The History of Sport 1920: 29 Nations Attend The Antwerp Olympics, Paul Radmilovic’s fourth gold as Britain win a hat-trick of water polo titles, Oscar Swahn takes gold at 72, Nedo Nadi wins five fencing golds. In American Football the NFL is Founded

Some of the notable events in sport in 1920:

The National Football League (NFL) is founded as the American Professional Football Association in Canton, Ohio.  The first NFL championship is won by the Akron Pros.

In baseball the Negro National League is formed.  Boston Red Sox transfers Babe Ruth to New York Yankees for $125,000 and a $350,000 loan. Ruth hits 54 home runs for the Yankees in 1920, surpassing the 29 he hit in the 1919 season.

The inaugural Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in horse-racing is won by Comrade.


The Olympic Games take place in Antwerp.

These Olympics were the first in which the Olympic Oath was voiced, the first in which doves were released to symbolize peace, and the first in which the Olympic Flag was flown.
The USA won 41 gold, 27 silver, and 27 bronze medals, the most won by any of the 29 nations attending.
There were 156 events in 29 disciplines, comprising 22 sports, were part of the Olympic program in 1920.

The Games also featured a week of winter sports, with figure skating appearing for the first time since the 1908 Olympics, and ice hockey making its Olympic debut.

Nedo Nadi won 5 gold medals in the fencing events (two individual golds).
At the age of 72, Sweden’s 100 metre running deer double-shot event champion Oscar Swahn, who had participated in the 1908 and 1912 Games, came in second in the team event to become the oldest Olympic medal winner ever.
Finland’s Paavo Nurmi won the 10,000 m and 8000 m cross country races, took another gold in team cross country, and a silver in the 5000 m run.

John Kelly (USA) wins golds at single and double sculls rowing.

Britain’s Henry Taylor wins his eighth medal at swimming over three Games.

Max Decugis (France) wins his fourth tennis gold since 1900.

Britain’s Albert Hill wins golds at 800m and 1500m. Britain also win golds at Steeplechase (Percy Hodge), 4x400m relay, in boxing for Ronald Rawson and Harry Mallin, hockey, polo (third successive gold), and Finn yachting.

Paul Radmilovic wins his fourth Olympic gold medal as part of the British water polo team which wins a third successive gold. This remains a record for a Briton for the rest of the century.

Hannes Kolehmainen (Finland) wins his fourth gold in distance running over two Games.
Hubert van Innis (Belgium) wins his sixth gold in archery.

Pat McDonald (USA) wins the weight throw gold aged 42 years and 23 days.

Tug-of-war is held at the Games for the last time.



The International Weightlifting Federation is founded.

Britain’s Ted Ray wins the US Open golf championship.

The Montreal Canadiens beat the Quebec Bulldogs by a NHL record score of 16-3.
Joe Malone scores seven goals in one game for Quebec v Toronto in the NHL.

Huddersfield win their fourth successive Yorkshire Cup in Rugby League.

The first gliding meeting is held on Wasserhuppe, organised by Osar Ursinus of Flugsport.

A greyhound racing stadium is opened by O.P.Smith at Emeryville, California.

In cricket an English team goes to Australia in November to commence the first Test series since the war  Percy Fender scores a century in thirty-five minutes for Surrey v Northants.

The first mention of cycle speedway, which takes place at Coventry

In football Billy Meredith plays for Wales v England aged 45 years and 229 days. He first played for his country in 1895, making this a record span in international football.


Posted in Sports History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

World Sports Hall of Fame 1945: Lou Gehrig, George Nepia, Harold Vanderbilt and Helen Wills-Moody

As with the British version I have resumed my World Sports Hall of Fame in1945, following World War II when little sport took place. My first post-war inductees are :

Lou Gehrig (USA -Baseball) – one of the central players who helped the New York Yankees dominate baseball in the 1920s and 1930s. Widely regarded as the greatest first baseman in baseball history he established a record of 2130 consecutive games played between 1925 and 1939 when he had to stop due to serious illness. This record lasted for nearly sixty years. He was a great batter who won the Triple Crown in 1934 and led the American League in RBIs five times. This included 184 in 1931 which has stood as the record ever since. He scored 493 Home Runs in his career from 1923 to 1939 and 1990 RBIs and won six world series titles.

George Nepia (New Zealand – Rugby Union) – regarded as one of the greatest full-backs in history and the first superstar of New Zealand rugby. He made his name on the “Invincibles” tour of 1924/5 when as a 19 year-old he played in all 38 unbeaten games of the All Blacks tour to Australia, Europe and Canada. He played in Tests in 1929 against Australia and in all four Tests against The British Lions in 1930. In 1935 he played rugby league and won international honours at that sport before returning to Union in the war-time amnesty.

