Jackie Robinson -- his presence and talent
changed the world of baseball forever.
Jackie Robinson -- his presence and talentchanged the world of baseball forever.

It is by no means a coincidence that some of the major movements in sociological behavior in this country over the past 100 years were centered around sporting events. True as some pundits may to classify sports and sports collecting as the "toy store", "mindless entertainment", or recreational leisure time, sporting events have symbolized or in some cases triggered some of the biggest changes in our society.

It is with that in mind we present the top 100 sporting events of the century, certainly one of the most debatable subjects in the seemingly endless list of end of the century lists. Few have dared to put together such a list because of the fear of omitting someone's personal treasured moment; others find doing lists of top athletes much easier to compile.

Jackie Robinson didn't make anyone's top 100 athlete list and his entry into the major leagues and his first game as a Brooklyn Dodger in April, 1947 drew relatively little press. There are few films of the game -- there was no national TV, ESPN or USA Today then -- but his entry into the majors is the single most important event of the century. Before Robinson, major sports were segregated in this country. After Robinson, the doors were open to the Michael Jordans, Hank Aarons, Jim Browns andMagic Johnsons who are the darlings of fans and collectors alike.

Without this event, so many sporting highlights that make up the rich tapestry of this country's history over the second half of the century would be delayed if not postponed. Without Robinson suiting up and facing the taunts and threats of fans and teammates alike, sports might have stayed an occasional curiosity to Americans.

After Robinson, it becomes harder but still politically significant. The USA's win over the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympic hockey semifinals renewed a nationalism in American sports and by no small coincidence started a thawing of the cold war that led to the end of communism in eastern Europe. The win had nothing to do with the change in political thinking but was nonetheless a benchmark in the timeline.

Others along the way also reflected social conscience: Muhammad Ali's refusal to enter the draft to protest the Vietnam War; Jesse Owens' four medals in the face of Nazism and Hitler at the 1936 Olympic and the Munich tragedy of slain Israeli athletes in 1972 and Billie Jean King's win over Bobby Riggs in 1968, spawning a women's movement, all were political as well as sporting landmarks.

Others signaled shifts in fan interest: the Colts overtime win in the NFL playoffs in 1958 started a love affair for the NFL; Hayes beating Alcindor at the Astrodome in 1968 initiated a passion for college basketball and Babe Ruth hitting his 60th homer in 1927 forced fans to forget about the Black Sox scandal and adopt the game as the national pastime.

I've omitted some of the tragic endings of careers (Knute Rockne's death in plane crash, Arthur Ashe dying of AIDs, Roberto Clemente's heroic relief effort to his native Puerto Rico) even though they are significant events of the 20th century.

So here it is, love it or hate it, the top 100 sporting events of the century.

Bonnie Blair, the first speed skater to win three successivegold medals in the same event, and the only American woman to win five gold medals in the Winter Games.
Bonnie Blair, the first speed skater to win three successive
gold medals in the same event, and the only American woman
to win five gold medals in the Winter Games.
...And Babe Ruth, need we say more?
...And Babe Ruth, need we say more?

Collectors Universe

Top 100

Greatest Moments in Sports

Event
Date
1 Jackie Robinson breaks color barrier as Brooklyn Dodger

Brooklyn, NY

April, 1947

2 The "Miracle on Ice", U.S. Hockey Teams beats Soviet Union in XIIIth Winter Olympic Games.
Lake Placid, 
NY
February, 1980
3 Bobby Thomson's "shot heard round the world" leads Giants over Dodgers at the Polo Grounds.

Polo Grounds, NY

October 3, 1951

4 Colts beat Giants in overtime to win NFL Title.
December, 1958
5 Jesse Owens wins four gold medals in front of Hitler during the Summer Olympics
Berlin, August, 1936
6 Torville and Dean perform Bolero to clinch Olympic Gold, earning the first ever 6.0, perfect scores in the ultimate figure skating venue, the Winter Games
Sarajevo, Yugoslavia Feruary 1984
7 Joe Namath and Jets beat Colts, 16-7, to give AFL first win over NFL in Super Bowl III
Miami, January 12, 1969
8 Lou Gehrig's "Luckiest man on the face of the Earth" speech.

Yankee Stadium, NY

July, 1941

9 Billie Jean King defeats Bobby Riggs in battle of sexes .
September, 1973
10 Muhammad Ali refuses entry into draft, stripped of his heavyweight title.
June, 1967
11 Houston and Elvin Hayes end UCLA and Lew Alcindor's winning streak.

Houston Astrodome

January, 1968

12 Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) stuns Sonny Liston with TKO, wins heavyweight title.
February, 1964
13 Roger Bannister cracks four minute mile
May, 1954
14 Hank Aaron breaks Babe Ruth's career homerun record on a pitch by Al Downing. The Braves win 7-4.

