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1999 - The Year of the Phoenix

With the Coyotes making the playoffs this year, the Phoenix area has an opportunity to experience something fairly rare: the quadruple postseason appearance of the major sport leagues.  The Coyotes and the Suns both made the playoffs on the heels of the Cardinals' 2009-10 campaign, so all that's left is the Diamondbacks.

Oddly enough, this wouldn't be the first time Phoenix has had all 4 major teams in the postseason in one calendar year.

 

In 1999, by some miracle, all 4 of the major teams in Phoenix went to the playoffs.  This needs a bit of stipulation, since three of the leagues start at the end of a calendar year and finish in the next.  So when we say that all four teams were in the playoffs in 1999, we mean that in the most literal sense.  The 1998 Cardinals were in the playoffs in 1999, even if the vast majority of the NFL season was the prior year.

Still, it's a remarkable feat.  There are only 25 instances when a city sends at least one representative to each of the major playoffs in a given year.  Every decade since the 1950's has had this feat.  Like any bizarre stat, though, this does come with certain understandings or stipulations.

Most of the major league cities can't even compete for the "prize," given that only 14 current cities have all 4 teams.  Add on limited possibilities because of uneven expansion schedules, and it isn't the fairest of statistics.  Another complication is the relative ease or difficulty of making the playoffs in a given year.  The NBA and NHL send 16 teams of the possible 30, ensuring over half of the league will be in the playoffs in any given year.  MLB is the strictest, sending only 8 of a possible 30 for a measly 26.7% of the league.  The NFL sends 12 out of 32, for a more modest 37.5%.

That Phoenix even is on this list is a little crazy.  When my coworkers and I came up with the initial idea, we weren't even sure if it had ever happened here.  Luckily in 1999 there was a perfect storm of events to ensure our city's place in history.

Believe it or not, but at one point in time the Coyotes (and Jets before them) were perennial postseason invites.  5 of the first 6 years in the Valley were marked with the Coyotes in pursuit (and failing miserably) of the Stanley Cup.  Given the easier process for making the playoffs, it puts in perspective just how awful the team has been in recent years.

 The Suns are as close to a playoff guarantee in Phoenix as you're going to get, and there's a reason that until perhaps recently they were the city's favorite child.  Since 1989, the Suns have made the playoffs every years except for 3 seasons.  Like the Coyotes, this is partially a product of an easier system, but the Suns also made 5 Western Conference Finals appearances and 1 NBA Finals appearance during this span.

So during a certain time frame, it's a pretty good bet that you can name any year and at least two of the Phoenix teams will be in the playoffs.  But what about the other two?  Well, the Cardinals largely have stunk.  Since arriving in the area in 1988, the Red Birds have only made the playoffs 3 times.  In 10 years less the Diamondbacks have won their division 4 times in a harder system.  Luckily, all the stars came together in 1999.  The Cardinals shocked the world with Jake the Snake and beat the Cowboys in the first round before falling to the Vikings.  The Diamondbacks bowed out  in the first round against the Mets.  The Suns also lost in the first round against the Trail Blazers, and the Coyotes also lost to the Blues in the first round.

We're 3/4th of the way there this year, 11 years after our first go around.   Unfortunately for us, the entire plan hinges on the Diamondbacks surviving a tough NL West.  I have hope, though.  And honestly, I'd trade in the playoffs of all the other teams (with the exception of the Coyotes, since they really need it) to get the D'backs back in.  What about you?

**

Here's a comprehensive list of all the cities that have experienced all four teams at once in the playoffs.  Some cities have multiple teams in a sport, so I split up the baseball teams since that's what we care about most here, and then counted a year as long as one team from a sport qualified.  I counted the New York Islanders as New York even though they are technically out of the City, and I counted both New York football teams as New York even though they are in Jersey.  I did not count the years that the New Jersey Nets are in Jersey since they didn't even try to hide where they were.  I counted the Anaheim teams as Los Angeles since who cares about them anyways.  There are also a few examples where the NFL team wasn't in the playoffs the same year (the regular season was) so I counted it anyways.  Maybe I'll go back and put asterisks next to those when I have time.

Atlanta: Never

Boston: 2009, 2004, 2003, 1986

Chicago Cubs: 1989

Chicago White Sox: Never

Dallas: Never

Denver: Never

Detroit: 1984

Los Angeles Dodgers: 1988, 1985, 1981, 1978, 1977, 1974

Los Angeles Angels: 1982,

Miami: 1997

Minneapolis: Never

New York Yankees: 2004, 1981, 1956, 1950

New York Mets: 1969

Philadelphia: 2009, 2008, 1981, 1980, 1978

Phoenix: 1999

San Francisco: Never

Oakland: Never

Washington DC: Never

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