Nothing beats the drama of sporting competition. Legendary players and fabled coaches provide fans with immortal moments that live forever.
Many of the most treasured moments in sports have been accompanied by equally epic calls – some on radio, some on television. Here are ten of the most classic calls in history.
On October 14, 1985, Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith came to bat with one out and nobody on in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 5 of the NLCS in St. Louis. The switch-hitting Smith was batting from the left side of the plate against Tom Niedenfuer, the Dodgers right-handed closer, in a tie game. Although a slick fielder [Smith won 13 Gold Gloves in his hall of fame career], Ozzie was a career .262 hitter who had never homered in over 3,000 big league at-bats as a lefty. In storybook fashion, Smith drilled a 1-2 pitch from Niedenfuer off a concrete pillar behind the right field wall at Busch Stadium for a walk-off home run and a 3-2 series lead. “Smith corks one into right, down the line! It may go!” said Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck. “Go crazy, folks! Go crazy! It’s a home run! And the Cardinals have won the game…by the score of 3-2…on a home run by the Wizard! Go crazy!
“Do you believe in Miracles? YES!” It is difficult – if not impossible – to not feel something when hearing those six words. In the late 70s and early 80s — in the midst of the Iran Hostage Crisis and soaring gas prices, Americans felt they were being bullied abroad. At the 1980 Winter Olympics, that spirit would be further tested as the Soviet Union hockey team – arguably the most talented ever assembled – took to the ice on American soil at the height of the Cold War. On a Friday night in February 1980, the biggest upset in the history of team sports took place in Lake Placid, when Team USA downed the Russians, 4-3. Broadcasting only the second hockey game of his career, the then-35-year-old Al Michaels was on the call: “Eleven seconds, you’ve got 10 seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game…” The United States went on to win the gold medal in the Miracle on Ice, voted the top sports moment of the 20th century.
On September 28, 1960, two sporting icons collaborated to produce one of baseball’s most spine-tingling moments. On an overcast, damp afternoon at Fenway Park in Boston, Ted Williams played his last game. In the last of the eighth inning, Williams strode to the plate for the final at-bat of his career. Following a two-minute standing ovation, the Splendid Splinter stood in against Baltimore’s Jack Fisher. With one out and nobody on, Williams ran the count to 1-1. The legendary Curt Gowdy, the radio voice of the Red Sox, made the call. “Jack Fisher into his windup, here’s the pitch. Williams swings, and there’s a long drive to deep right. That ball is going…and it is gone! A home run for Ted Williams in his last time at bat in the major leagues.”
In 1998, Michael Jordan drilled a jumper over Byron Russell in the dying seconds of Game 6 of the NBA Finals to beat the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City. It was Jordan’s last shot as a Bull, his last basket, his last game and the franchise’s last championship – the Three-Peat Repeat. Still the highest-rated NBA game in television history, the Bulls trailed by one when MJ drained the shot with five seconds left. Bob Costas, who was calling the game for NBC, considers it the top call of his career. “Jordan…open…Chicago with the lead!”
In Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, the Boston Red Sox were one out away from winning their first championship since 1918. With the champagne on ice in their visitors’ clubhouse, Boston took a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the tenth against the New York Mets. The BoSox got two quick outs, then allowed the Mets to tie it on three straight hits and a passed ball. With two out and Ray Knight at second, Mookie Wilson came to the plate. On the tenth pitch of the at-bat, the Mets centerfielder tapped one along the first base line, which Bill Buckner turned into the most infamous miscue in baseball history. “Little roller up along first…behind the bag,” called Vin Scully. “It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight, and the Mets win it!”
On Thanksgiving Friday 1984, the defending national champion Miami Hurricanes hosted Boston College in an epic contest in the Orange Bowl. Trailing 45-41 with six ticks left on the clock, BC quarterback Doug Flutie called “55 Flood Tip,” sending all of his receivers to the end zone for a desperation heave. In a play that has come to be known Hail Flutie, the soon-to-be Heisman Trophy winner scrambled right, then threw from his own 37 yard-line to the goal line. Despite a 30 mph headwind, the ball still traveled over 60 yards in the air as Brent Musburger made the call. “Three wide receivers out to the right…Flutie flushed…throws it down…CAUGHT BY BOSTON COLLEGE, I don’t believe it! It’s a touchdown! The Eagles win it!
In January 1973, heavyweight champion Joe Frazier met upstart challenger George Foreman in Jamaica in a fight billed as the Sunshine Showdown. Smokin’ Joe came in as the favorite but it quickly became apparent that Foreman was the dominant boxer. Just two minutes into the first round Forman hit Frazier with a right uppercut that sent the champ to the canvas as Howard Cosell called the action. “I think he hurt Joe Frazier. I think Joe IS hurt. Angee Dundee, Ali’s trainer right next to me is saying it. You may hear him. Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!
In the final round of the 2005 Masters, Tiger Woods held a one-stroke lead over his playing partner, Chris DiMarco, as they stood on the 16th tee. After Woods put his approach shot in the left rough at the 170-yard Par 3, he faced a seemingly impossible chip, a shot CBS analyst Lanny Wadkins described as one of the toughest pitches on the entire course. “Here it comes,” Verne Lundquist told viewers from his perch behind the 16th green. “Oh my goodness,” Lundquist continued as the ball trickled toward the hole. As is choreographed by Nike, the golf ball hung on the edge of the cup, logo showing – before tumbling in. “Oh! Wow! In your LIFE have you ever seen anything like that?” It was the most iconic shot of Woods’ career. He would go on to beat DiMarco in a playoff to claim his fourth career Green Jacket.
On October 3, 1951, the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers met for the deciding game of a three-set tiebreaker series to determine the National League pennant. Game 3 was held at the Polo Grounds, where the Dodgers took a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth. After Brooklyn starter Don Newcombe allowed one run on three hits, manager Charlie Dressen replaced his ace with Game 1 starter Ralph Branca, who was working on one day’s rest. With runners on first and second, Giants third baseman Bobby Thompson took Branca deep, belting the The Shot Heard ‘Round the World and a broadcasting moment for the ages, delivered by Giants radio broadcaster Russ Hodges. “It’s gonna be, I believe…The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!…And they’re going crazy! They’re going crazy!
The most famous radio call in basketball history came from Boston Garden April 15, 1965. Late in Game 7 of the 1965 Eastern Conference finals, the Celtics’ lead had shriveled to 110-109. Philadelphia had possession of the ball with five seconds left with a chance to win the game and the series. Sixers hall of famer Hal Greer lobbed an inbounds pass to Chet Walker when Boston’s John Havlicek jumped into the passing lane. “Greer is putting the ball in play,” barked the legendary Johnny Most. “He gets it out deep. Havlicek steals it. Over to Sam Jones. Havlicek stole the ball! It’s all over! Johnny Havlicek stole the ball! Havlicek tipped the inbounds pass to Jones, who dribbled out the clock as fans poured onto the court. The Celtics would go on to capture their seventh consecutive NBA championship.