6 More Memorable STL Sports Moments

1, August 2017

St. Louis is a sports town, no doubt. Local teams and hometown heroes have provided countless action-packed, exhilarating, frustrating, and heartrending moments for fans near and far over the years, but some of those moments stand out even more than others. Here's just a handful of 'em, in no particular order. (Check out our first list here.)

1. The Wacky Olympic Marathon of 1904

Black-and-white photo fo the start of the 1904 Olympics marathon World's Fair president David R. Francis fired the starting gun for the marathon at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis. Missouri History Museum.

Although the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis featured events you won’t see today—tug of war and roque, for example—they did feature more-familiar events, including the marathon. The race began at Washington University's Francis Field and traversed dirt paths that took the runners as far west as Ballas Road. American Fred Lorz crossed the finish line first, but he was soon disqualified when officials learned he had ridden in an automobile for a portion of the race.

The true winner was American Thomas Hicks, whose handlers gave the exhausted runner egg whites and strychnine along the route in an effort to sustain him. His winning time was 3 hours, 28 minutes, 53 seconds. (For comparison, the winner of the 2017 Boston Marathon finished with a time of 2 hours, 9 minutes, 37 seconds.) The strongest runner may have been Cuban Felix Carvajal, but he finished in fourth place after taking a midrace break to eat peaches!

2. The Monday Night Miracle

Black-and-white photo of Doug WickenheiserBlues center Doug Wickenheiser (#14) pulled off the Monday Night Miracle. Image from The 100 Greatest Moments in St. Louis Sports.

The St. Louis Blues were down three games to two and facing elimination from the NHL playoffs when they met the Calgary Flames at the Arena on Monday, May 12, 1986. With 12 minutes left in the game, the Blues trailed 5–2. Then, with 11:52 remaining, Brian Sutter scored to cut the lead to 5–3, giving Blues fans a glimmer of hope. At the 4:11 mark, Greg Paslawski scored; three minutes later he completed the Blues' comeback with a remarkable unassisted goal.

With a frantic standing-room-only crowd of 17,801 rocking the Old Barn, the game went into overtime, and Doug Wickenheiser scored the winning goal for the Blues. Announcer Ken Wilson captured the moment: “Wickenheiser scores! Doug Wickenheiser! The Blues pull it off, and it's unbelievable!” Two nights later the Blues lost Game 7 in Calgary, but the Monday Night Miracle still holds an exalted place in Blues lore.

3. Free Spirits

Black-and-white photo of the Arena in early 1969The Spirits of St. Louis played at the Arena, shown here in early 1969, for two seasons. Missouri History Museum.

When the NBA’s St. Louis Hawks moved to Atlanta in 1968, St. Louis was left without professional basketball. Six years later, the American Basketball Association’s Carolina Cougars moved to the Gateway City and became the Spirits of St. Louis. Although the crowds at the Arena were generally sparse during the team’s two-season stint here, the Spirits were an entertaining bunch. The roster included Movin’ Marvin Barnes, the 1974–1975 Rookie of the Year who went AWOL for 10 days during a contract dispute, as well as New York City streetball legend James “Fly” Williams and future Hall of Famer Moses Malone.

The Spirits’ high-water mark was a stunning upset of the defending champion New York Nets, despite the fact that the Nets had beaten the Spirits in all 11 of their regular-season matchups. But perhaps the lasting legacy of the Spirits is twofold:

  • The team launched the career of sports broadcasting legend Bob Costas, who took over the play-by-play duties for the Spirits at the age of 22.
  • The Spirits’ owners, Ozzie and Daniel Silna, negotiated a remarkable contract when the ABA and NBA merged in 1976. The agreement gave them a share of future NBA television revenue in perpetuity. As TV money exploded in the ensuing decades, the Silna brothers cashed in to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

4. David Freese Becomes a Legend

Color photo of David Freese at batNative St. Louisan David Freese was the hero of the 2011 World Series. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In its 125 years of play, the storied St. Louis Cardinals franchise has had its share of memorable moments—Ozzie Smith’s “Go crazy, folks” home run in the 1985 playoffs and Bob Gibson’s record-setting 17-strikeout performance in the 1968 World Series are just two that come readily to mind. But for sheer drama on the sport’s greatest stage, surely no moment in Cardinals history can top game 6 of the 2011 World Series.

Down three games to two, the Cards faced the Texas Rangers at Busch Stadium on the night of October 27. In the bottom of the ninth, St. Louis native David Freese stepped up to the plate with two outs and his team trailing 7–5. With the count at 1–2, he tripled off the right-field wall, driving in two runs to tie the game. The Rangers scored two in the top of the tenth, and the Cards got one run back in the bottom of the inning before Lance Berkman came to bat with two outs. The count went to 1–2, and yet again the home team was one strike away from elimination. But Berkman singled to center to drive in the game-tying run.

With the game still tied in the bottom of the eleventh, Freese again stepped to the plate, and again he delivered in dramatic fashion, driving the ball over the center-field wall for a game-winning home run. The Redbirds won game 7 the next night to capture their 11th World Series title.

5. “Immortality in 9 Seconds Flat”

Black-and-white yearbook photo of Ivory CrockettIvory Crockett Park in Webster Groves is named after famed sprinter Ivory Crockett, shown here in his 1968 yearbook photo. Missouri History Museum.

Since bursting onto the international scene at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt has held the title of World’s Fastest Man. Yet back in 1974 this mythical title was held by St. Louisan Ivory Crockett. After starring in track at Webster Groves High School and Southern Illinois University–Carbondale, Crockett continued to race while working as a marketing representative for IBM in Peoria, Illinois.

At a meet in Knoxville, Tennessee, on May 11, 1974, the 24-year-old set the world record in the 100-yard dash with a time of 9.0 seconds. “Immortality in 9 Seconds Flat,” read a headline in the Los Angeles Times the following day. Crockett never realized his dream of competing in the Olympics, though; he was eliminated in the U.S. Olympic trials in 1972 and 1976.

6. A True Dynasty

Black-and-white photo of Washington University women's volleyball coach Teri ClemensTeri Clemens helped create Washington University's women's volleyball dynasty. Image from The 100 Greatest Moments in St. Louis Sports.

Nowadays it seems that when a team wins a single championship or two, sports fans and pundits begin to throw around the word “dynasty.” If you want to see a real dynasty, look for a team that's won six consecutive national championships—which is just what Washington University's women’s volleyball team did from 1991 to 1996.

The driving force behind this incredible championship run was head coach Teri Clemens. A native of the Gateway City, Clemens had established a powerhouse high school program at Incarnate Word Academy, where she led the Red Knights to three consecutive state titles from 1982 to 1984. She took over the Washington University program in 1985, and after 14 years there she retired with a 529–77 record. Her 0.873 winning percentage remains the highest of all time for NCAA volleyball across all divisions.

—Dennis Northcott, Associate Archivist, Reference

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