in the Jungle
6, 1975 World Series
Game 4, '47
State upsets Houston
5, '76 NBA Finals
7, 1960 World Series
Game Ever Played
'Round the World
The Called Shot
Owens - 4 world
7, '70 NBA Finals
Ben Hogan - 1950
7, 1969 NBA Finals
and the Sea
Game 6, '98
Game 6, '86
Ted Williams, 1949
1908 Olympic Marathon
Munich Olympics -
Ben Johnson Loses Gold
1929 Rose Bowl
"The Heidi Game"
The Pine Tar Home Run
Super Bowl XXV
Yepremian's Imperfect Play
Game 6, 1947
Written in conjunction with CNN/SI staff writers and ESPN "SportsCentury"
5, 1980 McEnroe
18, Borg 16
It was the most
excruciatingly sustained display of brilliance that tennis has
ever seen, at the most prestigious tournament in the world,
between the two greatest tennis players of all time, each at
the peak of their abilities and both at pivotal moments of
their careers. And it all converged at the perfect venue:
Wimbledon's fabled Centre Court, which is occupied only two
weeks out of the year - it's a theatre in search of a play.
In 1980, it played host to a masterpiece. The
24-year-old Bjorn Borg, the greatest tennis player ever to set
foot in the All-England Club, and John McEnroe, quite possibly
the greatest player ever to set foot anywhere (Sampras, Laver
and Tilden fans will argue, but McEnroe was about to embark on
a four-year run at #1 in both singles AND doubles - the most
dominant four years in men's tennis history).
The two were at
opposite ends of their magnificent careers: while #1-ranked
Borg would retire within 15 months, at the physical peak of
his career, due to a combination of personal problems and an
inability to deal with McEnroe's ascendance, the precociously
talented challenger (ranked #2 at the tender age of 21) was
either too young or too arrogant to realize that Borg was
destined to win.
The fourth-set tie-breaker was the Crown Jewel of their
contest, a battle of wills that has never been
duplicated. For Borg, it was a gritty display of his skill;
for McEnroe, it was a coming of age - the man known as "superbrat"
entered the stadium to boos, but departed to
mention: 1981 Wimbledon
in the Jungle
Under a pale
African moon in Kinshasa, Zaire, the greatest boxing match of
all time unfolds. A
younger Muhammed Ali could have run circles around heavyweight
champion George Foreman, but at age 32, the 4:1 underdog has
A boxing purist can choose virtually any one of 5 of Ali's fights
as his greatest - his three classics with Joe Frazier, his
upset of Sonny Liston as a 7:1 underdog, or this one - but in
my view it was this fight that defined him as a champion.
If you had taken bets in 1968 that almost 30 years later,
Muhammed Ali would be the most beloved athlete in American
sports, and that the very sight of him holding an Olympic
torch would bring an audience to tears ... well, you'd be rich
beyond your wildest dreams today. A large portion of
this phenomenon in American sports began with this battle.
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22, 1980 The
Miracle On Ice
One thing works against this game - the fact that it occurred
I hate the Olympics. They are over-dramatized,
jingoistic and literally amateurish - rarely do they play
forum to a real, genuine,
unadulterated sporting event. Occasionally, something happens
that is truly special without the benefit of the sentimental
media back-stories, but usually it happens in a pseudo-sport
like ice dancing or synchronized swimming.
I mean, the luge - what the hell is that? That's just
jumping on something that's going to cross the finish line
with or without you. I call that hitchhiking.
this was a legitimate event - an upset of colossal proportions that riveted
a nation, and it remains the most memorable event of the last
half-century for American sports fans.
The four-time defending
gold medalist Soviet team was mostly
from the Central Red Army, technically not professionals
because they didn't play for money, but they were the Soviet
equivalents of Western pros. They had blown away
the opposition in all five of their
division games, outscoring their opponents 51-11, and had
embarrassed the Americans 10-3 at Madison Square Garden just v13 days before the Lake Placid Games
began. But in the semi-finals, they were victimized by a Cinderella story,
a fairy tale so improbable that Hollywood screenwriters would
never have imagined it.
2, 1982 1982
AFC Playoff Game
What a roller-coaster. The AFC semifinal playoff game
between San Diego and Miami had a little bit of everything,
including the most dramatic play of post-season history: Miami coach Don
Shula's gimmicky "hook-and-lateral" - football's
equivalent to baseball's "hidden-ball trick" - with zero seconds left in the first half.
also had more shifts in momentum than just about any game in history.
