To celebrate Pinnacle’s 20th anniversary this series will look back over the biggest moments from our most popular sports. These are the top 10 moments from the last 20 years of Major League baseball.
2014 Clayton Kershaw no-hitter
Unplayable. A word that perhaps gets overused at times, but on one night in June 2014 Clayton Kershaw gave a performance worthy of the title.
In 115 years of major league baseball there have been 283 no-hitters, but Kershaw’s was arguably the greatest the mound has ever seen. The Colorado Rockies had no answer for the Dodger pitcher’s dominance as he became the first player to record fifteen strikeouts without allowing either a hit or a walk.
Kershaw’s Game Score was a 102, the second highest in Major League history, and his “no-no” should become a record book mainstay.
2004 Dave Roberts steals base
The 2004 Boston Red Sox will forever be known as the team that broke the “Curse of the Bambino”, ending an 86 year wait for a world title. They swept their World Series matchup against the St Louis Cardinals, but it was the way they reached that series that will live long in the memory.
The Red Sox were facing elimination in the ALCS final, trailing 3-0 to their great rivals the New York Yankees with just three outs remaining. Mariano Rivera, one of the greatest closers in the history of the sport, was on the mound and it appeared as though the Red Sox would, once again, fall short after a season that had carried such promise.
Such situations often lead to the birth of an unlikely hero and, on this occasion, pinch-runner Dave Roberts was the man in the right place at the right time. Rivera walked Red Sox hitter Kevin Millar allowing Roberts to enter the game with the intention of stealing second base.
It’s important to remember just how close the Yankees were to a pivotal pickoff. A Rivera throw was just inches away from taking the speedster out before he could make use of his pace. The Yankee pitcher attempted three pickoffs before finally pitching high and outside into the glove of Jorge Posada. Posada’s throw to second base was a good one, but somehow Roberts beat the glove of Derek Jeter and was safe at second.
The crowd celebrated the stolen base as if it was a home run and you could sense that was the moment the tide truly turned in the series. The Sox went on to become the first and only team to win a postseason series from three games down and finally putting the curse to rest.
2001 Arizona Diamondbacks win the World Series
More men have walked on the moon (12) than have scored a postseason run against Mariano Rivera (11). An incredible stat considering Rivera has pitched in over 140 postseason innings. Of those 11 runs none was more momentous than Luis Gonzalez’s mishit to centre field.
The Arizona Diamondbacks were only founded in 1998 but reached the 2001 World Series against established baseball royalty the New York Yankees. A win would make them the fastest expansion team to win a World Series.
Despite giving up 95 years of franchise history to their opponents, the Diamondbacks found themselves 2-0 up early in the series. The Yankees recovered to tie the series up at 3-3 heading into game seven.
With 26 World Series titles to their name there was a sense of inevitably entering game 7, as the Yankees looked likely to continue the dominance they enjoyed around the turn of the century. They had won the previous three World Series whilst Derek Jeter, the newly crowned “Mr. November”, was in imperious form.
The Diamondbacks gave as good as they got however, culminating in Luis Gonzalez stepping up at the bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, against the greatest closer of all time from the most successful franchise in the history of the sport. All this in game 7 of his team’s inaugural World Series. Somehow he held his nerve to guide the ball to centre field and upset the established order.
The Yankees would not win another World Series until 2009.
2016 Chicago Cubs overcome the curse of the Billy goat
At times during their 110 year run without a World Series the Chicago Cubs really did seem to be cursed. From black cats to fan interference (the Steve Bartman incident alone is worthy of a spot on this list) the Cubs always found a way to lose crucial games.
With the chance to win their first title since 1908, the Cubs entered game 7 of the 2016 World Series on the edge of glory, but many fans expected something to once again go wrong. With Cleveland at bat at the bottom of the tenth the Cubs had two outs and a one-run lead, a perfect time for the curse to strike again.
