Michael Jordan, Mike Schmidt and My 5 Favorite Chicago Sports Memories
Growing up in Chicago with five major professional sports teams, one would think there would be so many sports memories that it would be hard to remember them all. Not so.
Ask any real Chicagoan and you’ll know we’re a suffering bunch. It took the Blackhawks 40 years break their title drought, while the White Sox ended a spell started in 1959—only having to defeat the Astros in the most boring World Series in history.
And the Cubs? Well, I don’t have enough energy or medication to get into the Baby Bears' woes.
Speaking of the Bears, the team that brought you George Halas, Red Grange, Dick Butkus, Gayle Sayers and Walter Payton—the 1985 season was fantastic for memories, but since then it’s been as dry as the Mojave Desert. And don’t bring up the Super Bowl against the Colts. My fondest memory of that game was the halftime show by Prince.
Now the Bulls—thanks to somebody thinking Sam Bowie was a better pick in the No. 2 spot than Michael Jordan—gave us some memories.
Dear Portland Trail Blazers, we want to thank you so much. Words will never quite express our gratitude. We owe you one...or maybe two.
Winning six titles, with a small Jordan baseball intermission, gives the Bulls bragging rights in Chicago hands down. And in my 51 years on planet Earth, the Bulls won more championships than the Cubs, White Sox, Bears and Blackhawks combined.
Hell, throw in the Fire (MLS) and the Rush (AFL) and the Bulls still have the edge.
Anyway, you get the point. For such a great place, the Windy City has provided few real memorable moments for its fans. To me, it’s some of the quirky and the odd moments that are engraved in my soul.
Read on for my top five favorites.
Although it’s not a specific memory of a single game, and not officially on my list, I’d be remiss not to mention the singing of the Star Spangled Banner at the old Chicago Stadium and the fairly new United Center. You want to feel like an American, get goosebumps and have tears well up in your eyes?
Check out a Blackhawks game and witness our national anthem. Truly unbelievable.
My memory of Blackhawks games though, has been filtered into one two-second squeal.
Few announcers in sports have gotten as emotional as Blackhawks announcer Pat Foley, especially when Chicago goalie Murray Bannerman would make a fantastic save. Sometimes late at night in my deepest REM sleep, I can still hear Foley screaming “Bannerman!”
The Fog Bowl
It was New Year’s Eve 1988 and our Bears were hosting the Eagles in the NFC playoffs. Being the gambling fool I am, I thought taking the Eagles would be a good idea despite being a rabid Bears fan. A fool and his money are soon parted.
Tuning into the game on television, my friends and I quickly realized that either a second Chicago Fire was happening at Soldier Field, or there was an extremely dense fog enveloping the place. Lucky for the city, it was the latter.
Not wanting to have money on something I actually couldn’t see, I called my bookie back quickly and see if I could get off the game. But my boy Billy (the name has been changed to protect the innocent) was on the Eagles too and he tried to call his guy to see if we could get off of it but no-go Joe.
A bet is a bet.
The Bears ended up winning and covering and cost me $55, but the memories I got from that freak show were worth every penny. And I still have no idea what happened because nobody, even the announcers, saw a blessed thing.
Jordan Jumper Kills Cavs
Stop reading if you don't want to hear this one again, Cleveland.
I wonder what Clevelanders think is worse, Jordan's jumper on May 7, 1989, or LeBron James leaving with “The Decision”?
Anyway, it was Game 5 of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs in Cleveland and it all came down to one play: a last-second Jordan jumper to send the Cavs to the golf course.
This one never gets old and Jordan’s emotions after what became “The Shot,” are epic.
And that shot helped give the Bulls and Jordan the confidence they would need to start overtaking the Pistons in the east and begin winning those six titles. A classic.
May 17th, 1979: Phillies 23, Cubs 22
It was May 17, 1979, and me and my father walked over from his Lake Shore Drive apartment to catch this game on a windy day in the Windy City. I remember saying, and I kid you not, “I hope we see some offense today,” about halfway there.
Thanks for listening, God.
The Phillies jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the top of the first inning, which lasted about as long as The Godfather. The Cubs responded with six in their half of the inning and the crowd at Wrigley Field knew we were going to be there for awhile.
Dave Kingman launched three home runs for the Cubs, but Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt put the cherry on the 11-pound sundae with a 10th inning home run as the Phillies won, 23-22. (No, I didn’t bet the under).
And the kicker? I was so hungry at the end of nine innings (the games lasted four hours and three minutes) that I went to get a hot dog and Schmidt jacked the game-winner. Truly the luck of the Irish.
Jordan Jumper Wins 1998 NBA Title
My favorite memory is a simple choice.
Jordan’s jumper in Game 6 of the NBA Finals to beat the Jazz in Salt Lake City. The Bulls were trailing 86-85, and although it’s quite evident MJ pushed off his man to create the space for the shot, it was still straight butter.
I can still see him holding that pose.
The game, which was played June 14, 1998, earned the highest television ratings of an NBA game in history. So Chicagoans and Bulls fans, enjoy the shot one more time. We’ll never see a player like Jordan come our way again.
Compiling this list wasn’t as hard as I thought, and leaving out memories like Ernie Banks’ 500th home run, Disco Demolition Night at the old Comiskey Park, the Steve Bartman game and William “Refrigerator” Perry’s touchdown catch versus the Packers and his Super Bowl rushing touchdown against the Patriots as well as that lone Super Bowl win was tough, but these are the things that stick out to me to this day.
If you have favorite Chicago sports memories of your own, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.
So God, can we please have a couple more meaningful memories before we die? We can apparently now FedEx Gino's East pizzas to Heaven these days Big Guy. Pretty please.
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Kevin Stott has been a sports writer for Suburban Life in Chicago, the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s View Newspapers and Gaming Today and bleeds Bulls red and black when he’s not busy bleeding Chelsea blue or changing his cat Saki’s litter box.