Some games need historical context (like the Miracle on Ice)
or the passage of time (like the Rumble in the Jungle) to make
them a classic: this one was clearly and obviously a momentous
occasion from the very first.
30, 1975 Ali-Frazier
Ali says of the fight, "It was like death. Closest thing
to dying that I know of." He
and Frazier wrote boxing's most-compelling three-part series;
each of their battles were wonderful to watch, but this
closing chapter was the most dramatic and exciting fight ever
here for more
21, 1975 Game
6, 1975 World Series
It rained for three days, then ...
Two hard-luck teams battled on baseball's greatest playing
field, Fenway Park, in the World Series. Even the casual fan
will remember Carlton Fisk's game-winning home run in the 12th
inning, aided by a major dose of body English. Unfortunately,
Red Sox fans will also remember the Reds' 4-3 win the next day
to win Game 7.
here for more
31, 1967 The
For the football purist, this is the epitome of what the game
is supposed to represent: coach Lombardi's Packers taking on
coach Landry's Cowboys in near-Arctic conditions, breath
misting heavily in the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.
The game was played with no whistles - the little wooden balls
had frozen inside the official's whistles. Now, that's cold.
The icy conditions meant that the game was decided more by
grit than by skill - Green Bay's kind of game.
Lombardi wasn't a gambler, but his great goal-line gamble,
trying for a game-winning touchdown rather a game-tyng field
goal attempt off the icy field, was as
simple as football gets: a classic blocking play with a dash
to daylight for a
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A lot of people
think SBIII was the best of all time, but for my money this
one had all the elements of the greatest Super Bowl ever
played. Even though San Francisco held an
advantage in total net yards (453 to 229), the 49ers found
themselves trailing late in the game. It was one of the most
tense scenes ever to grace a Super Bowl, and the man at the
center of it all was Joe Montana.
For a quarter of a century, the Super Bowl had waited for
this: the game's greatest quarterback taking the game's greatest team
the length of the field for a game-winning drive.
here for more
2, 1917 Toney-Vaugh
We all know how hard it is to throw a no-hitter - perhaps two
or three times a year, a major league pitcher will pull it
off. So when the Cubs' Hippo Vaughn went nine hitless innings
against the Reds, he was pretty confident of a victory.
Unfortunately for him, the Reds' Fred Toney chose that same
day to throw a no-hitter. In this, the greatest pitching duel
of all time, it was another rather famous hitter who settled
it. Vaughn finally cracked in
the top of the tenth, when Larry Kopf scored on a dribbler by Jim
Thorpe (yes, that Jim Thorpe). Toney then threw a 10th inning
of no-hit work to get the W.
Who else but the Cubs
could have a pitcher toss nine no-hit innings...and lose?
Ah, the Cubs. The more things
change.... At least they would have all those World Series
titles to look forward to.
104, Kentucky 103 (OT)
The most exciting basketball of all time: in the
Spectrum in Philadelphia, two
teams with great basketball traditions left everything they
had on the court in this East Regional final.
two teams scored on the last five possessions, swapping the
lead five times, and it took Christian Laettner's
buzzer-beater to win it. Were it not for the fact that I
had a substantial sum riding on Kentucky, this one might have
ranked even higher.
Mike Krzyzewski said afterward, "Did that really
here for more
OCTOBER 8, 1956 Don
Larsen's Perfect Game
He was an imperfect man. A very average pitcher known more for
partying than pitching excellence, his career 81-91 record over
15 seasons is the very embodiment of what baseball calls a
journeyman. But on this day, Don Larsen got a chance to redeem himself
on baseball's greatest stage, in front of a packed house at
Yankee Stadium, during nothing less than the World Series.
Don Larsen was
3-21 with Baltimore two years previous, and he had come to the
Yankees in an 18-player trade. Three days after blowing a 6-0
lead in Game 2, the no-windup pitcher found himself matched up
against Sal "The Barber" Maglie. The Series was
locked 2-2, against the Yankees' most bitter rival - the
was helped by three
outstanding fielding plays. In the second inning, Jackie
Robinson's hard grounder bounced off third baseman Andy Carey's
glove, but shortstop Gil McDougald recovered the ball in time
to throw out Robinson. In
the fifth, center-fielder Mickey Mantle, whose homer had given
the Yankees a 1-0 lead, streaked into deep left-center to make
a backhanded catch to rob Gil Hodges of an extra-base hit.
the eighth, it was Carey's turn to rob Hodges, as he lunged to
catch Hodges' liner inches off the ground. Larsen ended the
game by slipping a called third strike past pinch-hitter Dale
Mitchell before 64,519 breathless fans at Yankee Stadium.
