including a perfect season in 1972 (17-0), and finished his coaching career as the career leader in wins with 347.

Chuck Noll, Terry Bradshaw

107 wins, Steelers. Noll selected Bradshaw with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1970 draft. Bradshaw, out of Louisiana Tech, teamed with Noll to win four Super Bowls. Noll is the only coach to have four Super Bowl wins and Bradshaw was the first quarterback to have won three and four Super
Bowls.

Marv Levy, Jim Kelly

99 wins, Bills. Under the direction of Marv Levy and the arm of Jim Kelly, the Bills went to an unprecedented four straight Super Bowls, but came up short all four times. Levy is one of two men -- along with Chicago's George Halas -- to coach in the NFL after the age of 70. Kelly, a first-round draft pick out of the University of Miami, started his pro career with the Houston Gamblers in the USFL.

Andy Reid,
Donovan McNabb

97 wins, Eagles. Reid is still coach of the Eagles and has compiled the most wins (131) in team history. McNabb is no longer with the team, but holds a number of team records. Coach and quarterback led the Eagles to the 2005 Super Bowl, coming up short against the Patriots.

-- Seth Levenstein is president of Dynasty Sports Marketing, the producer of The Ultimate Sports Challenge, a multiplayer online sports trivia game and tournament series.

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Ethan Cole is stalking Carl Lewis. He's sitting behind the wheel a black SUV, parked in front of a 7-11 in New Jersey. And he's spying on an Olympic track legend.

Ben Johnson -- yes, that Ben Johnson, the scourge of the Canadian sporting scene since 1988 when a failed drug test during the Summer Olympics stripped him of a gold medal -- is riding shotgun.

The mission is to set up a face-to-face meeting between Johnson and Lewis, who was Johnson's former track rival and is now a state senate candidate. Cole and Laurence Payne, a fellow 28-year-old sports fanatic hellbent on tracking down former athletes, want to get the two to air their differences after all these years. Johnson has agreed, but now Lewis must be found. And intense research shows this 7-11 store, located in Marlton, N.J., is where Lewis comes for his morning coffee.

The black SUV has been parked in the same spot for the better part of five hours. Johnson is not amused.

"Are we friends yet?" Cole asks in the trailer of one of four 22-minute videos that will debut Tuesday night on Canadian sports network, The Score.

"No," Johnson replies sternly.

"Are we crazy?" Cole fires back a minute later.

"You guys are crazy," Johnson, seemingly growing angrier by the moment, responds.

"You guys are retarded."

For Cole and Payne, this is a gold-medal moment. The 500-mile trip to this convenience store is now officially worth it.

Payne and Cole are part fanatic, part adventure seeker, part extreme nuisance. What began with a simple hypothetical conversation has turned into a yearlong journey.

What if certain sports dramas had turned out differently? And how do the athletes involved feel now? You've heard of LostLettermen. Well, this is FoundLettermen.

Along the way, the friends ended up in Atlanta, Columbus and Santa Fe, somehow managing to connect with their sports heroes in a self-promoting yet endearing way.

They started, naturally, with Otis Nixon.

Nixon is the former Atlanta Braves outfielder who made the final out of the 1992 World Series when he laid down a bunt with two outs and the tying run on third base.

For the better part of 18 years, Payne and Cole, both 10 and living in Canada at the time, wondered what drove Nixon to bunt. So, they did what any normal Blue Jays fans would do 18 years after watching their team with a championship: They traveled to Atlanta to not only ask Nixon what he was thinking at the time, but to ask him to reenact the moment.

Payne assumed the role of former Blue Jays pitcher Mike Timlin. Cole played first baseman Joe Carter. There was only one glitch: The trio couldn't find a baseball. So they used a ball signed by Ferguson Jenkins. Nixon pounded the ball into his yard, deep into a bed of snow. They couldn't find it anywhere.

That was only the beginning.

Since then, the pair has paid $200 for a piece of artwork painted by former World Wrestling Federation superstar, The Ultimate Warrior. The purchase in an online auction got them connected with their wrestling hero.

When they pitched the idea of meeting up to discuss the meaning of life -- seriously -- the Warrior asked for an essay. They obliged, opening the door for a face-to-face meeting in Santa Fe.

It didn't stop there.

Cole, who has never been in a fight in his life, wondered what it would be like to spar with James "Buster" Douglas, the former heavyweight champion of the world who famously upset Mike Tyson in 1990. Payne and Cole actually chronicled Douglas in a documentary about life after his celebrated win in Tokyo.

In four trips so far, there have been no crash and burn moments.

"All of these guys were willing participants," Payne says. "They were all kind of interested in doing something a little different."

