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Top 100 sports stories of the century

One hundred years of winning and losing, excellence and inadequacy, brilliance and stupidity, moments in sports we will always remember and those we are unable to forget. We can only imagine the future; we can relive the past. A century -- 36,525 days and nights of sports -- is drawing to a close. For the remainder of the year, we are looking back at events that left us shaking our heads in disbelief, wonder and shame.

Follow the countdown to the top sports story of the century. A new story is added each day. Post your comments on the series in a special guestbook.

No. 1
A foot in the door
Before President Truman integrated the armed services in 1948, before Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954 decreed public school segregation unconstitutional, before the first federal Civil Rights Act in 1957 -- before Rosa Parks, before Martin Luther King Jr. -- there was Jackie Robinson.

No. 2
Ali's toughest foe: the Army
Boxer's battle with the U.S. government made him a villain to some and a hero to others.

No. 3
Terrorists turn '72 Munich Olympics into bloodbath
Eleven Israeli athletes are killed during daylong siege. Airport shootout also leaves 5 captors, 1 policeman dead.

No. 4
Owens spoils Hitler's party
Jesse Owens breaks records, debunks Aryan superiority.

No. 5
Louis pounds German, Nazis
At least for a moment, Joe Louis' KO of Max Schmeling bridges color barriers in America.

No. 6
'Do you believe in miracles?'
U.S. hockey team achieves a miracle on ice by shocking the Soviets in a Cold War conflict at the 1980 Olympics.

No. 7
Oh, Henry! Aaron swings past Ruth
He overcomes racism, death threats in quest to become baseball's king of home runs.

No. 8
Mac, Sosa chase, surpass Maris
In the end, when he hit his 70th home run of the season off Carl Pavano, the Montreal pitcher was merely a cipher, the final notch on Mark McGwire's belt.

No. 9
Back from baseball, MJ wins one for dad
Michael Jordan was an amalgam of emotions -- ecstasy, pain, grief, fulfillment.

No. 10
Black Sox scandal: Chicago throws 1919 World Series
The 1919 Chicago White Sox had Eddie Cicotte and Lefty Williams, superb pitchers. And slick-fielding Chick Gandil at first base and workhorse Buck Weaver at third. And outfielder Shoeless Joe Jackson.

No. 11
Bambino's curse begins as Red Sox trade Ruth
Faneuil Hall could have been sold or the Old North Church or Fenway Park itself and Bostonians would have been no more shocked.

No. 12
Soviets given 3 shots to snatch Olympic gold
It was ours. We invented it. And nobody was going to beat us at our own game. Not if we had anything to say about it.

No. 13
Secretariat proves he's a unique breed
Realistically speaking, the 1973 Belmont Stakes wasn't a horse race -- unless you count the four thoroughbreds racing for second place. This third jewel of the Triple Crown was the coronation of Secretariat as the greatest race horse of all time.

No. 14
Thomson hits the shot heard 'round the world
Brooklyn was different then. It was not New York. The Giants were New York. The Dodgers were Brooklyn. They and the borough had an identity all their own. Every war movie, you could be sure there was a soldier or sailor nicknamed Brooklyn, to whom "dese," "dem" and "dose" were pronouns.

No. 15
Bannister stuns world with 4-minute mile
For years, the 4-minute mile was considered not merely unreachable but, according to physiologists of the time, dangerous to the health of any athlete who attempted to reach it.

No. 16
Beamon jumps into record book
As with most events in track and field, the long jump is measured -- and records are broken -- by fractions of an inch, by centimeters, which is what made Bob Beamon's feat (and, yes, feet) at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics that much more remarkable.

No. 17
'Greatest game' launches a league
Good timing -- and a great finish -- turn the NFL Championship into the stuff of legends.

No. 18
Black sprinters raise fists for civil rights
Tommie Smith's medal was gold.

No. 19
Texas Western changes face of college athletics
The Miners' all-black starting five beat all-white Kentucky to win the NCAA men's basketball title.

No. 20
King wins tennis' Battle of Sexes
It was supposed to be exactly what it turned out to be -- equal parts tennis and carnival.

No. 21
Move aside Babe, Maris mashes 61st
When Roger Maris swung, Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard winced and stared at his shoes. Umpire Bill Kinnamon said to himself, "Well, there it is." Catcher Russ Nixon looked over his shoulder at Kinnamon and said, "That's it; he's got it."

