Infamy and Heartbreak


 

Century of Sports

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Infamy and Heartbreak:

Buckner's error

Black Sox Scandal

Smith Scores on Own Net

Harvey Haddix Loses 1-hitter
Ted Williams, 1949
1908 Marathon

Munich Olympics - Basketball

1957 Kentucky Derby

Ben Johnson Loses Gold

1929 Rose Bowl

The Heidi Game

The Pine-Tar Home Run

Super Bowl XXV
Yepremian's Imperfect Play

Theismann's Injury

Gehrig's Streak Ends

Game 6, 1947 Series

Ali-Holmes

Louganis Hits the Board

Packers-Boys, 1965

Greatest Games:

Battle of 18-16
Rumble in the Jungle
Miracle on Ice

Epic in Miami
Thrilla in Manila

Game 6 - 1975 Series

The Ice Bowl

Super Bowl XXIII

Toney-Vaughn

Duke-Kentucky, 1992

Simply Perfect

Game 4, '47 Series

NC State Upsets Houston

Game 5, '76 NBA Finals

Super Bowl III

Notre Dame-Army

The Comeback

Game 7 - 1960 Series

2000 U.S. Open

Greatest Game Ever Played

Greatest Moments:

Gibson's homer
Shot Heard 'Round the World

Summit Series

Immaculate Reception

The Called Shot

Owens - 4 world records

Four-Minute Mile

Game 7, '70 NBA Finals

Beamon's Long Jump
Secretariat Wins Belmont

The Drive

Aaron #715

The Catch

Ben Hogan - 1950 U.S. Open

Game 7, 1969 NBA Finals

The Music City Miracle

Young Woman and the Sea

Cotton Bowl, 1984

Game 6, '98 NBA Finals

Cal-Stanford, 1982

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1 OCTOBER 25, 1986     Mets 6, Red Sox 5

   The history of baseball is littered with misplays and blunders. Some, like Fred Merkle's Boner (Baseball #17), were overlooked in their time but have grown in importance with the passage of time. (Few remember that the Giants had six weeks to make up for Merkle's gaffe.)  Others, like Ruth getting caught trying to steal second to end the 1926 World Series, were clearly mortal wounds to their teams chances, with no chance for redemption.

   But none brought quite so much grief, nor seemed so pre-ordained by the fates, as Buckner's error.

 

   Boston was leading the World Series 3-2, and led 5-3 in Game 6. Two outs, bottom of the 10th.  The words flashed briefly across Shea Stadium's message board - CONGRATULATIONS, RED SOX - and then they were gone. Minutes later, so were the Red Sox.

   Boston led 5-3 and was within one out of its first Series crown since 1918.  Red Sox ace Calvin Schiraldi was on the mound. Gary Carter and Kevin Mitchell singled, then Ray Knight made it 5-4 with a 0-2 single to center. Bob Stanley took over for Schiraldi, and his seventh pitch to Mookie Wilson went wild, allowing Mitchell to score the tying run and moving Knight to second.  Finally, Wilson (having hit four fouls off Stanley while being one strike away from losing the Series) slapped a slow full-count grounder to first baseman Bill Buckner ... who let it roll through his legs.  Knight scored from second base to win it, 6-5.

   The Red Sox predictably dropped Game 7 in New York.  Since 1918, when the Sox sold off a left-handed pitcher named George Herman Ruth, they have lost a World Series Game 7 four times - in 1946, 1967, 1975 and 1986.

2 OCTOBER 9, 1919    Eight Men Out 

   Amid rumors that the World Series was fixed, the Chicago White Sox lost the eighth and deciding game to the Cincinnati Reds, 10-5, on the 48-year anniversary of Mrs. O'Leary's cow causing the worst fire in Chicago history. The Reds won the best-of-nine Series 5-3.

   Chicago starter Lefty Williams, who was 23-11 during the season, lost his first two Series starts and was removed with one out in the first after allowing two singles followed by two doubles. The Reds scored four runs in the first on the way to a 10-1 lead in Chicago. Hod Eller picked up his second complete game victory as Cincinnati won its first Series. Two years later, Williams was one of eight "Black Sox" banned from baseball by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis for throwing the Series, despite being acquitted by a jury.

