1990's Sports Memories

A decade of defining sports moments
May 01, 2008
[/color]article will focus on the 1990's, since I was born in 1982 and around 1990 was when I first fell in love with sports. The following moments are what stick with me the most as a kid/teenager growing up in Brooklyn and Long Island, NY. If some of your memories aren't on this list I'd love to hear them. Retro Junk could use more sports talk. So here it is - the good, the bad and the ugly!

It all started with a kick that sailed wide right in Tampa Bay way back in 1991...

Superbowl XXV between the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills was the very first game of any sport I have memories of watching on television. My father, a serious Bills fan (he has their logo tattooed on his arm), was actually at the game and had to suffer as Scott Norwood's 47-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right. The Giants won the game, 20-19, which set off a chain event of immense Superbowl failures for the Bills. I became a Giants fan over the next several years until my family finally pounded the point home that the Giants play in New Jersey and, therefore, shouldn't be considered a New York team. I switched sides and to this day remain a hardcore Buffalo Bills fan. Luckily, the Music City Miracle occurred in 2000. So I won't have to cover that painful sports memory.

> Due to threats of terrorism associated with the Gulf War, extra security measures were put in place at Tampa Stadium, including the positioning of FBI sharpshooters at the upper levels of the stadium
> Singer Whitney Houston's rendition of the national anthem during Super Bowl XXV, backed by the Florida Orchestra, was later released as a single, where it reached number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100, making her the only artist to turn the national anthem into a hit single
> This Super Bowl was the inspiration for the Ray Finkle character in the 1994 movie "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" and provided a critical plot point for the 1998 Vincent Gallo film "Buffalo '66"

Tennis gets violent...

April 30, 1993 - Monica Seles was leading in a quarterfinal match against Magdalena Maleeva in Hamburg, Germany. All of a sudden, a deranged man ran from the crowd during a break between games and plunged a knife between Seles's shoulder blades. Her physical injuries took a mere few weeks to heal. However, she didn't return to competitive tennis for over two years. I'm not a fan of the sport, but how could this not capture my attention? I would assume that this incident surely led to beefed-up security at future tennis events.

> The attacker, Gunter Parche, was an obsessed fan of Steffi Graf that was hell-bent on seeing the German player regain her first place ranking
> Monica Seles returned in August 1995 and won her first comeback tournament, the Canadian Open. In January 1996, Seles won her fourth Australian Open (her last Grand Slam title)

Leon Lett's Bumble Recovery...

Thankgiving Day of 1993 was a classic football game between the Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys. A freak snow and sleet storm in Dallas set the stage for a wild finish as the Dolphins attempted a field goal with a few seconds left in the game to put them on top. The Cowboys blocked the kick and, while most of the team celebrated what should have been an automatic victory, DT Leon Lett attempted to recover the ball. Instead, he slipped on the ice and kicked the ball further into Dallas territory. Miami recovered the ball on the Dallas one yard line. Pete Stoyanovich nailed the second field goal attempt and the Dolphins won 16-14. I had trouble rooting for either team in this game, since Dallas beat the Bills in the Superbowl earlier that year and Miami was/is an arch rival of Buffalo. Regardless, Lett's blunder will live on as one of the all-time greatest bonehead plays in professional sports.

> Leon Lett also made another all-time bonehead play during the 1993 Superbowl, when he recovered a fumble and was racing toward the end zone for a touchdown. Out of nowhere, the speedy Bills WR Don Beebe knocked the ball from Lett's hand and prevented the Cowboys from scoring over 60 points
> Leon Lett retired with three Superbowl rings (XXVII, XXVIII & XXX) and twice was named to the Pro Bowl (1994 & 1998)

I thought this was figure skating, not ice hockey...

On January 6, 1994, figure skating turned brutal. As Nancy Kerrigan left the ice after a practice session in Detroit, she was attacked by a metal baton-wielding assailant. In her absence, 1991 champion Tonya Harding captured the spotlight. The bizarre incident didn't stay a mystery for long, as assault accomplice Shawn Eckardt caved and told the FBI about the plot that was hatched with Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, to take Kerrigan out of the picture. Eventually Harding admitted that she learned about the attack after it happened, though I have trouble believing that. The media dragged this story out to death over the following months, but it sure made the Olympics worth watching. Nancy Kerrigan's pain-filled scream of "Whyyyyy? Whyyyyyyyyyy?" sticks with me today as the only figure skating memory from my childhood.

