Founded way back in 1903, Major League Baseball is by far the oldest of North America’s four main pro sports associations. It’s also witnessed its fair share of historic sporting moments during its century-spanning history. From mid-game bust-ups to record-breaking players, here’s a look at 20 of the most unforgettable.
20. Mike Trout makes history
Mike Trout practically hasn’t stopped breaking records since the Los Angeles Angels drafted him in 2009. The Millville Meteor is the second youngest player ever to receive the All-Star Game MVP, and in 2014 he recorded the highest number of strikeouts ever to happen in a MVP season. But Trout’s arguably most memorable feat came in the 2016 All-Star game, as he became the inaugural MLB player to get a hit on his first plate appearance in five successive games.
19. Roy Halladay’s no-hitter
The late Roy Halladay also entered the record books numerous times. He’s one of just six pitchers to receive the Cy Young Award for excellence in both the National and American Leagues. He’s also among the five pitchers to have thrown more than one no-hitters during a MLB season. His first came in his perfect game against the Florida Marlins in May 2010; his second, meanwhile, arrived six months later against the Cincinnati Reds when he dismissed eight batters with strike-outs and walked just one.
18. Jackie Robinson’s debut
Incredibly, it took nearly half a century before a black player was allowed to join the MLB. The Brooklyn Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson, who first showcased his talents in the segregated Negro Baseball League, was the man who paved the way when he walked out onto Ebbets Field in 1947. That same year he was crowned the National League Rookie of the Year, and in 1962 he was honored with a Baseball Hall of Fame induction.
17. Frank Robinson is appointed as the first black manager
Sadly, it took nearly another 30 years for a black man to take charge of an MLB team. Frank Robinson achieved the feat when he was appointed boss of the Cleveland Indians in 1975. And as manager, Robinson not only helped guide his team to a winning season, but he also did so as a player. His first game was made all the more significant by the fact that Jackie Robinson’s wife, Rachel, had the first pitch.
16. Babe Ruth’s called shot
Baseball icon Babe Ruth was renowned just as much for his trash talk as his skills on the field. But he put his money where his mouth was in the World Series of 1932 when he gestured towards the center of Wrigley Field. Ruth then propelled the ball above that exact same spot as he hit a home run. However, some believe that Ruth was actually pointing at Chicago Cubs pitcher Charlie Root.
15. The shot heard around the world
“The shot heard around the world” refers to the New York Giants’ Bobby Thompson’s winning three-run home run in the 1951 National League pennant playoff. It was given its nickname thanks to Giants commentator Russ Hodges’ highly excitable reaction to the unlikely victory. The Giants had been regarded as a lost cause earlier in the season before finding their form to beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in the definitive underdog game.
14. Lou Gehrig’s speech
Lou Gehrig left everybody speechless when he suddenly announced his retirement midway through the 1939 season. A few weeks later, the “Iron Horse” left everybody in tears when he gave an emotional farewell speech at Yankee Stadium. Gehrig described himself as “the luckiest man on the face of the Earth” in front of thousands of fans. And yet at the time, he was battling the disease ALS, which would lead to his death two years later.
13. Ripken breaks Gehrig’s record
Despite his forced retirement, the legendary Gehrig kept his record of successive games played for 56 years. It was eventually broken in 1995 by Cal Ripken Jr., who had started his streak back in 1982. In fact, the third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles didn’t just break the record; he went on to smash it. While Gehrig’s tally stood at 2,130, Ripken, Jr. clocked up an astonishing 2,632 games, eventually ending his run in September 1998.
12. Kirk Gibson’s winning home run
“I don’t believe what I just saw!” said broadcaster Jack Buck during the 1988 World Series’ first game. And viewers at home agreed. With injuries to both of his legs, a hobbling Kirk Gibson looked a sorry sight as he stepped up to the plate for the LA Dodgers’ match-up with the Oakland Athletics. And yet somehow Gibson still managed to guide his team to victory with a walk-off home run, while his fist-pumping celebration became the stuff of legend.
