How many great moments in sports have there been? Far too many to chronicle in detail. We all have our favorites, some good, some bad, and some personal, but what really decides what the best moments in sports are? To my mind it's when a play or event gets passed down from generation to generation and/or makes history. Here are some of what I feel are the best and most memorable moments that sports has given us with regard to North American achievements and milestones.
1932 World Series
In game 3 of the World Series Babe Ruth came to the plate and, reportedly, pointed to the seats in center field where he then promptly deposited the next pitch. Whether he actually called his shot, as reporters of the day wrote, has long been debated. But that is precisely what makes this story such a great moment in sports.
1936 Berlin Olympics
Jesse Owens wins 4 gold medals, in front of Adolph ****, at the Olympic Summer Games in Berlin. Owens was victorious in the 100 and 200-meter dashes, the long jump, and as a member of America's 4x100 relay team.
1954 The 4-minute mile
Pundants had thought that running a mile in 4 minutes or less was a physical impossibility, but on May 6th, 1954, 25-year-old medical student Roger Bannister of England beat the mark at a track meet in Oxford in front of 3,000 witnesses. His time was 3:59.4. By the end of 1957 16 runners had bettered the 4-minute mile and today the mark has been lowered to 3:43.16. No woman has yet broken the 4-minute mile barrier.
1969 Super Bowl III
Similar to Babe Ruth's "Called Shot", a few days before Super Bowl III in Miami, New York Jets quarterback Joe Nameth guaranteed that he would lead his AFC team to an upset win over the highly favored Baltimore Colts. The NFC's leading team had only lost one game all season but Nameth made good on his promise as he completed 17 of 28 passes for 206 yards to lead the Jets to an improbable 16-7 win. "Broadway Joe" was also named the games MVP.
1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series
In Canada there simply is no other moment in sports that equals this, and that includes Canada's Men's Hockey Gold in Salt Lake City in 2002. Although the game of hockey has changed considerably since 1972, much of the change can be traced back to this series. The box style of penalty killing; foreign players in the NHL; pre-season conditioning; none of those were real considerations before the Russians almost beat a national squad of players from a Country that supposedly produced the best hockey players in the world. If not for a remarkable comeback from a 3-1-1 series deficit, and the outstanding play of Paul Henderson, who scored the game winner in each of the final 3 games of the 8 game series, Canada would have been disgraced at what it considered its national pastime.
1972 Miami Dolphins undefeated season
Although the Washington Redskins gave them a scare in Super Bowl VII, ultimately falling 14-7, there has only been 1 team in NFL history to run the table, the 1972 Miami Dolphins who finished the season with a perfect record of 17-0. With Don Shula pacing the sidelines and an all-star squad that included Bob Griese at Quarterback, Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Mercury Morris in the backfield, and Paul Warfield in the receiving corps, the Miami offense was pretty tough to stop. In the Championship game it was ultimately the "No-Name Defense" that won them their first Vince Lombardi trophy. They captured their 2nd a year later. In 1975 Csonka, Kiick and Warfield jumped to the Memphis Southmen of the upstart World Football League.
1973 Secretariat wins the Triple Crown
He is perhaps the greatest thoroughbred in history. Ridden by Canadian Jockey Ron Turcotte Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes to became the first horse in a quarter of a century to win the Triple Crown. What was so impressive was his performance at Belmont, the final race of the Triple Crown, where he simply annihilated the competition, winning by 31 lengths! "Big Red" retired after the 1973 Canadian International Stakes, which he won easily, with a record of 16 wins in 21 career races.
1979 Battle of the Sexes
A fit Billy Jean King against an out of shape 55 year old Bobby Riggs in a packed, and hot, Houston Astrodome. This single match may have done more for tennis, especially women's tennis, then any other match in history.
1980 USA Men's Hockey Gold in Lake Placid
This is perhaps the most significant sporting moment in US history. Thanks to ABC's Al Michael's game ending "Do you believe in Miracles?" the Gold Medal won the US hockey team in Lake Placid is now simply referred to as "The Miracle On Ice". Although most people remember their improbable semi-final win over the highly favored Russians the US team still had to beat Finland, which they did, in the Gold Medal game to capture its first Gold Medal since the 1960 Games, which were also held in Lake Placid.
