Sounding Off: The Greatest Calls Ever

Sara HannonCorrespondent IFebruary 15, 2010

There have been many, many calls over the years. If you look at baseball's 2,430 games every year, you've got one, even two television broadcasts, and for conservative estimates, lets assume three radio broadcasts, every game.

That's five different takes on a game every time, bringing baseball's yearly total up to roughly 11,800 (taking into account national broadcasts and blackouts). That's Major League Baseball alone, but to look at the best calls you have to include the NFL, the NBA, hockey, college sports, and the Olympics.

I have done my level best to narrow these down to a more reasonable selection, and I can't find a way to put them in an order. So I'm just going to say this: there is only one I ranked, and it's because I don't believe it will ever be topped.

So we'll get that one out of the way.

The best call ever, not soon to be topped, is the 1980 US Hockey Team beating the USSR. The call made by Al Michaels, who was doing the game with former Montreal Canadiens goalie, Ken Dryden, is one of the greatest moments in sports history, and it is the best radio/tv call ever to grace the airwaves. 

So that's the hands-down No. 1, but I couldn't find a way to rank the others, so here they are in no particular order.

Music City Miracle

The call of this play is from Mike Keith and Pat Ryan on the Tennessee Titans Radio Network. With seconds left in the game, on the verge of elimination by the Buffalo Bills, the Titans pulled off a 75-yard touchdown from the kickoff.

Lorenzo Neal received the kickoff, handed it to tight end Frank Wycheck, and then threw a lateral that was ruled a lateral and held up under review but is still debated, to Kevin Dyson who took it all the way to the end zone.

Billy Mills

In one of the greatest Olympic upsets of all times, Billy Mills, a virtual unknown, defeated the heavy favorite Ron Clarke of Australia in the 1964 Tokyo games. Mills ran a preliminary race a full minute slower than Clarke.

In the final seconds of the 10,000 m. race, it was down to Clarke, Mohammed Gammoudi of Tunisia, and surprisingly, Bill Mills of the US. Clarke, the World Record holder, was the only one of the three that had ever ran the 10000 faster than 29 minutes and appeared to have the race in the bag.

In the final lap, Clarke got boxed in as the three lapped the other runners, after several seconds of pushing, Gammoudi surged ahead, and Clarke began pressing to keep up. Mills appeared too far back to catch either. 

Clarke never made it passed Gammoudi, but Mills sprinted past them both, winning the race and setting a new Olympic record of 28:24.4, 50 seconds faster than he had ever run before, to become the first American to ever win the 10,000 m.


Typically referred to as "The Play," on Nov. 20, 1982, the California Bears took on the Stanford Cardinals in Berkley, CA.

Stanford was down 19-17 late in the fourth quarter, John Elway lead the Cardinals down the field, converting on an amazing 4th-and-17 on their own 13, and managed to get in field goal range. The kick was good, and left only four seconds on the clock for the Bears to overcome the 20-19 Stanford lead.

After a 15-yard penalty on Stanford for excessive celebration, kicker Harmon squibbed the kick to Cal, who, due to confusion, had only 10 men on the field.

Cal's Kevin Moen received the ball inside the Cal 45, he lateraled the ball left to Richard Rodgers, ho gained only a yard before throwing behind him to Dwight Garner, who made it five yards before he was surrounded. Garner managed to pitch the ball back to Rodgers.

Believing the game was over, the entire Stanford band and several players ran onto the field in celebration.

Rodgers took the ball down to the Stanford 45, where he pitched it to Mariet Ford, who ran down to the 27 and lateraled back to Moen, who caught it on the 25 and charged through the band toward the end zone for a touchdown, running into trombone player Gary Tyrell and crushing his instrument in the process, and winning the game 25-20.

The call, made by Cal announcer Joe Starkey of KGO-AM 810, epitomized the excitement, shock, and confusion of those final moments.

I mmaculate Reception

Curt Gowdy had the call for the AFC Divisional Playoff fame between the Steelers and  the Raiders on NBC Dec. 23, 1972. In one of the most amazing and unusual moments in sports history.

