The greatest calls in sports history

“Do you believe in miracles? Yes” Al Michaels makes the greatest call in sports broadcasting history as the American hockey team beats the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics.

Call it the hearing test. You know a great call when you hear one. Some are signature calls from legendary broadcasters; others were produced by relatively obscure announcers. All capture a magic moment. Here are my top 10 favorites:

10. Matteau Matteau, Matteau

Classic call by Howie Rose on Stephen Matteau’s goal in the second overtime to help the Rangers beat the Devils in Game 7 and advance to the Stanley Cup finals. Gotta love the reference to Mount Vancouver.

9. Kirk Gibson’s home run

“I don’t believe what I just saw,” said Jack Buck after Kirk Gibson took Dennis Eckersley deep with two outs in the ninth, Game 1, 1988 World Series. Dodgers beat A’s, 5-4

8. The Immaculate Reception
When Franco Harris, right, caught Terry Brashaw’s deflected pass at his shoetops and raced into the end zone to give the Steelers a wildly improbable playoff win over the Raiders, NBC broacaster Curt Gowdy called it “the miracle of all miracles.”

7. The Giants win the pennant

“The Giants win the pennant. The Giants win the pennant. The Giants win the pennant. The Giants win the pennant.”  New York announcer Russ Hodges goes crazy describing the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World.” Bobby Thomson’s dramatic, three-run ninth inning home run gave the Giants the National League pennant and broke the hearts of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

6. Cal vs. Stanford

Listen to the Cal announcers lose it during one of the most dramatic finishes in college in college football history when Cal beat archrival Stanford on the final play of the game. “The band is out on the field….the Bears have won.”

5. Havlicek stole the ball

Johnny Most, the gravelly-voiced play-by-play announcer for the Boston Celtics, makes his most memorable call in Game 7 of the 1965 NBA Eastern Conference finals. “Havlicek stole the ball. It’s all over. It’s all over.”

4. Secretariat wins the Belmont

Track announcer Chic Anderson has the call as Secretariat wins the Triple Crown in 1973 by an incredible 31 lengths. “Secretariat is widening now! He is moving like a tremendous machine! ….An unbelievable, amazing performance.”

3. Foreman beats Frazier

Howard Cosell had some amazing calls, but was at his best in the 1973 heavyweight championship bout when George Foreman knocked out a heavily favored Joe Frazier. “Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!”

2.  Sandy Koufax perfect game

The great Los Angeles Dodger play-by-play man Vin Scully waxes poetic as Sandy Koufax completes his perfect game in 1965. In this recording of the ninth inning, Scully takes the listener on a word journey. “2 and 2 to Harvey Kuenn…swung on and missed, a perfect game.”

1. Miracle on Ice

Al Michaels is still broadcasting today, yet his most unforgettable call occurred 34 years ago in the tiny town of Lake Placid, New York. There a bunch of young American hockey players upset the Soviet Union in what ranks as one of the biggest upsets in sports history. “Do you believe in miracles?” says Michaels as the crowd counts down the final seconds. “Yes!!” The exuberance of the Team USA players and the stunned looks on the faces of the Soviets tells it all.


Dodgers-Cubs Was Nearly Perfect Back in 1965

Sandy Koufax pitched four no-hitters, including a perfect game in 1965. But his mound opponent that night, little-known Bob Hendley, was almost perfect too.

On a cool September night in Los Angeles almost 45 years ago, the Dodgers and the Cubs played a nearly perfect game, closer to perfect than any other game in major league history.

Sandy Koufax got the headlines that September 9 as he fashioned a perfect game, striking out 14 Cubs in the fourth and final no-hitter of his legendary Dodgers’ career.

But Koufax’s opponent, Bob Hendley, a journeyman left-hander, picked that night to pitch the game of his life, nearly matching the great Koufax. The 26-year-old Hendley allowed just one hit and a single walk, yet lost 1-0.

The game, played in 103 minutes, set several records, among them the fewest hits for both teams (1) and fewest total baserunners (2); the next lowest total is four.  Both pitchers had no-hitters intact until the seventh inning. The only run the Dodgers scored was unearned.

The Dodgers managed to score that run in the fifth inning when outfielder Lou Johnson walked, was sacrificed to second, stole third and continued home on a throwing error by Cubs catcher Chris Krug. Johnson had the only hit of the game, a bloop double over the head of Cubs first baseman Ernie Banks with two out in the seventh.

Koufax Breaks Feller’s Record
Koufax was magnificent that night, becoming just the sixth pitcher in the modern era to throw a perfect game. It was Koufax’s fourth no-hitter, breaking Bob Feller’s record of three (later broken by Nolan Ryan, in 1981, who finished with seven). Koufax’s 14 K’s are the most ever in a perfect game.

Koufax struck out the final six batters he faced to finish off the perfect game with panache. He fanned pinch hitter Harvey Kuenn on a 2-2 pitch for the final out of the game. The ninth inning call of that game by Dodger announcer Vin Scully is considered to be one a classic example of play-by-play broadcasting. Click here to listen for yourself.

Kuenn, a former American League batting champion who hit .303 lifetime with more than 2,000 hits, also made the last out of Koufax’ second career no-hitter, against Juan Marichal, Willie Mays and the San Francisco Giants on May 11, 1963. Kuenn bounced out Koufax to first for the final out of that game.

Hendley’s career was not exactly Koufaxian. Over seven years with the Braves, Giants, Cubs and Mets, Hendley never won more than 11 games in a season, finishing with a 48 wins in 100 career decisions. Earlier in the 1965 season, he was traded from the Giants to the Cubs with Ed Bailey and Harvey Kuenn for Dick Bertell and Len Gabrielson.  Hendley wound up 4-4 that year with a 5.96 ERA.

Five days after the perfect game, a Koufax-Hendley rematch took place at Wrigley Field. This time, Hendley defeated Koufax, 2-1 with a complete game four-hitter. Koufax allowed five hits in six innings, including a two-run homer to Billy Williams in the sixth.

To date, Koufax’s perfect game is the last no-hitter to be pitched against the Cubs. They have gone the longest of all MLB teams since a no-hitter was last pitched against them