50 Most Unforgettable Highlights in Baseball History

Dan TylickiAnalyst IJanuary 30, 2012

50 Most Unforgettable Highlights in Baseball History

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    Baseball, like any other sport, has its moments that define the game. It can be a team making a great run, it can be a player with a clutch moment or even something else entirely.

    Whatever the case, the highlights made by these moments stand the test of time. When you think of baseball, these are the situations that you think about.

    Here are 50 of the most unforgettable highlights in baseball history. Situations that fall on the depressing end of the spectrum are not included, since one can't really consider them "highlights."

50. Ty Cobb Replacement Game

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    This story has been somewhat forgotten nowadays even though it shouldn't be, but at the time, it was huge, and there certainly is not another example of a team practically forfeiting a game.

    On May 15, 1912, Ty Cobb assaulted a heckler in the stands at a game, and he was suspended. His teammates refused to play the next game in protest, and as a result the Detroit Tigers fielded a team of scrubs.

    The Tigers lost that game, 24-2, and the strike lasted just the one game.

49. 1910 Chalmers Award

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    Ty Cobb had a controversy of his own in 1910 when he faced Nap Lajoie for the batting title, with the winner receiving a Chalmers automobile.

    Ty Cobb had a slim lead with two days to go and chose to sit out the last two games. Lajoie played in his, and Cobb won with a .385 batting average to Lajoie's .384. Controversy arose over Cobb's actions, and a recount of the hits many years later had Lajoie with the higher average.

    Either way, both were given automobiles, and Cobb hit .420 the next year to avoid another controversy.

48. Game Seven, 1924 World Series

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    The 1924 World Series is one of those contests that isn't quite as remembered as it should be. It went the full seven games, and entering Game 7 the New York Giants had tacked two losses on the Washington Nationals' ace, Walter Johnson.

    The game was tied 3-3 after eight innings, so the Nationals put Johnson back in, risking a third loss on his playoff record, to see if he could win the series. He did just that, as the Nationals won 4-3 in 12 innings to win their first World Series.

47. 1948 Pennant Race Tie-Breaker Game

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    While 1908 was arguably the greatest pennant race, and even this past season had its moments, 1948 was a thrill ride of its own, with the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees staying in the thick of things all season long.

    The Red Sox and Indians ended up facing off in the first ever one-game playoff, which led to the Indians winning their only World Series, the Red Sox getting the closest to the World Series they had been in a while and the Yankees taking a year off from being there.

46. Mickey Owen's Dropped Third Strike

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    In the 1941 World Series, the New York Yankees faced the Brooklyn Dodgers, a matchup which I'll be frequently saying over the course of this slideshow. The Yankees were up two games to one heading into Game 4.

    In the ninth inning, the Dodgers were up 4-3 when Tommy Henrich struck out to end the game. At least, he should have, but Mickey Owen dropped the ball, allowing Henrich to take first base and the Yankees to rally, winning the game and the series.

45. Dave Henderson's ALCS Home Run

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    Had Bill Buckner not cost the Red Sox the 1986 World Series, Dave Henderson may have been the postseason hero, and even without it he was still great.

    In Game 5 of the ALCS, the Red Sox were down in the ninth inning. He faced pitcher Donnie Moore, and with two outs, he hit a home run and brought the Red Sox to a 6-5 lead. The Red Sox went on to win Games 6 and 7 as well, and they moved on to the infamous 1986 World Series.

44. Willie McCovey Almost Wins 1962 World Series

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    The 1962 World Series saw the New York Yankees face the San Francisco Giants in what ended up being a classic. The two teams entered Game 7, and by the ninth inning the Yankees were up 1-0.

    With two men on and two outs, Ralph Terry took a big risk (which he did once before and backfired as we'll see later) and faced Willie McCovey. McCovey hit the hardest ball he ever smashed according to him, but the spin on the ball caused it to fall just short, with Bobby Richardson making the series-clinching catch.

43. The 1969 Miracle Mets

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    Throughout the 1960s, the Mets were a joke. Somehow, in 1969, they turned that around and won 100 games out of nowhere to win the NL pennant.

    They still had to compete with the Baltimore Orioles, who won 109 game and had World Series experience. Despite the disadvantages and ace Tom Seaver losing Game 1, they rallied to win the next four and give themselves their first World Series title.

42. 1955 Dodgers Win the World Series

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    I wasn't really sure whether to rank this, since the journey itself was the highlight rather than one major event. In any case, entering the 1955 World Series, the Yankees were the ones who had beaten the Dodgers before and seemed destined to win again.

