This list could be hundreds of pages long. Each Major League Baseball (MLB) season, over 1200 games are played – resulting in plenty of opportunities for iconic moments that capture the hearts of fans everywhere.
However, some moments are so iconic that even fans of rival teams admit they are impressed. This list will explore the five fan favorites!
2016: The Cubs Winning the World Series
In 2016, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series – breaking the “Curse of the Billy Goat” by beating the Cleveland Indians 4-3 in Game 7. This game was historic for many reasons, but most importantly, it ended the Chicago Cubs’ World Series drought, which had lasted for 108 years.
The Chicago Cubs had won their last World Series in 1908 and had not made it to the finals since 1945. Their win in 2016 ended the longest gap between championships that had ever been experienced by a North American professional sports team.
The team represented one of the two most prolonged drought periods by any MLB team, with over 176 seasons without a championship.
Tension had built during the series, with the Cubs losing three of their first four games. As they entered Game 7, which lasted ten innings, 40 million people tuned in to watch the game, with many believing that the odds were long for anyone making an MLB bet on the Cubs winning.
At the end of the four-hour game, the score was 8-7 for the Chicago Cubs, officially ending the curse.
The streets of Chicago were flooded with fans, with neighbors in Indiana reporting that they could hear the cheers from the Wrigleyville neighborhood. This win, and the series overall, has been considered by many experts as one of the best in MLB History.
1947: Jackie Robinson is Signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers
Founded in 1876, for the first 70 years of its existence, the MLB did not allow non-white players to be drafted, the exception being Moses Fleetwood Walker, who played for the Toledo Blue Stockings in the 1884 season.
Black players played instead for “negro leagues,” which lacked funding and many of the resources afforded to major and minor league white teams. However, teams began realizing the incredible, untapped talent of players like Jackie Robinson, Josh Gibson, and Larry Doby.
One of these teams was the Brooklyn Dodgers, who signed Robinson in 1945 – but forced him to play for their international team, the Montreal Royals, for the 1946 season in what was called “The Noble Experiment.”
One week before the official start of the 1947 season, Robinson was added to the Dodgers’ Roster, officially breaking the MLB color line. There were mixed reactions, both in the clubhouse and nationally.
However, when rumors spread of a league-wide strike and walkout if Robinson continued to play – National League President Ford Frick was reported to have said in response to the disgruntled players:
“I do not care if half the league strikes. Those who do it will encounter quick retribution. All will be suspended and I don’t care if it wrecks the National League for five years. This is the United States of America and one citizen has as much right to play as another.”
Robinson had to navigate great praise from some and threats of violence from others. However, he fought against all bias and became a crowd favorite. He was entertaining to watch, especially because he was a big fan of plays like “disruptive base running” and often used this tactic during games.
He even successfully stole six bases during the World Series games – including the controversial run at the 1955 World Series against the New York Yankees. His sheer talent, speed, and joyous nature made him one of the most beloved players of all time.
1988: LA Dodger Kirk Gibson’s World Series Run in Game 1
In 1988, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics faced off in the World Series, marking a great moment for California baseball.
LA Dodger Kirk Gibson was not supposed to play in the series, due to both of his legs being injured. However, during game one, at the bottom of the 9th with two outs, Gibson was called to bat.
In one of the most extraordinary moments in MLB and world series history, Gibson hit a walk-off home run, resulting in two additional runs for the Dodgers. Los Angeles won the game because of that hit, with a final score of 5-4.
Jack Buck was commentating on the game and fans all over the country heard him shout,
“I don’t believe what I just saw! One of the most remarkable finishes to any World Series Game…a one-handed home run by Kirk Gibson! And the Dodgers have won it…five to four; and I’m stunned, Bill. I have seen a lot of dramatic finishes in a lot of sports, but this one might top almost every other one.”
Though considered the underdogs in that World Series, the LA Dodgers went on to win in 5 games.
1985: Cincinnati Reds’ Pete Rose hits #4,192
In September 1985, the Cincinnati Reds were playing the San Diego Padres. In the 7th inning, outfielder Pete Rose stepped up to bat and hit his 4,192nd ball. This moment signified the official end to Ty Cobb’s record, which had lasted for decades.
Instantly, Rose became a household name and was celebrated for doing what many thought was impossible. Channel ABC’s Wide World of Sports named him Athlete of the Year in 1985. By the end of his career, he held the record for 200-hit seasons, at-bats, and games played.
1998: Kerry Wood’s Strikeout Game for the Chicago Cubs
Kerry Wood was drafted to the Chicago Cubs as a rookie in 1998. His performance struggled at the beginning of the season, and he was starting to falter on the mound.
On May 6th, the Cubs faced off against the Houston Astros, who were having a dynamite season and would eventually win over 100 games that year. Surprisingly, Wood took this all in his stride. With 122 pitches, he achieved 20 strikeouts, completely shutting down the game.
In the 140-year (or more) history of the MLB, only five games were recorded to have 20 strikeouts. This is compared to the 23 “perfect games” and 296 “no-hitters”, which are recognized by the MLB.
Wood’s performance, especially considering his rookie status, is one for the record books and is celebrated as one of the most awe-inspiring moments in MLB History.