Freddie Mills died from gunshot wounds in mysterious circumstances in Soho, London. It was officially described as suicide but others attempted to give Mills’s death a more sinister ring and suggested he was the victim of a gangland ‘hit’. However, there were persistent rumours that Mills was a homosexual and the balance of evidence favours suicide as the likely explanation of his death.
Gary Player became the third man after Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen to win the four major championships when he triumphed in the US Open at Bellerive, Missouri. Player beat the Australian Kel Nagle 71 - 74 in a tense play-off to become the first non-American to win since Ted Ray in 1920. He then donated $25,000 of his $26,000 prize to charity.
But Player made his biggest impression at Wentworth. He was 7 down with 17 holes to play against Tony Lema in the semi-final of the World Match-Play. His hopes of winning the second most popular tournament in Britain would require the greatest come-back in golf. Player displaying al the fighting qualities that had made him one of the world’s leading competitors clawed his way back to two down with three to play. He won the next hole, sank a 10-foot putt at the 17th to stay in the match, birdies the last to draw level and won at the 37th hole.
Muhammed Ali retained the world heavyweight title he had won as Cassius Clay in Bizarre fashion. The rematch against Sonny Liston in May never went beyond the first round and Liston was ‘knocked-out’ by a “phantom” punch that nobody saw.
Liston went down as if pole-axed, then confusion reigned. The referee had trouble forcing Ali into a neutral corner and tried to begin the count. At that point the timekeeper told the referee that Liston had already been down for 22 seconds and therefore had been counted out twice.
While the officials were haggling, Liston got up from the floor and Ali was already setting about him when the referee jumped between them and stopped the fight. Liston’s excuses for this farce were that he was waiting for Ali to be pushed away before he got up, and anyway how could he be counted out when there was no official count? Inevitably Ali claimed the ‘phantom’ punch was a kind of secret weapon “a corkscrew” punch to the head. Whatever, Ali was crowned heavyweight king of the world.
FOOTBALL - West Ham became the second British club to win a European Trophy when they beat Bayern Munich 1860, 2 - 0 at Wembley in the European Cup-Winners Cup on May 19.
Kilmarnock finally landed the Scottish League championship, but only by 0.04 of a goal. If they had conceded one more goal then Hearts would have been champions.
Stanley Matthews retired and was knighted, the first player to be so honoured.
DAVID WATKINS, the Welshman who had admirably stepped into the fly-half void left by Cliff Morgan in 1958, continued to grow in stature. The nimble half-back, who inspired Newport to a 3 - 0 win against the All Blacks in 1964, was one of the few players to emerge from a disastrous British Lions tour of Australasia with some pride. Although the Lions beat Australia twice they were outplayed by the All Blacks.
Barry John pulled on the red and white no.10 jersey for the first of 25 internationals for Wales. But the 21 year-old Llanelli fly-half lacked the experience to prevent Australia recording their first ever win against Wales. The Wallabies won 14 - 11 in Cardiff, lost 11 - 5 in Scotland and 9 - 6 in Ireland and beat England 23 - 11.
Wales, without the undoubted talents of Clive Rowlands, won their third successive Five Nations championship. The scrum-half had retired the previous season to play out his career with Swansea after a successful 14 match Test career.
He had captained Wales to two championship titles and many thought the team would lose its edge without him. But the only blemish in another successful winter was a 9 - 6 loss to Ireland in Dublin.
ENGLAND - Word Cup Winners 1966
“They Think its All Over” was the now famous remark by the BBC commentator in the dying moments of the 1966 World Cup Final . The debate continues over whether the third English goal scored by Geoff Hurst, was valid or not. England probably deserved their World Cup win if only for their performances in the last two matches. Until then they had been scratching and scraping and it needed all the inspiration provided by their indomitable manager Alf Ramsey to see them through to the semi-final.
Ramsey, uncharacteristically promised when he got the England manager job in 1962, “We will win the World Cup”. But when he was asked if he still thought so a day before the final there was a long, strangulated moment before, at last, he was able to say ”yes“. Ramsey, his critics claim had set a bad example with football which put a premium on hard work and hard running, scorning those wingers who for years had been the pride of English football. With the passing of still more time, lending a still better perspective, it is clear that although England had no specialised wingers and the players did, indeed, run long and hard there was probably more talent in that team than at any time since.
They began clumsily against Uruguay, unable to break through a packed powerful defence. Mexico were beaten 2 - 0, Bobby Charlton at last obliging a crowd chanting “We want goals” with a stupendous right footed angled long shot. France were beaten by the same score. Greaves was injured, Stiles fouled Jackie Simon in front of the Royal box, and Ramsey threatened to resign when told by his officials to drop Stiles.
West Germany launching the graceful 21 year-old Franz Beckenbauer in midfield met England, whom they had never beaten, in the final. Their decision to put Beckenbauer on Bobby Charlton nullified both of them. Ray Wilson, England’s quick left back, untypically headed straight to Helmut Haller who put West Germany ahead. But a free kick, quickly taken by Moore and perfectly anticipated by Hurst made it 1 - 1. Peters gave England the lead in the second half and that seemed to be that but at the very death, a free kick doubtfully given against Bobby’s brother, centre-half, Jackie Charlton, allowed Germany to equalise. In extra time Hurst smashed a ball goalward which hit the underside of the bar. Hunt in the goalmouth turned away exultant, the Germans protested and the referee consulted his linesman, a Russian who said it was a goal. In the last minute Moore sent Hurst through a scattered German defence, Hurst hit the ball as hard as he could, untroubled as to where it went. It went into the top corner of the German goal!
