Monday, February 21, 2011

My Ten Most Exciting Sports Wins

Dwight Hardy Sinks Pitt
From The Top Ten Corner:

We’ve all witnessed some exciting sports events over our lifetime. For the most part I’ve witnessed these events through television. Recently, however, I was fortunate enough to be at the World’s Most Famous Arena for a fantastic game of college hoops where my St. John’s Redmen took a huge step in regaining their rightful place among the Big East elite. Knowing full well that this victory may prove fleeting, I give you my favorite top ten sports victories.
February 19, 2011 turned out to be one of the most exciting days in my personal sports history. Long dormant and facing a continuing death spiral to permanent mediocrity, The St. John’s Redmen returned to glory with a storybook ending to a 40-minute battle with 4th ranked Pitt. In a season filled with shocking St. John’s wins, most notably blowout wins over Duke and hated UCONN, the piece de resistance was this victory made possible by Dwight Hardy’s no look, over the shoulder, all net, teardrop lay in that give SJU the win with only 1.2 seconds left on the clock.

October 26, 1986 - "Little roller up along first; Behind the bag! It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight and the Mets win it!" I can remember the setting like it was yesterday. I was sitting next to my brother in law at his house in Manhasset. The Mets were facing seemingly unavoidable elimination to the Red Sox as they were down by two with none on and two outs in the ninth. John turned to me and said “sorry Johnny, wanted them to win it for you.” I replied, “it’s not over yet.” While I hadn’t given up hope, doubt was certainly raging inside me. Then Gary Carter hit a flare to left and Kevin Mitchell singled to center. Series MVP Ray Knight singled home Carter with Mitchell moving to third. Mookie Wilson did a world-class limbo move to avoid getting hit by a wild pitch and in the process allowed Mitchell to score. Thus the scene was thus set for the most famous error in baseball history and the permanent tarring of Bill Buckner.
Feb. 22, 1980 – The Miracle on Ice: USA over USSR. A real David verses Darth Vader, feel good story. This was after all the original Evil Empire – a well-earned moniker. Of course the good guys verses evil Russians only give the back drop to the greatest Olympic win in US history, this was hockey. In a period when the USSR hockey team routinely bested the NHL’s best, what hope did America’s rag tag bunch of collegians have? With the fresh image of Soviet tanks pouring into Afghanistan and as a result, some real heat in the Cold War, this was definitely an optimal time for the home team to rise up. After a solid opening 2-2 draw against Sweden (which I had to listen to on AM radio), Team USA shocked the Czechs 7-3 en route to a trip to the medal round and the match up against the Evil Empire. Unlike most climatic endings where the good guys win as time is expiring (i.e., SJU over Pitt), the USA took a 4-3 lead with ten minutes left – meaning we had to endure 10 minutes of the worst tension conceivable as USA tried to hold off the rampaging Russians (who undoubtedly were doing everything in their power to win and thus avoid a one way ticket to a Siberian Gulag). Team USA held on for the greatest win in US Olympic history and thankfully the value of this win was preserved when the Americans woke-up in time to beat the Finns in the Gold medal game.

January 26, 1985 - #2 SJU over #1 Georgetown. Long a good team, this St. John’s team had the makings of a great team. St. John’s was led by the best player in basketball, Chris Mullin. There was a super solid number two in recent transfer Walter Berry. They were joined by a very good center in Bill Wennington, high flyer Willie Glass and a good point guard in Mike Moses who was doing his best to keep a great point guard on the bench in Mark Jackson. The only problem for SJU was that for the past 3 years, Patrick Ewing had lead a dominant Georgetown team and they was fixed at the top of the polls at #1. The game was on the road at Landover Maryland and St. John’s increased its ten-point half time lead to 18 with 11 minutes left. It turned out that SJU needed every point of that 18 point lead as Georgetown charged back to cut the lead to 1 with 5 seconds left – but that was it as Chris Mullin held the ball out of bounds as the final seconds ticked off the clock (a move permissible at that time). It was not the prettiest game, but it was a nice birthday present for my 13 year old brother Joe, as the 66-65 victory allowed St. John’s to ascend to #1 in the polls for a fantastic month long stretch.

October 15, 1986 - Mets Game 6 victory over Houston – overshadowed by game 6 of the ’86 World Series, game 6 of the NL playoffs was a far more intense ordeal. It was also the crescendo of one of the greatest series in sports history. I was at Shea for Lenny Dykstra’s 2 run walk off homer to win game 3, but that game paled in comparison to game 6. By the fall of 1986, Houston’s Mike Scott was unhittable. Therefore, it was no surprise that Houston prevailed in game 1 (1-0) and game 4 (3-1) of the playoffs. So while the Mets led 3 games to 2 going into game 6, with Scott set to pitch game 7, the reality was the Mets faced the rarely seen deciding game 6. Down 3-0 in the 9th, the Mets rallied to tie the game at 3. The Mets took a 4-3 lead in the 14th, only to see Houston tie the game with a solo homer off Jesse Orosco. Orosco remained in the game to take the mound after the Mets took a 3 run lead in the 16th. In a move designed to drive all Met fans to drink, Orosco then proceeded to allow Houston to score twice and place the winning runs on base before striking out Kevin Bass to seal the trip to the World Series and avoid a disastrous ending to the 108 win regular season.