   Chicago's Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was also suspended, led all hitters (with at least eight at-bats) with a .375 batting average and his six RBI topped the White Sox.  He committed no errors in the field. The seven Chicago players who were acquitted and banned were Shoeless Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Buck Weaver, Swede Risberg, Chick Gandil, Hap Felsch and Lefty Williams. The eighth man out was Fred McMullin, whose case didn't go to trial.

3 APRIL 30, 1986    Steve Smith Scores On His Own Net

   The Edmonton Oilers had won two straight Stanley Cups and were well on their way to establishing themselves as one of the great dynasties of hockey history.  During the regular season, they were runaway winners of the President's Trophy (the award given to the first place finishing team) for the third straight year.  Wayne Gretzky established lofty new assist and total point awards, while Paul Coffey was named the best defenceman in the League after breaking Bobby Orr's goal scoring standard.

   But the playoffs were a different story.  After sidelining the Vancouver Canucks with ease, the Oilers encountered their provincial rivals from Calgary.  The Flames, smarting from the many losses they had suffered at the hands of the Oilers, played the series of their lives and won the seventh and deciding game of what many hockey observers called the most intense and exciting series in National Hockey League history.  The Flames won the opener in Edmonton, and led the series 2-1 and 3-2 before the Oilers bounced back and evened the series at 3-3.

   Game 7 was played in Edmonton's legendary Northlands Coliseum, where the Oilers were sure they would prevail.  But midway through the second period, with the score 2-2, Oiler defenceman Steve Smith tried to clear the puck from behind his own net, and accidentally shot it off of goaltender Grant Fuhr's skate and into his own net.  His miscue gave the Flames a 3-2 lead, which held up for almost 30 agonizing minutes while the Oilers futilely tried to beat Mike Vernon.

4 MAY 26, 1959     Harvey Haddix Loses No-Hitter

   In the single greatest one-game pitching performance of all time, the Pittsburgh Pirates' Harvey Haddix lost 1-0 after throwing 12 innings of a perfect game.  Haddix is still the only pitcher to throw a no-hitter (not to mention a perfect game) for 12 innings - in 1995, Pedro Martinez of the Montreal Expos had a no-no broken up in the 10th.

   On this day, the Pirate southpaw, nicknamed "the Kitten," used his fastball and curve to retire the first 36 Milwaukee Braves he saw, setting down 8 by strikeout.  The closest the Braves got to a hit in the first 12 innings was a Johnny Logan drive in the third, that shortstop Dick Schofield speared with a leap.

   But the Braves' Lew Burdette was also magnificent, battling through 12 innings, allowing 12 hits. Haddix lost his perfect game in the 13th, when third baseman Don Hoak's throwing error allowed Felix Mantilla to reach. Big Eddie Mathews sacrificed, moving the runner to second, and Hank Aaron was then intentionally walked.

   Then Joe Adcock snapped Haddix's no-hitter with a drive over the right-center-field fence for a home run - except that Adcock was called out for passing Aaron on the basepaths, because Aaron had inexplicably cut across the diamond without touching third base. The hit was ruled a double; Mantilla scored and the Braves won it 1-0.

   The umpires initially said that the score was 2-0, but the mistake was subsequently corrected.

5 OCTOBER 2, 1949     Williams Misses Batting Title

   How hard is it to win the Triple Crown? Put it this way: the last player to do it was Carl Yastrzemski, in 1967. The feat has only been accomplished 15 times in over 115 recorded years of baseball history - by comparison, it is as statistically rare as a perfect game.

   So in 1947, when Ted Williams became only the second man to win two Triple Crowns (he won his first in 1942 - Rogers Hornsby accomplished the feat in 1922 and 1925), he established himself as the best all-around hitter in baseball history next to Babe Ruth. Well, going into the final game of the season in 1949, it appeared that Williams was going to win his unimaginable third Triple Crown of the decade. Could lightning really strike three times for the Splendid Splinter?

   No; the fates conspired against Williams. The Yankees gave him nothing good to hit, and he went 0-for-2 with a walk in his first three plate appearances. In the ninth, he drew a pass again with the game (and the AL pennant) on the line. Had he hit safely, he would have won the batting title and the Triple Crown. Detroit's George Kell went 2-for-3 to improve his average to .3429, while Williams fell to .34275. As if that wasn't bad enough for Boston fans, the Red Sox lost to the Yankees, 5-3, and lost the pennant by a single game.