No. 22
No joy in Mudville, and no World Series
It was as much an annual fixture on the U.S. landscape as Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July. Come October, baseball would crown a new champion in a World Series.

No. 23
Namath, Jets make statement for AFL
To much of America, and certainly to the NFL, the American Football League was somewhere between a minor league and a joke.

No. 24
Nicklaus becomes 46-year-old Master
He was too busy, they said. Too vain. And worst of all, too old. Jack Nicklaus, golf's cognoscenti proclaimed, never would win another tournament -- any tournament, much less a major.

No. 25
Tennis great Ashe says he has AIDS
The revelation, thrust upon the world by an overly aggressive and injudicious media, hit with the force of an overhand smash.

No. 26
Ripken passes Iron Horse
When the record fell, when Cal Ripken Jr. played his 2,131st consecutive game and could finally supplant Lou Gehrig as baseball's Iron Horse, he still treated the occasion as just another night at the office.

No. 27
Gibson breaks racial barriers with tennis wins
Althea Gibson becomes first black to take Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles.

No. 28
Positive tests strip runner of Seoul gold
Ben Johnson defeats Carl Lewis, but quickly loses distinction as world's fastest human.

No. 29
Maz's ninth-inning homer gives Pirates Game 7 Series win
The grainy black-and-white movie shows leftfielder Yogi Berra slowing to a halt, looking up at Forbes Field's ivy-covered wall, waiting for the ball to bounce back to him, waiting to hold Bill Mazeroski to a double. Maybe even to a single.

No. 30
Canada mourns for Great One
You could call it the day Canada was devalued.

No. 31
'Luckiest man' bids farewell to baseball
It is the most famous farewell in baseball.

No. 32
Long count allows Tunney to keep title
Jack Dempsey's fist crashed into the champion's jaw. This was his chance. He waded in and Gene Tunney crumpled to the canvas. In 10 seconds, it appeared, Tunney would be counted out and Dempsey would be heavyweight champion again.

No. 33
Harding, Kerrigan are linked forever by skating incident
"Win at any cost" has long been part of the dark side of sports.

No. 34
Mr. October lives up to star billing
Three homers on three pitchers seal Reggie Jackson's spot in record books.

No. 35
Woods' win a major step for minorities
As he walked the final fairway at Augusta National, Tiger Woods finished trampling tradition and history every bit as much as he was running roughshod over the rest of the field at the Masters.

No. 36
Curse makes dramatic return
One more out and the Curse of the Bambino would be just another myth. One more strike and the Boston Red Sox would be World Series champions.

No. 37
Palmer rules Open in record comeback
When Arnold Palmer won the Masters at Augusta National in April, he set his sights on the United States Open.

No. 38
Dazzling Flo-Jo wins three golds
The first things you noticed about Florence Griffith Joyner at the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics were her jumpsuits and exotic fingernails -- assuming, of course, that you could see her long enough to notice anything.

No. 39
Rats! Fisk's homer
It was more than a moment made for television. It became a moment made by television. There had been more dramatic and meaningful home runs before Carlton Fisk's 12th-inning shot in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. There have been more dramatic and meaningful home runs since.

No. 40
Larsen brings word 'perfect' to Series
By the fifth inning, some of the fans were beginning to think "no-hitter."

No. 41
Gibson limps off bench, homers
It was life imitating art.

No. 42
Hayes stood tallest in battle of big men
Record crowd sees Cougar stop Alcindor, end UCLA's streak

No. 43
'The Catch' lands a spot in NFL lore
There are instances in which no names, no teams are required to conjure up the most vivid recollections of a moment and its participants.

No. 44
Immaculate Reception begins Steelers' rebirth
The rule was very clear. No two receivers could touch the football in succession on the same play; a defensive player had to touch it between the two for the second receiver to make a legal catch.

No. 45
Laettner's shot stuns Kentucky
Christian Laettner's jumper as time expires gives Blue Devils NCAA East title.

No. 46
Wooden retires after 10th title
UCLA gives Wizard of Westwood a grand sendoff by beating Kentucky 92-85.