    The series went seven games, and in the final game, the Brooklyn Dodgers kept the Yankees from scoring at all, giving them their first World Series title and stopping the Yankees' long reign.

41. Ted Williams Hits .400

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    It's now been over 60 years since a player has hit .400 over the course of a season. Not only did Ted Williams do that, but he did it in style.

    In 1941, Williams had a .400 average with a Philadelphia Athletics doubleheader left. He was offered the chance to sit, but he chose to play and shot his average up to .406 on the season.

40. Jeffrey Maier

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    During the 1996 ALCS, it looked like the Baltimore Orioles would finally have a championship team as they faced the New York Yankees. In Game 1, the Orioles were up 4-3 in the eighth inning.

    Derek Jeter hit a deep fly ball, and when the Orioles went to grab it, Maier reached over and caught it. The umpire ruled it a home run without fan interference, and the O's lost the game and later the series.

39. Steve Bartman

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    The name Steve Bartman is one that still makes Cubs fans cringe. In 2003, the Cubs made it to the NLCS where they faced the Florida Marlins and were up three games to two.

    In Game 6, the Cubs were four outs away from reaching the World Series when Luis Castillo hit a foul ball. Moises Alou ran to catch it, but Bartman reached for the ball and kept Alou from catching it.

    The Cubs fell apart after that and lost, while the Marlins won the World Series. The ball was considered cursed afer that and was blown up the following February.

38. Armando Galarraga's "Perfect Game"

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    One of the few moments on the list I've seen personally, Armando Galarraga seemed to have everything working right on the June 2, 2010 game in Comerica Park.

    In the Detroit Tigers-Cleveland Indians match, Galarraga retired the first 26 batters faced, which brought Jason Donald up. He hit a light ground ball to first, then despite being clearly out, umpire Jim Joyce ruled him safe.

    Joyce apologized for the call but couldn't call any more games Galarraga pitched since the two ended up writing a book about the experience.

37. Ten Cent Beer Night

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    Every once in a while there's an idea that sounds great on paper but ends up being bad in practice. This is not one of those times, as it seemed bad on paper and caused a forfeit.

    The Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers faced each other on June 4, 1974, and beer was given out for ten cents at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The two teams had brawled in their last appearance, and fan tempers boiled over, with many making their way onto the field, and the Indians forfeited the game.

    Needless to say, after that game a limit was placed on how much beer someone could buy at any of these promotions.

36. Disco Demolition Night

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    Bill Veeck was one of the greatest visionaries in baseball history and brought life to the sport while he was owner of several franchises. His son Mike, well... he came up Disco Demolition Night.

    Known now as "the night Disco died," a crate of disco records was blown up between games of a July 12, 1979 doubleheader between the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox. During the demolition, fans stormed onto the field, causing a riot. The second game was forfeited as a result.

    Mike Veeck was blacklisted from baseball for a time due to this, and even Bill Veeck took some heat even though he was not directly involved.

35. Bucky Dent's Home Run

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    The 1978 tie-breaker game between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox had it all. Both teams had plenty of talent, and both were ready to make a World Series run. Naturally, a hero would emerge, and that hero was Bucky Dent.

    The Yankees were down 2-0 in the seventh inning when Dent came to bat. Dent rarely hit home runs in his career but shot one over the Green Monster to give the Yankees a lead that they never relinquished. The Yankees then went on to win the World Series.

34. Dock Ellis' No-Hitter

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    Dock Ellis may have had one of the strangest no-hitters of all time during his time on the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1970.

    In a game against the San Diego Padres on June 12, Dock Ellis stated that he was under the influence of LSD but was able to throw a no-hitter anyway and became a part of baseball lore as a result.

33. Cal Ripken Passes Lou Gehrig

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    Baseball records are considered to be unbreakable frequently enough, but Lou Gehrig's 2,130 games played certainly fell into that, especially since players get the occasional game off all the time nowadays.

    Cal Ripken Jr., however, passed that mark on September 6, 1995, when he played game 2,131 in a row. It's considered MLB's most memorable moment, but it's not talked about perhaps as often as it should be, so I don't have it ranked that high as a result.

32. Fred Merkle's Boner

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    Fred Merkle was a first baseman for 20 years, mostly during the deadball era. In his second season, however, he made a base-running gaffe that would be covered a lot more in baseball lore if footage existed of the event.

    The Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs and New York Giants had one of the all-time great pennant races to begin with in 1908, and on September 23, the Cubs and Giants played in a game where Merkle supposedly missed second base, causing a 2-1 lead to be cut to a 1-1 tie, which the game was then called.