May 24, 1980 - the Islanders game 6 OT win over the Philadelphia Flyers for their first Stanley Cup win. To set the table, the Islanders were one of the premiere teams in hockey during that period, but had yet to break through with a championship. Led by Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy and Denis Potvin, the Islanders finished first in the NHL in points in 1979, only to be vanquished by the hated Rangers in the Stanley Cup semifinals. The fact that the Canadiens sent the Rangers packing in the finals was of little solace. The 1979-1980 season was a disappointing one for Islander fans as the team seemed hung-over from the bitter playoff loss to the Rangers. However, the team hit its peak in the playoffs and reached the finals against the Flyers. Up 3 games to 2 when game 6 reached OT, the Islanders certainly did not want to risk another playoff failure, this time a potential bitter game 7 loss to the Flyers in Philadelphia. Strangers to hockey, the county got to see Bobby Nystrom get the Islanders their first of four straight Stanley Cups with his clutch OT goal live on the CBS Sport Spectacular – the last NHL game on broadcast TV until the 1990 NHL All-star game.

June 23, 2010 – The US soccer team defeats Algeria 1-0. The 2010 World Cup arrived with high hopes for the American team. Those lofty expectations were initially met when the US tied group favorite England on a Bill Buckner type goal allowed by the English goalkeeper. The US appeared to suffer a let down in its next match against Slovenia when they fell down 2-0. However, the Americans stormed back and appeared to take a 3-2 lead only to find out that the go-ahead US goal was disallowed for some unexplained reason. That 2-2 tie set up a must win match against Algeria. A tie would prevent the US from progressing to the medal round. The US would dominate the first half against Algeria, but through more questionable refereeing, the game remaining tied at zero. As the game wound down, the US remained stymied despite the continued domination of Algeria. The tension reached a crescendo when regulation ended and extra time commenced. Then in what seemed like a flash the game was won when Algeria pursued a rare scoring opportunity in the American end. Algeria’s break was easily turned away and a lightning American counter break ensued with Langdon Donovan feeding Jozy Altidore for a hard shot on goal. The Algerian goalkeeper could not control his save, which rolled right to Langdon who calmly popped the ball into the net for an historic American victory. The result was pandemonium in the White Plains NY sports bar where I went for a 10am lunch to watch the game. The entire pub exploded in cheers, hugs and chants of U-S-A! U-S-A! It truly was reminiscent of the miracle in Lake Placid.
October 9, 1976 - Chris Chambliss and the Yankees defeat Kansas City in game 5 – one of the biggest home runs in Yankee history ended perhaps the longest stretch of futility in Yankee history. While the Yankees did come up short against the Big Red Machine in the subsequent World Series, the excitement of Chambliss’ home run is hard to overstate. The fact that it was a walk off 9th inning home run to give the Yankees their first pennant in a dozen years was enough to create pandemonium at Yankee Stadium. As Chambliss rounded the bases he became more of a fullback than first basemen. I don’t think anyone knows how close he came to actually touching home plate as the swarm of people leaping from the bleachers and from all over the stadium coverged on the Yankee Stadium infield, turning into Times Square at New Year’s Eve.

October 23, 2000 - Jets over the Dolphins in the Monday Night Miracle. It’s hard to believe that I turned down tickets to that game. On the bright side, I made the pivotal decision to give the Jets one more chance to score and keep me watching when the score was 30-7 late in the third quarter. The Jets proceeded to score 23 unanswered points to tie the game and set up a historic win. But wait, as Lee Corso would say: not so fast sweetheart! The tie game lasted one play from scrimmage as the Dolphins finally responded with a Jay Feeley bomb to retake the lead. The Miracle would not be denied however, as the Jets turned to offensive tackle turned receiver Jumbo Elliott for the TD reception to send the game to OT where a John Hall FG gave the Jets the miraculous 40-37 win. I later heard a sad rumor of fans that left the game early, only to be trapped in the Meadowlands parking lot to hear the drama on the radio.
February 3, 2008 - Giants Super Bowl victory over the Patriots – As a Jet fan it is moments like this that I reap the benefit of not hating NY’s second team in whatever sport is at issue. Here it really helped that I hated the Patriots and did not want Bill Belichick to have a perfect season. The Patriots were 12-point favorites to complete only the second perfect season in modern NFL history. It was a pretty pedestrian game until the final two-minute drive that won the game and converted Eli Manning from a potential disappointment at quarterback to a Giant hero. Even within the final drive, to me the entire game will always be remembered for one play – Manning’s unconscious scramble to avoid a sack followed by a bullet high in the air that David Tyree was somehow able to grab and even more amazingly hold onto.


  1. I have to be honest John - not sure how I feel about an Islanders moment being on your list! :)

  2. Thought of you when I wrote that - so I made sure to make reference to the painful loss to the Rangers in '79!

  3. Appreciate that. If I was going to make my 10 most heartbreaking losses, the Isles beating the Rangers in '84 is far and away #1

  4. Nice, very nice I love your blog and your interesting posts. Thanks

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