Harold Vanderbilt (USA-Sailing) – the only man ever to defend the America’s Cup three consecutive times in different boats while skippering and steering. He defended the Cup in 1930,1934 and 1937 losing only two races in those defences. These used J class boats which were very expensive and not used again. He was the greatest yachtsman of his era winning six “King’s Cups” and five Astor Cups at regattas between 1922 and 1938.  He helped devise new rules for international sailing and also invented the game of contract bridge.

Helen Wills (USA – Tennis) – the greatest woman player of her era and one of the most dominant players of all-time. She was unbeaten in singles matches from autumn 1926 to 1933 and didn’t drop a set from 1927 to the Wimbledon final of 1933. She won eight Wimbledon singles titles between 1927 and 1938 which was the record for over fifty years. She won the US Open a record equalling seven times between 1923 and 1931 and the French Open four times. She also won twelve Grand Slam doubles titles and the Olympic singles and doubles golds in 1924.

Posted in Hall of Fame | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The History of Sport 1919 – Most Sport Resumes After World War I. The Chicago Black Sox Baseball Scandal, Jack Dempsey Wins The World Heavyweight Title

Sports events started to resume in the year following the end of World War I although some usually held towards the start of the year weren’t contested.

Competitive football resumes after the end of World War I in the 1919–20 season
The First Division is expanded from 20 to 22 teams; Chelsea are spared relegation, while Arsenal win promotion from the Second Division, despite only finishing fifth in 1915.

The mechanical hare used for greyhound racing is perfected by Owen Smith at Emeryville, California.

Gertrude Ederle (USA) breaks the world 880 yards freestyle record in swimming aged 12 years and 298 days to become the youngest world record breaker in any sport.

In baseball Cincinnati Reds defeats Chicago White Sox to win the 1919 World Series by 5 games to 3.  Even before game one of this World Series, there are rumours that some White Sox players have agreed to throw the series to the Reds for payment from gamblers. This will explode a year later in the Black Sox Scandal.

Babe Ruth hits 29 home runs for the Boston Red Sox, breaking the single season record of 27 set in 1884.

Jack Dempsey becomes World Heavyweight Champion by knocking out Jess Willard, the defending champion, in four rounds.

Jack Britton wins the world welterweight boxing title for the third time.

George Baker wins his fourth successive ABA featherweight title, adding to his three pre-war titles.

The American Professional Football Association is formed.

The first non-stop trans-Atlantic flight is made by Allcock and Brown in a Vickers-Vimy taking 16.5 hours.

Sir Barton is the first horse to win the United States Triple Crown.

Poethlyn wins his second successive Grand National steeplechase.

Elaine Burton is the first woman to wear shorts for athletics which she does at the Northern Counties Ladies Athletics Championships.

The women’s RAF team set a World Best for the 4×110 yards relay at Stamford Bridge.

Melbourne Inman wins his fourth successive world professional billiards championship having won the three preceding the War.

Montreal Canadiens and Seattle Metropolitans win two games each in the 1919 Stanley Cup Finals before the series, held at Seattle, is cancelled after all of the Montreal players contract Spanish flu.

The Australian Men’s Singles Championship is won by Algernon Kingscote (GB) who defeats Eric Pockley (Australia).

Posted in Sports History | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

British Sports Hall of Fame 1945: Alf Ellaby, Hughie Gallagher, Peggy Scriven and Hedley Verity

As there was very little sport in the World War II years of 1939 to 1945 I am resuming my Hall of Fame lists for Britain and the World from 1945.

Here are my choices for the British Hall of Fame list for 1945.

Alf Ellaby (Rugby League) – one of the best wingers in the history of British rugby league. He was very fast and a great finisher of tries. Most of his club career from 1923 to 1939 was for St.Helens for whom he scored 31 hat-tricks and topped the league try scoring list three times (in 1927,28 and 30). He played for Wigan for two years. He played for Great Britain thirteen times from 1928 to 1933 including two tours of Australia where he scored 41 tries in 28 games. His total of 446 tries in his playing career remained a world record until 1954.

Hughie Gallagher (Football) – the greatest centre-forward of his era and one of Scotland’s best ever. He scored 387 goals in 545 matches in his club career from 1921 to 1939. In internationals he scored 22 goals in 20 matches including five in one game against Northern Ireland. He was a great header of the ball although he was quite short and also had great ball control. He won the Scottish Cup with Airdrie and the English league with Newcastle in 1927. He was also in the Scottish team who beat England 5-1 in 1928 at Wembley,

Peggy Scriven (Tennis) – winner of the French Open tennis championship twice, in 1933 and 1934.  She was the first British woman to win that tournament and is still the last British woman to have retained a grand Slam singles title.  She was also the first left-handed woman to win a Grand Slam title.  In 1935 she won the women’s doubles at the French Open.  She was more successful there than at Wimbledon where she reached the quarter-finals four times.  She was British covered-court singles champion four times.