Each mission is unique, allowing Payne and Cole to thrive not only as fans, but also as storytellers. Each trip is made with a small traveling party that includes a cameraman and other support staff.

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"For us, we're always going to take different routes to get to these people," Cole says. "Sometimes, it's as easy as writing an email and sometimes, you really have to go down a rabbit hole and be creative."

Payne is the head of sales at a Toronto production company making commercials. Cole works as an ad agency copywriter. The jobs give them what they call modest salaries with just enough disposable income to keep life interesting.

Payne declined to specify how much the two have spent on trips and the making of the Douglas documentary.

The results, Payne and Cole say, have been worth every penny.

"Some people go to Mexico on their days off," Payne says. "We track down retired athletes. It's become a bit of an addiction for us."

Payne and Cole use a variety of methods to reach out and persuade athletes to take part in the 22-minute shows.

With Nixon, it meant tracking the retired Major Leaguer down through his Atlanta-based charity working with drug and alcohol addicts. With Johnson, it involved finding the former sprinter while he was promoting a new book.

When it came to tracking down Douglas, a series of emails between Cole and a Columbus Dispatch reporter turned into a phone call to a friend and eventually, contact with the boxing champion.

"In the beginning, I didn't know what the hell was going on," Douglas says in a phone interview from Columbus, Ohio, where he trains a young professional boxer who has won his first six bouts. "At first, I was kind of defensive, but it turned out to be really nice.

"They're cool guys and we had a good time."

Over two days, Douglas sparred with Cole, who had never been in a fight in his life before traveling with his new friends to a local shooting range to shoot pistols. While Douglas is often asked to look back on the fight with Tyson that changed his life, the opportunity to share moments with fans is also meaningful.

"It's a beautiful thing, man," Douglas says. "It's exciting to have brought out passion in people like that. It's a great feeling."

With four episodes completed, Payne and Cole will begin chipping away at the next idea on their sports bucket list.

Among the candidates, insane as they may be: Setting up a dinner with shamed Chicago Cubs fan Steve Bartman and former Cubs outfielder Moises Alou; spending a day as Charles Barkley's personal assistant; deep-sea fishing with former tennis star Michael Chang; and administering a lie detector test to Jose Canseco.

As crazy as all that seems, Payne and Cole are serious about making each meeting substantial and meaningful.

The two maintain semi-regular contact with their subjects. Some of the athletes take Payne and Cole back to their childhood, reliving moments that made them fans in the first place. Others have taken on special meaning later in life.

But the result of each meeting brings the two fans closer to their heroes than they ever imagined.

"We leave these places with a certain degree of friendship," Payne says. "It's more than a professional relationship. We end up having a great time with these guys."

As for Johnson and Lewis? Well, we'll all find out when we watch the show.

-- Jeff Arnold can be reached at jeffarnold24@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @jeff_arnold24.

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Technology has solved so many of our problems, except, it seems, when it comes to football safety.

High school and college players might be better off wearing leather helmets on the field, rather than the high-tech models used today. That's the "really surprising" conclusion of a new study by the Cleveland Clinic.

Reuters reports scientists have found that most of the blows taken by the modern polycarbonate helmets are no better at cutting down on injury than the old school leather helmets of a century ago. Even more stunning, some of the research indicated that the old helmets were slightly better at protecting kids.

Scientists are not recommending leather helmets return to pro football. However, they would like helmet manufacturers to take a second look at the design of helmets -- most importantly at the youth level.

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The study was published online in the Journal of Neurosurgery. Lead researcher Adam Bartsh reported youth helmets are not designed for the regular hits that happen on normal basis in pee wee football, but are designed to take high-impact hits you'd see in the NFL. Those hits obviously don't happen in neighborhood leagues.

Researchers say the lack of specific youth helmet standards may endanger brain health for the three million kids that take part in tackle football across America each year.

Reuters reports that emergency room visits by children and adolescents for brain injuries jumped 60 percent between 2001 and 2009, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

This is how the modern football helmet is made these days.

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Consider the bat a baton, handed from a distinctly American sports legend on his last legs to a youngster about to embark on a distinctly American adulthood. Just don't call it pure Hollywood: Bing Russell knew fact from fiction, and the story of Lou Gehrig giving him the last bat he used to hit a home run is reality without a show, not yet anyway.

SCP Auctions is currently taking bids on the bat, and it's projected to be one of most valuable baseball pieces ever sold. How it went from Gehrig's python-like grip to the trembling hands of a 12-year-old boy in the dugout to safekeeping for more than 70 years is a fascinating tale, one that Bing's children (who include veteran leading man Kurt Russell) and grandchildren (who include former major leaguer Matt Franco) want made public.