Atlanta, GA

April 8, 1974

15 Mark McGwire breaks Roger Maris 61 home run record.
September, 1998
16 Magic beats Bird, Michigan State beats Indiana State, to win NCAA title .
March, 1979
17 Babe Ruth hits 60th homer, breaks own record of 59.
September 29, 1927
18 New York Mets cap miracle season, beat Orioles to win World Series.
October 16, 1969
19 Tommy Smith and John Carlos raised clinched fist in protest after winning gold and silver medals in 19th Summer Olympiad.
Mexico City, 1968.
20 Carlton Fisk's extra inning homer lifts Red Sox past Reds in the sixth game of the World Series.
October 21, 1975
21 Joe Louis KO's Max Schmeling in rematch.
April, 1938
22 Wilt Chamberlain scores 100 points against the Knicks, setting an unbreakable record in basketball.

Hershey, PA

March, 1962

23 Don Larsen hurls perfect game in World Series, game 5, defeaingt the Dodgers.
Yankee Stadium, NY October 8, 1956
24 Chicago Bears beat Washington, 73-0, to win NFL title.
December, 1940
25 Notre Dame upsets Oklahoma, 7-0, ending Sooners 47-game winning streak.
November, 1957
26 Secretariat wins triple crown, setting Belmont Stakes record.
June, 1973
27 Joe Dimaggio's 56-game hitting streak ends in front of 60,000 fans.

Cleveland, OH

July 17, 1941

28 Green Bay beats Dallas for NFL title in "ice bowl."
December, 1967
29 Green Bay beats Kansas City to win first-ever Super Bowl.
Los Angeles, January 15, 1967
30 Sonia Henie wins third Olympic gold medal in IVth Winter Games.
Garmisch- Partenkirchen, Germany Feb.1936
31 Mark Spitz wins seventh gold medal in swimming, Munich Olympics.
September, 1972
32 Notre Dame and Michigan State play to 10-10 tie in battle of football unbeatens.
November, 1966
33 Muhammad Ali beats Joe Frazier, 'thrilla in Manilla'.
Manilla, Philippines September, 1975
34 Immaculate reception by Franco Harris, Steelers beat Raiders in playoffs.
December, 1972
35 Johnny Vander Meer hurls second straight no-hitter, in first night game ever at Ebbets Field.

Brooklyn, NY

June 15,1938

36 Jess Willard, "great white hope" beats Jack Johnson for heavyweight title,
April, 1915
37 Babe Ruth allegedly calls his shot in homer against Cubs.

Chicago

October 1, 1932

38 Celtics win unprecedented eighth straight NBA title in seventh game over Lakers,
April, 1966
39 Reds beat Black Sox in 1919 World Series, leading to expulsion of "Eight Men Out."
October, 1919
40 Gene Tunney beats Jack Dempsey in famous "long count" .
September, 1927
41 Arnold Palmer beats Jack Nicklaus by two strokes to win U.S. Open and ignite rivalry,
June 1960
42 Roger Maris hits 61st homer, breaks Babe Ruth's record.
Yankee Stadium, NY October 1, 1961
43 Texas Western with five blacks starting beats Kentucky to win NCAA cage title.
March, 1966
44 Red Grange scores five TD's in game as Illinois beats Michigan.
October, 1924
45 Miami completes first unbeaten NFL season and wins Super Bowl,
January, 1973
46 Affirmed beats Alydar for third straight time to win triple crown of racing,
June, 1978
47 Notre Dame rallies past UCLA, 71-70, ending UCLA's 88-game winning streak,
January, 1974
48 Magic Johnson retires from basketball shocking the world by announcing he has AIDS virus.

Los Angeles,

October, 1991

49 Tiger Woods becomes youngest Masters champion ever.
March 1996
50 Peggy Fleming wins the gold medal at the Xth Winter Olympics, surprising the figure skating world after a devastating plane crash killed most of the Olympic caliber skaters in February of 1961. She was the only American to win a gold medal at Grenoble.

Grenoble, France

February 1968

51 Cal Ripkens breaks Lou Gehrig's consecutive game record,
September, 1997
52 Michael Jordan stuns world, retires from basketball, tries baseball.
October, 1993
53 Jim Thorpe wins decathlon, pentathlon, in Olympics.
Stockholm July 1912
54 Bill Mazeroski's homer in bottom of ninth breaks a 9-9 tie and hands Pittsburgh the World Series title over the Yankees, arguably the most dramatic Homerun ever. Amazingly, Bobby Richardson is named series MVP.
October 14, 1960
55 O.J. Simpson cracks 20,000 yard mark as Buffalo beats Jets.
December, 1973
56 Willis Reed limps on court, leads Knicks past Lakers to win NBA title
May 1970
57 Bill Walton scores 44 points, UCLA wins seventh straight NCAA title.
March, 1973
58 Carl Hubbell strikes out four hall-of-famers in a row in the second all-star game, Ruth, Gehrig and Foxx with the screwball, adding Al Simmons and Joe Cronin in the second inning.

