The Top Ten Moments In Sports (Tony’s Edition)

In chronological order, here are the top ten moments in sports… according to my memory and excitement level.

Labeling things as “the best” and putting together top ten lists is arbitrary and completely subjective, but it also gives people a look at what makes up someone else – why do they think certain things, what makes them feel certain ways, how are the similar/different from me?…

Preface:  As this is a baseball blog, you can bet that there will be some baseball moments.  As I played hockey through college, you can also bet there will be some hockey moments.  Will there be much else?  Who knows?…

October 26, 1991:

Game 6 of the World Series.  I was 7 years old and in that perfect age group to be totally submerged in anything baseball.  But to have my local team playing for their second World Series in 4 years?!

There was no bigger sports hero in Minnesota in the 90s than Kirby Puckett.  He was the underdog, the loyal superstar, and on this date, he was the man who put his team on his back.  The Twins tied the series thanks to his heroics, and on the next day…

October 27, 1991:

Game 7 of the World Series.  Minnesota’s own, Jack Morris, pitches one of the best games in World Series history, capping off what I hold to be the best series in all of sports (and some legitimate sports writers have also argued this point).  Again, to be 7 years old and have your team win the World Series… in dramatic fashion?!  Amazing.  To have your parents let you stay up to watch?  The best.

August 4, 1993:

Not all top moments have to be pleasant.  Case in point: Robin Ventura – my childhood favorite – gets his ass handed to him by a future Hall of Famer who is 20 years older than him!  I remember on two occasions my dad coming into my room to wake me up in the morning and telling me about how Nolan Ryan just pitched another no-hitter.  This time, he came in to tell me that my favorite guy tried to fight Nolan Ryan… and lost.

It’s sad, because no matter how great of a player Robin was (and he was amazing, look up his awards and his ranking on all-time grand slam leaders), most people will still remember this fight over all the rest.  Fear not, though, this is not the last Robin moment on the list.

March 8-9, 1996:

High school hockey?!  If you live in MN you understand, if not, know this: they sell out the same arena used by the professional team for the high school hockey tournament.  If you play hockey (and there is a large number of us who do/did) in the state of MN, you dream of playing in this tournament.  I can still remember numerous spring breaks coinciding with tournament time and being able to watch hockey games all day.

So what makes this so special?  It was a 5-OT game (longest in state tournament history) against one of the best high school hockey scorers in history… and the goalie ended up getting the better of him.  As a kid, I hoped beyond hope that each game would go into OT, and that the OT would then stretch numerous periods.  It worked a few times, getting bonus hockey AND the ability to stay up late, but nothing was as good as this game.

EDIT: The Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament is the true March Madness.

September 8, 1998:

We would later question the ethics of what happened in the summer of ’98, but for the time being, we didn’t care.  Was it obvious, in retrospect, that the best hitters in the game were juiced?  Sure.  But I have mentioned numerous times the ethics of baseball in the times before the “steroid era.”  Quite simply, the game I loved, one I was starting to master and become semi-advanced at (being 14 at the time) was coming off of a terrible work-stoppage – the lack of a 1994 World Series proves this – and the game needed something to gain back the fans.

Mark vs. Sammy, Cardinals vs. Cubs, and CARDINALS VERSUS CUBS!  Not only did the two men who were on pace to break a sacred 37 year-old record play in a heated rivalry, the two teams actually faced each other on this record-setting night.  Like much of America, I watched that night.  I even wrote myself a note (which I still have) and placed it in my baseball card folder, detailing the time at which it took place.

January 17, 1999:

The buzz was everywhere.  The state of Minnesota knew, and the country was even confirming it on outlets like ESPN, that the 1998 Minnesota Vikings were one of the best teams in the history of the NFL.  Heck, there were parody songs on local radio that had been playing for weeks about how the Vikings were “Going to Miami”.  The Super Bowl was a given; winning the franchise’s first was closer to a reality than the yearly illusion…

Until things utterly unraveled against the Falcons in the NFC Championship game.  Gary Anderson, who hadn’t missed a kick all year, missed his first (an eventual game winner).  Denny Green takes a knee before settling for OT… with one of the greatest offenses in history.  Vikings fans still feel the curse – I’m just glad I am not one.  Gone are the days of viewing football, but being surrounded by this hysteria made this the only non-baseball or hockey moment on the list.