11. Enos Slaughter’s mad dash
Enos Slaughter not only guided the St. Louis Cardinals to the 1946 World Series, but he also introduced a new term into the baseball lexicon while doing so. The outfielder took advantage of the Boston Red Sox’s slow reaction time in the seventh game to score a winning run by coasting across the home plate. His move was subsequently dubbed “The Mad Dash.”
10. Dock Ellis throws no-hitter
A no-no may be a pretty regular occurrence, but the one that Dock Ellis threw in 1984 was truly special. That’s because the pitcher was high on his own supply during the whole game. And the reason? Ellis had taken LSD without realizing that he was pitched that same day. The sportsman later admitted that he’d been under the influence of one substance or another every time that he had thrown a ball.
9. Grover Cleveland Alexander strikes out Tony Lazzeri
Grover Cleveland Alexander also appeared to be intoxicated during the 1926 World Series between the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals. In fact, the pitcher was enjoying 40 winks when he was called upon in the seventh game. And Alexander made little impact with his first two pitches to Tony Lazzeri. But his third ended the inning, and after throwing a run-free eighth and ninth innings, he guided the Cardinals to victory.
8. Ventura charges Ryan’s mound
One of the sport’s most infamous brawls occurred during a 1993 game between the Texas Rangers and the Chicago White Sox. Having been struck by a pitch from the former team’s Nolan Ryan, the latter’s Robin Ventura charged the pitcher. He soon regretted his decision when Ryan grabbed him in a headlock and began hitting him. A watching George W. Bush bizarrely described the incident as “a fantastic experience for the Texas Rangers.”
7. Miracle Mets win World Series
The New York Mets may have been dismissed as a joke during their early years, but they had the last laugh in 1969. The team were 100-1 outsiders to triumph in the World Series at the start of the season. But after making it to the annual championship, the Mets stunned the Baltimore Orioles to win five games. Left fielder Cleon Jones later said, “Some people still might not believe in us. But then some people still think that the world is flat.”
6. Derek Jeter’s flip
The Oakland Athletics’ Jeremy Giambi looked certain to score a home run when the New York Yankees’ Shane Spencer threw an errant ball during a 2001 American League Division Series game. However, Giambi didn’t count on Derek Jeter’s quick thinking. The shortstop sprinted to pick up the ball and in the blink of an eye flipped it from his first base line position to Jorge Posada, who subsequently tagged out a disbelieving Giambi.
5. The first nighttime game
The game of baseball changed forever in 1935 thanks to the simple but pivotal move of staging a game in the evening. Even the White House got caught up in the moment when President Roosevelt was tasked with switching the lights on at Crosley Field. And the teams involved, the Cincinnati Reds and the Philadelphia Phillies, lived up to the occasion, too, with the former winning 2-1 in a faultless home game.
4. Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off home run
It’s fair to say that the 1960 World Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees ended with a bang. With the crucial seventh game tied at nine runs, the Pirates’ Bill Mazeroski stepped up to the plate and with a single swing of his bat secured victory for his team. It was the first time a walk-off home run had decided the World Series.
3. Denny McLain winning more than 30 games
In 1968 Denny McLain became the only pitcher in 34 years to win more than 30 games; Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean had been the first to hit those heights in 1934. And the Detroit Tigers legend achieved the feat in style thanks to a remarkable game against the Oakland Athletics at Tiger Stadium. McLain ended the season with a 1.96 ERA, having pitched 336 innings and 28 complete games.
2. Harvey Haddix’s incredible bad luck
Harvey Haddix must have broken a few mirrors in his time given the turn of events in a 1959 game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Atlanta Braves. The pitcher for the Pirates wasn’t expected to make much of an impression but surprised everybody when he threw 12 innings that could only be described as perfect. However, a fielding error from teammate Don Hoak in the 13th meant that Haddix ended up on the losing team.
1. Carlton Fisk waves the ball fair
The Boston Red Sox’s Carlton Fisk inadvertently changed how baseball was broadcast during the 1975 World Series. With the scores level in the sixth game against the Cincinnati Reds, the catcher hit a pitch that initially appeared to be heading for foul territory before it bounced off the foul pole. And Fisk’s reaction as he frenetically waved the ball fair became an iconic image and inspired cameramen to focus more on players’ reactions.