Born in 1933 to Italian immigrants, Alan Ameche grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and went on to break Big Ten rushing records for the Wisconsin Badgers, leading them to the 1953 Rose Bowl and winning the 1954 Heisman Trophy. He earned his nickname "The Horse" for his tremendous training ethic, power, and stamina. In a professional career with the Baltimore Colts that lasted just six seasons before injury ended it, he was the 1955 NFL Rookie of the Year and went to the Pro Bowl five times. The 1958 NFL championship game pitted Ameche's Colts against the New York Giants in what has often been called the "Greatest Game Ever Played." Ameche scored in overtime to give Baltimore its first NFL championship. This excerpt of Alan Ameche: The Story Of The Horse by Dan Manoyan reveals that his career with the Colts wasn't always so smooth.

Ordinarily, Gino Marchetti probably never would have remembered the first time he laid eyes on Alan Ameche. But fifty-six years after the fact, he still remembers the moment with crystal clarity because of the conversation that accompanied the sighting.

"It was really strange," said Marchetti, the Baltimore Colts Hall of Famer and arguably the greatest defensive end ever to play in the NFL. Marchetti was a World War II veteran who was a machine gunner at the Battle of the Bulge and would later in life be Ameche's business partner.

"I remember it was before camp opened, and I was walking with [Colts coach] Weeb Ewbank. We were coming from a meeting and heading to chow, and Alan was walking ahead of us.

"I remember it because Weeb made a really strange comment that stuck with me over the years. He sees Alan in front of us and he says, 'There is our big draft choice. He was babied in college. He was spoiled at Wisconsin. They didn't baby you in college, did they Gino?' Weeb asked me. I told him, ‘No, I wasn't babied.'"

It might have only been a first impression, but apparently for the inflexible Ewbank, it was his lasting impression of Ameche. Despite what Ameche would accomplish on the field for the Colts, and his feats were borderline Hall of Fame caliber, Ewbank would ride him mercilessly and, eventually, right out of the league. It's safe to say that the feelings between the two men were mutual, and that animosity ruined what should have been six of Ameche's happiest years on Earth.

"It was so strange because here Weeb hadn't even had a chance to know the guy and he'd already made up his mind about him," Marchetti said. "The really strange thing is that Weeb never changed his mind about Alan. He never, never liked Alan for some reason, and I never could figure it out.

"Alan worked hard, he played hard, he was a good blocker. He did everything that was asked of him, but Weeb would never give the guy a break.

"The only thing I can think of is one thing. Alan had a habit of always being barely late for everything ... meetings, practice, pregame meals. Things like that really bothered Weeb. Alan would come out to practice sometimes with his shoes untied and he'd have to bend over to tie them up on the field. All of those things bothered Weeb and put a strain on their relationship."

The Ameche-Ewbank feud was common knowledge among Colts insiders, and it really was an anomaly. To a man, the Colts will tell you that there was a genuine camaraderie on the squad. Like every team, the players came from all walks of life, but this was a group that genuinely practiced and believed in the team concept.

"I know that Weeb had an attitude toward Alan, and to this day I don't understand it," said another Ameche friend and Hall of Fame wide receiver, Raymond Berry. "I have my theories about it, but I honestly don't know for sure.

"There is no question that Weeb's attitude toward Alan was not good and not healthy for the team, and in the long run it proved costly to the Baltimore Colts and Weeb Ewbank.

"Alan came in here as Heisman Trophy winner and he had a personality that was very extroverted, and he had a tremendous sense of humor and laughed a lot. I think maybe Weeb took that as not caring or being too lackadaisical, but that just wasn't the case.

"Alan's personality gave the appearance of being very loose, but I think that is misleading. Weeb was blind to Alan's productivity as a player. That's all he needed to judge Alan, or any player for that matter, but Weeb took it way beyond that.

"I'm sure Alan got a good bonus for signing a contract, and Weeb probably didn't like that either. I think Weeb thought Alan was paid too much and he had too much hype and reputation.