    It is lost on history what exactly happened, but the move cost the Giants the pennant at the end, and the Cubs went on to win their last World Series title.

31. Harvey Haddix's "Perfect Game"

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    Perfect games are rare enough in baseball to begin with, but having one go beyond nine innings is crazy. That being said, how about losing one after all that work?

    That's what happened to Harvey Haddix on May 26, 1959 against the Milwaukee Braves. He pitched nine perfect innings, but his Pittsburgh Pirates failed to score. He shrugged it off and pitched three more perfect innings.

    Unfortunately, he couldn't keep it up for 13, and the Pirates lost, 1-0, thanks to an offense that picked the worst day to sleep.

30. The Bloody Sock

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    The 2004 Boston Red Sox already had one of the greatest stories in baseball history, yet Curt Schilling was able to build on top of that and establish himself in baseball lore.

    Schilling pitched Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS, which ended in a 4-2 Red Sox victory. Due to a tendon injury in his ankle, his sock became soaked with blood throughout the game, which became more noted than his actual performance.

    The sock is now in the Hall of Fame, making it in before Schilling did.

29. Robin Ventura-Nolan Ryan Fight

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    Robin Ventura was a third baseman who had a nice career primarily with the Chicago White Sox. He was also a young gun when he faced Nolan Ryan on August 4, 1993, who was 46 at the time.

    After Robin Ventura got hit by a pitch from Ryan, he charged the mound. This happens frequently enough, but Ryan got him in a headlock and made Ventura look foolish. The lasting image is what propels this moment upward.

28. Nolan Ryan's Seven No-Hitters

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    Speaking of Nolan Ryan, he threw seven no-hitters during his career, far more than any other pitcher. The final one came on May 1, 1991 when the 44-year old blanked the Toronto Blue Jays, 3-0.

27. Pete Rose Breaks All-Time Hits Record

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    This moment is not ranked all that high due to the baggage that comes with Pete Rose, but it is nonetheless a great baseball moment.

    On September 11, 1985, Pete Rose hit a line-drive single to center field, giving himself hit number 4,192. This set the all-time record that feels like it won't be broken, but you never know who may come along later.

26. Game Six, 2011 World Series

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    This may be the most recent event on the list, but I certainly don't think it's too early to deserve inclusion. In fact, as it's remembered more, it may move higher on the list.

    In Game 6 of the World Series, the Texas Rangers were up three games to two over the St. Louis Cardinals. They traded leads back and forth all game long, and it was 7-5 Rangers in the bottom of the ninth.

    The Cardinals tied to go into extra innings, where both teams scored two runs; another run by the Cardinals in the 11th ended it and forced Game 7.

25. Randy Johnson Hitting a Bird

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    This is certainly one of the more quirky unforgettable highlights to make the list, and it is certainly not one that's going to be duplicated.

    During the seventh inning in a spring training game against the San Francisco Giants, Johnson threw a pitch when a bird flew right in the line of fire, sending feathers everywhere. The bird died, and the pitch was ruled a non-pitch.

24. David Ortiz Begins Greatest Comeback

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    In the 2004 ALCS, the New York Yankees went up three games to zero on the Boston Red Sox, and it was accepted that the series was over by all except perhaps David Ortiz.

    In the 12th inning of Game 4, he hit a game-winning home run off Paul Quantrill. In the 14th inning of Game 5, he had another game-winning hit off Esteban Loaiza and brought the series to a 3-2 deficit.

    This was not only the catalyst to the reverse of the curse but was easily the greatest comeback in baseball history.

23. Barry Bonds' 73rd and 756th Home Runs

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    After Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs in 1998, everyone went back to "this is now an unbreakable record" mode. Barry Bonds' response to that was to simply laugh it off and top the record three years later.

    During the last game of the 2001 season, Barry Bonds hit home run No. 73, and after that, pitchers barely pitched to him anymore. Both this mark and the career mark don't feel the same given the outcry during the steroid era, however.

22. Eddie Gaedel

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    Bill Veeck was, without a doubt, the best baseball promoter out there, even if some of his ideas were a bit off-the-wall. His most memorable moment was definitely the signing of Eddie Gaedel.

    Gaedel was 3'7" and wore the jersey 1/8. He lasted one plate appearance, obviously drawing a walk, and from then on that Veeck had to use other means to make the experience more fun for fans.

21. Bob Feller's Opening Day No-Hitter

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    There have been a good deal of no-hitters in baseball, so for one to make this list, there would have to be something special about it. Bob Feller made sure to do just that.

