Sports are something special. They’re the epitome of competition, providing exciting games, competitive trials and at times, phenoms that seem to be light years ahead of themselves where skill and performance is concerned. Mix these all together and dash in a little history and you’ll get examples of events that are shocking, phenoms failing, and downright unbelievable matches. Here are ten examples of true moments in American sports that need to be seen to be believed.
10 – ROBIN VENTURA CHARGES NOLAN RYAN
On August 4, 1993, one of the best pitchers in history, Nolan Ryan, plunked Chicago’s Robin Ventura with a fast-ball thereby igniting one of the best charges to the mound ever seen in baseball.
Going by Ventura’s story it was a retaliation shot for a couple of things – Juan Gonzalez of the Texans was hit the previous inning by a White Sox pitch, which by unwritten baseball rules required Ryan to hit one of their batters as a manner of protecting his teammates…basically sending a message of, “you hit mine, I’ll hit yours”. Secondly, Robin Ventura had singled off of Ryan in the first inning to put the Sox up 1-0, which is why he was a prime candidate for a 100-mph fastball to the body. You don’t hit off Ryan. Nobody hits off Ryan. Just ask Ryan.
Unfortunately for the 26 year-old Ventura, the 46 year-old Nolan Ryan came fully equipped with old-man strength and steer-branding maneuvers which Ryan claims was “similar” to the technique he used to grab the charging Ventura, put him in a headlock, and punch him 6 times until Ryan’s own catcher, Ivan Rodriguez pulled Ventura away. The age gap between the two made the conflict seem more like a father giving his kid a “noogie” for getting out of line rather than the fight it actually was. But that’s what you get for hitting off Ryan.
9 – JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ (89-0) LOSES TO A BASIC COMBO
Before MMA, Boxing was the main sport for blood-thirsty fight fans. Although heavyweights were usually the big draw in the late-80’s to early 90’s, Julio Cesar Chavez was followed – or at least known – to every fight fan.
JCC was a six-time world champion in three different weight classes and at one time was 89-0. Yes, 89 wins and zero losses. As hard as that is to fathom, it should also be mentioned that JCC won his first title, the WBC Super Featherweight belt when he was 44-0, which means he had fought top contenders for 45 fights until he met Frankie “The Surgeon” Randall on January 29, 1994 .
Sports writers predicted Chavez to easily defeat Randall, but a classic 1-2 combo (jab, right-cross) in the 11th round sent Chavez to the canvas for the first time in his undefeated career – see 7:20 of the video for the knockdown. He easily got up, took his 8-count and fought to lose by decision, which was his only professional loss up to that point.
Later, Chavez blamed the loss on Richard Steele, the referee who has had his fair share of shadiness. His complaint was that Steele was deducting points for low blows that Chavez was throwing. Yes, you read that correctly – Chavez said he lost because the ref took points away because of his illegal blows to Frankie’s junk. The WBC ordered an immediate rematch which Chavez won by decision, but it wasn’t enough to erase the fact that this unbelievably good boxer got knocked down and lost to a combination that you learn on your first day of fighting.
8 – MUHAMMAD ALI’S PHANTOM PUNCH
Muhammad Ali is full of mystique. He was such an athlete and so far ahead of his time that some of his accomplishments need to be seen to be believed. One such incident was his famous “phantom punch” against brawler Sonny Liston who was by no means a slouch. The fight took place on May 25, 1965 with Liston a heavy 13-5 favorite.
The punch (if you ask Ali), was something he claims he worked on leading up to the fight and he calls it his “anchor punch“, which was a way of hitting down while simultaneously moving away. He throws the punch at 4:02 in video just prior to Liston careening onto the mat.
Besides throwing the punch so quickly, people had a hard time believing that such a punch could knock down a monster like Sonny Liston. Not helpful was Sonny’s tie to mob figures, so accordingly there was talk of a fix. Regardless, it goes down as one of the most famous punches in boxing lore.
7 – IMMACULATE RECEPTION
You may have heard the term through various sports networks on television – the “Immaculate Reception”. This is a scene straight out of every football movie that ends with the home team throwing a hail-mary for the touchdown to win in the closing seconds. The difference being, the real-life event was ten-times more unbelievable.
On December 23, 1972, the Steelers were losing 7-6 to the Oakland Raiders with seconds left to play. Sent on a scramble, Pittsburgh’s quarterback, Terry Bradshaw threw a desperation pass to wide out John Fuqua who was drilled by Oakland’s safety the second the ball hit his hands. Oakland stopped to celebrate the win and by the time they noticed that the ball had shot off of Oakland’s safety and into the hands of Steeler’s fullback Franco Harris, it was too late to catch him as he ran it in for the touchdown, winning in the closing seconds in true movie-ending fashion.
6 – RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE
Yes, another Muhammad Ali entry (he was a baaaad maaan). The “Rumble in the Jungle” took place in Zaire, October 29, 1974. Muhammad Ali was set to fight another bear in the ring – the hard-hitting George Foreman in his pre-grillin’ days.
George was the undefeated heavyweight champion and was favored to beat Ali. He was also notorious for how hard he hit his opponents. His career 76-5 record can attest for that. But when fought Ali, Foreman was 40-0 with knockouts over high caliber opponents such as Ken Norton and Joe Frazier. Ali was well aware of Foreman’s power and used another one of his clever techniques – the “Rope-a-dope” to fight him.