Bing died in 2003 at 76. Kurt starred in the acclaimed sports movie "Miracle" in 2004. Matt's 20-year pro career ended in 2006. All the while, the bat rested under an umbrella stand in the home of Kurt's sister and Matt's mom, Jill Franco.

Matt visited her earlier this year, and there it was. He lifted the bat, so heavy, so formidable, just the way he remembered the first time he held it as a kid. He thought about his grandfather, the man the family called "Pa," how he'd traveled to every one of the dozen or so minor and major league cities Matt played in just to watch his at-bats. The pride he felt. The tales he told.

"It's time the world knows Pa's story, and the best way to tell it by getting this bat to someone who can display it," Matt said to his mom.

They called Kurt and talked it over. The decision came down to letting the lumber breathe.

Get it out from under the umbrella stand and into the sunlight. Let it become a conduit connecting Lou Gehrig's stately greatness to Bing Russell's rollicking life to new owners who ideally would display their acquisition. The story might spread.

***

Turns out it's not the first auction the bat's been through. Shortly after Bing turned 70, he looked around and decided it was time to de-clutter his house and disperse the possessions. Memorabilia, somebody called it. He said, no, it's a lifetime. He'd spent his adolescence in the Yankees dugout and then became an actor, owner of a ballclub, father of an even more famous actor, and grandfather of a big leaguer.

Yes, Bing did a whole lot and accumulated magnificent memories. And because he'd taken a piece with him at every turn, his home was full of interesting stuff. So he and his wife, Lou, summoned their four children and said let's have some fun, let's have a family auction.

It was a draft, really, youngest to oldest. Daughters Jamie and Jody treasured their dad's roles as the deputy sheriff in "Bonanza," as Robert in "The Magnificent Seven" and his dozens of other parts in TV shows and films. Their picks reflected that. Kurt, whose own acting career in films ranging from "Backdraft" to "Silkwood" to "Tombstone" overshadowed a deep love of baseball, took seats from the original Yankee Stadium given to his dad by pitcher Lefty Gomez, who'd been a father figure to Bing.

Jill's first pick was an old wooden sign from a lake in Maine where the family vacationed when she was a little girl. When it came to keepsakes, sentiment won out over resale value. Jamie, Jody and Kurt made their second-round picks and still the Gehrig bat leaned against the wall. Maybe Jill's siblings deferred because Matt played for the New York Mets at the time.

Before she took her second pick Jill asked why she had the last pick every round just because she was the oldest. Bing agreed that the draft should reverse each round thereafter. And that gave Jill two picks in a row.

She took a different bat to end the second round, one Joe DiMaggio had used that was signed by the entire 1941 Yankees and given to Bing near the end of his eight-year childhood association with the team. He wasn't a bat boy or a clubhouse attendant, more of an errand boy the players liked having around. He'd sneak them peanuts, even hot dogs, against the wishes of manager Joe McCarthy, who forbade eating during ballgames. Bing was home-schooled, so he was able to travel with the team and do whatever the players asked. He sat in the dugout during games.

The family auction continued, and with her newly acquired first pick of the third round, Jill selected the bat Gehrig had handed her father upon returning to the dugout April 13, 1939. It was the Iron Horse's second homer of the game, an exhibition against the Brooklyn Dodgers in Norfolk, Va. Already weakened by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, what would come to be known as Lou Gehrig's disease, he played only eight games when the regular season began before retiring. He died two years later at 37.

"My grandfather would bring out that bat every time we had people over and the conversation turned to baseball," Matt Franco says. "He'd pass it around the table and he'd tell stories about all the guys on those teams."

The coolest aspect to Kurt Russell was that the bat was handed directly from Gehrig to Bing. His dad's story never changed: "The bat boy, Timmy, picked it up while Lou was circling the bases and gave it to Lou when he touched the plate. Lou carried it back to the dugout and handed it to me."

***

It's all been verified. SCP Auctions sent the bat to a third-party authenticator that confirmed it was one of the last professional models shipped to Gehrig by Hillerich & Bradsby. The venerable bat-making company keeps meticulous records, and an invoice shows the shipment of four bats was delivered in August, 1938. It was Gehrig's last order.

The highest auction price for a bat was $1.265 million in 2005 for the one Babe Ruth used to hit the first home run at old Yankee Stadium on opening day in 1923. Shoeless Joe Jackson's Black Betsy is the second highest, selling for $577,610 in 2001, and Kirk Gibson's 1988 World Series home run bat went for $576,000 last year.

