Top 40 OMG Moments in Recent Chicago History

MOUTH WIDE OPEN: We pick the 40 moments in recent Chicago history that made you stop, blink, and say, “Oh my God!”

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Olympics fail
#8—OLYMPICS BID FAIL: The T-shirts were made. Millions were spent. POTUS and FLOTUS flew to Copenhagen. Thousands gathered at Daley Plaza for a rally. Then, with brutal swiftness, Chicago was the first city knocked out of the running to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. For more photos of OMG moments, check out the gallery »



OMG moments in recent Chicago history

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

What, exactly, is an OMG moment? At its most basic, it is an occurrence that makes those words come out: “Oh my God!” The next step usually involves retelling the news to the nearest available co-worker or to friends via Facebook. The OMG can be an expression of bemusement, irritation, or disgust. In picking the top 40 such moments in Chicago history, we set a start date of 1970 and avoided moments that seemed too serious—airplane crashes, tragic deaths, and violent crimes among them. Then the challenge was how to rank the moments. Was Rod Blagojevich’s arrest more or less astonishing than the Great Chicago Flood of 1992? Rail against our number one pick—or tell us what we missed—in the comments section below.

40. Lightning Strikes Twice
June 23, 2010
Shooting on assignment from the John Hancock Center, the Chicago Tribune photographer Chris Sweda captured lightning bolts hitting the Willis Tower and the Trump Tower at precisely the same moment. PLUS:  Chicagoan Craig Shimala captured the video below, which shows lightning striking the city’s three tallest buildings at once.

39. Oprah’s Keynote
September 13, 2004
Oprah Winfrey opened her 19th season by giving a fully loaded Pontiac sedan worth $28,400 to each member of the studio audience—all 276 of them. “Everybody gets a car! Everybody gets a car!” the talk show host shouted as she jumped up and down. For a hilarious musical replay of the car giveaway, watch the video below:


38. Table Tempest
September 1995
In a bizarre move to protect public safety, the city’s health department zeroed in on so-called chef’s tables located in the kitchens of high-end restaurants, saying sick diners could infect food preparation areas. Charlie Trotter, whose restaurant was at the height of its popularity, got so mad he threatened to leave Chicago. The flap made national news, the city backpedaled, and Trotter moved his table two inches.

37. When Fans Attack
September 28, 1995
With the Cubs and Astros tied 7–7 in the eighth inning, Cubs reliever Randy Myers served up a homer, prompting a 27-year-old bond trader named John P. Murray to hop the first-base wall and charge the pitcher, yelling, “What the hell was that?” Myers decked him with his forearm.

36. They Had Us Rocking
September 18, 1997
The Rolling Stones, days before appearing at Soldier Field on their Bridges to Babylon tour, performed a surprise warm-up concert at the Double Door in Wicker Park. The event was a fan’s dream: Mick and Keith up close, 90 minutes, $7. Watch the Stones perform “The Last Time” at the Double Door in the video below:


35. Fog Bowl
December 31, 1988
In the second quarter of a playoff game between the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles, a thick fog rolled in from Lake Michigan and engulfed Soldier Field in a cloud that reduced visibility to 20 yards. The running game dominated the rest of the contest, a CBS helicopter was grounded, the Eagles could not score a touchdown, and the Bears won 20–12. Watch footage of the game below:


34. Mancow Tests the Waters
May 22, 2009
Intending to prove that waterboarding is not torture, the Chicago shock jock Erich “Mancow” Muller subjected himself to the controversial interrogation method—on air. Strapped to a seven-foot-long table with his legs elevated, Mancow lasted six seconds. His verdict: “It is way worse than I thought it would be, and that’s no joke.” Watch video of Mancow getting waterboarded below:


33. Coyote at Quiznos
April 3, 2007
A 30-pound male coyote strolled through the propped-open door of a Quiznos in the Loop at 37 East Adams Street and rested for 45 minutes in the beverage cooler. Watch the video below:


32. Bats
April 14, 1977
Still adjusting to the Picasso, the city howled over the latest work of public sculpture by a famous artist—this time, Claes Oldenburg’s $100,000 commission, Batcolumn, a towering steel replica of a baseball bat.

31. Our Lady of the Traffic Jam
April 2005
Obdulia Delgado was driving toward a ramp to the Kennedy Expressway when she saw what appeared to be an image of the Virgin Mary in a yellow-and-white water stain on the concrete wall of an underpass. The site, at the Fullerton Avenue entrance, became a minor shrine and snarled traffic for days. Watch video of crowds gathering at the site below:


Photo gallery



4 years ago
Posted by tribe22

Re: #30, obviously, the Sox wore those shorts more than one if they debuted against KC. The film clip show the Sox in shorts vs. the Baltimore Orioles.

4 years ago
Posted by J.T.

Thanks, Tribe22. We're tracking down the actual number of times the team wore the shorts. Stay tuned.

4 years ago
Posted by TheMikePhillips

Good article. I'd like to see proper credit given to the owner/shooter of the video from the Olympics announcement. The way the article is written, it leads the reader to assume Chicago Magazine shot this video. But looking at YouTube, it does not appear so.
At any rate, I see the media engaged in this practice way too often. I don't see it any different than ripping off a photo for the publication's own gain.
It's true, the video is technically open to the public. However, there are few options, at this point, when it comes to sharing video online. So, people are forced to use YouTube or another "sharable" service. I think video owners should expect to have their videos shared by others but, at the same time, should also expect the courtesy of being credited appropriately.

4 years ago
Posted by Joe Pepitone

Lee Elia's rant still is still 100% true only they can add another 27 years of winning nothing.

4 years ago
Posted by Nelson Fox

Looking for the White Sox winning the World Series, the first baseball championship in this city in nine decades, followed immediately by the largest public gathering in Chicago history, a LaSalle Street parade with 1.75 million people in attendance? Surely you've included it, and I just missed it. What number is it?

4 years ago
Posted by J.T.

Tribe22, according to the White Sox, the team wore the bermuda-shorts uniforms three times during the 1976 season.

4 years ago
Posted by SB Nation Chicago

There were three dates, confirmed
by newspaper accounts (the Chicago Tribune archive) and the YouTube
video you posted.

August 8, 1976 was the first date; they did it again on August 21
(mentioned in newspaper accounts as being done for NBC, which was
carrying the game as its backup Saturday Game of the Week) and the
first game of the doubleheader on August 22. The latter is the
confirmed date of the YouTube video -- it shows a beer-case stacking
contest which was held between games of that doubleheader, which was
shown in a photograph in the Tribune recap of that day's games.

Mystery solved.

4 years ago
Posted by Jules236

You may have mentioned this in the Top40 sports moments, but the Sox winning the World Series has got to be an OMG moment is there ever was one -- it was SO much more than a seminal sports feat, and took in almost all the residents of the city, even (a few) Cubs fans. Didja see how many people were downtown for the parade?

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