Instead the Cubs held their nerve, securing a final out and starting a city-wide celebration. Could they do it again this year?
2001 The Derek Jeter flip
Truthfully you could fill this entire top 10 list with just Derek Jeter plays but this is the one that makes the cut.
The Yankees were two games down in the American League Division Series holding a slender 1-0 lead when the Oakland Athletics’ Jeremy Giambi rounded third base and headed towards home for the game-tying run.
An overthrow from Shane Spencer should have left Giambi comfortably safe at home plate but the Athletics hitter did not count on the intervention of Derek Jeter. The Yankee short-stop appeared out of nowhere to collect and flip a dart to catcher Jorge Posada, all at full sprint.
Posada did the rest (with the help of some excellent umpiring) and Jeter’s moment of brilliance turned the tide as the Yankees went on to win the series.
2001 Cal Ripkin Jr’s all-star game home run
Cal Ripkin Jr seemed ageless at times during his record-breaking Major League career but he entered his 19th consecutive all-star game knowing it would be his last.
Always a man for the big occasion, the future hall of famer struck a solo home run off Chan Ho Park’s first pitch of the game.
Ripkin Jr rounded the bases to a standing ovation and into an embrace from his teammates, many of whom grew up watching the Oriole legend. A fitting send-off for one of the all-time greats.
2003 Aaron Boone walk-off home run
“Two outs, bottom of the 9th, 3-2 count, Aaron Boone at bat … and you hit the home run”.
Aaron Boone lived every Little Leaguer’s dream with a walk-off home run to secure the Yankees’ place in the 2003 World Series. Add in the fact it came against the Red Sox and you begin to understand just how clutch that moment was.
Fans who attended that game claim the celebration as Boone rounded the bases was the loudest Yankee stadium had ever been. Boone’s home run has quickly become one of the most beloved moments in the history of the storied franchise.
2010 Galarraga and Joyce meet at home plate
Most of these moments celebrate excellence but this one begins with a mistake.
When Jason Donald stepped up to the plate the Detroit Tiger’s Armando Galarraga was just one out away from becoming the 21st pitcher in Major League history to throw a perfect game. Donald hit a soft ground ball and was tagged at first base securing Galarraga’s perfect game. Or at least that’s what should have happened.
Jim Joyce was consistently amongst the best umpires in all of baseball but he incorrectly called the runner safe, ending Galarraga’s chances of entering the record books. This was an unfortunate situation with no winner. At least until the two men created a positive from an event that didn’t seem to have one.
The day after the miscall Detroit sent Galarraga to home plate where he met a tearful Joyce. Joyce had admitted fault and apologised to Galarraga who placed no blame on the umpire. The whole incident ended with a pat on the back and a cheer from the crowd as Joyce’s honest mistake became a triumph of sportsmanship.
2003 Moneyball published
Sabermetrics lovers and doubters may disagree on the statistics, but both parties can surely agree on the significance of Michael Lewis’ Moneyball. The book follows Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s as they attempt to upset the established order in MLB through finding value in overlooked players.
Fifteen years, more than one million sold and a Hollywood movie starring Brad Pitt have given Moneyball a place in the mainstream, bringing Sabermetrics to a whole new audience.
2004 Ichiro Suzuki breaks the single-season hit record
In 1920 George Sisler set a single season hit record that, as the years went by, seemed to be insurmountable. Nobody since 1930 had reached within 24 hits of the mark as the modern game became less hitter friendly. Coaches utilised relief and specialist pitchers who had added breaking balls to their arsenal. Only three major single-season records had lasted longer than Sisler’s.
The record looked like one that would endure for many more years. That was until a young Japanese player arrived from Nippon Professional Baseball.
In 2004 Ichiro Suzuki drove a pitch up the middle to write his name in the history books. Sisler’s 81-year-old daughter was in attendance to applaud the new record holder.
Has your favourite moment made the list? Tweet @ to let us know what you think is the best MLB moment of the last 20 years.