Top 40 Chicago Sports Moments

CHICAGO’S GOT GAME: Spanning more than 100 years, the city’s 40 most memorable sports moments mix thrilling victories with agonizing defeats

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Top Chicago sports moments

To celebrate our magazine’s 40th anniversary this December, we name the 40 best records, restaurants, movies, and more

30. Getting a Grip
December 9, 1934
On the frozen turf at New York’s Polo Grounds, the powerhouse Bears led the Giants 10–3 and seemed poised to win their third straight NFL championship. But at halftime, the Giants changed into sneakers their equipment manager had scrounged from Manhattan College’s basketball team. Surer of foot in the second half, the Giants ran away with what came to be known as the Sneakers Game, beating the slip-sliding Bears 30–13. For more on the Sneakers Game, watch the video below:



29. Loving Cup
April 10, 1961
Making their first appearance in the Stanley Cup finals since 1944, the youthful Chicago Blackhawks defeated Gordie Howe’s Detroit Red Wings, taking the series in six games. A quintessential moment came at the Chicago Stadium in the second period of the third game, when the Hawks scored three goals in six minutes and 23 seconds—a barrage ignited by 20-year-old Stan Mikita off a pass from his 22-year-old teammate, Bobby Hull. With Glenn Hall—Mr. Goalie—minding the net, the Hawks had all the makings of a dynasty, but despite three more trips together to the finals by Mikita and Hull, the two superstars would never again hoist Lord Stanley’s cup.


28. Wowee Wedgie
August 9, 1953
Viewers of the first nationally televised golf tournament were treated to one of the sport’s most dramatic finishes when Lew Worsham—trailing Chandler Harper by one shot in the World Championship of Golf at the Tam O’Shanter Country Club in Niles—used a wedge to drive his ball 130 feet from the fairway to the cup for an eagle (and the tourney’s $25,000 first prize) on the course’s four-par, 410-yard 18th hole.


27. One-Man Team
November 23, 1935
Down 6–0 late in the third quarter at the University of Illinois’s Memorial Stadium, the University of Chicago Maroons turned to their captain, Jay Berwanger, who was playing his last game with the team. Wasting no time, Berwanger shook off five tacklers to return a punt 49 yards to the Illini one-yard line. Three plays later, he leaped over the Illini defenders, tumbled into the end zone for the touchdown—and then kicked the extra point to give the Maroons a 7–6 lead. That score would hold, and at the game’s conclusion, Berwanger’s teammates carried him off the field in triumph. Seventeen days later in New York, Berwanger became the first recipient of the Heisman Trophy (known then as the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy).


26. Special K
May 6, 1998
As rain fell in the ninth inning at Wrigley Field, Kerry Wood, the Cubs’ 20-year-old pitching phenom, threw a parabolic curve ball to the Houston Astros’ Derek Bell, who swung and missed. In only his fifth major-league start, Wood had just struck out his 20th batter of the day, tying the major-league record for a nine-inning game. Wood walked none and gave up just one hit, a weak infield grounder that could have been ruled an error. It was the most dominant and electrifying pitching performance ever at Wrigley Field. Watch Wood discuss his 20K game below:


25. Sweetness Indeed
November 20, 1977
Twenty years before Michael Jordan’s legendary “flu game,” Walter Payton approached the kickoff against the Minnesota Vikings feeling queasy after suffering from the flu for several days. Yet he pounded the Vikings for 275 yards, setting an NFL single-game record that would stand for 23 years. Sick as he was, Payton saved his best for the fourth quarter—a 58-yard burst that helped seal this performance as one for the ages.


24. City Series
October 9, 1906
In 1906, the Cubs won 116 games during the regular season—a record that still stands—and went on to face the White Sox, dubbed the “hitless wonders” by the Tribune’s Hugh Fullerton, in the World Series. But in the fifth inning of the first game—held amid snow flurries at the Cubs’ West Side Park (near Polk and Wood streets)—Cubs catcher Johnny Kling dropped a throw to the plate, allowing Sox third baseman George Rohe, a last-minute replacement, to score the game’s first run. The Sox went on to win the pitching duel 2–1 and ultimately triumphed over the highly favored Cubs in six games—just as Fullerton had predicted. For more on the Cubs’ Kling, watch the video below:


23. Bearing Down
December 29, 1963
Clinging to a 14–10 lead with just ten seconds to play in the 1963 championship game, the Bears were fighting to stop the New York Giants from scoring the go-ahead touchdown. That’s when the Bears’ Richie Petitbon intercepted a pass from Giants quarterback Y. A. Tittle—the defense’s fifth pick of the afternoon—assuring an end to the team’s 17-year championship drought. The Bears wouldn’t win another NFL title until the 1986 Super Bowl.


