• December 29 down the years

A nightmare for Newcombe

The sporting events of December 29 down the years
John Newcombe during one of his better days © Getty Images

John Newcombe had a nightmare in the Davis Cup final. A future champion at Wimbledon and the US Open, he was only 19 at the time. Although Roy Emerson won both his singles matches, Newc lost both of his, including the decider in four sets to Wimbledon champion Chuck McKinley.

Martin Offiah was born. One of the fastest players ever seen in rugby league, he scored five tries in Challenge Cup finals for Wigan and London Broncos, one of them with a 90-yard sprint, and was one of the few to win the Lance Todd Trophy (for Man of the Match in the final) more than once, in 1992 and 1994. He scored more tries in a Test match for Great Britain than anyone else: five, against France in 1991.

The New England Patriots beat the New York Giants 38-35 to become only the second team in NFL history to finish the regular season unbeaten.

Big Jess Willard was born. Very big. By the standards of the day, an absolute giant. He wore down the great (but greatly past it) Jack Johnson in 1915 to become the biggest ever up to then. At 6' 6½" and 18 stone, the gentle giant had no great stomach for the fight game, but he was hard to hit - at least until he defended the title four years later against Jack Dempsey, who was about five stone lighter but could hit like a mule. He knocked Jess down seven times in the first round, breaking his nose, cheekbone, and various ribs. Only Willard's giant courage took the fight into the third round.

Belgium's Ivo Van Damme died in a car crash at the age of 22. A tall strong bearded runner, he'd just won silver medals in the 800 and 1500 metres at the Olympic Games, behind big names Alberto Juantorena and John Walker. He won the 800 at the European Indoors at the start of the year. The Ivo Van Damme Memorial athletics event is held in Brussels every year.

In basketball, Wilt 'the Stilt' Chamberlain scored 50 points in a game for the seventh time in a row, still the NBA record.

Angelo Taylor was born. One of the very few runners to regain an Olympic title, he emulated the great Ed Moses (born August 31, 1955) by winning the 400 metres hurdles twice, in 2000 and 2008. In between, he was given three years' probation for having sex with under-age girls.

In the NFL Championship Game, the Detroit Lions hammered Cleveland Browns 59-14, scoring seven touchdowns to two - and this without their regular quarterback Bobby Layne. Tobin Rote made a pretty good deputy, throwing four touchdown passes.

The fastest sending-off in NBA history. Against the Chicago Bulls, the Dallas Mavericks sent on Bubba Wells for the sole purpose of fouling Dennis Rodman, who was notoriously bad at free throws. It didn't quite work. The flashy Rodman hit nine of his twelve throws and the Bulls won 111-105. In the three minutes he stayed on the court, Wells committed six fouls!

Italy beat Yugoslavia 3-0 to become the only country to win the men's volleyball World Championships three times in a row.

Norman Hallows was born. At the 1908 Olympics, he finished third in the 1500 metres and was a non-scoring member of Britain's winning team in the three miles team race.