OLYMPICS, 1908     1908 Olympic Marathon

   The struggle between a set purpose and an utterly exhausted frame, said Arthur Conan Doyle, can be horrible yet fascinating.

   He was describing the scene at the London Olympics in 1908. A crowd of 100,000 roared when Italy's Dorando Pietri entered the Olympic Stadium, ahead of American John J. Hayes by more than a minute. Pietri had only one lap to go, but the 22-year-old candy maker from Carpi was evidently exhausted.

   He made a wrong turn on the track, then staggered back, corrected himself, and began lurching towards the finish line. "The man was practically delirious," wrote one reporter. "He staggered along the cinder path like a man in a dream, his gait neither a walk nor a run, but simply aflounder, with arms shaking and legs tottering."

   Around the track, Pietri collapsed three times. Officials helped him to his feet, guiding him to the finish line, and finally helping him to stumble across the tape 34 seconds ahead of Hayes. But the Americans protested, and the Italian was disqualified for failing to finish under his own power. It may have been the most heart-rending finish to a foot race since the original marathon in ancient Greece, when the victor fell at the goal and, with a final wave of triumph, died.

7 SEPTEMBER 10, 1972     Munich Olympics - Basketball

   WE WUZ ROBBED!

   The United States basketball team had good reason to feel that way after losing 51-50 to the Soviet Union in the gold medal game: The U. S. led, 50-49, with three seconds to play, thanks to two foul shots from Doug Collins. Inbounding the ball from under their own basket, the Soviets fired it the length of the court, but the pass was deflected at mid-court - a crowd rushed the court, thinking that the U.S. had won ... but the clock still showed one second left and the Soviets got another chance.

   When the second inbounds pass came up short, the U.S. celebrated its "victory."  But a high-ranking international basketball official said the clock had not been reset and ordered three seconds - not one - be put on the clock.

   Again, the Soviets went the length of the court, and this time Alesander Belov outmuscled two Americans to catch the full-court inbounds pass and scored a layup to give the Soviets their victory.

   The U.S. appealed the decision but lost, and the team unanimously voted not to accept the silver medal. The Americans' streak of winning every game and every gold medal since basketball joined the Olympics in 1936 ended in bitter controversy.

   The US had totally dominated Olympic basketball since 1932, when it became an Olympic sport, but by 1968 they were no longer favored to win since most college stars were passing up the Olympics to go pro instead. But the US beat he favored Yugoslavian team in 1968, 65-50, to win the gold, and by 1972 their Olympic winning streak had run to 71 games.

MAY 5, 1957                  1957 Kentucky Derby

   Legendary jockey Willie Shoemaker, aboard English-bred Gallant Man, mistook the 16th pole for the finish line and momentarily stood up in his saddle. As he did, Willie Hartack continued to drive 8-1 longshot Iron Liege. Shoemaker quickly resumed driving his mount as Iron Liege caught him, but it was too late: Gallant Man was unable to catch Iron Liege, losing by the thinnest of noses in one of the most controversial derbies ever.

SEPTEMBER 2, 1988      Ben Johnson Loses Gold

   He left no doubt as to who the world's fastest man was - Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson obliterated the field and dashed 100 meters in a stunning 9.79 seconds at the Seoul Olympic Games. The runner-up was American Carl Lewis, and in third was Britain's Linford Christie.

   But two days after the much-anticipated race, shock waves ran through the track and field community when it was announced that Johnson had tested positive for a banned substance called stanozolol.  It was the biggest scandal in Olympic history, and left an entire nation in disgrace.

10  JANUARY 1, 1929      Wrong-Way Regals

   Each New Year's Day, the world focuses its attention on Pasadena, California, U.S.A., home of the Tournament of Roses Parade and Rose Bowl Game.  It's a celebration that's more than a century old - a festival of flowers, music and sports unequaled anywhere in the world.  Often, a national title is decided here.  It is a rich tradition of excellence in football.

