Frank Cusumano's 10 Best Moments in St. Louis Area Sports History
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Frank Cusumano's 10 Best Moments in St. Louis Area Sports History

Steven Walden works on a painting of St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo

Steven Walden works on a painting of St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo.

The metro area has produced some of the most historic snapshots of sports history in the country. Here are 10 favorites:

10. We’ll go old school to begin with – 1958, to be exact, when the St. Louis Hawks won the only NBA World Championship our town has ever won, and likely ever will win. What makes it particularly captivating is the fact it was against Bill Russell’s Celtics, and it just so happened to be the greatest performance in a championship-deciding game ever. Bob Pettit scored an awe-inspiring 50 points for the Hawks.

9. Speaking of Game 6s, let’s hop to 1985 with the Cardinals and the Dodgers. Jack Clark blasted a three-run bomb in the ninth inning off Tom Neidefuer in the NLCS. It was maybe the worst decision of Tommy Lasorda’s career to pitch to Clark, and it was Clark’s most important swing of his illustrious career. As a former Giant, Clark hated the Dodgers, and the Cardinals will forever love Clark for this moment.

8. It’s hard to believe that a guy with 13 Gold Gloves who is maybe the best defensive player in baseball history had his biggest moment with a bat in his hands. How likely was Ozzie Smith’s walk-off homer in Game 5 versus the Dodgers in the 1985 NLCS? At the time, he had 3,009 career at-bats from the left side without a home run. That’s why Jack Buck famously yelled, “Go crazy, folks, go crazy!”

7. Roger Maris’ record had lasted 37 years. Mark McGwire hit his 62nd homer of the season off Steve Trachsel, thereby breaking the record en route to a 70-home run season. Funny enough, the ball went 341 feet, making it Big Mac’s shortest homer of the season. The steroid revelation has tarnished this particular moment, but at the time, it captivated Cardinal Nation.

6. This entry on our list belongs to the Monday Night Miracle, which, before last season, was the signature moment in Blues history. Yet another magical Game 6 for the metro area, the Blues trailed Calgary by three goals with 12 minutes left to play in the Campbell Conference finals game. They tied the game with 1:17 minutes left to go, and Doug Wickenheiser won the game in overtime. The roof came off of the Old Barn, and the crowd wouldn’t stop cheering.

5. Game 7 of the NLCS in 2006 saw the pitch from Adam Wainwright that froze New York. It was actually more memorable than what happened eight days later, when the Cardinals beat the Tigers in the World Series. Waino’s curve ball paralyzed Carlos Beltran of the Mets to lead the 83-win Cardinals to the Fall Classic. Hard to believe that 14 years later, Waino is still throwing to Yadier Molina.

4. Despite the acrimonious divorce, which will likely last for two more years in the courts, Super Bowl 34 was pure joy. The Rams went from the outhouse to the penthouse in a single season. They featured four and possibly five Hall of Famers. They did everything with a swashbuckling style – even ending the game with the tackle by Mike Jones, which was one of the most iconic in NFL history.

3. Last spring’s Game 7 against the Stars featured the most important goal in Blues history. There would have been no Stanley Cup and no parade without this moment. On May 7, in a Game 7, No. 7 buried the game winner in double overtime. Oakville grad Pat Maroon came to town for one season, scored this monumental goal and then left.

2. Game 7 last year in Boston wasn’t heart-stopping in itself, but the result was historical. A 52-year drought ended the night of June 13. On the morning of January 3, the Blues were the worst team in hockey. What followed was a true Cinderella story among the pipes, a magnificent new coach and a bunch of players who believed in one another. “St. Louis Blues, Stanley Cup champions” will always have a nice ring to it.

1. I’m sorry – there’s no debate about No. 1. The best World Series game ever played, which just happens to have been won by our Cardinals, has to be the winner here. Besides the 2011 Cardinals, only the 1986 Mets were one strike away from elimination and ended up winning the World Series. Fitting for a Cardinals team which was 10½ games out of first place with 31 games to play. It doesn’t hurt that a Lafayette High School grad named David Freese had one of the best games in the history of the Fall Classic. 

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