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Century Anniversaries in Sports 2012-2013

By Zac Richardson -- November 08, 2012 9:16 AM EST

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Drifting nearer to auld lang syne time is always a prime occasion for reflection, so we take this opportunity to look at some notable sporting centennial anniversaries for both this year and the next.

Like 2012, 1912 was also an Olympiad, with the games staged in Stockholm, Sweden (notably, the first to utilize an automated timing system). Stockholm Olympic Stadium was constructed for the event, and is still in use as the home to Swedish football team Djurgarden. It was also the backdrop to many of Jim Thorpe's greatest Olympic achievements, en route to winning gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon (that he was forced to relinquish the following year, due to confusion regarding his professional status-- but which were re-awarded in 1982, 30 years after Thorpe's death).

For many years following the 1912 games, Djurgarden rival AIK called Olympic Stadium home, though AIK (as well as the Swedish national team) now plays in Rasunda Stadium, which is an incarnation of another 1912 Olympics venue on the same site.

2012 also marks the 100th awarding of the Grey Cup, which will be presented to the Canadian Football League champion after a game in Toronto's Rogers Centre on Sunday, November 25th. The award itself has had numerous adventures and purposes (for many years being given to amateurs, initially intended for hockey before becoming a rugby trophy, and at various times being broken, stolen, and even ransomed)-- but since the 1950s, the Grey Cup has been granted to Canada's gridiron-style professional football champion.

This familiar brand of football harkens back to 1912, too, as that was the first season which included such changes as teams being granted four downs instead of three to try and gain ten yards (on fields of play that were now 100 yards in length, rather than 110), and touchdowns increased in value from five points to six. These changes, combined with Notre Dame's expanded implementation of the forward pass in the 1913 season, cemented the beginning of the modern era of football as we now know it.

Despite a lost (if eventful) campaign in Boston, Fenway Park of course turned 100 in 2012, as well. 1912 was far more memorable for the Red Sox, as they opened Fenway by beating the New York Highlanders in extra innings-- only days after the sinking of the Titanic, and against an opponent that sported their distinctive pinstripes for the first time that season, and who would change their name to the Yankees in 1913.

Boston closed out their inaugural season in Fenway by besting the New York Giants for the Red Sox' second World Series title-- in the only best-of-seven Series to go eight games (due to a darkness-induced tie in Game 2), and the first to be decided in the final at-bat. The great Christy Mathewson, who won his 300th game in 1912, had three complete games but two losses and a no-decision for the Giants, and posted a 0.94 mark in the brand-new official statistic measuring a pitcher's earned run average.

Of nearly equal importance at the ballpark, 1912 was also when Cracker Jack began including "a prize in every box."

2012 sporting centenarians include Toe Blake and Sonja Henie on the ice, and an amazing triumvirate of Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, and Ben Hogan on the links.

And as we turn the calendar to 2013, we will see the 100th anniversary of Jesse Owens' birth, as well as another impressive trio: a veritable Mount Rushmore of football coaches in the persons of Woody Hayes, Bear Bryant, and Vince Lombardi.

Both Owens and Hayes are honored in and around Ohio Stadium and throughout the Ohio State campus; the Bear is memorialized with a statue and is half the namesake of Bryant-Denny Stadium (as well as numerous other sites at the University of Alabama); and Lambeau Field has a Lombardi Avenue address, where there also appears a statue of the coach (Lombardi also is honored in the Ring of Fame at FedEx Field for his one season with the Redskins, as well).

Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium turns a century old in 2013, which also marks the 100th anniversary of Donerail winning the Kentucky Derby as the biggest long shot in the race's history, going off at an incredible 91-1.

1913 saw the founding of the Federal League of Base Ball Clubs, which quickly went away but left us with the Chicago Cubs' Wrigley Field, and it was also the season that the Brooklyn Dodgers began play in Ebbets Field, the design features of which heavily influenced the New York Mets' current Citi Field.

Whether it is by great performances and performers standing the test of time, developments along the way to the games we love, or through the influence, repurposing or continuous use of particular venues, sports-- like any good history subject-- demonstrates once again that the past is indeed prologue. Happy 100th, one and all.

Photo by Stadium Journey Special Correspondent Dennis Morrell.

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