When sports collided in 1994

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You could say June 17, 1994, was the opposite of June 17, 2020. That is to say, the day was so packed with notable happenings in the sports world that ESPN made an entire “30 for 30” about it.

While most of the TV coverage that Friday was dedicated to the police chase of O.J. Simpson, the former NFL player wanted for the murder of his wife and her friend, there were several other events going on that day, some of them shown in split-screen with O.J.’s police chase by their respective networks. Here’s a look back at the day’s events:

Arnold Palmer’s last hurrah

Arnold Palmer was 64 years old. He had been competing in golf for nearly 40 years. Palmer was far past his prime, but in 1994 he competed at the U.S. Open for the 32nd time, his last.

Palmer hadn’t finished in the top 10 of a major in 20 years, and he finished 16-over-par in the first two days and missed the cut Friday afternoon.

But the day was never supposed to be about Palmer’s performance. After what he knew was his final stroke, the man who had been the face of American golf for so long took a curtain call to a standing ovation.

New York Rangers celebrate

It had been three days earlier when the New York Rangers finally did the thing and ended their 54-year championship drought with a victory over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

On Friday, they held their long-awaited parade, spreading confetti all over Broadway and finally soaking in a celebration. 1994 was the start of a new drought for the Rangers, who wouldn’t reach another Stanley Cup Finals until 2014 (which they lost).

US hosts first World Cup

At Soldier Field, a spectacle unfolded into a comedy of errors as the U.S. hosted its first World Cup. First, the emcee, Oprah Winfrey, fell off a platform while introducing Diana Ross. Then, at the end of Ross’ performance, her penalty kick missed the goal wide left.

The World Cup itself didn’t really go any better for the United States, which advanced past the group stage but was eliminated by Brazil in the knockout phase — on the Fourth of July, no less.

Ken Griffey ties Babe Ruth

In the top of the third inning against the Royals’ David Cone, the Mariners’ Ken Griffey Jr. blasted a ball out to right-center. It was his 30th home run of the year, tying Babe Ruth’s record for most home runs before June 30. (He eventually increased his total to 32 before the end of the month.) He would go on to win the Home Run Derby and finished with a total of 40 long balls before the season was canceled by a players’ strike on Aug. 12.

NBA Finals

While the Rangers got to celebrate, the other team in New York had its moment in the spotlight overshadowed. The Knicks, led by Patrick Ewing, tipped off Game 5 of the NBA Finals at Madison Square Garden in prime time only to be interrupted by what was happening in Los Angeles as police officers noticed Simpson in a Ford Bronco on the freeway and the chase began. The NBC broadcast showed the game and the chase in a split-screen.

Later that night, the Knicks won the game (though they would lose the series in seven games to the Houston Rockets) and O.J. was arrested at his mansion.

Sports video of the day

Just under a month after the events of June 17, Griffey took the field at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh and wowed the crowd with his first Home Run Derby win. Here’s a cutup of his performance:

What were reading

HANDSHAKE DEALS: Major league teams exploit Latin American prospects as young as 12 with verbal agreements, often to abandon them later, a USA TODAY investigation found.

NBA = DISTRACTION? Experts on sports and social justice discuss whether resuming the season is in the best interests of NBA players fighting for change.

LAMAR JACKSON: The Baltimore Ravens star will grace the cover of the 2021 edition of Madden.

WWE: Suspended production after a developmental talent tested positive for COVID-19.

DENVER NUGGETS: Head coach Michael Malone said Monday that he had COVID-19 in March.

CHUBA HUBBARD: The star Oklahoma State running back vowed to hold his coach Mike Gundy accountable.

Sports on TV

English Premier League (live): The Premier League returns to action today with two games being shown on NBCSN. Aston Villa vs. Sheffield United will kick off at 12:55 p.m. ET, followed by Manchester City vs. Arsenal at 3:10 p.m. ET.

Motorsports (live): For those whose sports tastes are more extreme, the Monster Energy Supercross Round 16 will be shown on NBCSN beginning at 7 p.m. ET. Rider Eli Tomac could close out a title with a win.

NFL (classic): NFL Network relives an instant classic in one of the league’s great rivalries tonight in the 2009 matchup between the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts trailed by 17 points in the fourth quarter only to come back and win to extend their regular-season winning streak to 18. Kickoff is at 4 p.m. ET.



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