Top 300 Moments that Shaped Major League Baseball: 80-71
71. Roy Halladay NLDS no-hitter
When Halladay finally made his postseason debut, he made it count in the most dynamic way possible: he threw a no-hitter. Pitching Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS, Halladay spun a 4-0 no-hit win as the Philadelphia Phillies topped the Cincinnati Reds. The only other post season no-hitter came via Don Larsen in 1956. Halladay, who threw a perfect game earlier in the season, just missed his second perfecto as he walked Jay Bruce on a 3-2 pitch in the fifth.
72. Yankee Stadium demolished
As the financial aspect of Major League Baseball exploded to new heights into the new millennium, old ballparks across the country started to come down, replaced by state-of-the art stadiums with more premiere seating, wider concourses, fancy restaurants and luxury boxes. A few stadiums seemed to be immune to the new trends, such as Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium. Those parks were the home of so much history, how could anyone ever envision a baseball landscape without them? The unthinkable happened on August 16, 2006 (the 58th anniversary of Babe Ruth’s death) when ground was broke to signal the construction of a new Yankee Stadium. While the new park was being built, the old stadium still housed the Yankees for the 2007 and 2008 seasons. On September 21, 2008, the final home game was played at the stadium and on May 13, 2010, demolition was completed on the cathedral in the Bronx.
73. Jack Morris Game 7 start in 1991 World Series
When talking about the top clutch pitchers of the 1980s and 1990s, Morris’ name is always near the top of any list. Game 7 of the 1991 World Series is exhibit A in the case. Having already made two previous starts in the series, Morris went out for the first pitch and would not leave the mound until the game was decided. Although Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly has been on record saying he wanted to remove Morris multiple times, the Twins starter always convinced his skipper to leave him in, and each time Morris delivered. The last time was going out for the top of the tenth inning of a 0-0 game. Morris set the Atlanta Braves down in order and when Gene Larkin’s single drove home Dan Gladden, the Twins had a World Series title and Morris had a 10-inning shutout in one of the greatest Game 7’s ever pitched.
Major League All-Star Games are just exhibitions, but sometimes they have implications that extend beyond most regular season games. The 1949 All-Star Game was one of those times where the game transcended the sport itself and spoke to a bigger topic. Robinson debuted in the majors in 1947, but it took until 1949 until him, and other black ballplayers, made their first All-Star Game. Along with Robinson, Newcombe and Campanella represented the Brooklyn Dodgers at the Midsummer Classic which was played at Ebbets Field. The fact that the American League won the game was inconsequential. What was important was that for the first time, fans voted a black ballplayer as a starter and the National League picked two more black ballplayers as substitutes.
75. 1971 World Series
The 1971 World Series featured a number of Hall of Famers and pitted the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Baltimore Orioles, who boasted four 20-game winners that season. With players like Roberto Clemente, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson and Willie Stargell leading the way, the series was a showcase talent that kept fans riveted through the entire seven-game series. With the series tied at three, Game 7 came down to pitching. The matchup was Steve Blass for the Pirates and Mike Cuellar for the Orioles and neither disappointed. The Pirates held a tenuous 1-0 lead into the eighth on a fourth-inning solo home run by Clemente and tacked on another run in the eighth. The Orioles scored one in the bottom of the eighth to make the score 2-1, but couldn’t score anymore as the Pirates won the series behind Blass’ masterful complete game. Three of the seven games were decided by one run, including Games 6 and 7.
76. Smoky Joe Wood breaks his thumb
When you think of the immortal pitchers of the early 20th Century, the names Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson and Cy Young come to mind. That trio would have been joined by the Boston Red Sox Smoky Joe Wood, had he not broken his thumb fielding a bunt in 1913. In his age 21 and 22 seasons, Wood combined to go 57-22 with a 1.96 ERA while throwing 60 complete games in 71 starts. However, his pitching career was sidetracked by the broken thumb and although he went 36-13 over the next three seasons, he just wasn’t the same again. Unable to pitch anymore, Wood became a position player instead and batted .298 over five seasons for the Cleveland Indians before leaving the game at the age of 32 in 1922.
77. Carl Yastrzemski‘s Triple Crown
The Triple Crown is one of the rarest feats in baseball, but it really wasn’t always that way. In the first 56 years of the 20th Century, the Triple Crown was achieved less than once every six years. A decade passed between Mickey Mantle’s crown in 1956 and Frank Robinson’s in 1966 and then Yastrzemski followed with a Triple Crown the very next year. He batted .326 with 44 home runs and 121 RBIs. From that point though, a major Triple Crown drought ensued and nobody accomplished the feat until Miguel Cabrera did so 45 years later.
78. Christy Mathewson learns the “fadeaway”
Dave Williams had about as nondescript a career as anyone could have. He pitched in three games, 18 1/3 innings total, in 1902 and was out of the game just that quick. However, he had a big hand in changing the course of baseball history. In 1898, Mathewson was just a teenager, on the precipice of a career that would make him one of the game’s immortals. Williams and Mathewson’s paths crossed and during that time and the two became friends. At some point, Williams taught Mathewson a new pitch he called “the fadeaway,” which was actually a screwball. Mathewson mastered the pitch and used it to become one of the great hurlers the game has ever seen.
79. Roger Clemens strikes out 20 in one game
Before he was known as an angry hurler bullying his way through baseball jacked up on steroids, Clemens was a highly-touted fireballer who skyrocketed through the Boston Red Sox system on the strength of his right arm. While he was impressive during his first season and a half, he really burst onto the scene when he became the first pitcher to strike out 20 batters in a game on April 29, 1986. Clemens had 18 strikeouts coming into the ninth and needed two more to break the record, which was a three-way tie between Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton and Tom Seaver. Clemens struck out the first two batters of the inning, Phil Bradely being magic number 20, before Ken Phelps grounded out for the final out of the game. Incredibly, Clemens matched the feat 10 years later and was joined by Kerry Wood, who matched the feat in 1998.
80. Willie Mays makes “The Catch”
Mays is on the short list of the greatest players to ever play the game and the catch he made against Vic Wertz in the 1954 World Series is the signature play in his career. With Game 1 of the series tied 2-2 in the top of the eighth, New York Giants manager Leo Durocher brought in relief pitcher Don Liddle to pitch to Wertz with runners on first and second. The Cleveland Indians star blasted a shot an estimated 420 feet to dead centerfield, directly over Mays’ head. Because the Polo Grounds centerfield wall stood approximately 483 feet away, there was a ton of real estate for the legend to cover. Everyone has seen the play dozens of times. Number 24 making an incredible dash with his back turned to the infield and as the centerfield wall started getting closer, Mays pounded his glove reached out and made the catch, stopped on a dime and wheeled and heaved the ball back to the infield. Mays himself has said he’s made a number of better catches in his career, but none were as visible at the time and none had the enduring legacy of “The Catch” in the 1954 World Series.
Coming tomorrow: Top 300 Moments the Shaped Major League Baseball 70-61.
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.