Ben Clanin, 23 Sports

As I’m sure anybody reading this column knows, UMBC pulled off one of the greatest upsets in not only college basketball history, but in sports period. It made for an incredible moment for sports fans everywhere. Watching the Retrievers dominate Virginia really got me thinking about this week’s column, so I decided to look back at some of the best moments in the history of America’s pastime, in no particular order.

Let’s kick it off by going back, way back, all the way back to 1932 when the Great Bambino called his shot at Wrigley Field in Chicago in the World Series. Babe Ruth pointed his bat out towards center field and allegedly told the catcher that on the next pitch he was going to launch a home run to that part of the ballpark. And on the very next pitch he did exactly that, he smacked his 15th and final postseason home run in his 41 postseason games. The Yankees would go on to win the game and sweep the Cubs in the World Series that year, and the Sultan of Swat would retire two years later.

Now we are going to fast forward about 15 years later, when the sport of baseball changed forever. The visionary executive of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey, decided to do something nobody had ever done before and signed the first ever African American baseball player to a Major League Baseball contract, and that man was none other than Jackie Robinson. Brooklyn signed Robinson to a major league contract only five days before the start of the 1947 season and he made his MLB debut on April 15 of that year. In his rookie campaign Robinson took home the Rookie of the Year award with a .297 batting average, 12 home runs, and 48 RBI’s. At the end of his career Robinson was a five-time all-star, won one World Series, won one National League MVP award, and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.

Alright so now we are going to look at the ‘80’s, game one of the 1988 World Series to be exact. The Los Angeles Dodgers were squaring off against the Oakland A’s, and the game looked all but over as the Dodgers were trailing one run in the bottom of the ninth with a runner on first, and with two outs manager Tommy Lasorda sent the injured Kirk Gibson to the plate for a pinch-hit appearance against an all but unhittable Dennis Eckersley. Gibson battled back from being down two strikes and sent Eckersley’s backdoor slider over the right field wall. Just thinking about the play, I can’t help but hear Vin Scully’s iconic voice in my head yelling into the mic, “In a year that has been so improbable…The impossible has happened!”. The image of Gibson limping his way around the bases, fist pumping all the way around is an all-time moment in baseball history.

Let’s bring it into the 21st Century, shall we? In 2001 the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks faced off in the World Series that went all the way to a decisive game seven in Phoenix. Bottom of the ninth, bases loaded for the D-Backs, and Luis Gonzalez, who had smacked an impressive 57 home runs in the 2001 season is headed to the plate. He was facing off against Mariano Rivera who is undoubtedly the best closer of all time, more men have walked on the moon, yes, THE MOON (12), than have scored against Rivera in the postseason (11). But with the infield drawn in in the bases loaded situation the slugger Gonzalez blooped a duck snort that would have been easily caught by shortstop Derek Jeter if he had been playing in his normal spot, and the D-Backs walked it off to win their first, and only World Series title.

For my next pick, I have to go ahead and be a bit biased here and indulge myself, but the 2011 World Series, game six is forever going to be one of the best World Series’ games ever played (and not just because I’m a huge Cardinals fan). Let me set the stage, in an 11-inning thriller in St. Louis the Cardinals had come back from down 2 runs twice, in two consecutive innings. David Freese tied the game in the bottom of the ninth with a two RBI triple. And then in the 11th inning the Redbirds were down again by two runs after a two-run blast by Josh Hamilton in the previous inning. Lance Berkman trimmed the lead to one with an RBI single before Freese came to the plate again. With two outs in the bottom of the 11th the Texas Rangers were one strike away from their first ever World Series Title. On the fourth pitch of the at-bat Freese sent a deep drive into center field that cleared the wall and landed on the batter’s eye. Amazingly the Cardinals won by a score of 10-9 in Game Six and went on to take the series the next night. I will never forget hearing Joe Buck with the call, “Freese hits it in the air to center… We will see you… tomorrow night.” Chills.

I suppose since I let myself put in Game 6 from 2011 in I need to balance it out with a moment in baseball history that I would like to forget, and my fellow Cardinal fans can agree with me on this one. But in 2016 the Chicago Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years, on the road, in game seven. In the bottom of the 8th inning the Cubs were holding on to a 6-4 lead, but Rajai Davis took fireballer Aroldis Chapman deep to tie the game up heading into the ninth inning. But in between the 8th and the 9th inning a rain delay caused about a 30-minute intermission, and the Cubs had a chance to regroup. In the top of the 10th inning Ben Zobrist drove in one run with a double, then Miguel Montero had an RBI single that loaded the bases. Heading into the bottom of the 10th the Indians were down 8-6 and Davis came up with another RBI hit against Chapman to make it 8-7, but it wasn’t enough. Michael Martinez grounded out weakly to Kris Bryant and the Cubs hoisted the Commissioner’s Trophy for the first time in over a century.

I’m telling you, I could write an entire book on the greatest moments in the history of baseball, I left off such iconic moments like Lou Gehrig’s speech, Willie May’s over the shoulder catch, Hammerin’ Hank Aaron’s 715th home run, and more. Maybe if there’s another crazy sports moment I might have to put together another list of iconic moments in baseball.