"There was just something about Alan Ameche that Weeb did not like. Whatever it was, it was so counterproductive it was unbelievable."

Ewbank may have won the battle with Ameche. In 1960 Ewbank effectively drove Ameche off the squad by making it clear that he was not wanted back after rehabbing his Achilles tendon injury. But the bottom line was that Ewbank's unfounded dislike for Ameche cost him and the Colts more than it hurt Ameche.

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Veteran Philadelphia Inquirer sportswriter and Pulitzer Prize finalist, Frank Fitzpatrick has long followed and covered Villanova basketball. In all that time, nothing compares with the Wildcats' legendary 1985 upset of Georgetown -- a win so spectacular and unusually flawless that days after its conclusion, sports columnists were already calling it "The Perfect Game." The game, particularly its second half, was so different from what observers expected -- so different, in fact, from what anyone had ever seen that a shroud of myth almost immediately began to envelop it. Over the years, the game took on mythological proportions with heroes and villains, but with a darker, more complex subtext. In the midst of the sunny Reagan Administration, the game had been played out amid darker themes -- race, death, and, though no one knew it at the time, drugs. It was a night when the basketball world turned upside down. Villanova-Georgetown would be a perfect little microcosm of the 1980s. And it would be much more. Even now, a quarter-century later, the upset gives hope to sporting Davids everywhere. This excerpt of The Perfect Game reveals how the three key players -- Ed Pinckney, Gary McLain and Dwayne McClain -- decided to attend Villanova.

Villanova's unlikely championship had its genesis in an unlikely location, at a summer camp that began its existence with an unlikely name. In 1966, New York basketball junkies Howard Garfinkel and Will Kleine started a basketball camp, one that they hoped would allow rising high school seniors an opportunity both to improve and market their skills. Garfinkel had gone to summer camps as a boy and believed he understood how to run one successfully. When he found an available site 115 miles north of New York City, Camp Orinsekwa in Niverville, New York, the Roy Rubin Basketball Camp was born.

Rubin was a friend, the then successful coach at Long Island University. Garfinkel figured Rubin's relatively well-known name would help sell his idea in the New York area, which is where his initial focus was. He couldn't have known, of course, that a few years later Rubin would graduate to the NBA. There, in the space of a single season, he destroyed his reputation and had an adjective permanently affixed to his name -- Poor Roy Rubin. In the 1972–73 season, his first and last in the NBA, Rubin's Philadelphia 76ers set a still-extant record for ineptitude, losing 73 of their 82 games. Rubin's name soon yielded to the more generic Five Star, and the growing camp relocated to another remote locale, Honesdale, a Pocono Mountains community in the northeastern corner of Pennsylvania.

With the aid of coaches like Hubie Brown, Chuck Daly, and Bob Knight, Five Star quickly acquired a lofty status in the basketball community. By the late 1970s, at the dawn of a new basketball renaissance, it was attracting the absolute best players and instructors. What made Five Star unique, many now insist, was the quality of its teaching. Knight, for example, developed a system of learning stations. Players moved from one to another, tutored at each stop by some well-known coach in a different basketball fundamental or technique. The lessons were permanently etched in the minds of the campers. Pinckney, for example, never forgot Station 13, where, in a group with Ewing and future Louisville star Billy Thompson, he learned the intricacies of the jump-hook from Rick Pitino.

It was there in the remarkable summer of 1980 -- when Five Star's attendees also included such future Hall of Famers as Ewing, Jordan, Mullin, and Karl Malone -- that Pinckney, McLain, and McClain first met. The three youngsters, their personalities as distinct as their talents, bonded immediately. Early on at Five Star, they found themselves on competing teams. Each liked what he saw of the others. "Something clicked," recalled McClain. "Right then I knew I wanted to play with them." The trio's energy and enthusiasm derived from its smallest member. McLain had grown up on Long Island but followed his high school coach, Bill Donlon, to Methuen High in Massachusetts. He did so, in part, to escape the trouble he was beginning to find for himself.