   Or so the story goes.  But in 1929, the Rose Bowl became more famous for a gaffe than for excellence.  The University of California was playing Georgia Tech; late in the second quarter of a scoreless game, Georgia Tech had the ball on their own 36 yard line.

   Georgia Tech fumbled, and the ball squirted loose to Cal center Roy Regals at the 40.  Regals began to head for the Georgia Tech end zone; he got to about the 36, and a Georgia Tech player hit him. Regals spun off of him, and as he spun he seemed to lose his sense of direction - he then began to head the opposite way.

   He ran for sixty yards trailed by one of the University California defensive backs.  Finally, the Cal defensive back caught up with Regals at the five yard line, and grabbed onto him and turned him around and said, "You've been running the wrong way!"  But it was too late - suddenly Georgia Tech players smothered them and Roy Regals was downed on his own one yard-line.

   Not only did Cal lose a chance to begin a series from inside the Georgia Tech 40, but they now had to start from their own 1.  Georgia Tech held them; California tried to punt, but the punt was blocked, and a California player recovered the ball in his own end zone, for a 2-point safety.  That gave Georgia Tech a 2-point lead, and - as it turned out - provided the margin of victory: Georgia Tech beat the University of California 8-7.

   And Roy Regals would forever more be known as "Wrong Way Roy Regals."

11  NOVEMBER 17, 1968     The "Heidi" Game

   The football war waged by the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets on the afternoon of Nov. 17, 1968, was the equivalent of a blood feud. The Jets and Raiders were the class of the AFL; each was 7-2 coming into this showdown at the Oakland Coliseum. More than that, their games had blossomed into hatefests, full of late hits and bloody noses.

   This one was not a disappointment. The "Heidi" Game featured five lead changes and a dizzying show of aerial acrobatics. Joe Namath passed for 381 yards and a touchdown, Daryle Lamonica for 311 yards and four touchdowns. Don Maynard caught 10 passes for 228 yards. The game also included 19 penalties for 238 yards.

   But what makes this game one of the most memorable of all time is the fact that most of the nation was not allowed to see the conclusion. After the Jets' Jim Turner kicked a field goal to give his team a 32-29 lead with 1:05 to play, NBC went to a commercial. When the network returned, it was not to a taut battle of American Football League heavyweights. It was to "Heidi," that pig-tailed Alpine goat-herder, as played by Jennifer Edwards in a made-for-TV premiere movie.

     It was the penalties, in part, that caused the game to overflow its three-hour time slot. It was due to end at 7 p.m. Eastern time.  When it didn't, NBC switched to Heidi in the Eastern and Central zones.

   A torrent of angry calls from East Coast flooded the switchboard at Manhattan's Rockefeller Plaza and crashed the phone exchange.  As it happened, they missed a fairly exciting 65 seconds.  Lamonica threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to halfback Charlie Smith with 42 seconds to play, giving Oakland a 36-32 lead.  The ensuing kickoff spurted free and Preston Ridlehuber, the Raiders' little-known reserve fullback, picked it up and ran into the end zone.

   NBC president Julian Goodman issued a formal apology the next day.  It turns out that the problem was one of policy: NBC had sold the Heidi advertising to Timex, and was obligated to show the movie from 7 to 9 P.M.  The game's surreal finish altered that practice.  Evermore, TV networks would stay with football games until their conclusion.  The program to follow would then "slide," rather than being joined in progress.

12  JULY 24, 1983     The Pine Tar Home Run

   For the first time in major league history, a player hit a game-losing home run ... apparently.

   The Kansas City Royals were trailing the New York Yankees, 4-3, with two outs in the ninth, when George Brett tagged the legendary Goose Gossage for a dramatic two-run shot.

   But as Brett rounded the bases, Yankees manager Billy Martin protested, claiming that Brett used an illegal bat - he argued that the bat had too much pine tar (the sticky substance that hitters use to give themselves a better grip).

   Home-plate umpire Tim McClelland upheld Martin's protest and called Brett out, giving the Yankees an apparent 4-3 victory.

   An enraged Brett charged out of the dugout, and had to be restrained by umpire Joe Brinkman to keep from running over McClelland.

 

   Four days later, American League president Lee MacPhail overturned the umpire's decision, saying that Brett's homer counts because the bat was not "altered to improve the distance factor." The game was resumed on August 18 and the Royals completed the 5-4 victory.

