Top 300 Moments that Shaped Major League Baseball: 60-51
51. Jim Bouton writes Ball Four
On the surface, Ball Four by Jim Bouton shouldn’t have registered more than just a blip on the radar of baseball books. It was written by a mediocre pitcher about his 1969 season playing for the Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros; not the most enticing material. There’s one catch, though. Bouton also included reflections back to his days pitching for the New York Yankees when players like Mickey Mantle, Billy Martin and Whitey Ford were on the team. Bouton didn’t just spin tales of Mantle’s long home runs and Ford’s mastery on the mound. He went into explicit details of womanizing, drinking, amphetamine use and other negative things about the sport that had been kept quiet for decades. It was the first time a player went on record sharing these stories. It drew an incredibly negative reaction in the baseball world and was even disparaged by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. However, in time, the book is now seen as transcendental and is considered perhaps the most influential book written by any athlete.
52. Brooklyn Dodgers win 1955 series
The Dodgers and Yankees were the top rivalry in baseball from the late 1940s through the 1950s. The two teams met in the World Series six times between 1947 and 1956 and some of the game’s greatest players were featured in those games. Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Duke Snider, Sandy Koufax and Jackie Robinson were just some of the legends that took part in those games. For nearly all of those series, the Yankees got the best of the Dodgers. The one exception was the 1955 World Series when the Dodgers finally broke through for their first World Series win. In a classic seven-game series, the Dodgers took the deciding game 2-0 behind a shutout from Johnny Podres and two RBIs by Gil Hodges. It would be the only World Series the Dodgers won while playing in Brooklyn.
53. Enos Slaughter‘s Mad Dash for Home
The Boston Red Sox endured so many collapses and blown chances in the later part of the 20th Century that fans may not realize The Curse of Babe Ruth had been victimizing Red Sox teams for decades before. One the more visible times they were victimized was in the 1946 World Series on a play dubbed Enos Slaughter’s Mad Dash for Home. With Game 7 of the World Series tied 3-3, Slaughter was on first with two outs in the eighth. Harry Walker executed a hit-and-run single to center and Slaughter never stopped running. He blew right through the stop sign at third and probably would have been out with a good throw home. However, shortstop Johnny Pesky delayed making the relay throw home, perhaps surprised that Slaughter was even making an attempt for the plate. The throw was late and weak and the run ended up being the decisive run in the World Series. The Sox would then have to wait 58 more years to win the World Series.
54. Reggie Jackson hits three home runs in World Series
Of all the great performances in World Series history, Jackson’s historic 1977 series is clearly among the best. Jackson’s three-home run performance in the series-clinching Game 6 is the signature moment of the series, and perhaps Jackson’s career. However, what is overlooked is that Jackson actually hit four home runs on four consecutive swings against four different pitchers over two games. He had a four-pitch walk in his second at bat mixed in among the home runs as well. Jackson became the first person to hit three home runs in a World Series game since Babe Ruth did it twice in 1926 and 1928.
55. Carl Hubbell strikes out five consecutive Hall of Famers
Hubbell had so many incredible accomplishments in his career, but his most significant performance came in a game that didn’t mean anything in the standings. In the 1934 All-Star Game, the young Hubell showed off his unhittable screwball at its best when he struck out five future Hall of Famers in succession. He set down Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Al Simmons, Jimmie Foxx and Joe Cronin in order in a moment that isn’t just one of the great moments in All-Star Game history, but a is a moment considered one of the most impressive accomplishments in any game ever played.
56. Boston Red Sox win 2004 World Series
On October 27, 2004, one of the two preeminent curses in Major League Baseball came to an end when the Red Sox closed out a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in a dominant four-game sweep to win their first World Series since 1918. On the way to winning that World Series, the Red Sox became the first team to overcome a 3-0 series deficit in any postseason series when they rallied to beat the Yankees in the ALCS.
57. Nolan Ryan throws his 7th no-hitter
On any given night, Ryan’s stuff could be so electric that he could overmatch any hitter in the game. Seven times in his career he was so great that he dominated his opponents to the tune of a no-hitter. Ryan blew past Sandy Koufax’s record of four no-hitters when he threw his fifth on September 26, 1981 and then added on to that total from there. He threw his seventh and final no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 1, 1991 at the age of 44.
58. Barry Bonds hits 73 home runs in 2000
Sure, Bonds was on steroids and put up numbers that would have been totally unapproachable during other circumstances. That doesn’t mean that his 73-home run season in 2000 should be viewed with much less historical significance. Perhaps the most incredible part of Bonds’ 2000 season was that he hit 73 home runs despite being walked 177 times. As a result, he had just 476 official at bats. Bonds’ season was so remarkable that Sammy Sosa hit 64 home runs and drove in 160 and it practically gets lost in the shuffle.
59. Bob Gibson‘s 1968 season
Gibson has the reputation for being one of the fiercest competitors to ever take to the mound and the 1968 season was the pinnacle of his Hall of Fame career. Gibson roasted the National League to the tune of a 1.12 ERA. It was the lowest ERA since Dutch Leonard recorded a 0.94 ERA in 1914 during the Dead Ball Era. Gibson also led the National League with 13 shutouts and 268 strikeouts. At one point, Gibson hurled shutouts in eight out of 10 starts. This historical season is on the short list of the greatest pitching seasons in Major League history.
60. Ken Burns’ Baseball
Award-winning documentarian Ken Burns is a huge baseball fan, and for that, the baseball community should be thankful. Burns had already created a fantastic documentary on the Civil War when he decided to take on another major project: telling the history of Major League Baseball from start to finish. Divided into nine parts (appropriately labelled “innings”), the documentary used never-before-seen footage from the early game and the insight of baseball historians as he told the tale of the game from its pre-1900 days straight on through to modern times. He even added a “10th inning” addendum in 2010 to bring the documentary up to date. The final product is the most detailed, well-received documentation of the history of the sport.
Coming tomorrow: Top 300 Moments the Shaped Major League Baseball 50-41.
For a more in depth look at some of these moments, as well as interviews with 50 former Major League players, you can read Constantino’s book 50 Moments that Defined Major League Baseball.