    In 1940, Bob Feller pitched on Opening Day against the Chicago White Sox, and every hitter left the game with the same batting average: .000. It remains the only no-hitter pitched on Opening Day.

20. Roy Halladay's Playoff No-Hitter

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    People were not sure what to expect from Roy Halladay in the 2010 playoffs. Yes, he was an amazing pitcher during the regular season, but he didn't have playoff experience.

    He put any issues to rest in his playoff debut against the Cincinnati Reds in Game 1 of the NLDS by pitching a no-hitter. This was considered the postseason moment of the year, and it almost surpassed his perfect game earlier that year in terms of lore.

19. Reggie Jackson's Three Home Runs

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    The New York Yankees entered the 1977 World Series hungry for a title and as usual, faced the Dodgers for the crown. The Yankees were up three games to two entering Game 6, but they needed heroics.

    Reggie Jackson burst onto the scene, hitting three home runs en route to a 8-4 Yankees win and a World Series title, and it led to Jackson being nicknamed "Mr. October."

18. Kirby Puckett's Walk-off Home Run

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    The 1991 World Series was one of the greatest of all time to begin with, with the Twins and Braves moving from worst to first and moving the series to seven games.

    In Game 6, Puckett came up to bat in the 11th inning and hit a walk-off home run to bring the series to a Game 7. He became an instant superstar, and the Twins went on to win the World Series.

17. Enos Slaughter's Mad Dash

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    The St. Louis Cardinals were lucky to be in the 1946 World Series to begin with, as they had to face the Dodgers in the first ever best-of-three tiebreaker. They then went to seven games with the Boston Red Sox.

    In Game 7, the Cardinals were tied 3-3 with Enos Slaughter at first. The next batter hit a ball into left-center field, and Slaughter just kept running until he reached home. Johnny Pesky was slow in throwing the ball home, so his "mad dash" allowed the Cardinals to win the World Series.

16. Rickey Henderson Sets Stolen Base Record

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    Rickey Henderson was pretty much a human highlight reel throughout his career to begin with. When he set the all-time stolen base record in 1991, it felt a long time coming.

    The speech afterwards, however, is what made the mark memorable. After breaking Lou Brock's record, he ended his speech with the following: "Lou Brock was the symbol of great base stealing. But today, I'm the greatest of all time. Thank you."

    He regretted the quote after saying it, since people found it to be rather arrogant. Nonetheless, it was a great moment.

15. Joe Carter's Walk-off Home Run

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    Joe Carter was instrumental in the Blue Jays' 1992 and 1993 World Series victories, but he perhaps saved his most memorable moment for last.

    In Game 6 of the 1993 World Series, the Philadelphia Phillies were ahead 6-5 when Joe Carter came up to bat. Two men were already on, and Carter made sure all three came home as he hit a series-clinching home run off of Mitch Williams.

14. 1998 Home Run Record Chase

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    In 1998, baseball ratings were down, having not quite recovered from the 1994 strike. The baseball world needed something to get things going, and it got that when Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Ken Griffey, Jr. were all on pace to crush Roger Maris' record.

    The chase got everyone talking, and they still do today, albeit for different reasons. McGwire finished with 70 home runs and Sammy Sosa finished with 66. The final month of the season became a memorable highlight reel in itself.

13. World Series Unassisted Triple Play

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    The 1920 Cleveland Indians season had two major moments, but the more memorable one came in the World Series, where the Indians faced the Brooklyn Robins.

    In Game 5 of the Series, pitcher Clarence Mitchell lined the ball to Bill Wambsganss, who converted a triple play in the fifth inning. It remains the only unassisted triple play in World Series history and helped bring the Indians' first World Series title to Cleveland.

12. Jackie Robinson's Debut

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    Jackie Robinson's debut did not just mean a lot for baseball, but it meant a lot for society as well, as on April 15, 1947, the color barrier in baseball was broken. It will have been broken for 65 years this April.

11. Kirk Gibson's Home Run

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    The Oakland Athletics faced the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, which has since been known for one great walk-off.

    The A's and Dodgers went back and forth in Game 1, and in the bottom of the ninth, Kirk Gibson came in to face Dennis Eckersley. Gibson didn't start the game and in fact could barely run. Nonetheless, he hit the game-winning home run, and the Dodgers won the Series in five games.

10. Roger Maris' 61st Home Run

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    When Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs, it was a time when the live-ball era was just getting going, and it felt like a number well out of reach. In the 1960s, the era was mainly dominated by pitchers, so it didn't seem like the record would be broken.

    Roger Maris, however, saw to it that it would be broken by hitting 61 home runs in 1961, hitting No. 61 in the fourth inning of the last game of the season.