> Tonya Harding was banned for life from U.S. figure skating, while Nancy Kerrigan made the U.S. Olympic team and won a silver medal
> Nancy Kerrigan was criticized for leaving the Olympic venue before the closing ceremonies to take part in a pre-arranged publicity parade at Walt Disney World, her $2 million sponsor, and then for being caught on microphone during the parade saying "This is dumb. I hate it. This is the most corniest thing I have ever done"

The end of a 54-year championship drought...

I grew up in a federally funded apartment community (a.k.a. - the projects) with a mostly African American population. Therefore, ice hockey was not big in my neighborhood. My brother and I were the only kids outside outfitted with rollerskates, nerf hockey sticks and a tennis ball (our version of a puck). So when the New York Rangers defeated the Vancouver Canucks in seven games to win the 1994 Stanley Cup, it was a big deal to us. In the stands a sign read NOW I CAN DIE IN PEACE. The big market city of New York was on top once again and it revived a league that was floundering in the United States.

> Game seven of the Stanley Cup finals was the most-watched game in NHL history
> Mark Messier became the first Ranger captain to hoist the Cup on Garden ice, as well as the first player in NHL history to captain two different teams to a Stanley Cup

Reggie Miller shocks Madison Square Garden...

The New York Knicks had a 105-99 lead with 18.7 seconds left in Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals against their hated rivals, the Indiana Pacers. Game over, right? Nope! Reggie Miller knocked down a 3-point shot with 16.4 seconds left, immediately stole the ensuing inbounds pass and quickly dashed out to the 3-point line to drain another three to tie the game at 105 with 13.3 seconds left. This all happened in a mind-spinning span of 3.1 seconds on May 7, 1995. After Miller's second 3-pointer, the Knicks' John Starks was fouled on the ensuing possession, but he somehow missed both free throws. Then Miller grabbed the rebound and was fouled, promptly hitting both free throws to give the Pacers a 107-105 victory. I watched this insane game from my kitchen, a fan of the sport but without a favorite player or team. I remained a Pacers fan until 2005 when Reggie Miller retired. A New Yorker cheering for #31, rare I know.

> The series went seven games and Indiana wound up winning as Patrick Ewing missed the pivotal shot, a driving layup that would have tied the game in the final seconds. Knicks head coach Pat Riley resigned and was replaced by Don Nelson, who didn't even last a full season. The series of events left the Knicks in disarray...much like today
> After defeating the Knicks, the Pacers lost to the Orlando Magic in the conference finals (four games to three)

We the jury find the defendant, Orenthal James Simpson...

Not guilty?!?! I was in my 8th grade gym class when the verdict was read. Ms. Brown explained the entire thing, that former NFL superstar O.J. Simpson was accused of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. I knew the deal, just like everyone else did. My father was hypnotized by the case and he broke things down for me on a daily basis. The Trial of the Century came to a close, but it caused a wave of controvery along legal and racial lines. I haven't met too many people that honestly believe O.J. Simpson is innocent. In fact, I can't even name one person. All you have to do is read O.J.'s book from 2007 entitled If I Did It. Confession, case closed.

> O.J. Simpson's lead defense attorney was the infamous Johnnie Cochrane. He made headlines, and a lasting trademark of the trial, with the one line defense of "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit" referring to a pair of black gloves that were alledgedly used in the double homicide
> O.J. Simpson's alibi for the time of his ex-wife's murder is that he was in his backyard at home hitting golf balls
> Both the Brown and Goldman families sued O.J. Simpson for damages in a civil trial. On February 21, 2008, a Los Angeles court upheld a renewal of the civil judgment against him

The ALDS thriller that made me a baseball fan...

I had been to many baseball games as a child, mostly bored out of my mind and begging my father to take me home after the second inning. But in 1995, I was hooked after watching game five of the American League Division Series between the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees. Edgar Martinez hit a double that scored Joey Cora and Ken Griffey, Jr. sliding home to beat the tag to win the game 6-5 and the series. I'll always refer to it as "The Slide", even though it was Martinez's double that made it possible. You have to feel bad for Don Mattingly. That was his last baseball game and the following season the Yankees won the World Series. Ouch!