Bradshaw, after nearly being sacked, chucks the ball down the field, Raiders safety Jack Tatum seemed in position to intercept the ball and end the game, but he collided with Pittsburgh half back Frenchy Fuqua, and the ball was deflected back. Running back Franco Harris caught the ball inches from the ground and ran it in for a touchdown to win the game for the Steelers

Jack Buck

He is on the list twice.

First, we have "Go Crazy Folks" in game five of the 1985 National League Championship series.

With the game tied at 2-2, Tom Niedenfuer was on the mound for the Dodgers, attempting to hold the game and force extra innings. Cardinals player Ozzie Smith came up to bat from the left with one out and no one on. He'd never before hit a home-run from the left side of the plate until he took a Niedenfuer fast-ball out of the park, winning the game for the Cardinals (they would eventually take game six and go on to the World Series).

Second, we have "I don't believe what I just saw!" In the 1988 World Series, the Oakland A's took on the LA Dodgers. In the ninth, A's Closer Dennis Eckersley came on to hold Oakland's 4-3 lead. After getting two quick outs, Eckersley waled pinch-hitter Mike Davis, hoping to avoid him hitting a game-tying home run, and thinking that the on-deck batter, Dave Anderson, a .249 hitter, would be a much easier out.

Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda made a switch, sending the hobbled Kirk Gibson, not Dave Anderson, to the plate. After fouling off several pitches, including one that dribbled down the first base line, it was clear that Gibson was hurting badly and couldn't run.

He fouled off a few more pitches before taking ball three as Davis stole second. Gibson took a moment and stepped into the batter's box. The three-two pitch was a backdoor slider that Gibson took into the right field bleachers to win the game.

The sight of the injured Gibson rounding second pumping his fist is one of the most famous of all time. Jack Buck was calling the game for CBS radio and went on an excited and amazed rant after the home run, making it one of the most memorable calls in the game.

Garret Harley's Game Winner

The New Orleans Saints took on the Minnesota Vikings and Brett Favre in the NFC Championship game Jan. 24, 2010. Though the Vikings were heavily favored and they out-gained the Saints in yardage, five turnovers (including one late interception on a drive in the fourth quarter) helped the Saints stay in the game and sent it into overtime.

In the previous 42 years, the Saints had only one two playoff games, and had never been to the Super Bowl. In OT, the Saints marched down the field and got into field goal position.

Garret Hartley, the Saints' young, inexperienced kicker, didn't fold under the pressure. The kick was good, and Jim Henderson, the radio voice of the New Orleans Saints, calls the game with as much emotion as you will ever hear in a football game.

Havlicek's Steal

One of the greatest moments in NBA history, and one of the game's greatest calls.

In game seven of the 1965 NBA Eastern Division Finals, the Boston Celtics lead the Philadelphia 76ers 110-109 woth five seconds left. Hal Greer was set to inbound the pass for the 76ers, and possibly lead them to a victory. Havlicek was guarding Chet Walker, his back to Greer.

When the ball was inbounded, Havlicek (nicknamed "Hondo") whirled and tipped the pass to Sam Jones of the Celtics and the rest is history.

The call remains one of the most famous calls of all times. It was made by legendary Celtics radio broadcaster Jonny Most, who called games for the Celtics from 1953-1990.

"Back to Foulke..."

It is appropriate that we not only have legendary Jack Buck on this list, but also his son, Joe Buck, calling the games for FOX in the World Series in 2004. While there were many great moments that led up to this (Robert's Steal, Mueller's single, Papi's walk-offs, Schilling's ankle, yada yada yada) there is no greater call than at the final out of the World Series.

Keith Foulke, the Red Sox closer, was on the mound, two outs, and Cardinals short-stop Edgar Renteria up at bat, game four of the World Series with Boston leading the Series 3-0.

The last hope for the Cardinals taps one back to the mound, a quick flip over to first and that's the game. Eighty-six years of misery, over, and ever Red Sox fan under the age of 90 was celebrating. 

It's a great moment and a great call.

Shot Heard Round the World

You knew this was coming. The game-ending home run by New York Giants outfielder Bobby Thompson off Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca to win the National League pennant on Oct. 3, 1951. Russ Hodges made that famous call in WMCA-AM radio for Giants fans. It remains one of the greatest moments in MLB history and is considered one of the games most memorable calls.

Here is a montage video of these great moments


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