Today in Philly Sports History: Eric Allen's "Greatest Interception Return in NFL History," 1993

Today in Philly Sports History: Eric Allen's "Greatest Interception Return in NFL History," 1993

Six-time Pro Bowl cornerback Eric Allen had a yell of a year in 1993. For one thing, he recorded two whole sacks-just one short of his career total. But more pressingly, he did what cornerbacks do--caught picks, six in all, and an astounding four that he returned for touchdowns, easily leading the league and tying Ken Houston and Jim Kearney's all-time single-season record. The most memorable of these came on October 3rd in a game against the New York Jets, in a pick six that Steve Sabol of NFL Films called "The Greatest Interception Return in NFL History."

The Jets jumped out to a 21-0 lead early in the game, and Eagles QB Randall Cunningham checked out early on with a fractured fibula. But Eagles backup Bubby Brister led an unlikely comeback effort, tying the game at 28-28 late in the period. But after a Jets safety, the Birds were down 30-28, with New York nursing a two point lead and the clock late in the game. But Jets QB Boomer Esiason got a little careless inside the Eagles' ten-yard line, and Eric Allen made him pay to the tune of a 94-yard interception return for a touchdown. Final score: Eagles 35, Jets 30.

Allen played one more season for the Eagles, before leaving to spend the second half of his career in New Orlenas and Oakland. He retired with 54 interceptions, good for 19th all-time, with eight pick sixes, good for sixth.

NFL community mourns the loss of legendary Buddy Ryan

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AP

NFL community mourns the loss of legendary Buddy Ryan

After news broke that Buddy Ryan, the former Eagles coach and defensive innovator, died on Tuesday morning, the NFL mourned the loss. 

Ryan, who was 82, made a huge impact in the NFL and the sport of football as evidenced by some of the people who tweeted on Tuesday morning: 

 

Phillies-Diamondbacks 5 things: Hot Phils offense takes on Zack Greinke

Phillies-Diamondbacks 5 things: Hot Phils offense takes on Zack Greinke

Phillies (33-45) at Diamondbacks (36-43)
9:40 p.m. on CSN

The Phillies got a little piece of revenge on Monday night, crushing the Diamondbacks, 8-0, after losing all four games to them earlier this month at Citizens Bank Park.

Runs figure to be harder to come by on Tuesday, however, as the Phils face one of the best and hottest pitchers in baseball.

1. Greinke on a roll
The Phillies face D-backs ace Zack Greinke (10-3, 3.61) for the second time in 10 days. The last meeting didn't go so well, with the Phils scoring just one run on three hits over eight innings against the $30 million pitcher. 

Greinke, who signed a six-year, $206.5 million contract with Arizona in the offseason, got off to a poor start in the desert, posting a 6.16 ERA through his first five starts. But he's been earning his money since, going 8-1 with a 2.58 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in his last 11 outings.

That said, Greinke still hasn't figured out Chase Field. At his hitter-friendly, homer-friendly new home park, Greinke has a 5.06 ERA and his opponents have nine home runs and an .808 OPS. On the road, Greinke has a 1.85 ERA and his opponents have three homers and a .549 OPS.

With how hot the Phillies' bats have been lately and how much more Greinke has struggled in Phoenix, there is at least the possibility they could get to him tonight. And how sweet would that be after the Phils beat Madison Bumgarner on Saturday and hung six runs on Johnny Cueto Sunday?

Greinke has six different pitches but mostly uses his four-seam fastball, slider and excellent changeup. Against the Phillies on June 18 he used his full repertoire, throwing 24 changeups, 23 sinkers, 16 fastballs, 16 sliders and 15 curveballs.

Current Phils are 14 for 92 (.152) with one homer, four walks and 30 strikeouts lifetime vs. Greinke. Odubel Herrera hit the homer to lead off that June 18 game.

2. Franco locking in?
Maikel Franco finally seems to be settling down, seeing the ball well and squaring it up. He had a three-RBI night Monday, and over his last seven games Franco is 8 for 25 with two doubles, a triple, a homer, seven RBIs and seven walks. 

The walks have really stood out. Franco had just six in April and seven in May, numbers he's equaled over the last week. On Monday, he came up in one situation where earlier in the year he would have expanded the zone and gotten himself out. With two men on and one out in a scoreless game, a wild pitch advanced both runners to second and third. But Franco got ahead in the count and crushed a line drive past a diving shortstop to drive in the Phils' first run. 