The Grand National was brought to a virtual standstill for the second time in its history by an enormous pile-up. As in 1928, the last time there had been similar chaos, the result was that the race was won by a “no-hoper”. In 1928 it was the fearsome Canal Turn that brought the field to grief, but this time it was a loose horse that did the damage. The 23rd fence after Becher’s on the second circuit, was one of the smallest in the race, but it sent “Popham Down” who had lost its jockey at the very first fence, swerving into another runner.
Within moments, most of the rest of the field were sent sprawling with jockeys and horses scattered all over the course. As the snarl-up got ever worse, runners arriving at the fence had nowhere to go and were brought to a halt. Foinavon, though, was so far behind and travelling so slowly that he was able to pick his way around the devastation almost at walking pace, scramble over the fence and take a lead of a good 30 lengths.
The other jockeys frantically scrambled to remount their horses and set off in pursuit. But there was no way they could catch John Buckingham, who was having his first ride in the National only because Foinavon’s regular jockey opted to ride at lowly Worcester instead.
Brabham proved that the successes of the previous season were no flash in the pan when they ran away with both championships. Denny Hulme won the drivers title and Brabham-Repco the constructors Jack Brabham driver, manufacturer and 41 years old, was runner-up to Hulme.
But the outstanding figure of the season was Jim Clark, who finished third in the drivers championship even though he had won four of the 11 Grand Prix. Even more extraordinary was that the season will be remembered for a drive by Clark in a race he lost.
Clark was leading in the Italian Grand Prix on September 10 when, in the 13th lap, he was forced to make a pit-stop to change a wheel. Over minute later he rejoined the race a lap behind the leaders and 15th out of 16. Then began a charge reminiscent of Juan Fangio at his most magnificent.
GOLF - The United States thrashed Britain 21 - 6 with five matches halved in Houston on October 22. It was the most one-sided contest in Ryder Cup history.
HORSE RACING - The Government banned horse racing for more than a month as an epidemic of foot and mouth disease spread throughout the country in the winter. The ban remained until early the next year.
SKIING - Jean-Claude Killy of France won the men’s overall title in the first World Cup. The woman’s championship went to Nancy Greene of Canada.
Mexico City’s high altitude made life difficult for distance runners, but in the “explosive events”, the XIX Olympiad was a festival of record breaking, with 34 world and 38 Olympic records being set.
The increasing influence of politics on society, which had been evident in many countries during the late 1960‘s played its part in the run-up to the 1968 Summer Olympic Games. Before the opening of the Games, complaints by ordinary Mexicans that the exorbitant amounts of money being invested in facilities could not be justified when placed alongside Mexico’s own social problems and culminated in violent riots.
Arguments also resulted from the question of South Africa’s participation at those Games; the majority of Black African countries threatened to boycott if South Africa participated. The IOC eventually gave into pressure and withdrew its invitation to South African athletes. As a result of IOC resolutions, two separate German teams paraded into the stadium beneath one flag for the first time at a summer Olympics.
Controversy would also continue once the competitions began. The medal ceremony for the men’s 200 metres, for example, turned into a political demonstration. During the playing of the American national anthem, the US sprinters Tommy Smith and John Carlos raised their black-gloved fists, a symbol of the radical Black Panther movement which had been fighting for equal rights for black citizens in the USA. The teams management banned the two athletes from the national team and sent them home.
The avalanche of first class performances during the Games was mainly the result of Mexico City’s high altitude (almost 2240 metres) The altitude issue dominated the pre-games discussions as it would disadvantage athletes from lowland countries.
In the sprint events, American athletes were dominant. Olympic champion Jim Hines set a new world record of 9.9 secs. For the 100 metres. This was later officially recognised as an inaugural electronic timing record of 9.95 secs. In the running events from 1500 metres up to the marathon, African athletes established themselves as world beaters. However the most outstanding track-and-field performance was achieved by the American Bob Beamon. He improved the world record for the long jump by an astonishing 55 centimetres to 8.90 metres. It was not until 23 years later that his compatriot Mike Powell (at 8.95 metres) managed to improve on Beamon’s ‘leap into the 21st Century’
It was not so much Dick Fosbury’s (USA) winning high jump of 2.24 metres itself that caused a sensation in Mexico City, but his innovative technique. The so-called “Fosbury Flop” - with the high-jumper attempting to clear the bar shoulders first - revolutionised high jumping and replaced the conventional ‘straddle’ technique.
A dozen laps later Clark had pulled back the lap disadvantage. By half-way he was seventh. Nine laps from the finish Clark was third and when his team-mate Graham Hill retired with engine problems, Clark was in second place and fast catching up the race leader, Jack Brabham. With seven laps remaining Clark had overtaken Brabham and was poised to record his greatest victory. Unfortunately Clark’s car developed fuel problems and Brabham and Surtees re-overtook him and he came home in third place.
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