1983 America's Cup (Sailing)
Coming into the 1983 America's Cup, the worlds most famous and prestigious sailing regatta, the United States had held onto the America's Cup trophy for 132 straight years. But all good things come to an end and Dennis Conner became the first American skipper to lose the cup when he and his boat "Liberty" were beaten by the Alan Bond syndicate from the Royal Perth yacht Club. The best of seven final was a thriller but the winged-keel boat, "Australia II", skippered by John Bertrand, was just too much for Conner and crew. A 4-3 verdict for Bond's group meant that for the first time ever the America's Cup would not reside on US soil. Four years later Conner went down under and reclaimed the Cup.
1984 The Hail Mary
Down 45-41 to favored Miami, and with only 28 seconds left on the clock, QB Doug Flutie had to march his Boston College team 80 yards and into the end zone if they were to come back and win. The first two plays ate 22 seconds and got BC just past midfield. With 6 seconds left Flutie took the snap, scrambled a bit, then let loose the "Hail Mary". 63 yards later Eagles receiver Gerard Phelan came down with the ball giving BC the win. Flutie finished the game with 472 passing yards to the Hurricane's Bernie Kosar's 447. Many still consider this to be one of the greatest games in College Football history.
1984 Olympic Games
The city of Los Angeles, with Peter Ueberroth at the helm of the Olympic Committee, steps in to run an Olympic Games that nobody wanted and turns them into the most successful, and profitable, to that point, Games in history. Every Olympic Games since has been built on the model created in LA.
1986 World Series, Game 6
"Red Sox win, Red Sox win, the Curse of the Bambino is over!" That might have been the call had Boston been able to hold a 2 run 10th inning lead in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. But up 5-3 and with 2 out and nobody on the Red Sox let it all slip away. 3 straight hits narrowed the gap to 1 but then the Mets Mookie Wilson hit what should have been a Series ending routine grounder to first base. But unfortunately, for Boston fans at least, Red Sox 1st baseman Bill Buckner somehow let it go under his glove and through the 5 hole, allowing the tying and winning runs to plate. 2 nights later, in Game 7, Boston couldn't hold a 3-0 sixth inning lead as the Mets came back to win 8-5 and claim their 3rd World Series title.
1992 World Series, Game 6
"Nixon bunts, Timlin on it, throws to 1st . for the first time in history, the World Championship banner will fly north of the border! The Toronto Blue Jays are baseball's best in 1992!" A great call by CBS's Sean McDonough as the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Atlanta Braves in 6 games to win their first World Series trophy. Although many Americans will banish this series to the archives of their memories Canadians will always have a soft spot in their hearts for the 1992 Jays. A year later the late Tom Cheek uttered the phrase "Touch-em all Joe, you'll never hit a bigger home run in your life!" after Joe Carter took Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams deep in the bottom of the 9th of game 6 to make the Blue Jays back to back World Series Champions! Of course with no completion to the 1994 season it wasn't until 1995 when the Jays were finally dethroned.
2000 Canada Hockey Gold in Salt Lake
It had been a long 50 years since a Canadian Men's hockey team had won gold at an Olympic Winter Games but with NHL players finally allowed to compete the Olympic tournament was one all hockey fans could enjoy. The Gold Medal game, held in Salt Lake City, Utah, was between the host US squad, which hadn't won since 1980 in Lake Placid, and a Canadian team that had been building momentum since a first game loss to Sweden. Two goal performances by Jerome Iginla and Joe Sakic ended Canada's Olympic victory drought as they won 5-2. The Canadian women also beat the US to win gold.
Can it be true, had it really been 86 years since the Boston Red Sox had captured their last World Series Championship? To get to the World Series they first had to get by the hated New York Yankees in the ALCS and then they spotted them a 3 games to 0 lead before roaring back to do something no team had ever done before, come back to win. The St. Louis Cardinals, winners of 105 regular season games, didn't stand a chance in the World Series falling in 4 straight to give Boston its 1st title since 1918. By the way, 2004 marked the 100th anniversary of the World Series.