Hedley Verity (Cricket) – an outstanding left-arm spinner of the 1930s who took 150 wickets in every county season from 1931 to 1939.  His worst bowling average in any season was 17.63 and his career average of 14.90 (1956 wickets) was the best of any major bowler of the 20th century.  In 1932 he took 10 wickets for 10 runs in a match for Yorkshire against Notts and this is the best innings analysis in the history of first class cricket.  In 1934 at Lord’s for England against Australia he took fourteen wickets in one day, the most in the history of Test cricket.  He played forty times for England taking 144 wickets.

Posted in Hall of Fame | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Greatest Cross-Country Skiers of All-Time: Bjorn Dæhlie and Marit Bjørgen

Here are some of the relevant statistics showing the records of the leading competitors in cross-country skiing in the major events.

The table is organised mainly by the number of wins in major races such as the world cup which is the first column. This is followed by the number of season-long World Cup titles in Distance World Cup, Sprint World Cup and Overall World Cup titles. Next come the championships with columns for World Championships (WCH) and Olympic Games (OG). This table only shows individual event titles as the numbers are distorted if you include team and relays in favour of those from strong nations. It should also be remembered that the World Cup was only started in 1979 and Sprint and Distance World Cup titles were only awarded from 1997 onwards which gives more titles to modern skiers. I have included in the tables the outstanding skiers from before the world cup showing their titles. There are also more events in the programme in modern times. The sport is more competitive than it used to be which offsets things to some extent. Taking these factors into account means that for me the most important columns in deciding the greatest cross-country skiers are the last three.


Skier Career World Cup       Champs  
    Wins Dist Spr Ov WCH OG
Bjørn Dæhlie 1989-1999 46   2 6 5 6
Petter Northug 2005-active 38 1   2 8 1
Gunde Svan 1983-1991 30     5 5 2
Vladimir Smirnov 1982-1999 30     2 4 1
Martin Johnsrud Sundby 2005-active 30 3   3    
Dario Cologna 2007-active 26 4   4 1 4
Lukáš Bauer 1997-active 18 1   2    
Emil Jönsson 2003-2018 16   3      
Johannes Høsflot Klæbo 2016-active 14   2 1   1
Sixten Jernberg 1952-1964         2 3
Veikko Hakulinen 1952-1963         2 2

Dæhlie is a fairly clear number one with the next two in the table second and third in my eyes though possibly with Svan in second. Fourth and fifth are Smirnov and Cologna with the bottom two names on the list,the champions from the 1950s and 1960s, next in my rankings.



Skier Career World Cup       Champs  
    Wins Dist Spr Ov WCH OG
Marit Bjørgen 1999-active 114 3 5 4 12 5
Justyna Kowalczyk 2001-active 50 4 1 4 2 2
Yelena Välbe 1987-1998 45 1   5 10  
Bente Skari 1992-2003 42   5 4 5 1
Therese Johaug 2007-active 42 3   3 4  
Virpi Kuitunen 1997-2010 27 2 1 2 1  
Petra Majdič 1999-2011 24 3        
Stefania Belmondo 1989-2002 23   1   4 2
Larisa Lazutina 1984-2002 21 2   2 5 2
Kateřina Neumannová 1992-2007 19       2 1
Marjo Matikainen 1984-1989 8     3 2 1
Alevtina Kolchina 1958-1968         5  
Raisa Smetanina 1974-1992       1 1 2
Lyubov Yegorova 1984-2003 13     1 1 4
Marja-Liisa Kirvesniemi 1982-1994 11     2 3 1
Galina Kulakova 1968-1980       1 3 2
Manuela Di Centa 1982-1998 15     2   2

Marit Bjørgen is easily the greatest female cross-country skier of all-time with Valbe second even though she didn’t win an Olympic gold. Kowalczyk, Skari and Lazutina are closely matched for third with the skiers from earlier years Kolchina, Matikainen, Kirvesniemi and Kulakova.

Posted in All-time Greats, Skiing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The History of Sport 1915 – 1918: Sport shuts down in many countries during World War I but Huddersfield’s outstanding rugby team sweeps all before them. Ted “Kid” Lewis and Jack Britton’s epic series of boxing title fights. The NHL is founded.

For most years of the Twentieth Century I will post about the events of a single year. However, during the two World Wars most sports had few competitions and so I have combined the main war years into one post.

This one deals with the notable sporting events of the First World War years.