The child of a broken home -- his parents divorced when he was nine -- McLain was smoking marijuana regularly by the time he was sixteen. He was, he would admit later, a hurt and insecure child, one who tried to mask his insecurity, at first with an outgoing demeanor and later with a more powerful remedy. As a youngster, he was mouthy, flashy, impulsive, a class clown always in search of an audience. Not surprisingly, he would be the first of the three new friends to decide on a college. It wasn't that difficult. McLain didn't have as many options as his taller buddies. Only Holy Cross and Villanova had expressed much interest. "He wasn't a great recruit," Massimino said. "He was just a player." Holy Cross was just too far removed from the spotlight for his taste. Villanova seemed more exotic. It wasn't North Carolina, but he'd have a better shot at glory there. He'd seen the Wildcats on TV a couple of times. He knew all about the Big East.

So he chose Villanova. And once he did, he pestered McClain and Pinckney to do the same. "I thought we could have a real chemistry," McLain said. His efforts focused first on McClain. He telephoned the Massachusetts youngster constantly in the late summer and fall of 1980. "You've got to come, too," he told his new friend. "We can make something happen there. They're in this new super league, the Big East. The coach is this little fat dude who looks like Louie DiPalma [Danny DeVito's character on TV's Taxi]. I'll put the ball in your hands there. We'll all be stars." He was right. But their real stardom, and ultimately their fame, would come as a unit. Pinckney and to a lesser extent McClain would enjoy only modest NBA careers. McLain would never get there. Yet in some perverse way, McLain would become the best known of the three -- though not for the reasons he'd imagined that summer.

McClain, the silky 6-foot-6 forward from Holy Name High in Worcester had a personality that was a pleasant cross between the brash McLain's and the low- key Pinckney's. He was the first to relent to his smaller friend's nagging. After visiting the campus and hearing Oxenreiter's tape, he committed to Villanova. McLain and McClain then teamed up on Pinckney, a 6-foot-9 center from Adlai E. Stevenson in the Bronx who was being more heavily recruited. "What good is having a great point guard and a great power forward," McLain told him, "if we don't have some talent in the paint?" While Pinckney was amused by McLain, he was not yet convinced.


Pinckney would discover later that he and Ewing had more in common than basketball ability and their roles in one of the sport's most memorable games. Both were one of seven siblings. Both had several older sisters who doted on them. Both came from two- parent homes. Both had mothers who were employed in hospitals, hardworking fathers who did manual labor. Both grew up in apartments across the street from public playgrounds. Both left much of the college-recruiting process to their high school coaches. Both were mama's boys who wanted to go to college relatively close to home.

The Pinckneys lived in the Bronx's James Monroe Housing Projects. The youngest child and only son, Ed, was born in March 1963. Since his father, a construction laborer, often worked two or three jobs, his mother was the disciplinarian and teacher. The boy's older sisters waited on their little brother,dressed him, fed him, treated him like a delicate toy. "The fact that Ed was a very laid- back person probably came from him being the baby of a family with six older sisters," said Massimino. "He was the spoiled kid on the block." Though both his parents were tall, neither had ever played basketball. The boy would first drift to baseball, dreaming of becoming a New York Yankee until, at the urging of friends, he gave basketball a try.

The family's apartment on Story Avenue was directly across the street from PS 100, a public school whose playground contained several courts. Pinckney quickly was taken in by basketball, enjoyed it so much that he often rose early to play before school, at PS 100 or at nearby PS 131. A poster of Knicks star Walt "Clyde" Frazier hung in his bedroom. When the Knicks won a second NBA title in four years in 1973, the popularity of basketball in New York, already at a high level, skyrocketed. As it did, each borough developed its own style of play. "Brooklyn is like a more driving- to-the basket, slashing style of ball," Pinckney would say. "A lot of flamboyancy, like the Pearl Washingtons, the Stewart Grangers. The Manhattan game would be the power. ... And the Queens style was finesse. The Bronx is a combination of them all." When he was twelve and well over six feet, Pinckney accompanied a friend to Harlem, where he found the talent level "eye- popping." Gradually, he started to play there, too, making the journey by subway.

