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“The Most Significant Events In National & World Sports History”: Your Thoughts?

September 10, 2013

An old friend from Monmouth College wrote to ask my opinion of “the most significant events in national & world sports history?” I’m no expert in expert on this subject, and have never taught a class dedicated to sports history. But I do occasionally teach on sports in my U.S. survey. So I gave her my off-the-cuff thoughts.

Caveats: (1) What follows is in chronological order; (2) The list has an American emphasis; (3) The list has a 20th century emphasis; and (4) Some “events” are really date associations with specific teams/people.

Here goes:

1896 — Revival of modern Olympics (held in Athens)
1920s — Yankees teams, world series winners
1920s — Red Grange and the galloping ghosts, popularity of college football (as well as Grange signing with Bears around 1925 and popularizing NFL football)
1930s — Joe Louis-Max Schmeling fights
1936 — Olympics, Berlin (Jesse Owens against Nazi ideology)
1946 — NBA founded
1947 (April) — Jackie Robinson breaks MLB’s color barrier
1968 — Olympics, Mexico (think black power)
1973 — B.J. King/Bobby Riggs match
1975 — Seitz decision (nullifying MLB reserve clause, and free agency instituted—all started in 1969 by Curt Flood refusing to report for trade and sitting out 1970 season)
1979 — NCAA championship game w/Larry Bird and Magic Johnson
1980 — Winter Olympics, U.S. beats Russia in hockey
1980s — SF NFL teams, super bowl winners and west coast offense

What did I miss? A lot, I’m sure. Feel free to chime in. – TL


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  1. Rachel Shelden permalink

    Some ideas:

    1908 Jack Johnson becomes first African American heavyweight champion

    1919 Black Sox scandal (White Sox throw World Series)

    1939 Lou Gehrig’s “luckiest man in the world” speech

    1972 Terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics

    1972 Roberto Clemente dies in plane crash carrying aid to victims of earthquake in Puerto Rico

    1974 Rumble in the Jungle (Ali v. Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire)

    1975 Thrilla in Manilla (Ali v. Frazier)

    1986 Len Bias overdoses right before the NBA draft

    1991 Magic Johnson announces he is HIV positive

    1995 South African rugby team wins the World Cup


  2. Paul permalink

    Cassius Clay beats Sonny Liston later to become Muhammad Ali. Liston fight was in 1964.

    AFL joins NFL resulting in Superbowl 1967 Packers beat Chiefs.

    Henry Aaron surpasses Babe Ruth’s total hr record of 714 on April 8, 1974

    Munich Olympics in ’72 where Israeli Olympians are kidnapped and killed.

    1972 Miami Dolphins go undefeated 14 and O only undefeated NFL team ever.

    Don Larson pitches perfect game for Yankees in 1956 world series.

    Glad you mentioned Curt Flood, he’s often the forgotten man but it was his action that spurred on Marvin Miller to his success in 1975.

    Moscow summer Olympics are boycotted by U.S. 1980

    L.A summer Olympics are boycotted by Soviet Union. 1984

    Pele….Brazilian soccer star and international star.

    Sadaharu Oh…Japanese homer run hitter easily eclipsed Babe Ruth and everybody else with 868 home runs.

    Bob Beamon’s long jump beat the world record in Mexico City by 21 3/4″!!!!! The 2nd place finisher was at almost 3′ behind.

    Okay I’ll stop now and we didn’t even talk about the Boston Celtics or UCLA Bruins basketball.


  3. And we can’t forget both Title IX (enacted 1972) and the the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup final (think Brandi Chastain)!


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