Several Phillies have been hot in June — Peter Bourjos, Cameron Rupp, Cody Asche — but Franco has yet to really heat up. The Phillies need a strong second half from him. In 296 plate appearances this season, Franco is hitting .243/.304/.427 with 11 doubles, 12 homers and 40 RBIs.

3. Ever-consistent Eickhoff
Jerad Eickhoff has been the Phillies' steadiest and most reliable starting pitcher since mid-May. He has a 2.23 ERA over his last seven starts and has given up more than three earned runs just once in his last 11 starts.

On the year, Eickhoff is 5-9 with a 3.36 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. His worst recent start was against these D-backs in the game Greinke pitched. Eickhoff allowed three runs on nine hits and two homers over 5⅔ innings, falling one out short of a quality start.

Quality starts (six-plus innings, no more than three earned runs) have been Eickhoff's trademark early in his big-league career. He has 17 of them in 23 career starts. Since 2000, only two starting pitchers (Jacob deGrom in 2014-15, Brandon Webb in 2003) had more quality starts in their first 23 tries.

In Eickhoff's 23 starts as a Phillie, he's 8-12 with a 3.11 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. He's struck out 8.0 batters per nine innings and walked just 2.2 since coming over from Texas in the Cole Hamels trade. During that span, Hamels has gone 15-2 with a 3.19, 1.21 WHIP, 8.6 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 27 starts with the Rangers.

4. Joseph slowing down
The strong start Tommy Joseph got off to may have created unrealistic expectations for the rookie first baseman, who has plummeted back to Earth the last few weeks. Joseph went 0 for 5 with four strikeouts Monday, three against left-hander Robbie Ray, whose fastball simply overpowered Joseph.

Over his last 14 games, Joseph is 7 for 55 (.127) with 16 strikeouts. He has three walks and 35 strikeouts in 130 plate appearances this season. He had two solid games over the weekend in San Francisco, going 3 for 8 with a pair of doubles on Saturday and Sunday, but the late swings on Monday were a bit concerning, mostly because they came against a lefty.

Joseph is 11 for 33 (.333) against lefties with a .965 OPS. He's hit just .198 against righties with no walks and 25 strikeouts. However, half of his 18 hits against right-handers have gone for extra bases (three doubles, six home runs).

5. This and that
• It's crazy to say, but Bourjos may be hitting his way to the trading block. Bourjos has gone 21 for 42 (.500) over his last 15 games with six extra-base hits to raise his season batting line to .259/.292/.378. No, that's nothing special, but it's worlds away from where he was just 17 days ago. When play ended on June 11, Bourjos was hitting .192 with an OPS 169 points lower than it is now. If he continues to hit, his defense and speed could make him attractive to a contending club seeking a fourth outfielder.

• One of the most pleasant surprises of this 2016 Phillies season has been Rupp's continued improvement at the plate. He's hitting .270/.309/.478 with 14 doubles, seven homers and 19 RBIs. He ranks fourth among all MLB catchers with a .478 slugging percentage, behind only Wilson Ramos, Salvador Perez and Jonathan Lucroy and ahead of Matt Wieters and Buster Posey. Rupp's 22 extra-base hits are fifth-most among catchers, and all four guys ahead of him have between 56 and 94 more plate appearances.

• Hello there, Edubray Ramos. The Phillies' top minor-league reliever has impressed in three appearances since being called up, allowing just one baserunner and striking out five in 3⅓ scoreless innings. His curveball is every bit as good as Hector Neris' splitter, if not better. With that hook and his biting, mid-90s fastball, Ramos has the look of a future closer. He may even get some opportunities later this season if Jeanmar Gomez is traded or struggles.

Summitt used sport to empower women

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USA Today Images

Summitt used sport to empower women

Needing yet another men's basketball coach, Tennessee officials turned to the one person they thought would be perfect to take over the Volunteers program.

Pat Summitt said no.

She wasn't interested in the job in 1994 after Wade Houston was forced out, and she turned it down again when Jerry Green quit in March 2001. A Tennessee governor once joked he wouldn't have his job if Summitt ever wanted to run her home state.

Breaking the glass ceiling in the men's game, political office, that wasn't Summitt's motivation. She had the only job she ever really wanted.

"I want to keep doing the right things for women all the time," Summitt said in June 2011 after being inducted into her fifth Hall of Fame.

Summitt died Tuesday morning at age 64.