> Edgar Martinez's clutch hit is credited as being the moment that "saved baseball in Seattle" by generating interest in the team and making a new stadium possible
> As a result of both leagues realigning into three divisions in 1994, this postseason marked the first time in major league history that a team could qualify for postseason play without finishing in first place in its league or division (in this case, the New York Yankees were the wildcard)

"Another chance to the left side, Hayes waits.........The Yankees are champions of baseball!"

The New York Yankees were in what seemed like an insurmountable 2-0 hole. The Atlanta Braves beat them in the first two games of the 1996 World Series by a combined score of 16-1! I nearly tossed in the hat. Ok, I did toss in the hat. Boy, did I learn to never give up on my team ever again. The Yankees came storming back to win the next four games and clinch their first championship since 1978. Everyone was buzzing about rookie shortstop sensation Derek Jeter and manager Joe Torre. When the Yankees won game six on October 26th, they started a dynasty that won three more World Series titles in the following four years. What Yankees fan could forget that magical moment when Wade Boggs got onto a police horse and rode around the stadium in triumph?

> Andruw Jones of the Atlanta Braves became only the second player in World Series history, and youngest ever, to hit a home run his first two times up in a Series
> First World Series to feature the series logo on the hats
> It took Yankee manager Joe Torre 4,272 games to get to the World Series as a player or manager, the biggest drought for any player or manager in the history of Major League Baseball

Mike Tyson takes a bite out of the competition...

Mike Tyson was once the most feared man in boxing. He was the star of a video game just about every person on this website is familiar with - Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! So when Evander Holyfield upset Tyson on November 9, 1996, the boxing world was stunned. A rematch took place on June 28, 1997 to see if Holyfield's victory was just a fluke. Tyson lost the first two rounds and, obviously frustrated, he resorted to rolling his head above Holyfield's shoulder during a clinch and biting his right ear. The bite was so strong that he actually ripped off a piece of the ear. The fight continued and Tyson bit Holyfield's other ear, for which he was disqualified by referee Mills Lane. Tyson's life was already a chaotic mess, but this disgusting act was the finishing touch on a wasted talent and promising career.

> After the fight, Mike Tyson was walking back to his locker room when a fan tossed a full bottle of water in his direction. Tyson then climbed over a railing and up into the stands where he made obscene gestures to the crowd before being dragged into the locker room
> Mike Tyson's boxing license was revoked by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and he was fined $3 million, not to mention legal costs

Michael Jordan, how many times have we seen this?

It's so hard to keep track of all the clutch shots Michael Jordan has made over his illustrious career, but his last shot as a Chicago Bull was most memorable in my mind. In game six of the 1998 NBA Finals, Jordan drove inside the 3-point line, crossed over (it's argued that he pushed off on Bryon Russell), and hit a jump shot to give the Bulls an 87-86 lead with 5.2 seconds left. What a lot of people forget is that he made a layup before that play to the cut the deficit to one point and then subsequently stole the ball to set up the game-winning shot. As much as I hated the guy, Michael Jordan is without a doubt the greatest basketball player of all time. What a way to retire...well, kinda.

> The Bulls clinched their second three-peat in similar fashion to their first three-peat, having led both series 3-1, losing Game 5 in Chicago and winning Game 6 on the road to win the series. The first threepeat came against the Phoenix Suns in the 1993 NBA Finals
> The 1998 Finals garnered the highest Nielsen TV Rating in NBA history at 18.7, and even surpassed the Nielsen Ratings for the 1998 World Series, making it the first time the NBA had a higher rating in its championship round than of Major League Baseball's title round

Big Mac hits # 62...

Yeah, so looking back on it this record is probably tainted with the stain of steroids, but at the time this did wonders for baseball. On September 8, 1998, Mark McGwire hit a pitch by the Chicago Cubs' Steve Trachsel over the left field wall for his record-breaking 62nd home run. He was the new single season homerun champion (he finished with 70, which was broken by Barry Bonds three seasons later). What I remember most about that game was McGwire hugging his son and getting congratulated by Sammy Sosa, who also had a banner year with 66 dingers. Both players reinvigorated the game when stadiums were empty and television ratings were way down.

