Most memorable sports events

Sports | WORLD readers share their accounts of unforgettable games
by Marvin Olasky
Posted 1/27/18, 01:57 pm

Thank you, WORLD members who responded to my request to send accounts of games they attended (“A game to remember,” WORLD Magazine, Dec. 30). Here are a baker’s dozen of unforgettable games (edited for length and clarity): 11 on baseball, one on football, and one on basketball.

Sportsman’s Park, St. Louis, 1946

It was the seventh game of the 1946 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals. In the bottom of the eighth inning of a tie game, the Cardinals’s Enos Slaughter reached first base. When Harry “The Hat” Walker hit what would usually be a long single to left-center, Slaughter took off and never stopped at third. His “Mad Dash” beat the throw to give the Cards the lead.

But the game wasn’t over yet! The Red Sox got runners on first and third with two outs. Pitcher Harry “The Cat” Brecheen, who had won two earlier games, induced a ground ball to second baseman Red Schoendienst. The ball took a bad bounce and hit Red in the shoulder. Somehow he corralled it and shoveled it to shortstop Marty Marion for the putout at second and the final out of the series.

In 1967, the Cardinals would again win the World Series from the Red Sox, but Boston’s revenge would finally come in 2004 with a series sweep of the Cards. I was at that final game in St. Louis’s Busch Stadium II. Many Boston fans, waiting outside, were allowed into the stadium around the eighth inning when the outcome was clear. After the final out we congratulated them as the new world champions. —Will Barker 

 

Buff Stadium, Houston, 1946

When I was 14 I worked at my uncle’s hardware store during the summer. I literally had a radio to my ear every night (there being no TV) while going to sleep during those hot summers in Houston—always listening to the games of the Houston Buffs, the AA farm team of the St. Louis Cardinals.

My biggest hero in the major leagues was Cardinal first baseman Stan “The Man” Musial. I treasured pictures of him at bat. My uncle obtained two tickets for the final preseason game of the major league Cardinals, played annually against their farm team in Houston. We sat behind home plate. Later, Buff Stadium was razed and became the home of Finger Furniture store. However, my seat at this game is still firmly entrenched in my mind.

As the visiting team, the Cardinals came to bat first in the initial inning. Musial fouled off the first pitch for a strike. Then he took a pitch for strike two. I just knew he was going to explode on the next pitch. The Houston Buff pitcher then threw a nasty curveball and Musial grounded back weakly to the pitcher for an easy toss to first base for an out.

I would like to remember that Musial went 3 for 4 that day to win the game, but shortly after Musial’s at-bat the skies clouded up and Houston had one of its seasonal downpours, so the remainder of the game washed out. —Bonham Magness

Municipal Stadium, Kansas City, 1955

I saw a game between the Kansas City A’s and the Boston Red Sox. The only thing I remember about the game was seeing Ted Williams bat. What a thing of beauty—that swing! Actually, he struck out, but I had never seen such a beautiful swing in my life. —Bill Dailey

 

Associated Press/Photo by Clarence Hamm Associated Press/Photo by Clarence Hamm Willie Mays hits a three-run homer against St. Louis in August 1958 at Seals Stadium in San Francisco.

Seals Stadium and Candlestick Park, San Francisco, 1958–1967

My father would sometimes take the family up to San Francisco to take in a ball game. I have vague memories of watching the Giants play in Seals Stadium prior to its demolition in 1959 and afterward in Candlestick Park. In one game Willie Mays was at bat and the pitcher hit him with an errant pitch. My father, noting Mays’s body language, leaned over to my older brother and me and said, “Watch this, boys, Mays is going to hit a home run now.” And, sure enough, with the next pitch it was “bye-bye, baby.”

From 1963 to 1967 I delivered a newspaper route in my hometown of Seaside and was often able to win a trip to Candlestick through the newspaper’s contests. Not being a huge sports fan I never again went to a pro baseball game after leaving the paper route. But I can say to this day that Willie Mays played in every pro baseball game I ever saw in my life. —Richard Hellam

 

Associated Press Associated Press Bob Gibson pitching to Bobby Richardson in the top of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 1964 World Series

Sportsman’s Park, St. Louis, 1964

I grew up an avid St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan. Not only did I live in St. Louis, but also until age 8 I lived three blocks from Sportsman’s Park. People going to the games would park in front of our house. I would sit on our front porch and wish that someone would offer me a ticket. It never happened.