13  JANUARY 27, 1991   Super Bowl XXV: Giants 20, Bills 19

   This was a splendid game, featuring the Bills quick strike offense against the Giants' punishing, clock-killing length of the field drives.  With the Bills ahead 12-10 at the half, the Giants came back in the third quarter with a 8-minute-plus drive, covering 75 yards and featuring a superhuman third-and-thirteen effort by Mark Ingram to keep it alive.  The Bills' Thurman Thomas (who had 190 total yards that day) struck back to put the Bills ahead 19-17, eight seconds into the fourth quarter.  The Giants grinded out another touchdown drive, and pushed ahead 20-19.

   Trailing by one point, the Bills started their final drive on their 10 with 2:16 left.  Quarterback Jim Kelly moved them 61 yards to the Giants' 29.  Scott Norwood had a chance to be a hero.  Instead, he became the goat: his 47-yard field goal attempt went ... wide right ... giving the NY Giants a 20-19 victory, and giving the Bills their first of four straight Super Bowl losses.

   Where is Norwood now?  Probably washing cars someplace.  And what of the Bills? They never recovered - they went to three consecutive Super Bowls in the next three years, and were outscored 119-54. 

14  JANUARY 14, 1973     Yepremian's Imperfect Field Goal

   There are only a handful of plays in professional sports that so eclipse the stature of the players that they virtually define the careers of the individuals involved.  Bill Buckner's missed ground ball is the most conspicuous example, but Garo Yepremian is another name that will forever be synonymous with a miscue.

   The perfect Dolphins steamrolled a soft schedule in 1972, and had only to beat the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII to complete a perfect season - something never done before (or since).

   They played virtually perfect football in the first half as their defense permitted the Redskins to cross midfield only once and their offense turned good field position into 2 touchdowns.

   With 2:07 left, Washington notched it's only touchdown when Miami kicker Garo Yepremian came onto the field for a field goal attempt.  The snap went awry, and the ball skidded away to Yepremian's right.  Yepremian clumsily picked up the ball, and rolled right, looking for an open man, instead of just smothering the football.

   As his hand went back to attempt a pass, the ball squirted loose, and the Redskins' Mike Bass picked it out of the air and raced 49 yards for the score.

   The fumble by the Dolphins kicker, leading to the lone Redskin score, was an odd blemish in the dying minutes of an otherwise perfect game at the end of a perfect season.

15  NOVEMBER 18, 1985     Theismann's Injury

   The tragedy of Gehrig's departure was mitigated by the fact that fans didn't really know that his career was over until much later.  But on Monday Night Football, it was painfully obvious to an entire nation that the career of the one of the game's great passers was over.  It remains the most memorable injury in sports television: Giants LB Lawrence Taylor sacked Redskins QB Joe Theismann and effectively ended the career of the Washington signal-caller.

   The only other injury that even comes to close is the broken leg of Cincinnati's legendary NT Tim Krumrie during the Super Bowl.

16  MAY 2, 1939            Gehrig's Streak Ends

   With his batting average an unhealthy .143 (4-for-28) after eight games, Lou Gehrig, suffering from an unexplained weakness and sluggishness, removed himself from the Yankees' lineup before a game in Detroit.  The 35-year-old Iron Horse told manager Joe McCarthy that he thought it would be best for the team if somebody else played first base. Babe Dahlgren replaced Gehrig at first base and contributed a homer and double in the Yankees' 22-2 pounding of the Tigers.

   Gehrig expected to be on the bench "for just a few days."  However, he would never play again. The results of an examination revealed he had ALS, a form of infantile paralysis. The illness would come to be referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease.  On June 2, 1941 - exactly 16 years to the day after he replaced Wally Pipp at first base - Gehrig died of the disease.

17  OCTOBER 5, 1947     DiMaggio Kicks the Dirt

   It speaks volumes about how well-known was DiMaggio's cool perfectionism that, aside from the Streak, he is remembered for nothing better than his show of frustration in the 1947 Series.