> Although McGwire had the prestige of the home run record, Sammy Sosa (who had fewer HR but more RBI) would win the 1998 NL MVP award, as his contributions helped propel the Cubs to the playoffs (the Cardinals finished third in the NL Central)
> After the historical game, the Cardinals presented Mark McGwire with, fittingly, a '62 red corvette, which he drove around the stadium amid a roaring standing ovation
> In 1998, after an article written by Associated Press writer Steve Wilstein, Mark McGwire admitted to taking steroid-precursor androstenedione, an over-the-counter muscle enhancement product. While legal at the time under U.S. law and for use in MLB, it had already been banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, the NFL and the IOC

Weatherspoon heaves up a prayer...

The WNBA has been the butt of many jokes over the years, but in 1999 one amazing shot proved that women had skills on the court, too. On September 4th, Teresa Weatherspoon hit a memorable half-court shot versus the Houston Comets to give New York a game two win, 68-67. The shot forced the WNBA finals to a game three, which unfortunately the Liberty went on to lose.

> Teresa Weatherspoon started in the first four WNBA All-Star games (1999-2003)
> In 1997, Teresa Weatherspoon was the first winner of the league's Defensive player of the year award. She won the title again in 1998
> The New York Liberty have the most Finals appearances (4) without winning one

Honorable mentions (in chronological order):[/b]
~ Nolan Ryan throws the seventh no-hitter of his career at age 44 (for the Texas Rangers against the Toronto Blue Jays) on May 1, 1991
~ Los Angeles Lakers PG Magic Johnson calls a press conference and states that he is infected with HIV and would immediately retire
~ Christian Laettner hits a game-winning last-second jump shot in Duke's dramatic 104-103 victory over Kentucky in the East Regional Final of the 1992 NCAA Tournament
~ New York Jets DT Dennis Byrd gets paralyzed from a neck injury during an NFL game against the Kansas City Chiefs on November 29, 1992
~ Chris Webber calls a timeout with no timeouts left during the 1993 NCAA title game, giving North Carolina two free throws and a 73-71 victory
~ Michael Jordan retires at the age of 30, but of course he would return to unsuccessfully retire a second time
~ Joe Carter hits a walk-off homerun in the 1993 World Series to beat the Philadelphia Phillies and give the Minnesota Twins their second straight title
~ The Houston Rockets defeat the New York Knicks in the 1994 NBA Finals, four games to three, thanks to a poor game seven performance by John Starks and a dominating series by Hakeem Olajuwon. Game five was interrupted by coverage of O.J. Simpson's slow freeway chase with the L.A.P.D.
~ The 1994 Major League Baseball strike was the eighth work stoppage in baseball history, as well as the fourth in-season work stoppage in 23 years. The 232-day strike, which lasted from August 12, 1994 to April 2, 1995, led to the cancellation of 938 games overall, including the entire 1994 postseason and World Series
~ The 1994-1995 NHL lockout stretched from October 1, 1994 to January 11, 1995. A total of 468 games were lost due to the lockout, along with the All-Star Game
~ Cal Ripken, Jr. surpasses Lou Gehrig's 56-year-old record for consecutive games played (2,130 games) on September 6, 1995
~ Dwight Gooden pitches a no-hitter (for the New York Yankees against the Seattle Mariners) on May 14, 1996
~ Tiger Woods becomes the youngest player to win the Masters in the 61-year history of the tournament on April 13, 1997
~ Michael Jordan has the flu and scores 38 points in game five of the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz
~ John Elway's desperate dive and helicopter spin in Super Bowl XXXII propels the Denver Broncos to their first Super Bowl title and prevents Brett Favre from winning back-to-back Superbowls
~ David Wells becomes the 15th pitcher in MLB history to pitch a perfect game (for the New York Yankees against the Minnesota Twins) on May 17, 1998
~ David Cone pitches the 16th perfect game in MLB history and the first perfect game in the history of interleague play (for the New York Yankees against the Montreal Expos) on July 18, 1999
~ Lance Armstrong wins the 1999 Tour de France, his first of seven consecutive wins, the most in Tour history
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