The woman who grew up playing basketball in a Tennessee barn loft against her brothers, and started coaching only a couple years after Title IX was invoked, spent her life working to make women's basketball the equal of the men's game. In the process, Patricia Sue Head Summitt stood amongst the best coaches in any sport when she retired in April 2012 with more victories (1,098) than any other NCAA coach and second only to John Wooden with eight national championships.

Summitt used the sport and her demand for excellence to empower women and help them believe they can achieve anything, taking no backseat to anyone.

When I moved to Tennessee in 1976, girls played six-on-six, half-court basketball designed to protect them from getting hurt. Summitt, who took her Lady Vols to four AIAW Final Fours, refused to recruit Tennessee players. Tennessee high schools switched to five-on-five rules starting with the 1979-80 season.

The NCAA finally started running a national postseason tournament for the women in 1982. At the time, Summitt was known for having "corn-fed chicks" on her roster, big and strong but not talented enough to win national titles. After she won her first national title in 1987 in her eighth Final Four either in the AIAW or NCAA, she said, "Well, the monkey's off my back."

Back then only a student ID was needed to attend a women's game. And there was no demand for the results of those games. After graduating from Tennessee, I helped the sports writers by bringing notes from an NCAA Tournament game back to the office for someone else to write up. There was no urgency since there was no reader demand.

So Summitt worked to make it impossible to ignore her team or the women's game.

By January 1993, so many people wanted to watch then-No. 2 Tennessee visit top-ranked Vanderbilt that the contest became the first Southeastern Conference women's game to sell out in advance. With children under 6 allowed in free, having a ticket didn't guarantee getting through the door; at least 1,000 were turned away at the door -- including Vanderbilt's chancellor.

The Lady Vols won 73-68, a game I covered in my first year as a sports writer for The Associated Press in Nashville.

"This was the biggest game in women's basketball, and that's what I've been waiting 19 years to see," Summitt said. "I'm glad I stayed around to see it."

Summitt scheduled opponents anywhere and everywhere, barnstorming the country to introduce people to women's basketball. Tennessee played Arizona State in 2000 in the first women's outdoor game played at then-Bank One Ballpark, drew the largest crowd ever to a regional championship in March 1998 when 14,848 packed Memorial Gym in Nashville with Tennessee trying to finish off the NCAA's first three-peat and helped Louisville set a Big East record christening the KFC Yum! Center in 2010.

The Lady Vols became must-see TV in the sport as Summitt put the women's game on the national stage with six national titles in the span of 12 years.

I remember when I got real up-close look at what drove Summitt.

Assigned to cover Summitt as part of AP's annual college basketball preview package in the fall of 1998, I spent nearly 30 minutes with the coach in her office.

Door closed, Summitt gave a glimpse of that famous stay-away stare. With undivided attention now on me, she wanted to know if I had talked with her mother, Hazel, for the story. She then showed me the engaging side, laughing when asked about a stretch of play during the 1998 title game that resembled the Showtime Lakers, beaming while reflecting on how well her Lady Vols showed women could play the game.

The Lady Vols lost 69-63 to Duke that season in the East Regional. The next day I left a message at Summitt's house and late that afternoon, she called back to talk about more life lessons and basketball.

"It's a game, and winning and losing both can be great ways to teach kids how to get ready for the real world," said Summitt, who had to stop the interview because her mother had given son, Tyler, a gift. She explained he would have to save some of that cash before buying something for himself. Then she resumed the conversation about the game.

That was Pat Summitt: Hoops and family.

She held everyone to the exacting standards she learned from her father cutting tobacco and helping bale hay on the family farm. Tennessee and Connecticut was the biggest draw in women's basketball with Geno Auriemma and his Huskies handing Summitt her lone title game loss in 1995. But Summitt canceled the series in 2007 and refused to say why other than, "Geno knows."

Summitt ended a nine-year championship drought with her seventh national title in 2007 followed by the eighth in 2008. She became the first NCAA coach to win 1,000 games Feb. 5, 2009, and received a new contract that boosted her annual salary to $1.4 million -- far removed from the $8,900 of her first season.

She never got to the 40th season in that contract, her career cruelly and prematurely ended by early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. She finished 1,098-208 with 18 Final Fours, at the time tying the men of UCLA and North Carolina for the most by any college basketball program.

Not that numbers define Summitt, who once said, "Records are made to be broken."

Yes, all marks fade, but no one will eclipse Summitt's contributions to women's basketball.