   This was the year that the Brooklyn Dodgers introduced Jackie Robinson to major league baseball, and behind the efforts of their Rookie of the Year and captain Pee Wee Reese,  they had battled the Yankees all the way.  After dropping the first two games in Yankee Stadium, they came back to win Game 3 at Ebbetts Field, and then denied Yankee's pitcher Bill Bevens a no-hitter in Game 4 with a game-winning rally with two outs in the ninth. The mighty Yankees shrugged it off and took a 3-2 lead with a win in Game 5.

   In dramatic Game 6, the Dodgers went ahead 4-0, fell behind 5-4, and then took an 8-5 lead with a four-run sixth, thanks to a two-run single by Reese.  Dodgers manager Burt Shotton inserted little Al Gionfriddo for defense in the bottom of the inning at Yankee Stadium - and it's a good thing he did.

   With two on and two out in the bottom of the sixth, Joe DiMaggio made a valiant effort to tie the game. He slammed a Joe Hatten pitch toward the left field bullpen. Just as it appeared the ball might drop over the fence, Gionfriddo made a twisting, one-handed catch near the 415-foot mark.

   As DiMaggio approached second base, he kicked the dirt in disgust, one of the rare times the Yankee Clipper showed emotion on the diamond.  The Dodgers held on for a 8-6 victory, tying the Series at three games each.  It was the last game Gionfriddo would ever play in the majors.  The next day, the Yankees won, 5-2, to take the Series.

18  OCTOBER 2, 1980     Muhammed Ali vs. Larry Holmes

   Ali, the most vilified athlete of the 1960s, became an American hero in the 1970s with his courageous wins over George Foreman in 1974 and Joe Frazier in 1975.  But it was an overconfident Ali who lost his title on Feb. 15, 1978 when Leon Spinks, a 1976 Olympic gold medalist who had only seven fights as a pro, took a split decision.  Ali regained the title from Spinks seven months later, winning a unanimous decision, to become the first three-time heavyweight champion.  It would be his last victory.  The following June, Ali announced his retirement.

   But money brought him back, along perhaps with some notion that he could still be "The Greatest" at the age of 38.  Against the advice of his closest friends, Ali challenged the undefeated heavyweight champion, Larry Holmes, the dominant fighter of his era.  Although Ali was in terrific shape, Father Time had eroded his reflexes, and Larry Holmes exposes the ex-champ's hubris by simply pounding him.

   Ali later said: "All I could think of after the first round was, 'Oh, God, I still have 14 rounds to go.' " Ali's former sparring partner beat him for 10 rounds, probably contributing mightily to the development of Parkinson's disease, the neurological disorder which has now left Ali a shadow of his former self.  Only courage kept Ali from being knocked out earlier; before the 11th round started, Ali's corner throws in the towel.

19 SEPTEMBER 19, 1988     Louganis Hits the Board

   Greg Louganis did the unthinkable in attempting to defend his three-meter springboard Olympic title: in the preliminary round, he hit his head on the board while performing his ninth of 11 dives, a reverse 2 somersault pike.

   After receiving temporary sutures to close the gash in his scalp, he said: "I didn't realize I was that close to the board ... When I hit it, it was kind of a shock.  But I think my pride was hurt more than anything else."

   Thirty-five minutes after the mishap, Louganis was back on the board and finished qualifying for the final.  He went to a hospital, where the sutures were replaced by five stitches. The next day, he won easily, scoring 730.80 points - Tan Liangde of China finished second with 704.88 points - to become the first diver to win the three-meter springboard in consecutive Olympics.

20 OCTOBER 24, 1965  Packers-Cowboys NFL Championship

   In 1966 and 1967, the Packers and Cowboys played spectacular games for the NFL championship.  But on this day, the two teams set a record for futility: for the only time in NFL history, two teams had negative passing yardage.

   Making his first start, Cowboys rookie quarterback Craig Morton completed 10-of-20 passes for 61 yards, but nine sacks caused 62 yards in losses.  It gave the passing game minus one yard for the day.  Packers veteran Bart Starr connected on only 4-of-19 passes for 42 yards, but the Doomsday Defense sacked him five times for 52 yards in losses.  The Packers finished with minus 10 yards passing.

   Green Bay, as it would in the next two championship games, came out on top.  Despite only 63 yards in total offense, the Packers won, 13-3, to run their record to 6-0.