Disclaimer: This list is written by a Dodger fan based in Los Angeles who will never set foot in the original Yankee Stadium, but recognizes the historical value of this venue, akin to another stadium that is close to his heart—the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Please note—this list is limited solely to sporting events.
10. 11/20/60, Chuck Bednarik knocks out Frank Gifford—This play took place a few months before I was born, but I swear I could feel in while still in the womb. OK, not really, but as far as knockout blows are concerned, this has to be one of the all timers.
Gifford is quoted later that it wasn’t a cheap shot saying, “If he wanted to, Chuck could have killed me.” He later added, "It was perfectly legal, if I'd had the chance, I'd have done the same thing Chuck did."
Gifford’s injury caused him to sit out the 1961 season. Frank returned in ’62, switched from running back to flanker (as the wide receiver position was known as at that time), and regained his pro bowl status at the new position.
Years later, no matter how annoying Howard Cosell could have gotten during the years Gifford and Cosell worked together on Monday Night Football, Frank could always tell himself Howard wasn’t that bad in comparison to Chuck.
9. 10/17/03, Aaron “F#@&ing” Boone—A game winning home run in the 11th inning of game seven of the AL Championship Series over their blood enemy, the Boston Red Sox, advance the New York Yankees to the World Series.
In the game that was to become Grady Little’s Waterloo, a tiring Pedro Martinez gets Nick Johnson for the first out of the eighth inning then allows four consecutive hits to tie up the game before Little removes him. Alan Embree and Mike Timlin stop the bleeding, sending the game into extra innings.
After recording a 1-2-3 tenth, Red Sox hurler Tim Wakefield’s first pitch in the 11th inning is belted by Boone into the left field seats and becomes another page of lore in this rivalry, just the kind of thing I would expect a good USC Trojan to do. And then, there is that special nickname Boone will always enjoy in Beantown.
8. 10/1/61, Roger Maris Hits 61st Homer—Maris eclipses Babe Ruth’s single season record for home runs despite intensely negative media coverage from reporters who do not want to see Babe Ruth’s record broken.
Hitting in the same lineup as Mickey Mantle, who made his own assault on the record in 1956 resulting in brickbats from the New York writers, Maris had an additional burden heaped upon him. Due to the 1961 season being an expansion season with new franchises in Los Angeles and Kansas City, the season is expanded by 8 games from 154 to 162.
With prodding from writers, MLB commissioner Ford Frick announced if the record was not broken in 154 games, there would be an additional entry for a 162 game record. Thus, the term “asterisk” entered sports lexicon.
Maris suffered from intense stomach pains and lost hair in clumps due to the stress the glaring media coverage created. Mantle, who also put up numbers placing him in pursuit to pass the Babe, missed the last part of the season after suffering a leg infection, leaving Roger alone in the chase.
On the last day of the season, before a little over 23,000 fans, Maris lined a solo homer in the fourth inning off Boston’s Tracy Stallard for the only run of the game. The Yankees went on to defeat the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series four games to one with Roger hitting a home run in the top of the ninth inning to win game three.
7. 12/28/58, The Greatest Game Ever Played—The NFL championship game for 1958 is the first league game to go into sudden death overtime, with Johnny Unitas leading his Baltimore Colts to victory over the New York Giants.
NBC’s broadcast of the game to a national television audience helps push the NFL into becoming the most popular professional sports league in the United States.
In a back and forth affair, Unitas drives his Colts 86 yards in the last two minutes to tie the game with a 20-yard field goal by Steve Myhra with only seven seconds left.
With players unsure what was going to happen next, the officials call the team captains out for another coin toss. The Giants win the toss to begin overtime but the Colt defense forces a punt.
Unitas again drives his team down the field, this time 80 yards in 13 plays and the game is punctuated by a one-yard dive into the end zone by Alan Ameche.
This contest featured 15 future hall of fame players and coaches; including Giants offense coordinator Vince Lombardi, defensive coordinator Tom Landry, and Colts head coach Weeb Ewbank.
6. 6/22/38, Louis vs. Schmeling—While Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany elbowed their weaker European neighbors, Joe Louis faced off against Max Schmeling in a rematch after Schmeling's victory from two years before.
Propaganda was being laid on thick as the Nazi Party was “explaining” how this was going to be another demonstration of one of their basic tenants—the superiority of the white man over the black man (conveniently forgetting the exploits of Jesse Owens two years earlier in the Berlin Olympics.)
So in addition to wanting to avenge his previous defeat, Louis would also be fighting for his race and his country.
Louis came out with furious combinations in a fight that lasted only two minutes and four seconds, knocking Schmeling down three times. Schmeling’s trainer ended the fight by throwing in the towel after the third knockdown.
There were some complaints of an illegal kidney punch coming from the Germans, but throughout the United States and most of the rest of the world, this fight was seen as a repudiation of the Nazis and their racially charged rhetoric.
5. 10/2/63, Koufax K’s 15 Yanks—Sandy Koufax, baseball’s best left-handed pitcher ever (at least in my book) sets a World Series record for strike outs in a single game by punching out 15 Bronx Bombers in the first game of the 1963 World Series.
Bobby Richardson whiffed three times with Tony Kubek, Tom Tresh, and Mickey Mantle fanning two times each. Pinch hitter Harry Bright was Sandy’s final victim, for the final out in the ninth inning.
