Today in Sports History: December 1st

12/01/1963 - Scott wins NASCAR race

At Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida, Wendell Scott becomes the first African American to win a Grand National race event. It was a momentous achievement for Scott, who had broken through as the first black stock-car racer to rise to prominence. His feat was especially inspiring, as he was competing in a southern sport that, besides him, was 100% white and not at all receptive to diversity.

However, Scott's win would not be treated with the respect that it deserved. In fact, he initially wasn't even credited with the win. Fearing that Scott would kiss the white trophy girl during the victory celebration, the race officials decided to name Buck Baker the winner instead. Scott was furious that he had been kept out of the winner's circle and protested the outcome. Three hours later, when everyone had left the track, NASCAR officials declared Scott the winner, but refused to award him the championship trophy.

"My dad went off then," Franklin Scott recalled when his dad learned he had been denied. "He said, 'Give me my damn money.' Buck got the real trophy. The thing we got was junk. They gave us a trophy about a month later at Savannah. But it wasn't the real thing." Officially, NASCAR claimed that a scoring malfunction had incorrectly subtracted one of Scott's laps and that Buck had been declared the winner by accident. In actuality, Wendell had not only completed the 200 laps, he had even circled the track an extra two times.

Unlike the racial pioneers in other sports -- such as Jackie Robinson, Doug Williams and Earl Lloyd -- Scott's presence did not open the floodgates for future African Americans. Decades later, when the Grand National had been renamed the Winston Cup and later the Nextel Cup, barely a handful of African Americans had succeeded him by competing in NASCAR. As of now, he remains the only black man to ever win a major NASCAR race.

12/01/1997 - Sprewell chokes coach

Latrell Sprewell and P.J. Carlesimo were already on bad terms. At 1-13, the Golden State Warriors were the worst team in the NBA and with the trading deadline approaching, they were shopping Sprewell from team to team. Meanwhile, Carlesimo's aggressive coaching style, which had worked so well for him in Portland, was no longer successful and had in fact created a rift in the Warriors locker room. P.J. and Sprewell wouldn't have been together much longer anyway, but in one of the most infamous episodes in the NBA, the tension between them culminated before either could be moved.

Carlesimo and company were practicing on an off day when it suddenly got hostile. Not pleased with the dishing he was doing, Carlesimo yelled at Sprewell to make make "crisper passes." Sprewell lost it. In a blind fit of rage, he wrestled his coach to the ground and wrapped his hands around his neck for 15 seconds. After being restrained by stunned onlookers, he left the scene, only to return to the facility 20 minutes later to take another swing at him. Teammates once again got in the way and prevented him from causing serious injury; Carlesimo walked away with a red scar on his throat.

"It was all about the respect factor with me," Sprewell said. "It was all about P.J. disrespecting me as a man. You don't talk to people the way that P.J. talked to me. To have my pride and my respect and my manhood means more than any dollar amount."

The next day, the NBA was in all the news. A player had choked a coach, and whether it was because Sprewell was black and P.J. was white or because Sprewell was lashing out at an authority figure, everyone drew conclusions as to what it said about the NBA. The Warriors banished Sprewell just two days later, though it wasn't enough for commissioner David Stern, who banned Latrell for one whole year -- the harshest penalty a player had ever seen. An arbitrator later reduced his punishment to 68 games, the remaining length of the regular season, and reinstated his contract with the Warriors.

Sprewell was eventually traded to the New York Knicks, where he found success and was able to reshape his image. Carlesimo was fired in 1999 and didn't get another coaching job until 2007, when he latched onto the Seattle SuperSonics. Neither man outlived the notoriety of the choking incident.

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