The Dodgers rebounded to win an exciting Game 6, behind hurler
Clem Labine's 10 innings of shutout baseball, but in Game 7
Yankee pitcher Johnny Kucks tossed a shutout, and Dodger ace
and NL MVP Don Newcombe allowed five runs in three innings to
take the loss. On a more negative note for Larsen, his estranged wife filed a
court action seeking to withhold his Series money because he
was delinquent in his support payments.
3, 1947 The
This is why I love baseball: in a World Series filled with the
likes of Joe DiMaggio, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Yogi Berra,
and Jackie Robinson, two rather ordinary Americans
battled at history.
Baseball can be a cruel sport. The Yankees and Dodgers
couldn't call a time out; they couldn't devise a play to put
heir best players on the field; they couldn't sit on the ball,
or pass the ball around to kill the clock. At it's most
critical moments, baseball chooses the players who will be
heroes and goats with the randomness of a Vegas roulette
Bill Bevens, an undistinguished fourth starter with a 7-13
record for the Yankees, had a no-hitter going into the ninth
inning. While he had permitted a fifth-inning run (on two
walks, a sacrifice and a ground ball), he entered the ninth
with a 2-1 lead and a chance to put his team up 3-1 in the '47 World Series.
Bevens walked the first batter (Carl Furillo), his 9th walk of
the day, and then retired the next two batters, to get to
within one out of the win. Outfielder Al Gionfriddo was sent
in to pinch run for Furillo, and promptly stole second.
Pinch-hitter Pete Reiser (hitting for reliever Hugh Casey) was
intentionally walked, and Eddie Miksis was inserted into the
game as a runner for Reiser, who was bothered by a leg injury.
The underdog Dodgers now turned in desperation to a
34-year-old journeyman pinch hitter named Cookie Lavagetto, to
hit for Eddie Stanky, their light-hitting second
baseman. Lavagetto doubled off the right field wall to
drive in two runs, and Brooklyn won 3-2 - in one fell swoop,
Bevens lost his no-hitter and the game, and the Dodgers tied
the Series 2-2.
Of course, the Yankees won the Series anyway, and nine years
later another Yankee righthander, Don Larsen, would throw the
first Series no-hitter...against the Dodgers.
4, 1983 NC
State Upsets Houston, 54-52
Wolfpack's victory over Akeem and Co. is the granddaddy of
them all - the biggest
upset in tournament sports this side of Joe Namath's Guarantee
and the Miracle on Ice.
here for more
128, Suns 126 (3 OT)
It is likely the greatest game in NBA
history, the triple-overtime thriller between the Boston Celtics
and Phoenix Suns in the fifth game of the 1976 finals. John Havlicek
had a chance to win it in regulation for the Celtics, but he
missed one of two free throws with 19 seconds left and sent
the game into OT.
But what really made the game special was the
second overtime: an incredible seven points were scored in the
final five seconds. Curtis Perry's jumper put the Suns up
110-109, but then Havlicek banked in a lunging jumper to put the
Celtics up 111-110. The crowd at Boston Garden stormed the
court, thinking the game was over, but the referees put a second
back on the clock. An incensed fan attacked Richie Powers, one
of the officials.
Rather than taking the ball out from under the
Boston basket, guard Paul Westphal shrewdly called a timeout for
the Suns, knowing they didn't have any left. This resulted in a
technical, which Jo Jo White converted for a 112-110 Celtic
lead, but it also gave the Suns a chance to take the ball out at
half court. The strategy worked: Garfield Heard took the
inbounds pass and beat the buzzer with a high, arching jumper
from beyond the top of the key with Don Nelson's hand in his
In the third overtime, substitute Glenn McDonald, playing
only because Paul Silas fouled out, scored six points, and the
Celtics broke a 118-118 tie to earn a 128-126 victory.
first two Super Bowls were lopsided affairs, with the NFL
representatives - the Green Bay Packers - trouncing the
representatives of the upstart AFL (Kansas City in 1967 and
Oakland in 1968). Packers coach Vince Lombardi summarized the
conventional wisdom in 1967 when he said of the Chiefs:
"They have great speed, but I'd have to say NFL football is
tougher; their team doesn't compare with the top NFL
So the AFL representatives to Super Bowl III - the
New York Jets - were a little sensitive when hecklers lit into
them three days before the game at a Miami bar. Jets quarterback
Joe Namath, a double scotch in his hand, brassily answered them by saying, "We'll win. I guarantee it."