In 1964, the Cards were in the World Series against the hated New York Yankees! It was the day of Game 7. Our family had moved to the suburbs, but my dad still had his business at the same location where I grew up. He told me he needed my help that day. I was devastated that I would not be able to watch the game on TV. I reluctantly went with him to work. After about two hours he handed me a ticket to the game! I was speechless but overjoyed!

I walked to the stadium, and it was fantastic! There they were: Gibson, McCarver, White, Maxvill, Groat, Boyer, Brock, Flood, and Shannon. What a matchup! The hard-throwing Bob Gibson against the Yanks’ dreaded Whitey Ford. It was a tense battle with home runs by Lou Brock and Mickey Mantle. But finally it was the top of the ninth with the Cardinals clinging to their three-run lead. Two outs and New York’s Bobby Richardson at the plate. Everybody in the stadium were on their feet, including me.

“Gibby” was still on the mound as there was no need for a closer. He threw Richardson a seldom seen change-up. Bobby popped it up to Dal Maxvill, who squeezed it for the final out as fans started to swarm the field! I just stood there by myself soaking up what I had just witnessed. I eventually made my way back to my dad’s business with a lifetime memory I’ll never forget. —Mike Hammer

 

Tiger Stadium, Detroit, 1967

Growing up in the 1960s in a broken home on the southwest side of Lower Michigan with three sisters and my mom, I was starved for male bonding of any sort. My church’s alternative to Boy Scouts was called Cadets. For a special outing the church decided to take about 12-15 of us to see the Detroit Tiger game. I was 10 or 11 years old and couldn’t wait for the day. Our seats were in the upper deck of left field.

One kid had $5 his mom gave him for the game, which in itself was unbelievable to me—how someone could afford to give a kid five bucks. Nonetheless, he dutifully spent it on a small plastic telescope that everyone, including myself, was begging for, just to get a glimpse of a player up close. Not being like other kids socially I was not one of the guy’s favorites, so eventually I gave up asking. It must have been the eighth inning. Tiger favorite Al Kaline was up. I asked one last time to borrow the telescope. To my surprise he let me use it. I will never forget what happened next.

I was watching Al diligently. He smacked that ball with a crack the entire stadium heard. The ball was in that telescope getting bigger and bigger heading our way. I remember seeing the stitching so clearly I ended up pulling the scope away thinking surely I was going to get it in the eye. It landed just a few rows in front of us in the upper deck for the game’s only run. We went home the winners.

Isn’t it just like God to bless the supposed underprivileged with the excitement of seeing the only run of the game like no one else? —Marc Boer

 

Associated Press/Photo by A.E. Maloof Associated Press/Photo by A.E. Maloof Carl Garrett scores a touchdown for the Boston Patriots against the Miami Dolphins at Harvard Stadium in September 1970.

Harvard Stadium, Boston, 1970

In 1970, the Miami Dolphins had a home (the Orange Bowl) and the NFL’s best running backs in Larry Csonka, Mercury Morris, and Jim Kiick. The then-Boston Patriots were homeless, so my dad and I arrived outside the ancient, decrepit Harvard Stadium to watch my team play the heavily favored Dolphins. I looked around the grassy area where my father parked our 1968 Plymouth sedan, and then smelled and saw “grass” of a different variety.

My blue-collar father’s safety record at dangerous construction sites had earned him tickets to the game from his boss. The big contractor employing him was one of the bidders for a long-overdue Patriots stadium in Foxboro. But on this day all the seats seemed close to the action in this much smaller arena. We sat at the 50-yard line right behind Boston’s bench.

During pregame warmups, Gino Cappelletti, the Patriots’ venerable two-way player (kicker and wide receiver) came over and shook my hand. No autographs were sought by me or anyone else in those days. We were just seeking a victory or two. And guess what? My dad and I did witness an upset win (27-14) that afternoon—because Gino scored most of the points (kicking field goals and scoring touchdowns) … and, best of all, he smiled at me after the game.

Predictably, the Patriots in 1970 had another poor season after that day, finishing up at 2-12. Miami, with an improving quarterback Bob Griese, won the AFC East. Two years later the Dolphins nucleus was still together, and Miami posted a perfect 14-0 regular season record. It wasn’t done again until 35 years later, when the Patriots (now New England) went 16-0, playing their home games in a stadium constructed under my dad’s supervision. The radio play-by-play announcer was … Gino Cappelletti. —Doug Perkins

 

Associated Press Associated Press Sparky Anderson (left) and Detroit Tigers president Jack Campbell enjoy a champagne bath and a call from President Ronald Reagan following their team’s World Series victory over San Diego in 1984.

