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How NASA and the Sports World Avoided Disaster

In 1986, Rice University sponsored a sports business conference in Houston, Texas. One of the first of its kind, it featured a laundry list of big names in coaching and upper management—it was one of the last big appearances for Dodgers GM Al Campanis before the Nightline interview that forced him to leave baseball in disgrace. Red Auerbach spoke, as did Glen Sather, the management of the Cincinnati Reds, Toronto Blue Jays and the commissioners of the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball.

Now, at the conclusion of this trip, the Reds were supposed to play the Mets and the Blue Jays were supposed to play the Yankees, so the managers and GMs of both teams split a charter with the bigwigs at the NBA so they could all get to New York more quickly and cheaply. 

That charter flight took off from Houston and five minutes later, mechanical debris began raining down on a neighborhood not far from the Johnson Space Center. Part of what looked like a jet engine landed on a house on the block where legendary NASA Flight Director lived, and the local news was ready to run with a story about the crashed charter flight.

But in a few minutes, it was established that it was a different plane that had exploded in midair and that no one on the ground had been hurt.

This saved the Houston Chronicle from running the headline:

"Rose and Kranz and Gillick and Stern are Dead."