Polo Grounds, NY

July 10, 1934

59 Walter Payton breaks Jim Brown's career rushing record,
October, 1984
60 Jesse Owens sets three world records in one day at big Ten championships,
May 1935
61 Leon Spinks upsets Muhamma Ali to win heavyweight title,
February, 1978
62 Notre Carolina State beats UCLA 80-77 in two OTs in NCAA semifinals, stopping Bruins streak of consecutive NCAA titles, .
March 1974
63 USA stuns Soviet Union 3-2 in VIIIth Winter Olympics hockey medal game.
Squaw Valley, CA February, 1960
64 Willie Mays' over-the-shoulder catch of Vic Wertz drive in Game 1 of the World Series Giants vs. Cleveland.
Polo Grounds, NY September 29, 1954
65 Reggie Jackson claims Mr. October title, as he hits three homers in three consecutive swings to lead Yanks to a World Series win against L.A. in game six.

New York,

October 18, 1977

66 Harvey Haddix loses perfect game in 13th inning, 2-0 to Milwaukee.
May, 1959
67 Babe Ruth homers in first all-star game ever played.
July, 1933
68 Citation lays claim as greatest ever, wins triple crown,
May, 1948
69 Milwaukee stops Lakers-record 33-game winning streak,
January, 1972
70 Floyd Patterson knocks out Ingemar Johannson to become first to ever win back heavyweight title.
June, 1960
71 Michael Jordan sinks game winning shot, his last ever, to lead Bulls to sixth NBA title.
Salt Lake City, UtahJune, 1998
72 Eric Heiden wins all five skating medals at XIII Winter Olympics, a feat never matched by any other skater.
Lake Placid, NY February, 1980
73 Fifty years after the first winter Olympics in Chamonix, France, American Anders Haugen, inventor of the aerodynamic ski jumping style (by leaning over the tips of one's skis) was awarded the bronze medal after a judge's error in calculationss had wrongly awarded the medal to Norwegian Thorleif Haug. American officials had protested the official results, proving that Haugen (U.S.) had jumped greater distances. Olympic officials didn't like the new style and claimed its inferiority caused him to be placed fourth

September 12, 1974

(February 4, 1924)

74 New York Rangers end decades of frustration, win Stanley Cup,
June, 1994
75 Tom Watson chips in for birdie on No. 17, beats Nicklaus in US Open.
June, 1982
76 Dizzy Deans wins, Joe Medwick ejected in near riot as Gashouse Gang Cards win World Series.
October, 1934
77 Sandy Koufax hurls fourth career no-hitter, a perfect game as Dodgers get only one hit to beat Cubs .
September, 1965
78 Denver ends years of futility, beating Green Bay to win Super Bowl XXXII.
San Diego, CA, January, 1998
79 Buster Douglas upsets Mike Tyson to win heavyweight title
February, 1990
80 Denny McLain wins 30 games
September, 1968
81 Roberto DeVicenzo loses Masters when he makes a mistake in filling out his scorecard, giving Bob Goalby the win.
April, 1968
82 Rosie Ruiz sneaks into Boston Marathon to win women's title, later exposed as fraud
Boston, April, 1980
83 Bill Buckner's error allows Mets to beat Red Sox in sixth game of World Series
October, 1985
84 Pete Rose singles off Eric Show, breaks Ty Cobb's major league hit mark
September, 1985
85 Bobby Jones first to win golf's grand slam, wins US amateur
September, 1930
86 First World Series ends feud between National and American leagues. The first series was agreed upon in a handshake deal between Pirates' owner Barney Dreyfuss and Boston Pilgrims Henry Killelea on Sept. 6, 1903.
October, 1903
87 Roy Riegels runs wrong way for TD for California as they lost to Georgia Tech in Rose Bowl.
Pasadena, CA January, 1929
88 Bjorn Borg wins fifth straight Wimbledon title, beats John McEnroe
July, 1980
89 Wayne Gretzky retires from hockey after becoming highest scorer in history.
April, 1999
90 Earthquake rocks Bay Area, postpones second game of World Series between Giants-A's.
San Francisco, October, 1989
91 Villanova upsets Georgetown to win NCAA title
March 1985
92 North Carolina State upsets Houston to win NCAA title
March, 1984
93 Mary Lou Retton nets a perfect 10, grabs gymnastics gold in Olympics
July, 1984
94 Wayne Gretzky scores goal No. 802, beating Gordie Howe's career mark .
March, 1994
95 Bonnie Blair wins fifth gold in speedskating and her third consecutive gold medal in the 500m, setting a record for the most gold medals by any American woman athlete in the XVIIth Winter Games.
Lillehammer, Norway February, 1994
96 First lockout in NBA history ends, Jordan retires a second time .
Feburary, 1999
97 In longest game in NFL history, San Diego beats Miami, 41-38.
December, 1980
98 Dennis Connor and Stars n stripes becomes first American to lose America's Cup,
September, 1983
99 Joe Carter's extra inning homer gives Toronto World Series win over Philly,
October, 1993
100 Alabama snaps Miami's 29-game winning streak, 34-13, in Sugar Bowl to win national championship.
January, 1993