Tiger Stadium, Detroit, 1984

If you are a Detroit fan, you certainly remember Game 5 of the 1984 World Series, when the Tigers won it all. My entire family attended: Mom, three brothers and their wives or girlfriends, a couple of neighbors, and my grandmother. My dad was not sitting with us, as he was down in his box where he sat for almost every home game: Dad was the VP of stadium operations.

Dad’s office was right down the hall from the umpires’ room, a small office where the players could go to make a personal call. After the celebration on the field, we all walked into his office and saw the World Series trophy sitting in the middle of his desk. It was there for safe keeping after the TV lights were turned off and the real celebration had begun. We drank champagne and toasted the players as they wandered in from the clubhouse to take pictures. By the way, we have zero photos of this event as we used all of our film during the game … ouch!

As the night ended, I wandered out into the hallway leading to the clubhouse. I stopped as I heard a familiar voice in the “personal phone call” room. I stopped outside and realized it was Detroit manager Sparky Anderson. He was on the phone with his father in California. As the tears streamed down his cheeks he told his dad, “We won, Dad, we won the World Series.” He was crying tears of joy as I am now. —Kent Snyder

Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, 1987

For a lifelong Minnesota Twins fan, the 1987 season was magical. At the last home game, on Sept. 27, my wife and I sat about 10 rows up in the left field bleachers of the Metrodome. A win against the Kansas City Royals would secure at least a tie for the American League West title, so rookie manager Tom Kelly decided to send the great curveballer Bert Blyleven to the mound on only three days’ rest.

Just before the team took the field, a spontaneous ovation arose from the sellout crowd of 52,924 fans. I had never heard such a thunderous sound. Things didn’t go so well for Blyleven in the top half of the first, as he gave up a leadoff walk to the speedy Willie Wilson, followed by a Kevin Seitzer single. This put runners at first and third with future Hall of Famer George Brett coming to bat. Brett scorched a grounder to third and Gary Gaetti promptly threw to second to start what we thought would be a 5-4-3 double play.

Some players have numerous career milestones, but utility infielder Al Newman, who was playing second base that day, made a decision on this pivotal occasion that stands out as his greatest achievement. Rather than flipping the ball to first and conceding the run, Newman saw Wilson had hesitated a bit before heading for home. He rifled a perfect strike into catcher Tim Laudner’s mitt at home plate. Wilson was out.

In the home half of the first inning, the weak-hitting Newman doubled to left and Kirby Puckett followed with a home run. Gaetti and Kent Hrbek also homered in the inning, giving the Twins a 5-0 lead. Blyleven pitched a complete game, and the Twins loped easily to an 8-1 triumph. Soon, the Twins would win the franchise’s first World Series in Minnesota, defeating the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. —Jon Pratt

Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, 1996

On May 17, the Baltimore Orioles’ Chris Hoiles hit a grand slam on a 3-2 pitch with two outs in the bottom of the ninth off of the Seattle Mariners’ Norm Charlton to win the game. I have written on the back of the ticket stub that this had occurred 10 other times in baseball history. 

Other details: Until then, Hoiles had been the only starter from both teams without a hit. There were six home runs and 26 men left on base, including 23 in the first six innings. (That has to be a record too, I’d think.) Baltimore’s Rafael Palmeiro and Seattle’s Alex Rodriguez each drove in six runs—Palmeiro with three two-run hits and Rodriguez with a grand slam and a two-run double.

The funniest part: I was there with my wife of 10 months, Tonia, and my childhood best friend, Trace Wood, along with his girlfriend, Lisa. My wife doesn’t like baseball and slept through much of the second half of the game. The big ending didn’t make up for it being what was then the second-longest nine-inning game in history. —Eric Schansberg

Associated Press/Photo by Eric Gay Associated Press/Photo by Eric Gay San Antonio’s Sean Elliott warms up prior to his return to action against the Atlanta Hawks in March 2000.

Alamodome, San Antonio, 2000

It was spring break of my sophomore year at Texas A&M. My family was living in Montana, so my grandparents came and took me to spend the week with them at their home in San Antonio. When they picked me up, my grandmother was bubbling with excitement. “Guess what, Matt? We are going to a Spurs game!” We’d see David “The Admiral” Robinson, Tim Duncan (“We call him Timmy,” my grandmother told me), and Sean Elliott—his first game after returning from a kidney transplant.