22. Net Work
March 22, 1958
Inside Huff Gym in downstate Champaign during the finals of the 1958 Illinois high-school basketball tournament, the Marshall Commandos, having fought back from a fourth-quarter deficit, took a 60–59 lead over the favored Rock Falls Rockets when Bobby Jones sank a one-handed jumper from 20 feet out. The undefeated Commandos, an all-black squad coached by Isadore “Spin” Solario, went on to win 70–64, giving Chicago its first state championship.


21. Horse Play
August 31, 1955
At Homewood’s Washington Park Race Track, the thoroughbred Nashua, winner of the 1955 Preakness and the Belmont Stakes, went head to head in a match race against the chestnut colt Swaps, winner of the Kentucky Derby. Wielding his whip, the jockey Eddie Arcaro drove Nashua quickly out of the gate, a strategic move that gave the big bay an early lead. Riding Swaps (who was nursing an injured hoof), Willie Shoemaker couldn’t make up the lost ground, and Nashua won the mile-and-a-quarter race—and the $100,000 pot—by six and a half lengths. Watch the video below:

Photo gallery



4 years ago
Posted by IshyMoose

Where is Disco Demolition and that Monday Night game against the Cardinals from a few years ago?

4 years ago
Posted by lost in windy

maybe I missed it. Where was the 85 Bears Super Bowl win?

4 years ago
Posted by john3222


4 years ago
Posted by LWK

This is some kind of a joke, right? Who are these people that put this asinine list together? There is nothing about this that can be taken seriously by anyone who knows anything about Chicago sports.

4 years ago
Posted by Kurt5

Are you joking? The White Sox won the World Series in 2005, yet you don't list any of the "moments" from that season. Also, you should have one of the times during the 1985 Bears season when William "Refrigerator" Perry steamrolled over defenders for a touchdown. Notwithstanding their success this year, the Blackhawks have been the least popular professional sports team in Chicago for decades, yet you mentioned numerous Blackhawks moments on this list.

4 years ago
Posted by Bugsie

Nick, JY and I cut New Trier in 62 or 63 to visit Wrigley. Mets 19, Cubs 3 which prompted a NY paper to proclaim: Mets score 19; but did they win?

4 years ago
Posted by doctorknow

If Northwestern's Wildcats are a Chicago team (even though they are in Evanston) maybe northwest Indiana should be included in the geographic metro definition. In that case, you should have included 'the shot' when Bryce Drew led Valpo to its first NCAA Tournament victory, defeating 4th seeded Ole Miss in the first round. That unbelievable moment was telecast all over the world.

4 years ago
Posted by soxfanno1

As much as I love reading the Cubs misfortunes, I would like to hear more good moments in Chicago sports history. Why is there no list of Buehrle's no-no in 2007? I realize that his perfect was reported, but it focussed more on Dewayne Wise than Buehrle. Is it just that there aren't 40 "good" moments in Chicago sports, because I can think of 11 different games from October 2005 alone!

4 years ago
Posted by magoos0728

Dear Editor of Chicago Magazine,
While I was excited to see that you included an article that reviews the greatest sports moments in our cities history, I was horrified after reading this piece. Noah Isackson, Geoff Johnson, and Shane Tritsch should all be fired immediately. If this is their definition of investigative journalism, I would review what they have written in the past. It was simply awful. I won't get in to specifics, I'll just say that this article sucked.

Yet another reason I do not read your magazine.

4 years ago
Posted by brukschmd

So many omissions, I have to agree with some of the comments above. 1) Gale Sayers' 6 touchdowns against the Niners. Like Koufax in baseball, Sayers has a place in the HoF despite a short career because of his brilliance. No one did it better. After scoring 5 on a rainy Sunday at Wrigley, Halas sat Gale but put him in for a 4th quarter punt return in response to the fans' plea. Sayers zigged and zagged the length of the field as Niners defenders slid futilely past him with each cut. 2) Ernie Banks' 500th homerun against Pat Jarvis, a line shot barely over the wall with Brickhouse'"Hey Hey" and 500 flashing on the WGN screen. 3) There was no baseball player in the 50's more revered than Stan Musial. The Man's 3000th hit in 1958 was a double at Wrigley. At the time Musial was the first to attain 3000 since 1942 and the eighth in baseball history.... I have other personal memories--Don Cardwell throwing a no-hitter in his first game after being traded to the Cubs, Ditka clotheslining a fan streaking across "his workplace", Bobby Hull knocking Gump Worsley cold with a slapshot to his forehead--down like he was shot by a sniper-- but surely the 3 have to be included in big sports moments in Chitown.

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