TOP TEN; Performances in St. Louis Sports History; ST. LOUIS; TOP TEN

By Dan O'neill | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), July 8, 2012 | Go to article overview

TOP TEN; Performances in St. Louis Sports History; ST. LOUIS; TOP TEN


Dan O'neill, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Beauty is in the mind of the beholder, be it swimsuit models or sports performances.

A lot of superlatives have been attached to Game 6 of last year's World Series, and you are hearing a lot of them to compliment the All-Star election of David Freese. The dynamic moments of that postseason game and the Series took on a life of their own, which is understandable.

They were special. And perspective has this perceptual growth hormone problem. The latest always is the greatest, and it's usually not even close. The hyperbole puts a heavy burden on some of us to provide balance.

If you are among the few who believe sports existed before cable television, you can be astonished by the cognitive cramp. You seek a more respectful point of reference. Hence the encumbrance. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it. So let's take this mid-summer Sunday to set the record straight.

First, the rules of engagement: With apologies to Jackie Joyner- Kersee and Pete Woods, these rankings are limited to professional sports. Moreover, the focus is on sustained performance, not a singular moment; sorry Glenn Brummer. Also, this is about a game or event, not a season or a career.

As might be expected from level heads, merit might be swayed by a variety of factors. In the theater of the dramatic, external implications and context can elevate the action itself.

Presumably, this register will inspire water-cooler debate, in the remote areas of the country where water coolers still exist. But make no mistake, this is it.

These are the "Top 10 Greatest Performances in St. Louis Sports History."

1. PETTIT SCORES 50 TO LEAD THE ST. LOUIS HAWKS TO NBA TITLE

St. Louis lost its NBA franchise in the late 1960s. Unfortunately, it also lost connection with one of its greatest sports figures, "Big Blue." Bob Pettit is on the short list of greatest players in NBA history. The gentlemanly Pettit would be beloved here in a Stan Musial way if pro basketball still had a pulse.

The St. Louis Hawks lost Game 7 of the 1957 NBA Finals to the dynastic Boston Celtics. But a year later, Pettit single-handily made sure it didn't happen again. With St. Louis leading 3-2 in the series, and Game 7 slated for Boston Garden, Game 6 at Kiel Auditorium became a virtual do-or-die situation for the Hawks.

Pettit scored a then-record 50 points, including 19 of his team's final 21, as the Hawks won and clinched their still-only NBA title. Oh, by the way, Pettit also had 19 rebounds in the game, and his tip- in with 15 seconds remaining provided the decisive margin in the 110- 109 outcome.

2. SPINKS DEFEATS ALI TO CAPTURE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP

Gap-toothed Leon Spinks, a 24-year-old from the projects in St. Louis, was making only his eighth professional boxing start on Feb. 15, 1978 - and it was a title fight against the iconic Muhammad Ali. In Apollo Creed fashion, the 36-year-old Ali expected a layup when he gave Spinks the opportunity, planning to milk one more rope-a- dope payday from his fading skills.

But Ali's possum strategy didn't work against the unrelenting Spinks, who just kept coming. In trouble, Ali tried to rally in the waning moments, but Spinks answered in kind. One hallucinating judge scored the decision for Ali, but two others gave Spinks the stunning upset he deserved.

Gonna fly now, flying high now ...

3. FREESE FRAME IN GAME 6 OF 2011 WORLD SERIES

On a local-kid-makes-good level, Freese's night on Oct. 28, 2011 is the bomb. The Lafayette High product batted in the ninth inning of Game 6, as the Cardinals trailed the Rangers 7-5 on the scoreboard, 3-2 in the series. The tying runs were aboard, but two were out and with a 1-2 count, champagne was popping unsolicited in the visiting Busch Stadium clubhouse.

Freese sent a drive to right that got over Nelson Cruz' glove. …

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