October 17, 1999:

This is the happy story about Robin Ventura, one that New Yorkers hold onto dearly.  Stats and box scores be damned, Robin Ventura hit a walk-off grand slam to win the game in the bottom of the 15th inning against the Atlanta Braves.  As I watched this game, I had hoped in previous innings that my favorite would be the hero, but a simple single in the 11th and a flyout against the hated John Rocker in the 14th meant he was one for six on the night and the were down 3-2 in the 15th.

The Mets strung together a single and some walks to tie the game, then Robin came up to bat with one out.  Fearing a double play, but knowing it would just take a decent flyout to win it, I was on the edge of my seat.  Then Robin did what he did best, HIT GRAND SLAMS!  He only hit 294 home runs in his career, but 18 of those were grand salamis – tied for 5th most in the history of baseball.

…But his teammates mobbed him before he even reached second base.  The one run they needed had scored and the game was over.  The formality of scoring the unnecessary runs was deemed stupid, and Todd Pratt picked up Robin as the win became official.  In my heart, this is still a grand slam. Watch the tapes.

April 22, 2003:

If heartbreak is what Vikings fans felt in 1999, then I matched that feeling just 4 years later.  My favorite hockey player of all-time was Patrick Roy.  Even though I was a forward, I idolized Patrick.  I wanted to be a goalie, even though I knew I could never do what goalies do.  Seeing Patrick play and watching the Detroit/Colorado rivalry just brought up such raw emotions; it’s what makes me love hockey in a way I could never love baseball.

Most people in MN are Wild fans, but not me, I owned a Canadians Starter Jacket, then an Avalanche one when Patrick exited Montreal.  I had Colorado memorabilia and even wanted to live in Denver – though I had never actually seen/visited the area.  I even owned an Avalanche jersey, one I wore on that fateful day.

I’ll admit it, I had an attitude like Roy that day.  Wearing that jersey, I walked on campus knowing that all the other folks with Wild jerseys were going to be shedding their sweaters, while I could where mine to the Stanley Cup.

Shit.

I remember watching in horror, Andrew Brunette scoring on such a weak awkward goal.  I was stunned.  Patrick was stunned.  And the NHL had just seen its last game from the greatest goalie of all-time.

October 6, 2009:

I had said goodbye to the Metrodome two days prior, expecting Target Field to be the next destination for baseball after October 4, 2009.  But the Tigers and Twins played some polar opposite baseball at the end of September and the last series in October.  A funny thing happened, the best case scenario happened on October 4th, which led me to buy a ticket for a “winner take all” game 163.

The game was not just intense because it was a one game addition to determine who made the playoffs.  It was not nerve-wracking because the Twins last one (1-0) in Chicago the previous year.  It was insane because it was a close game and decided in extra innings!  Yep, 162 games weren’t enough to determine the AL Central, and 9 innings of a game 163 didn’t prove any better.

Finally in the 12th, the man who was least likely to be a hero became a legend.  Alexi Casilla drives in Carlos Gomez.  TWINS WIN!

July 15, 2014:

Sure, it was Derek Jeter’s last all-star game.  Sure, Mike Trout was the MVP.  And yes, Glen Perkins (Mr. Hometown Guy) got the save.  But even if all that didn’t happen and Matt Tolbert was the biggest name selected for the game, this would probably crack the top ten.  Why?  Because I attended my first ever all-star game.  I had prepared and played this scenario out in my head for months.  I didn’t know what to expect, but when the craziness of basically a week full of baseball ends, you appreciate what just happened.

Fan-Fest.  Futures Game.  Home Run Derby.  Red Carpet.  All-Star Game.

The entire experience was incredible; it was the first time in my life where I could enjoy it in my hometown.  (Being one years old the last time it was in MN made it difficult/impossible to remember.)

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