Brassy, considering that the Jets were 19-point underdogs to the
Baltimore Colts. But Broadway Joe was as good as his word,
guiding the Jets to a stunning 16-7 triumph and legitimizing the
AFL with an upset for the ages. The Colts inserted the legendary
Johnny Unitas late in the third quarter, down 16-0, but it was
too late. Namath completed 17-of-28 passes for 206 yards, with
George Sauer grabbing eight for 133 yards. Fullback Matt Snell
gained 121 yards on 30 carries, including a four-yard touchdown
run to give the Jets a 7-0 lead in the second quarter. Jim
Turner tacked on three second-half field goals.
1, 1913 Notre
Dame 35, Army 13
There's so much to say about this game, but maybe this sums it
up: of all the legends echoing through history from South Bend, this one
rings loudest. The unknown Irish pounded the undefeated
Cadet juggernaut, and they did it with a gimmick: the forward pass.
Notre Dame's Gus
Dorais went 14 for 17 for 243 yards and two touchdowns. One
went to halfback Joe Pliska, the other to Knute Rockne. Army was
bewitched by the aerial attack and couldn't stop the
onslaught; maybe they should have turned to one of their
halfbacks - a young man named Dwight David Eisenhower -
41, Houston 38
single game comeback in team sports history played out in
favor of the Buffalo Bills, not a team known for playoff
success. The Tennessee Titans would exact some measure of
revenge six years with the Music City Miracle (Greatest
here for more
13, 1960 Game
7, 1960 World Series
The World Series has had it's moments: Babe Ruth calling his
shot, Bob Gibson striking out 17 batters, Christy Mathewson's
three shutouts in six days, Willie Mays' incredible catch in
1954 off of Vic Wertz, and Fred Snodgrass muffing a fly ball.
Don't forget Bill Wambsganss making an unassisted triple play,
and Bill Buckner letting an easy roller escape.
But there is one
moment that inhabits the dreams of kids playing stickball more
than any other: winning Game 7 with a ninth-inning home run to
defeat a heavily favored Goliath. And in all the years that
baseball teams have met in the World Series, there is only one
player who has ended a Game 7 of the World Series with a home
run - Bill Mazeroski of the Pirates.
APRIL 18, 2000 Tiger
Woods Wins U.S. Open
Tiger Woods is a true phenomenon. Admittedly, it's only golf -
it's not like it's a real sport. And much of the Woods legend
is built on the fact that he is a minority playing a game long
reserved for white men - a fact that is totally irrelevant for
the purist like me.
But Woods' dominance of golf is still mind-boggling. Woods took the lead on 18 on Day 1, and never gave it back. By the end of Day 2, he had a
record six-shot lead, and after Day 3, going into the final round, he was up by an astounding 10
strokes (another record).
On Sunday, Woods was all alone, playing for himself - and for history. His coronation began unspectacularly enough - he played the front nine with all pars. Then, while the rest of the field was playing for second, Woods took aim at the record books. As if sensing records were in range,
Woods poured it on with one spectacular shot after another. He birdied four of the first five holes on the back nine, and saved par from a bunker on 17 with a shot that nearly went in.
Woods made par again on 18, and closed with a 4-under 67, the best score of the day. He became the first player in the 106-year history of the U.S. Open to finish 72 holes at double digits under par - 12-under - and his 15-stroke victory not only shattered the Open mark of 11 set by Willie Smith in 1899, but was the largest ever in a major championship, surpassing the 13-stroke victory by Old Tom Morris in the 1862 British Open.
Woods *averaged* 299.3 yards off the tee, hit 73% of fairways (41 of 56) and made 71% of greens in regulation (51 of 72). He was so dominant, he didn't make a bogey on the last 26 holes he played. Woods simply made a mockery of a U.S. Open that prides itself in protecting par.
Three years ago on the other side of the country, Woods
had turned in a similarly scintillating performance, taming Augusta National to become the youngest Masters champion with a record 12-stroke victory.
The U.S. Open, however, was never supposed to look this easy. With his length on the par-5s, Woods simply shortened the course at
Augusta. But you don't win the U.S. Open unless you have the whole package - driving, short game, iron play, putting. It is the toughest test in golf. Its aim is to identify the best player in the world.
28, 1958 Colts
23, Giants 17 (OT)
The Baltimore Colts' 23-17
overtime victory over the New York Giants for the NFL
championship is often called "the greatest game ever
played." It may not be that, but it WAS the most important
football game ever played because it changed the way America
looked at pro football.
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