May 31: A surprisingly important date in New York sports history

Joe NamathNew York Jets. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)
Joe NamathNew York Jets. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images) /
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New York sports
Joe Namath, New York Jets. (Photo by Kidwiler Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images) /

1943: Broadway Joe becomes reality

Joe Willie Namath was born on May 31, 1943, in Beaver Falls, PA. In college, he led Alabama to the 1964 National Championship. He created somewhat of a bidding war between the NFL and AFL  after he graduated. Namath finally signed with the New York Jets Using his swagger, gaudy fur coats, and charm with the ladies, Namath soaked up Big Apple life, earning him the nickname “Broadway Joe.”

Before Super Bowl III, the Jets were heavy underdogs to Baltimore. Namath guaranteed the Jets would win the game and followed through on his promise, leading his team to a 16-7 victory. So far that title is the only one in team history.

Bonus fact: A multi-star athlete in high school, Namath wanted to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates for a chance to play with his idol, Roberto Clemente. His mother wanted him to go to college, so it was off to Alabama.

1961: New York Rangers acquire Doug Harvey

After missing the playoffs in three straight seasons, the New York Rangers fired their head coach. On May 31, 1961, they traded for 37-year-old Doug Harvey from Montreal, with the intent of making him a player-coach. It worked, the Blueshirts made the playoffs, losing to Toronto in the semi-finals.

Harvey played so well for New York that he won his seventh Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman. The Rangers decided Harvey was more valuable to the team as a player rather than a coach. They hired Muzz Patrick to take over on the bench.