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Original Issue

Dating Game

MICHAEL JORDAN was born on the same day in 1963 as Larry the Cable Guy, which explains their fraternal-twin slogans of Just do it and Git 'er done. But Jordan was also born 27 years to the day after Jim Brown, so that the best basketball player of all time and the best football player of all time both entered the world on Feb. 17, making it the single most auspicious date on the sports calendar.

Or not, because LeBron James, Tiger Woods and Sandy Koufax were all born on Dec. 30, which is also the day (in 1968) that Frank Sinatra recorded "My Way." Through it all, when there was doubt, those four ate it up and spit it out.

But the best sports day? That has to be Oct. 3, when the sports polymath Dave Winfield was born in 1951 within hours of Bobby Thomson's hitting his Shot Heard 'Round the World—and the same date in 1974 that Frank Robinson became baseball's first black manager and that (in 1863) President Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday, for which football fans are forever grateful, though not as grateful as they are for buffalo wings, which were invented in 1964 at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo on—deep breath—Oct. 3.

Except that it isn't even the best date of that week, when you consider that Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier fought the 1975 Thrilla in Manila on Oct. 1, and Babe Ruth called his shot in the 1932 World Series on Oct. 1, and Roger Maris hit his 61st home run on Oct. 1 to break Ruth's single-season record, which would in turn be broken by Mark McGwire, who was born—yes—on Oct. 1. Pelé retired on Oct. 1, and Disney World opened on Oct. 1 to give every Super Bowl MVP a place to go.

But is it the best day ever? Feb. 6 witnessed two good Super Bowls—Patriots over Eagles by three in XXXIX, Packers over Steelers by six in XLV—and Jordan's dunk from the foul line in the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest in Chicago, striking the pose forever frozen as Nike's Jumpman logo. But it's best known as Babe Ruth's birthday, and for that reason alone it could be a national holiday, if there wasn't already one—July 4—devoted to serial hot-dog eating, beer and America.

Every day is an epic history. The date on this very issue, Aug. 24, saw Cal Ripken Jr. born and Pete Rose banned, instantly evoking indelible numbers (2,632 and 4,256) and nicknames (Charlie Hustle, Hit King, Iron Man) worthy of Vince McMahon, who was also born this day.

Some dates are notorious: Diego Maradona scored his infamous Hand of God goal on June 22, 1986, five years to the day after John McEnroe told Wimbledon chair umpire Edward James, "You cannot be serious!" Other dates make strange but wonderful bedfellows. Secretariat took Belmont on June 9 to win the Triple Crown, the same date Giants manager Mel Ott won the Double Crown, getting ejected from both games of a doubleheader. Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points on Dr. Seuss's birthday, March 2, a shotgun-wedding anniversary of Wilt the Stilt and Yertle the Turtle.

The U.S. Olympic hockey team beat the Soviet Union on Feb. 22, 1980, in America's greatest sports victory, which happened to fall on George Washington's birthday. The waving flags in Lake Placid called to mind the one rippling in Washington's boat as he crossed the Delaware—the hockey team and the Father of Our Country united by national pride, frozen water and fake teeth.

After Washington, the man most associated with '76 is Julius Erving, also born on Feb. 22 and always—as a Philadelphia 76er or a New York Net—swaddled in stars and stripes.

Feb. 22 is also the day the Beatles recorded the famous final note of "A Day in the Life." This was in 1967, the Late Winter of Love, when five men played a thunderous E major chord on three pianos and a harmonium at the same time, providing the best sound on the best song on the best band's best album, on what may be the best day ever. At the very least it's further proof there's a Life in the Day, every day of the year.

Oct. 3 is the date of the Shot Heard 'Round the World and the birthday of Dave Winfield, Thanksgiving and buffalo wings. And it's not even the best sports date that week.

What's the most auspicious sports date on the calendar?

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