Ali would essentially lay against the ropes, exposing his mid-section for Foreman to use as a heavy bag. He did this while safely keeping his head out of harm’s way while verbally taunting Foreman asking things like, “Is that all you got, George?”
By the 8th round of pounding Ali’s midsection, Foreman was exhausted. That’s when the older, smaller Ali unleashed a lightning-fast 5-punch combination to knock-out George Foreman. Ali in essence, got Foreman to beat himself. He knew what he was doing all along as his main focus in training camp was throwing a medicine ball against his abs in an attempt to “harden” himself against Foreman’s punches.
INTERESTING FACT: George Foreman has made comments in the past that he may have been “slipped a mickey” before the bout, but he doesn’t think it was Ali’s guys, he thinks it was his own people.
5 – JESSE OWENS IN BERLIN
Check out the iconic picture here before going any further…awesome huh?
The 1936 Olympics were held in Berlin, Germany, which you can image was probably not the dream situation for Jesse Owens who was African American. Jesse however, decided to make a statement by winning 4 gold medals and embarrassing Hitler who promoted the Olympics as a time for the Germans to show their “Aryan racial superiority” . He pretty much stuck it to the Fuhrer in his own house, which is nice.
The iconic photo of Jesse standing on the podium, while saluting, in Berlin, while another competitor is giving the Nazi salute is truly something we will never see again. An added Bonus in the picture is the old Japanese man standing at the knees of Jesse. That man is Jigoro Kano – the founder of judo, a sport which wouldn’t be in the Olympics for another 30 years.
4 – RANDY JOHNSON vs. BIRD
Randy Johnson hit a bird with a fastball.
3 – KEITH HACKNEY PUNCHING JOE SON’S SONS
Joe Son is the guy that played “Random Task”, the Oddjob-like character in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. He also fought in UFC 4, but that’s about where his story stays in the realm of normal. In order to truly understand the satisfaction of watching the video, you’ll need to do it in two parts, so please watch that video before reading further.
Done? That was in 1994 at UFC 4, and the man repeatedly punching Joe Son in the biscuits is Keith Hackney, who is one of the pioneers of the UFC. As weird as it is watching Hackney do that to an Austin Powers villain, get to know Joe Son a little bit more..
In 2008, Joe Son pleaded guilty to vandalism and as a part of his plea agreement, submitted a DNA sample . That sample matched a sample that was collected from a gang-rape in 1990, to which Joe was convicted and sent to life in prison without parole in 2009. That means that 4 years after Joe Son repeatedly raped and tortured a woman, and 3 years before he was in Austin Powers, he was a rapist that had gotten away with it, entered the Ultimate Fighting Championship and got repeatedly punched in the crotch by one of the best strikers in the early UFC. Go ahead and watch that video again, you’ll see it a little different now.
To further the insanity of Joe Son, in 2011 while serving his life sentence, he killed his cellmate…who was also a sex offender…go figure.
2 – PARACHUTING INTO THE BOXING RING (HOLYFIELD X BOWE)
Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe fought some real-life Rocky Balboa bouts, often landing shots as deep as 3-5 seconds after the bell. As hard as it would be to add any kind of excitement to one of their 3 matches, James Miller did just that by doing the most random thing that has ever been randomed – he paraglided into Caesars Palace and into the boxing ring of the two best heavyweights in the world while they were dukin’ it out in the 7th round. This was the point where he was immediately pulled out and beaten by both the crowd and a security detail that had no idea what the hell they signed up for.
Miller was knocked unconscious during the melee that ensued, but that’s in part because nobody expects a person to paraglide into a championship boxing match. Some people even thought he was a terrorist. So there’s a lesson to be learned here and I don’t think it needs to be said…as ridiculous as it is.
1 – SEABISCUIT vs. WAR ADMIRAL
War Admiral (21-3-1) was the son of what nearly all horseracing fans crown as best race horse of all-time, Man o’ War. He stood 15.3 hands (about 61.2”) and had the aggressiveness of his famous sire. He is ranked #13 in Bloodhorse magazine’s 100 greatest thoroughbreds , which is 12 spots higher than his shorter, knobby-kneed nephew, Seabiscuit (33-15-1).
Just like the movie by the same name states, Seabiscuit was shorter than War Admiral, but heavier. This was in part due to Seabiscuit’s habit of not doing much coupled with eating and sleeping all day when he was younger. As Seabiscuit became more successful at racing, it was inevitable that he was to meet his famous uncle in a one-on-one race to determine the best horse of the day, which by popular vote was War Admiral.
The Race took place in Pimlico on November 1, 1938 . The way many people envisioned the race turning out was for War Admiral to burst out of the gate (which was a rope) and hold a lead over Seabiscuit that he’d be unable to recover from due to his shorter stride and lazy-kid ways. His trainer, Tom Smith knew this and used a Pavlonian technique to train Seabiscuit to burst into a sprint when he heard the bell.
As the bell rang, Seabiscuit exploded out and led into the first turn. At the advice of Seabiscuit’s regular jockey, George Woolf eased up on Seabiscuit to let War Admiral catch up. It’s at this point that Seabiscuit saw War Admiral and decided to drop the hammer and finish the race ahead of his heavily favored uncle. Because of this, he was named “American Horse of the Year” and was the #1 newsmaker in 1938. Making it all the more special was that this race was during the Great Depression, and Seabiscuit was a symbol of the “little man making it” over the heavily favored opposition.