The Spurs were playing the Atlanta Hawks. The starters were announced. When Sean’s name was called, the crowd went nuts. So did I. But not as nuts as Grandmother. She was up on her feet whooping and hollering like crazy.

Soon the game began. It was a feast for the senses. At the start of the second half, Sean drove to the basket, dunking spectacularly. The place exploded. Grandmother exploded more. Here was a woman, old enough to be my, uh, grandmother, with neuropathy in both feet, jumping and screaming with all of her might. High-fives for everyone! The hugs she saved for me. I got lots of them. A whole lot. And every one of them was wonderful.

For years, whenever Grandmother and I got together, we talked about that day. The day Sean came back. The dunk. Seeing the Admiral and Timmy. Grandmother died in the summer of 2016. All the grandsons and grandsons-in-law were pallbearers. We all wore bright-colored shirts, and she would have loved it. —Matt Fain

 

Associated Press/Photo by Tom Gannam Associated Press/Photo by Tom Gannam Rick Ankiel takes a curtain call following his three-run homer in the seventh inning against San Diego in August 2007.

Busch Stadium, St. Louis, 2007

Rookie St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Rick Ankiel burst onto the scene with an amazing fastball, but in 2000, in a playoff game against the Atlanta Braves, this young hurler succumbed to one of the most awkward/embarrassing/painful meltdowns that can be imagined. He threw several extremely wild pitches. The story went downhill from there: struggles with alcohol and depression during various personal and athletic rehabilitations.

Then, one evening in August 2007, with the Cardinals playing the San Diego Padres, Ankiel made his major league comeback after several years of rehab in the minors. He had reinvented himself as an outfielder with a powerful bat. He received a standing ovation from the fans when he walked out the first time. Every person in the stadium wanted him to vindicate himself for his debacle in 2000. But his first three at-bats were the same: out, out, out.

In the seventh inning, he had one more chance. The crowd came alive. Instead of chanting, “Let’s go, Cards!” the refrain was, “Let’s go, Rick! Let’s go, Rick!” A few pitches into the at-bat, with two men on, he connected: a three-run shot that just cleared the right field wall. The “Sea of Red” erupted. It was like October when everything is at stake. Because, for him, it was. —John Spencer

 

PNC Park, Pittsburgh, 2013

We live in Los Angeles and are Dodgers fans, but in 2013 we took in an April game in Pittsburgh. It was cold, but surely it would warm up? Nope. We didn’t realize how the wind would whip. We bundled up in what coats we had (for me, it was a thick sweater), gloves, and scarves.

The game was good. Pittsburgh outfielder Andrew McCutchen made catch after catch. But, after standing in a very long line, my husband came back during the fourth inning and said they had run out of hot chocolate and coffee. My baby, the last of my three kids, snuggled in close for warmth, but I like to think also for closeness. We didn’t know how many ballgames we would be taking in together. I savored those moments.

After the game we waited to watch the fireworks. We heard a BOOM from behind us. We discovered they were shooting them off the Roberto Clemente Bridge over the river. Those fireworks! The reflection off the water! We were still cold but we hardly noticed as we stood in awe for the whole thing, and talked about it long afterward. Best fireworks show ever! —Jill Lee

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD and dean of World Journalism Institute. He joined WORLD in 1992 and has also been a university professor and provost. He has written more than 20 books, including Reforming Journalism. Marvin resides with his wife, Susan, in Austin, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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Comments

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  • Woodman
    Posted: Sat, 01/27/2018 03:28 pm

    Well done Jill and gentlemen! Nothing like reminiscing on sports moments from our childhood and beyond. Even if heartbreak’s involved which was normative for Red Sox fans like me until 2004 there’s a hope that resides in the heart that keeps us coming back. It doesn’t fill the void like the ultimate Hope it’s still a wonderful point of fun, pleasure and celebration.  I hope this is offered again I’d love to jump in. 

  • Red Acted
    Posted: Sat, 01/27/2018 09:47 pm

    Interesting that 5 of the 11 baseball stories involved my favorite team, the St. Louis Cardinals.

  • emerald
    Posted: Sat, 02/10/2018 04:35 pm

    So very disappointed that me, the only woman, it was my story that was chopped in half.  Roberto Clemente bridge?  The fireworks?  I thought the fireworks was the big part of my story.  Really, just another paragraph and you couldn't publish it?  I should have written about the Kirk Gibson home run.  Jill Lee

  • Web Editor
    Posted: Mon, 02/12/2018 03:31 pm

    We’ve added the paragraph about you and your family’s postgame fireworks experience.

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