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WHAT'S THE MAGIC NUMBER?
January 3, 2003

by Bill Hogan

 
 

On March 2, 1962 NBA Hall of Fame center Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a game his Philadelphia Warriors won over the New York Knicks 169-147. It's the first, last and only time an NBA player reached triple digits in a single game.

Chamberlain attempted sixty-three field-goals and thirty-two shots from the foul line on his way to reaching the historic century mark. It's a remarkable feat that even Michael Jordan could not come close to duplicating. (Jordan's career-best scoring effort fell thirty-one points short of Wilt's record-setting performance).

 
 


Had Chamberlain scored ninety-nine points – missed just one more free throw – he'd still hold the NBA's single game scoring record. It still would have been an unbelievable performance. And it still would be an unreachable number for the game's stars of the future.

But it wouldn't be one hundred. One hundred is a milestone - a measuring stick for achievement in sports and in life.

We hail the person lucky enough to celebrate a 100th birthday – even if that person looks like Yoda, wears a diaper and sips dinner through a straw.

It's the goal of every television show to produce 100 episodes. One hundred is a benchmark that validates its popularity and ensures its syndication value. (That's why we have to suffer through years of "Facts of Life" and "Three's Company" reruns).

One hundred puts a lot of things into perspective. Walk into a hot room and someone is bound to say "it must be a hundred degrees in here". Growing up, how many times did you hear your mom start a sentence with "if I told you once, I've told you a hundred times…"?

A running back is deemed to have had a successful game if he rushes for one hundred yards. And a hitter with 100 RBI had a very good year.

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris ended his career with exactly one hundred touchdowns. While ninety-nine certainly would not have kept him out of the Hall of Fame, it still wouldn't be one hundred.

One hundred - the magic number. There's a hundred years in a century, a hundred pennies in a dollar and there's 100 bottles of beer on the wall.

But I really can't see what makes that particular number so special. One hundred on a high school math test is a great score – but ninety-five is still an 'A'.

If you've got a temperature of 100 degrees, you've got a fever – sure to be followed by body aches and a scratchy throat. And you never want to be traveling at 100 miles per hour when you pass a policeman with a radar gun.

If one hundred's so great, how come there are only fifty ways to leave your lover? And how come the player driving in forty runs a season is still making four million dollars?

Seventy-three is good enough for the Major League home run record. And Denny McLain's thirty-one wins in 1968 is the most by any pitcher since 1916.

There are 101 Dalmatians and athletes are always boasting about giving 110% effort. Pick the winning horse in all nine races at the track and you're "batting a thousand".

Three hundred is a perfect bowling score and fifty-nine is the lowest round ever recorded in a pro golf tournament. In fact, one hundred is taboo to both bowlers and golfers.

Forty-one years ago Wilt Chamberlain did the impossible when he scored one hundred points in a single game. But he missed twenty-seven shots from the floor and four free throws. So was it an unbelievable performance or was the big guy just being a ball hog?

One hundred – some milestone. There aren't too many major leaguers with a one hundred batting average. And I wouldn't want one hundred people in line in front of me waiting for a limited supply of Super Bowl tickets.

Heck, even my satellite dish picks up 240 stations – now that's a benchmark with which I can relate (ok, I can also relate to the 100 bottles of beer on the wall).

I've been thinking about this week's feature for quite some time. I wanted to do something special. Something with a lot of interesting facts. Something humorous and memorable.

I wanted to knock your socks off with a dazzling display of insight, reference and wit.

After all, this is a big week for Hogan's Alley. This is our 100th feature.

Big deal.

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