As I enter my 70th year on earth, this looks like a good time to think back over the most memorable sporting events it has been my pleasure to attend. There are not really that many as I have only been working as a sports reporter for the last 10 or so of those 70 years. Before that fortunate opportunity came my way, there were very few opportunities to attend a sporting event of much significance.
At the top of my list would have to be the four 2001 World Series games played at Bank One Ball Park. The best of those was the seventh and deciding game won by the Diamondbacks 3-2. That may just have been the best World Series game ever played.
Awfully close behind that game in importance would be the fifth and final game of the National League Divisional Play-offs between the Diamondbacks and the St. Louis Cardinals won by Arizona 2-1. In both games, the Diamondbacks starting pitcher was Curt Schilling although he was credited with the win only in the game against the Cardinals. The other victory went to Randy Johnson in relief. In both games, the key hit was contributed by shortstop Tony Womack. His single won the St. Louis game. His double tied the New York World Series game and set up Luis Gonzalez’s game-winner.
From there, I must go quite a ways back in history to the 1955 NBA Championship Series. I was in the U.S. Air Force and stationed at Syracuse University. It was my good fortune to get a free USO ticket to the seventh and final game of the NBA Play-offs between the Syracuse Nationals and the Fort Wayne Pistons. Both teams have moved since then, the Nationals twice. The team went to Philadelphia and became the Warriors, then moved again to San Francisco. The Pistons moved to Detroit. Fort Wayne’s star was one George Yardley. Syracuse was led by the versatile Adolph Schayes. Johnny Kerr was a rookie for Syracuse that season. The Nationals won their only NBA championship of their Syracuse tenure that night.
Next would probably come a regular season game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Arizona Diamondbacks in which Jose Jimenez, then a rookie, pitched a no hit game in a 1-0 St. Louis victory. Randy Johnson was the losing pitcher and gave up only four hits, one of which was a broken bat single that drove in the game’s only run. Ironically, Jimenez has recently signed with the Diamondbacks for the 2005 season.
St. Louis has a way of figuring in many of my favorite baseball memories. It was a year later when Mark McGwire of the Cardinals was setting the league on fire with his towering and prolific home run hitting. The play that is seared into my memory though was not a home run. McGwire was batting with the bases loaded and no outs. He lofted a fly ball to medium center field. Steve Finley caught the ball in perfect throwing position and fired a strike to home plate nailing the Cardinals runner for the second out. Catcher Damien Miller tagged the runner and threw to third base where shortstop Tony Womack was covering to nip the runner trying to advance from second and complete the only triple play I have seen at the major league level.
It should be worth noting here that Tony Womack has managed to figure prominently in three of the most memorable sporting events of my life. They are probably three of the most memorable events of his life, too.
Quickly, it might be worth mentioning that not all of the memorable sporting events in my life have been of national importance or even of much importance to most people at all. But those are the possible subjects of a future column.