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

20. Gored Bull
October 7, 1984
Cubs first baseman Leon “Bull” Durham committed only four errors during the 1984 season, none on ground balls. But with the Cubs clinging to a 3–2 lead in the seventh inning of the deciding game of the National League playoffs against the San Diego Padres, Durham watched a ground ball roll between his legs, allowing the tying run to score and putting the go-ahead run on first base. Other Cubs contributed to the Padres’ four-run eruption that inning, but Durham’s miscue was pivotal, and stunned Cubs fans were forced yet again to wait till next year. Watch Durham’s error at »


19. Unlikely Hero
June 20, 1993
It wasn’t Jordan. It wasn’t even Scottie Pippen. No, the Bulls won their third straight NBA championship when John Paxson calmly buried a three-point shot with 3.9 seconds to go in Game 6 against the Phoenix Suns. It was the quintessential game winner, and the moment kids imagine when they practice in the driveway. “It’s a dream,” Paxson told reporters. Watch his shot in the video below:


18. Five Outs to Go!
October 14, 2003
Leading the Florida Marlins 3–0 in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, the Cubs seemed certain to reach the World Series for the first time in more than half a century. But with one out, a fan named Steve Bartman reached up and deflected a foul pop, possibly preventing left fielder Moises Alou from catching the ball for the second out. From there things turned surreal: a walk, an error on a double-play ball, a barrage of hits, and eight Marlins runs crossing the plate. As they had done for generations, the Cubs watched the World Series on TV that year.


17. Called Shot
October 1, 1932
Cubs players were “razzing” Babe Ruth with “very peppery” taunts, the Tribune reported, when the Yankees slugger batted in the fifth inning of Game 3 of the 1932 World Series. With two strikes, Ruth raised his right arm and pointed, then blasted Charley Root’s next pitch to center field for a home run. Later, some observers (and Ruth) claimed the Babe had called his shot by pointing to center field and hitting it there. Others, including Root, argued otherwise. The debate over one of baseball’s most famous moments May never be resolved. For more on Ruth’s called shot, watch’s video »


16. Off Center
January 1, 1949
In the waning minutes of the Rose Bowl, Northwestern University’s Wildcats lined up at Cal’s 43-yard line and resorted to a trick play: Alex Sarkisian, the Wildcat center, snapped the football directly to halfback Ed Tunnicliff, who took it in for a touchdown and a 20–14 triumph. Watch footage of the play below:


15. Vikings Punk’d
September 19, 1985
In the third quarter of the third game of the 1985 season, with the Bears losing 17–9 to the Minnesota Vikings, coach Mike Ditka gambled, yanking backup quarterback Steve Fuller and inserting starter Jim McMahon, sidelined until then with a bad back. On his first play, McMahon hit Willie Gault for a 70-yard touchdown. On the next possession, McMahon threw another touchdown, and the Bears went on to win 33–24. The 1985 campaign would be filled with highlights, but that early-season comeback was the “quantum leap,” as safety Gary Fencik later explained, toward an eventual Super Bowl victory. Watch McMahon lead the Bears’ comeback below:


14. Wounded Warrior
June 11, 1997
Before Game 5 of the NBA finals against the Utah Jazz, Michael Jordan was so ill his teammates wondered if he could play. Appearing wan and woozy, Jordan played. At times he seemed on the verge of collapse, only to gather his strength and attack the basket or flick in a fade-away jumper. He finished with 38 points, including the game winner. The pivotal victory put the Bulls up three games to two en route to their fifth championship. When the game ended, Jordan stumbled into the arms of his teammate Scottie Pippen, who held him upright even as MJ’s legend soared to a new level. Watch Jordan play through his flu below:


13. Evers’s Brainstorm
September 23, 1908
Late in the 1908 season, the Cubs appeared to lose a critical game against the New York Giants. But Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers noticed that the runner on first, Fred Merkle, had failed to advance to second base on the game-winning hit before heading to the clubhouse. Evers got the ball and stepped on second. The ump called Merkle out on a force play, and because the game ended in a tie, it had to be replayed (the Cubs won the rematch). The play went down in baseball infamy as Merkle’s Boner, but only Evers’s alertness made it possible. His quick thinking ultimately enabled the Cubs to reach the 1908 World Series—the last they have won. For more on Merkle, watch the video below:


12. Leap of Faith
July 23, 2009
With nobody out in the top of the ninth inning at U.S. Cellular Field, White Sox center fielder Dewayne Wise, inserted as a defensive replacement, made a spectacular leaping catch at the wall to rob the Rays’ Gabe Kapler of a home run, preserving Mark Buehrle’s perfect game. Watch footage from the game below:


11. Phantom Goal
June 9, 2010
In sudden-death overtime of the sixth game of the NHL championship series, Patrick Kane sent a stealthy shot past Philadelphia goalie Michael Leighton, winning the Stanley Cup for the Blackhawks. Kane immediately dropped his gloves and celebrated—though the shot had been so elusive not everyone realized that the game was over. (Official reviews confirmed the puck had indeed gone in.) That riveting play was the perfect way to punctuate the franchise’s renaissance—and its first Stanley Cup in 49 years. Watch Kane make the game-winning shot in 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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