Koufax scattered five singles and a home run by Tom Tresh, along with three walks for his complete game victory. The Dodgers Tommy Davis had three singles and Bill “Moose” Skowron had two RBI’s to go with two singles and an intentional walk.
In addition to handling Koufax, Dodger catcher John Roseboro cracked a three run homer in the second inning to help hang the loss on Yankee ace Whitey Ford. The Dodgers go on to sweep the Yankees in the first World Series match-up since the Dodgers made their move to Los Angeles.
4. 7/24/83, George Brett’s pine tar HR—Brett had just drilled a two out two run homer in the ninth inning off Yankee ace Goose Gossage to take a one run lead. So you can’t blame Billy Martin for trying to use an obscure rule to reverse the homer.
After the umpires confer, including measuring the level of pine tar on the bat along the front of home plate, they agree with Martin’s point and call Brett out for using illegal equipment.
The six foot Brett’s maniacal dash out of the dugout to confront six foot six inch umpire Tim McClelland is priceless, and topping the zaniness was the bat being stolen by that well-known manipulator of rules—Gaylord Perry.
In one of the few cases of a protest being upheld, MLB rules the home run valid and orders the game to be resumed at a later date. On August 18th the game resumed with pitcher Ron Guidry in centerfield and lefty first baseman Don Mattingly playing second base.
Different umpires were working the makeup portion of the game, and before play started, Martin protested Brett’s touching of the bases after his homer, figuring they could not have seen whether or not Brett did “touch them all”.
Umpire Davey Phillips was ready with a signed affidavit from the original crew affirming Brett did and the umpire eventually ejects the argumentative Martin.
The Royals bring in their closer, Dan Quisenberry, who sets down the Yankees in order in the bottom of the ninth and Kansas City wins the game by a 5-4 score.
3. 10/28/81, Dodgers Win Series in Six Games—For the first time in my baseball following life, the Los Angeles Dodgers win a World Championship title. Bob Watson flies out to Ken Landreaux to finish off a 9-2 victory and serve as a measure of revenge for the '77 & '78 fall classics.
Just like Tommy John at the time, I still cannnot believe Bob Lemon pulled him for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the fourth inning. I was extremely displeased when John left the Dodgers to join the Yankees, but have to this day great respect for the way he played and the dedication he showed in his rehabbing from the surgery that now bears his name. It is a travesty that Tommy John is not in baseball's Hall of Fame.
The Dodgers score three runs in the fifth off George Frazier then four more in the sixth against Ron Davis and Rick Reuschel to break open a tie game. Steve Howe relieves eventual winner Burt Hooton, and goes the last 3 2/3 innings for the save.
Dodgers Ron Cey, Steve Yeager, and Pedro Guerrero share the World Series MVP award, the first time the honor is given to multiple players.
2. 7/4/39, Lou Gehrig’s Farwell—The first prominent, and arguably still most heartfelt goodbye to a player, who’s career ended prematurely due to ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), which is now commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. It is an incurable and fatal neuromuscular disease that causes paralysis before the end.
Lou’s No. 4 jersey is retired during the ceremony, marking the first time a number is retired in Major League baseball history. Gehrig’s speech, in which he lays claim to being the luckiest man on the face of the earth, remains one of the most poignant moments in all of sport.
This tribute is immortalized by Gary Cooper in the starring role of the 1943 movie, The Pride of the Yankees, which featured a cameo by Babe Ruth. Worthy of being ranked number 1, except in the eyes of a Dodger fan because of...
1. 10/5/55, Dodgers win first World Championship—The jinx is finally broken, and the team who’s fans coined the term, “Wait until next year” have to wait no longer, for the Brooklyn Dodgers are finally champions of the baseball world.
Johnny Podres two-hit shutout of the Yanks in game seven seals Brooklyn’s first and only World Series victory. To do so in the home of their long time nemesis makes it even more sweet.
Podres scatters eight hits—including doubles from Bill Skowron and Yogi Berra—along with two walks. He struck out four Yankees.
The Dodgers open the scoring in the top of the fourth inning off Tommy Byrne, with Roy Campanella doubling down the left field line. After moving to third on a grounder by Carl Furillo, Campy is cashed in on a single to left by Gil Hodges.
In the sixth, Pee Wee Reese leads off with a single to center. Duke Snider lays down a sacrifice bunt and is safe when Yankee first baseman Skowron drops the throw. Campanella is up next and he sacrifices, moving the runners to second and third.
An amazing thing this is, two power hitting stars on their way to the Hall of Fame sacrificing in the middle of game seven of the World Series.
Up next is Furillo, who is walked intentionally to set up the double play. Bob Grim comes in to replace Byrne on the mound. Hodges lifts a fly ball to right-center that scores Reese and moves Snider to third. After a wild pitch and another intentional walk, George Shuba grounds out to end the Dodger rally.
The Yankees come back in the bottom of the frame. Leading off, Billy Martin walks, and then Gil McDougald lays down a bunt single. Yogi Berra is up next and he sends a fly ball deep down the left field line.
Sandy Amoros, who has just been inserted into the game for defensive purposes, stretches out his arm after a long run and the ball sticks in his glove. He fires the ball to Reese who relays it to first baseman Hodges for a backbreaking double play.
Phil Rizzuto and McDougald single in the eight, but Podres retires the next two hitters. A 1-2-3 ninth ends with Elston Howard grounding out to the Dodger captain, Pee Wee Reese, and victory finally comes to Brooklyn.