SCP managing director Dan Imler puts the Gehrig bat in the same league as the Jackson and Gibson bats: "This is the single finest Lou Gehrig artifact we’ve witnessed in the thirty-two year history of our company. It has all the characteristics of a record-setting piece."

The auction ends Nov. 19. Two other of Bing's bats are also taking bids: The one DiMaggio used that the 1941 Yankees signed and one used by Babe Dahlgren, who replaced Gehrig at first base in 1939.

***

Bing grew up in St. Petersburg and would hang out during spring training at the Yankees facility there. One day in 1935 at age 9 he outraced other kids for a foul ball only to have to fight them off to keep it. Lefty Gomez, the ace of the Yankees' pitching staff, noticed the kids scuffling, picked up Bing by the collar and said, "Kid, you'll never have to fight for a ball the rest of your life."

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Bing spent the next eight years with the team and was in the dugout for six World Series. Gomez became a father figure to him, saying, "Bing was the only person who took it harder than I did when I lost." Although Gehrig would shoot him a grin and a nod, Bing kept a respectful distance because he was in awe of the quiet superstar first baseman.

When spring training rolled around in 1939, it was clear something was wrong with Gehrig. Bing would give Gomez a quizzical look whenever Gehrig stumbled or fumbled a ground ball. Gomez would return a stare as if to say, "You didn't see that." Nobody knew anything about the incurable, fatal neuromuscular disease ALS, and to see the powerful Gehrig losing his strength and coordination so rapidly was horrifying.

The Yankees were on their way from Florida to New York for the start of the regular season, making stops up the Eastern seaboard for exhibitions. They played a doubleheader against the Dodgers on April 14 and somehow Gehrig summoned the strength to belt two home runs. He handed Bing the bat after the second blast.

Two years later Bing was given the autographed DiMaggio bat, and a year after that he and his parents moved away from Florida, ending his association with the Yankees. He maintained a lifelong friendship with Gomez (left in the picture below with Bing), and was at his bedside when he died in 1989.

Bing went to Dartmouth, then played a season and a half of Class D pro ball with the Carrollton Hornets of the Georgia-Alabama League before heading to Hollywood and embarking on a career as an actor.

***

Bing raised his family in the Los Angeles suburb of Thousand Oaks and got his son into acting at an early age. Kurt starred in the TV show "The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters" at age 12 and as an adolescent appeared in shows ranging from "Gilligan's Island" to "The Virginian" to "Lost in Space." Kurt's film career took off when he signed a 10-year deal with Disney, but he made time for baseball, playing second base for Thousand Oaks High.

Bing jumpstarted Kurt's pro baseball career in 1973 by purchasing the Portland Mavericks, the only team unaffiliated with a major league franchise in the Class-A Northwest League. It was a labor of love for five years.

Bing hired the first female general manager in professional baseball one year, and the first Asian American GM the next. His buddy Hank Robinson, like Bing a character actor with a love of baseball, was his first manager. The Mavericks set Northwest League attendance records and won two division championships. Their mantra was a three-letter word. Not "win, but "fun."

Everybody thought "Ball Four" author and pitcher Jim Bouton was washed up when he joined the Mavericks in 1977, but he perfected the knuckleball and made it back to the major leagues at age 39. The team was forced to leave Portland after that season because the Triple-A Pacific Coast League wanted a team there. Bing was paid $206,000 on his way out.

Meanwhile Kurt's playing career ended at Double-A El Paso when he suffered a torn rotator cuff turning a double play. He batted .292 in three seasons, then had one final at-bat with the Mavericks in 1977 just for old times sake. He'd gone back to acting by then and soon landed leading-man roles in films such as "Escape from New York."

"Baseball is really the family business that nobody knows about because our other business was sort of out there in the public and seen by a lot more people," Kurt says.

Bing soon had another baseball adventure to pursue. Matt Franco was a seventh-round pick of the Chicago Cubs out of Westlake High School near Thousand Oaks in 1987 and began a slow, steady climb through the minor leagues that culminated in an eight-year major league career beginning in 1995.

Bing and Lou followed their grandson at every stop. They even bought a summer apartment in Des Moines when Matt spent parts of three seasons with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. Matt was traded to the Mets in April 1996, and although he became an excellent big league utility player and pinch-hitter, he spent considerable time at the Mets' Triple-A affiliate in, of all places, Norfolk.

On many summer Virginia evenings Bing would settle into a seat near the dugout and watch his grandson get his four at-bats. And his mind would drift back to 1939 and the day in Norfolk that Lou Gehrig handed him his bat, the last he used to blast a baseball out of a ballpark.

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-- Steve Henson is a senior editor and columnist at Yahoo! Sports. He can be reached at henson@yahoo-inc.com. Follow him on Twitter .

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