No. 47
Dolphins cap NFL's lone perfect season
Miami defeats Washington 14-7 to win the Super Bowl and finish 17-0.

No. 48
California's win beats the band
Kevin Moen runs through Stanford's band on final play to cap improbable victory.

No. 49
Two-horse race an Affirmed delight
Once again, as in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, it looked like an eight-legged, two-headed horse charging down the stretch at the 1978 Belmont Stakes.

No. 50
Borg tops McEnroe in marathon match
It was tennis' equivalent of the Ali-Frazier Thrilla in Manila. On the well-worn grass of Wimbledon's center court, two heavyweights slugged it out for 3 hours, 53 minutes until only one remained standing.

No. 51
Didriksen offers dominating preview of future greatness
The headline in the St. Petersburg Times said it all:

No. 52
The world's first perfect gymnast
The silence was broken only by the sounds of clicking -- hundreds of cameras capturing the moment.

No. 53
Sarazen soars on double eagle
One of Augusta National's most legendary shots vaults "The Squire' toward victory.

No. 54
All he touches turns to gold
Mark Spitz sweeps Munich Games with seven gold medals.

No. 55
Gathers collapses, dies during game
One moment, Hank Gathers was producing the kind of thunderous dunk that brings basketball fans to their feet. The next moment, he lay on the court, dying.

No. 56
4,192: Rose takes throne as Hit King
He stepped into the batter's box in the bottom of the first inning and assumed his trademark crouch that told you it could only be Pete Rose.

No. 57
Point-fixing scandal rocks college game
There was an innocence, at least on the surface, to college basketball in the 1940s. Yes, there was gambling on it, but except for a couple of minor incidents the game itself seemed untainted.

No. 58
Perfect finish vaults Retton to U.S. first
The competition for the Olympic individual all-around gymnastics gold is a maelstrom of activity, with uneven parallel bars, floor exercises, balance beam and vault competition going on simultaneously.

No. 59
Joyner-Kersee puts on finishing touch
With the right 800-meter effort, the heptathlete wins in world-record fashion at Seoul Games in 1988.

No. 60
Vander Meer pitches second no-hitter in row
The attraction was lights, Brooklyn's first night game at home and, like moths to a flame, the fans flocked to Ebbets Field to see the Dodgers play the Cincinnati Reds.

No. 61
Three years later,it's LeMond again
Finally back after a hunting accident, the American overtakes Laurent Fignon for his second Tour de France victory.

No. 62
Thorpe becomes 1st Olympic star
Dubbed the world's greatest athlete, Jim Thorpe wins the pentathlon and decathlon at Stockholm.

No. 63
A snowbound U.S. discovers NASCAR
Millions of Americans trapped by a snowstorm tune in to a thrilling -- and combative -- Daytona 500.

No. 64
O.J. runs to 2,003 in the snow at Shea
Simpson surpasses Jim Brown's NFL record, then overtakes a once-unthinkable milestone.

No. 65
Valvano, Wolfpack fulfill title dreams
Jim Valvano is running wild, not knowing which way to turn next, looking for somebody to hug

No. 66
Magic wins first duel against Bird
Johnson leads Michigan State over Indiana State to win NCAA title.

No. 67
Fight night turns into bite night
Mike Tyson's career takes an absurd turn when he bites Evander Holyfield's ears.

No. 68
49ers' Joe Cool comes through
Joe Montana launches 92-yard drive that gives San Francisco its third title of the 1980s.

No. 69
Lopez brings LPGA attention, respect
The rookie was so good, America couldn't help but notice.

No. 70
The Drive secures Elway's legacy
John Elway had a basic game plan: "We don't look at the situation. We look at what we can do about the situation."

No. 71
Free-agency era opens in baseball
A panel shoots down Reserve Clause; players peddle their services for the first time.

No. 72
Johnson's win breaks boxing's racial barrier
Jack Johnson had to go to Australia to become first black to win heavyweight title.

No. 73
Flutie's 'Hail Mary' shocks Hurricanes
Doug Flutie throws his 48-yard TD pass with no time remaining that gives Boston College a 47-45 victory at the Orange Bowl.

No. 74
Slam finishes off Hogan's comeback
Ben Hogan wins the British Open to complete his return to the top of his sport.