    Sadly, this is a record that meant a lot more historically, since at the time people just shrugged it off, figuring that he only got the record because he played eight more games.

9. Hank Aaron's 715th Home Run

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    Babe Ruth retired from baseball with 714 home runs, a mark that was considered to be unbreakable. When the 1974 season started, Hank Aaron was only one home run shy of that record, and attendance numbers shot up as people waited for No. 715.

    The mark came on April 8, 1974 before a crowd of 53,775, when he hit the ball off Al Downing in the fourth inning. Aaron finished up his career with 755 home runs, and he's still considered the Home Run King even if he doesn't have that mark now.

8. Carlton Fisk's Home Run

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    Most World Series memories are naturally created by the winning team, but occasionally the losing team can have a memorable moment. Such is the case with the 1975 World Series.

    The Boston Red Sox were down three games to two to the Cincinnati Reds and the Big Red Machine. Carlton Fisk came up to bat in the 12th inning and hit a ball down the foul pole. He waved it fair, and it stayed that way, allowing the Red Sox to remain in the chase.

7. Don Larsen's Perfect Game

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    A perfect game is rare enough in baseball as it is, since everything has to go right both for the pitcher and the rest of the team. A perfect game in a World Series, however, has only happened once.

    In Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, Don Larsen took the mound for the New York Yankees. He went nine innings without allowing any hits, and among the great defensive plays was a Mickey Mantle running catch in the fifth inning.

    The Yankees went on to win the series in seven games, and Larsen's name is still remembered, perhaps just for that moment.

6.Bill Buckner's Error

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    For baseball historians, Bill Buckner was a solid first baseman who played over 20 seasons, notching 2,700-plus hits in his career. For Boston Red Sox fans, he's the guy who cost them the 1986 World Series.

    In Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, the Red Sox were set to win and clinch the title, and they left Buckner in the game despite him usually coming out that late. Once Mookie Wilson came to bat, he hit a ground ball right to Buckner.

    It went through his legs, and the Mets rallied to win both Game 6 and Game 7.

5. The Catch

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    While the 1954 World Series ended up being a blowout, it looked like it would be an epic battle when it began. While the New York Giants swept the Cleveland Indians in four games, it did have one memorable highlight.

    In Game 1, the score was tied 2-2 in the eighth inning when Vic Wertz came to bat. He crushed a pitch to deep center field, but Willie Mays manged to make the catch, one that would have been impossible in any other ballpark and likely would not have happened with any other player.

    The Giants rallied after that to win the game in extra innings, and the Indians never recovered from that play. Heck, they're still looking for another World Series.

4. Lou Gehrig's Speech

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    Not everything at the top of the list is necessarily a clutch moment. Sometimes it's just about remembering one of baseball's all-time greats.

    Shortly after Lou Gehrig's consecutive games played streak ended, he retired. As a result, the Yankees made July 4, 1939 "Lou Gehrig Day," and Gehrig made a speech that day. The best-known part was where he considered himself "The Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth."

    Without a doubt, it was certainly one of the most heartwarming moments in baseball history.

3. Bill Mazeroski Wins 1960 World Series

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    The 1960 World Series is in and of itself one of the all-time greatest World Series, pitting the heavily-favored New York Yankees against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    In Game 7, the Yankees and Pirates went back and forth. The Pirates were up 9-7 at the top of the ninth before the Yankees tied it. The first batter up in the bottom of the ninth was Bill Mazeroski, a player known for his defense over his career.

    That day, he was known for his offense, as he hit the game-winning home run, bringing the Pirates the World Series.

2. Babe Ruth's Called Shot

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    In Game 3 of the 1932 World Series, Babe Ruth's career was nearing its end, but he still had one great moment left, one which was perhaps his most memorable.

    Ruth had already hit a home run in the first inning and faced Chicago Cubs pitcher Charlie Root in the fifth inning. Supposedly, Ruth pointed to centerfield, and right after that Ruth hit the next pitch 440 feet into centerfield.

    The shot put the Yankees ahead 5-4 and they never lost the lead, and the called shot became a sensation overnight.

1. Shot Heard 'Round the World

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    The Shot Heard 'Round The World may be the most unforgettable highlight. After all, something doesn't get that moniker for nothing.

    In Game 3 of the 1951 tie-breaker series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants, the Dodgers were ahead 4-1 in the bottom of the ninth. Pitcher Ralph Branca faced Bobby Thomson with one out down 4-2, and Thomson hit a three-run homer.

    The Giants won the pennant, and the game had since been considered one of the best in history.