At Stevenson, coach Steve Post recognized Pinckney's potential early. "I knew right away Ed was special," Post said. "He was 6- 2 or so and coordinated." He also had an easygoing personality that attracted other youngsters and earned him the nickname "Easy Ed," had a strong work ethic, and was extremely coachable. "What a difference it makes when a kid lives with a father and a mother," said Post. "Ed had an innocence about him. You wanted to help him."

When Pinckney was a tenth-grader, Fred Brown, the future Georgetown star, transferred to Stevenson and Post's team became a city power house. Brown had a harder edge than Pinckney. Hoping some of that toughness would rub off on his mild- mannered center, Post had Brown go one-on-one with him after practice. "In the beginning, Fred whooped him," Post said. In a 1980 city championship matchup with Franklin High, Brown fouled out late. Post told Pinckney it was time he became a leader and took charge. The youngster did. Stevenson won and colleges everywhere noticed.

Their interest abated little when he hurt his ankle as a senior. Post, knowing Pinckney's parents were insistent about him getting a good education, eliminated several less prestigious colleges from the list, as well as those, like Louisville and North Carolina, that were too far from home. Pinckney liked Providence and was ready to sign there until coach Gary Walters inexplicably told him, "Ed, you'll be better off going to Villanova." Pinckney was flabbergasted. Why Villanova? For him, the school was too far out in the country. But three things eventually swayed him -- McLain's constant nagging, his mother's affection for Massimino, and McClain's good-looking sister. Massimino was one of the few coaches who visited the Pinckneys' apartment. He ate Ed's mother's cake and told her he would see to it that her son went to class and got educated. "You should go to Villanova," his mother urged Ed not long after that visit. "That little Italian coach, he'll make sure you graduate." On a recruiting trip to the school, Pinckney encountered McClain. Accompanying the Massachusetts schoolboy was his sister, who attended nearby Harcum Junior College. "She was beautiful," recalled Pinckney. And with that added inducement he was sold. Mitch Buonaguro, Massimino's chief assistant, had worked at Five Star that summer. But he claimed he had little to do with convincing the trio to come to Villanova. "They recruited themselves," he said.

Pinckney and McLain wound up as roommates in Sullivan Hall. McLain made life noisy and sometimes crazy, but Pinckney never wanted for laughs. Or dreams. One day that first autumn, the two of them were in McClain's room when the topic of their always rambling conversation shifted to what they hoped to accomplish before graduating. One of them suggested they list their ambitions on index cards. "For some reason," said Pinckney, "all the cards had ‘Final Four' on them. ... We made a pact then that we'd get there." The three were inseparable, on and off the court. "From their first day together, they had a feel for each other," said Buonaguro. Their daydreams about shared future success became grander.

In one, they would all be drafted by the same NBA expansion team. They liked that idea so well that they had business cards printed that included their new collective nickname, "The Expansion Crew."

-- Excerpted by permission from The Perfect Game by Frank Fitzpatrick. Copyright (c) 2013 by Frank Fitzpatrick. Published by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Available for purchase from the publisher, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. Follow Fitzpatrick on Twitter @philafitz.

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Boston fans, behold: Curt Schilling is selling his bloody sock.

Well, not the bloody sock. That one was thrown away after Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS.

No, Schilling is selling another bloody sock, one that some people did not know existed.

Schilling wore the second bloody sock during Game 2 of the 2004 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Like he did against the Yankees, Schilling had to have his ankle stabilized in order to pitch that night at Fenway Park. And so Schilling's ankle bled while he was on the mound against the Cardinals.

This sock was not thrown away, rather it was placed somewhere much more meaningful than a garbage can: the Baseball Hall of Fame.

And now Schilling, who lost $50 million on a failed video game company last year, is selling the sock. Bidding will begin on Feb. 4 and last until Feb. 23.