No. 75
Nelson's win streak worthy of the ranch
Hall of Famer authors golf's most remarkable season, highlighted by 11 victories in a row.

No. 76
Lewis golden boy of '84 Olympics
The record -- four track and field gold medals in one Olympics -- had stood for 48 years, since Jesse Owens won the 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump and 4x100-meter relay in front of Adolf Hitler, exposing the Nazi lie of Aryan superiority.

No. 77
Wimbledon suits Martina ... again
When it was over, when Martina Navratilova had set one record and equaled another, she sighed a breath of relief and said: "So I finally won a tournament. There were plenty of doubters out there, but I wasn't one of them. I had beaten myself a few times, but it wasn't going to happen here."

No. 78
Hubbell shuts down AL's best
Carl Hubbell struck out 1,678 batters in his 16-year career with the New York Giants. Here are five who didn't count toward that total.

No. 79
Ryan pitches 7th no-hitter at 44
Most pitchers his age had long ago become ex-pitchers. But Nolan Ryan wasn't most pitchers. He was unlike any other.

No. 80
The 'Splendid Splinter' slugs his way past .400
Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak was only half of what would become one of baseball's most remarkable seasons. When the streak ended -- and the Yankees were well on their way to winning the 1941 American League pennant by 17 games over Boston -- the fans' attention turned to Ted Williams, star of the Red Sox.

No. 81
Defensive wizardry stopped DiMaggio
Two fine plays by Indians 3B Ken Keltner ended Joltin' Joe's hitting streak at 56.

No. 82
Chamberlain scores 100 points in game
Wilt the Stilt wasn't thinking about hitting triple digits, just making his free throws.

No. 83
Budge finishes a clean sweep
Don Budge is the only American man to win tennis' Grand Slam in a calendar year.

No. 84
Johnson world's fastest human
At the '96 Atlanta Games, Michael Johnson blows past the world record in the 200 with an incredible 19.32.

No. 85
'Hand of God' beats British
Diego Maradona scores two goals, including one that he appeared to make with his left hand, for Argentina in the World Cup.

Monica Seles grimaces after being stabbed on April 30, 1993. [AP photo]
No. 86
Disturbed fan stabs top-ranked Seles
Trauma of the attack kept Monica Seles off the tennis court for more than two years.

No. 87
Sweetness runs to the record books
Walter Payton surpassed Jim Brown against the Saints to become the NFL's career rushing king.

No. 88
Ederle crosses the the English Channel
When Gertrude Ederle made her swim in 1926, it had social and historical impact.

No. 89
Country's mad dash wins it for St. Louis
Enos "Country" Slaughter scores from first as the Cards beat Boston in the '46 Series.

No. 90
Earthquake jolts California, puts Series on hold
It was going to be a World Series that, frankly, would draw most attention from northern California while the rest of the nation observed less passionately the neighborhood fight between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics.

No. 91
Jones hits peak, then walks away
Alexander the Great cried when he had no more worlds to conquer.

No. 92
'Little Mo' becomes first female player to win tennis Slam
Even though an injury forced her to retire at 19, Maureen Connolly won nine major titles.

No. 93
Strike left void on Sunday afternoons
The NFL was replaced by reading and recreation. And fans struggled to deal with all the free time.

No. 94
Tilden's talents were untouchable
Tennis star of the '20s won 10 major titles and led the United States' Davis Cup team to seven consecutive championships.

No. 95
Conner and Liberty surrender the Cup
For the first time in series history, the America's Cup was in foreign hands.

No. 96
Grange gallops into status of legends
In one day against Michigan, the Illini's star cements his spot in the public consciousness.

No. 97
'Wrong Way' Riegels takes off into history
Cal's captain loses his bearings and almost scores for the opposition in the Rose Bowl.

No. 98
Behind gimpy Reed, Knicks make stand
Hobbled captain inspires club to '70 title.

No. 99
Ruiz found out she can't run from the truth
It was a legitimate question posed by Bill Rodgers, who had just won his fourth Boston Marathon. The woman beside him, a laurel wreath atop her close-cropped hair, was Rosie Ruiz, who had just won her first.

No. 100
'Heidi' game remains best you never saw
Jets-Raiders debacle in 1968 changed way sports are broadcast. 

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© Copyright 1999 St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.

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