America's Pastime: Baseball's Most Historic Moments
There have been many great moments in Major League Baseball history. Heroic home runs, brilliant pitching performances, and record-chasing adventures have captivated baseball fans and non-fans alike for nearly a century.
So with that, I bring you some of my top moments in baseball history. These are personal choices, moments that for me transcend the game itself. These are just some of the reasons why I am the baseball fan that I am today.
I welcome any additional historic moments that may give you the same feeling as these do for me.
Patriot Act: Mike Piazza Goes Yard First Game After 9/11
September 11, 2001 was one of the most horrific days in American history. And for sure, baseball was not on the top of many individuals minds during that bleak time.
But just 10 days later, baseball in New York resumed, and the Mets were host to the Atlanta Braves. In the bottom of the eighth and Braves leading 2-1, Mets catcher Mike Piazza stepped to the plate with the potential tying run on base.
Then, in dramatic fashion, Piazza took an 0-1 offering from Steve Karsay to dead-center field—just like that, the Mets were on top 3-2. But perhaps more importantly, life in the Big Apple had a sense of normalcy and liberation with that one majestic swing.
Living in New York at the time and watching the game on TV, I was mesmerized. If Piazza hadn't found a place in New Yorkers hearts before then, he certainly did that evening.
If there's one player who Met fans would like to personally thank for his efforts, it may very well be Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner.
If he hadn't let Mookie Wilson's ground ball in Game Six of the 1986 World Series go through his legs, the Red Sox would've won the World Series.
It was a pivotal at-bat for Wilson in that faithful bottom of the 10th inning at Shea. With the Mets down 5-4, Bob Stanley chucked a wild pitch, allowing Kevin Mitchell to score, while Ray Knight moved over to second.
Wilson slapped the very next pitch down the first baseline, and well, the rest is history. The Mets won the game, came back to win Game Seven, and with that the '86 World Series.
Buckner's error was just another chapter in Boston's "Curse of the Bambino" encyclopedia.
"There's a new home run champion of all time, and it's Henry Aaron!"
Babe Ruth will forever be enshrined in baseball as the "Sultan of Swat." And for 39 years, he was the home run king with 714 career round-trippers.
But on April 8, 1974, (the second game of the season), the Atlanta Braves' Hammerin' Hank Aaron belted his 715th career home run off of Al Downing.
The landmark long ball tied the Braves-Dodgers game, 3-3, as if the score really mattered.
But what a statement Aaron made. In an era where African-Americans were battling for civil rights, this man was chasing a record set by someone regarded as an All-American hero.
Of course, Aaron's record (which ended with 755 career home runs) would last until 2007, when Barry Bonds would smash No. 756.
When Aaron passed the Babe, there was a shift in the game—one that would be forever written in the baseball history books.
Curse? What Curse?
A lot happened between 1918 and 2004, including two World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf War. Elvis Presley came and went. The US had 16 different presidents during the 86-year span.
But one thing that never occurred during that span was the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series.
Ever since they claimed their last championship in 1918, the Red Sox were supposedly cursed.
They sold Babe Ruth to the rival New York Yankees for $300,000. And names like Bucky Dent, Bill Buckner, and Aaron Boone only helped increase the frustration, which included four World Series Game Seven losses.
But in 2004 the curse finally came crashing down. Down 3-0 to the New York Yankees in the ALCS, the Red Sox seemed doomed to continue the losing tradition. But in stunning fashion, they came roaring back to win the next four games of the series, leaving the Bronx Bombers—and the rest of the world—in a state of shock.
The Sox went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in the Fall Classic, putting an end to a jinxed era that was followed by another title in 2007.
McGwire vs. Sosa: The Race for No. 62
In 1994, the game of baseball was tarnished with a strike—shortened season, which caused many casual fans to divorce themselves from the sport.
But just four years later, baseball came back to life.
At the center of the spotlight were then St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire and Chicago Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa.
By the end of June, each had hit over 30 home runs, and whispers of Roger Maris' 1961 season had begun—the race for 62 was on.
On September 8, 1998, the race was over, as McGwire launched a Steve Trachsel pitch over the left-field wall at Busch Stadium in the bottom of the fourth for his 62nd homer of the season to become the new single-season home run king.
Sosa actually tied McGwire five days later, hitting his 62nd home run off of Milwaukee's Eric Plunk. But Big Mac would regain the lead two days later and went on to hit 70 in one of the most exciting seasons in baseball history.
Sosa ended with 66, and took home the National League MVP honors that year. Baseball was back.
"1936: The First Class"
The year was 1936, and five of baseball's legends became the game's first Hall of Famers.
Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, and Walter Johnson opened the doors to Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
All five men have their plaques together at the end of the museum's Hall of Fame Gallery, with the inscription "1936: The First Class."
These five players paved the way for more than 200 players, managers, broadcasters, and other iconic members of the sport to be enshrined in Cooperstown—the mecca of all things baseball.
1999 MLB All-Star Game: Williams Shines at Fenway
With the 1999 All-Star Game being held at Fenway Park in Boston, who better to throw out the first pitch and grace the players, coaches, and fans with his presence than the "Splendid Splinter" Ted Williams?
At 80 years young, Williams came onto the field at Fenway in a golf cart, and wound up being surrounded by the games present-day greats, including Cal Ripken, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark McGwire.
It must have been absolutely thrilling to be chit-chatting with one of the greatest hitters ever to play the game. It was definitely something to watch, and it sent chills up and down my spine—and I was only watching it on TV!