Chris Ivy, the director of sports for Heritage Auctions, told the Associated Press he expects the bidding to be "very spirited" and the sock could sell for at least $100,000.

In May 2012 Heritage Auctions sold the "Bill Buckner ball," the baseball which rolled through the Red Sox's first baseman's legs, for $418,000.

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Floyd Little was raised in poverty in New Haven, Connecticut. He was bowlegged, sent off to military school and told his IQ was too low to even consider college. He overcame those obstacles to become a three-time All-American football player at Syracuse and one of the best NFL running backs of his era with the Denver Broncos. After football, he earned a law degree and ran a successful automobile dealership for more than 25 years. In Promises to Keep, Little reflects on a lifetime of beating the odds and achieving excellence on and off the field. He shares his memories from his record-setting seasons at Syracuse and in Denver and reflects on his long, unconventional road to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Here is an excerpt:

In the movie The Express, just before Ernie Davis walks out of the tunnel and onto the football field for the last time as a member of the Cleveland Browns, Ben Schwartzwalder walks up to Davis and says, "Ernie, I don't know what you said to Floyd Little, but he's coming to Syracuse." It was an emotional conclusion to a great movie. When you watch the film you can see why they scripted it that way. But in real life it happened differently.

I was on winter break from Bordentown on a snowy night in December 1962. I had just returned to my home in Connecticut after taking the Army's strenuous endurance test at West Point. Another recruit, Dave Rivers, who eventually became Army's captain, and I were put through a series of endless physical endurance tests that included pull-ups, sit ups, rope climbing, sprints, and long-distance running. We were so drained by the end that I could barely stand, and Dave was practically out cold. I felt like it was going to take me a year to recover. Somehow I managed to break all the endurance records set years before by Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis, the original Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside.

I wasn't home for more than an hour when the doorbell rang. A blanket of snow had covered the region, and the darkness was barely illuminated by the pristine snow. I opened the door and there stood a short white man with gray hair and glasses, Syracuse football coach Ben Schwartzwalder. Next to him were two assistants. The three men parted like Secret Service agents, and standing behind them was this tall handsome man wearing a fine camel-haired coat. He was stacked up better than dirty laundry. Ernie Davis. My sisters were practically pawing at him through the door. "Who is that?" they kept whispering behind me. It was as if as Elvis Presley was at our doorstep.

You can't imagine people like that coming to our neighborhood at that time of night. It seemed as if Ernie was more like their escort. The four men introduced themselves and asked me if I wanted to go to dinner. Well, in my house, a free dinner was like hitting the lottery. On top of being exhausted, I was starving. So they took me to Jocko Sullivan's, a nice bar and grill restaurant on the campus of Yale University. It wasn't every day that I was chauffeured to a fine restaurant, so I kept pinching myself underneath my coat.

At the restaurant my main concern wasn't talking football, it was eating. I had already finished reading the entire menu from front to back. I didn't know what steak or lobster looked like. So I was going to order one of each. Then right after we ordered, Ernie tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Let me talk to you for a minute." And I'm thinking to myself, Before I eat? So I got up and followed him. Of all places we head into the men's room. He goes in and puts one foot up on the urinal and looks at me. Well, I always wanted to be like Ernie, so I put one foot up on the urinal just like him. We looked like we were holding fort at the OK Corral. We sat and talked for about 45 minutes, right there in the men's room.

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The "Field of Dreams" in Iowa is about to become the "Fields of Dreams."

The sale of the baseball field, which was used as the set for the 1989 film, was completed recently, with owners Don and Becky Lansing selling the land to the investors group Go the Distance Baseball LLC.

The Lansings kept the eastern Iowa field open as a tourist attraction for more than two decades, and they finally put it on the market in 2011.

The Field was listed at $5.4 million when it went on the market, but the Associated Press is reporting it was sold for $3.4 million plus interest.

The investors plan to use the land to build a 24-field youth baseball and softball tournament complex called All-Star Ballpark Heaven.

(H/T to Off the Bench)

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