Because of World War I, there is no first-class cricket in South Africa in the 1914–15 season, nor in England in 1915. Australia goes ahead with the 1914–15 Sheffield Shield competition but then suspends first-class cricket until 1919

the World Welterweight Championship changes hands three times in less than three months between June and August. Finally, it comes to Ted “Kid” Lewis, who defeats Jack Britton twice to win and then retain the title, which will interchange between these two over the next four years.

Packey McFarland has his 97th unbeaten fight since 1905 (five were draws).

Jess Willard, the latest “Great White Hope”, defeats Jack Johnson with a 26th-round knockout to win the world Heavyweight title.

Pommern wins the English colts Triple Crown in 1915 to be followed by Gay Crusader in 1917 and by Gainsborough in 1918.

Gordon Lowe of Britain wins the Australian Open singles tennis title.

In English rugby league over 1914-15 Huddersfield becomes the second team to win all four cups in a season. Huddersfield at this time is known as the “Team of all the Talents”.  In the Challenge Cup final they defeat St.Helens 37-3, a record score margin for the final.  The league title is their fourth in a row.
The continuance of World War I after the 1914–15 season causes the suspension of top-class rugby league until 1919.


The inaugural USPGA Championship is held as a matchplay tournament.  England’s Jim Barnes wins.

G Covey regains the world Real Tennis title.

Britain ‘s Lucy Morton sets World Records at swimming at breaststroke and backstroke.

The first snooker championships are held.

Georgia Tech Engineers defeats the Cumberland College Bulldogs by a score of 222–0, the most one-sided game in college American football history.

Jimmy Wilde wins the world flyweight title and holds it for two years.


The NHL is inaugurated and its first season starts.

The first open women’s athletics meeting is held.  It is organised by Femina Sport at the Stade de la Porte Brancion, Paris.

The Federation Sportive Feminine de France is founded (the world’s first women’s national athletics governing body)


Orienteering is invented as a sport by Major Ernst Killander in Sweden.  It is based on military exercises.

Vincent Richards wins the US Open tennis doubles titles aged 15 years and 139 days.

The first women’s national athletics championships are held in Vienna, Austria.

The first women’s athletics in Britain occurs when a WRAF relay team compete in the RAF sports at Stamford Bridge.

The first British judo club, the Westminster Budokwai, is founded by Gunji Zoizumu.

Ted “Kid” Lewis draws with Jack Britton over twenty rounds in another of their world welterweight title fights.  They fought twenty times against each other in their boxing careers.

604 people are killed when stands at the Hong Kong Jockey Club racecourse collapse and catch fire.  This is the worst disaster at a sporting event of modern times.

Joe Malone scores 44 goals in 20 games in the NHL ice-hockey season. This goals average of 2.2 per game remains the highest ever in one season.



Posted in Sports History | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

World Sports Hall of Fame 1939: Ivar Ballangrud, Jose Capablanca, Rudolf Caracciola and Jimmy McClarnin

My choices for the World Sports Hall of Fame for 1939 are:

Ivar Ballangrud (Norway – Speed Skating) – winner of four Olympic gold medals and a total of seven medals in total at the Games between 1928 and 1936. He took gold at 5000m in 1928 but peaked in 1936 when winning three golds at distances ranging from the sprint of 500m to the long distances of 5000m and 10000m. He competed at the world championships between 1924 and 1939 and took the overall title four times between 1926 and 1938. He won the world 5000m title seven times and the 1500m and 10000m four times each. He set four world records at 5000m and others at 3000m and 10000m.

Jose Capablanca (Cuba – Chess) – one of the greatest chess players of all-time. He was world champion from 1921 to 1927. In a thirty year career as an adult from 1909 to 1939 he only lost 34 games, the fewest by any world chess champion. After losing the world title in 1927 he wasn’t allowed a rematch to regain the title. He was hugely influential on the development of the game, especially in the tactics of openings.

Rudolf Caracciola (Germany – Motor Racing) – one of the great names in the early years of Grand Prix motor racing.  He won the German Grand Prix a record six times between 1928 and 1939 with five of those wins at the Nurburgring circuit.   He won the European drivers championship, the precursor to the World Championship, three times, in 1935,1937 and 1938. He also set seventeen world speed records and won twenty three other top international races.

Jimmy McClarnin  (Canada – Boxing) – a great boxer who moved up through the weights from flyweight to welterweight over a long career with fifty-four winning fights out of sixty-eight.  He fought for the world lightweight title in 1928 unsuccessfully but won the world welterweight crown in 1933.  He lost that title a year later to Barney Ross but regained it in a rematch before losing the third fight between the two.  By some experts he is regarded as one of the finest welterweights ever.


Posted in Hall of Fame | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment