Rare Vintage Photos of Famous Athletes
Sports creates some great memories and some even more amazing pictures. Vintage sports images are snapshots of history that took place on an athletic field rather than a battlefield. They are often watched on a television instead of read about in a textbook. And sports are often a great unifier of people and cultures — a way to level the playing field and put everything else aside. Here are 50 vintage sports photos that capture some of the greatest moments in sports history.
Willie Mays’ Catch
Simply referred to as “The Catch,” Willie Mays’ over-the-shoulder basket catch is arguably the most famous catch in baseball history. During Game 1 of the 1954 World Series between the New York Giants and Cleveland Indians, Mays robbed Vic Wertz of a sure extra-base hit in the eighth inning that kept the score knotted at 2-2.
Not only did Mays make the crazy, over-the-shoulder grab, he immediately whirled and threw the ball back to the infield to prevent runners from advancing. The Giants would go on to win the game in extra innings and the series in four games. The catch has been immortalized in film and forms of art ever since.
Pete Rose’s Dive
Known as “Charlie Hustle” for his intense style of play, Cincinnati Reds all-time great Pete Rose popularized the head-first slide in baseball. But he also played with reckless abandon on the field, crashing into players and walls on a regular basis. This carried over into events like All-Star Games, resulting in a career-altering injury to Indians catcher Ray Fosse in 1970.
A three-time champion and 17-time All-Star, Rose is the Major Leagues’ all-time hits leader, having passed Ty Cobb in 1985. He is one of the most controversial figures in baseball history thanks to his involvement with betting on baseball, resulting in a lifetime ban in 1989. He’s also the most recent player-manager in the Majors.
Terry Bradshaw Flexing
A man on a mission, Terry Bradshaw prepares for Super Bowl XIII in Miami against the Dallas Cowboys. Bradshaw entered the game a two-time Super Bowl champion, in 1975 and ’76, having beaten the Cowboys in Super Bowl X. Bradshaw was the subject of some serious trash talk before Super Bowl XIII, when Cowboys linebacker Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson suggested Bradshaw couldn’t spell “cat” if spotted the C and the A.
In the game, Bradshaw would pass for four touchdowns — the first four-touchdown performance in Super Bowl history — as the Steelers built a 35-17 lead in the fourth quarter. The Steelers would hang on for a 35-31 victory, then defeat the Rams in Super Bowl XIV to become back-to-back winners for the second time and become the first four-time champion in league history.
Bobby Orr Flying
No. 4, Bobby Orr. One of the most classic images in NHL history belongs to the Boston Bruins and their Hall of Fame defenseman. In overtime of Game 4 of the 1970 NHL Stanley Cup Finals, the Bruins were on the verge of clinching their first Cup since 1941, and Orr delivered.
Almost instantly after burying the game-winning goal, Orr was unintentionally tripped by a defenseman, sending him flying through the air. The famous photo, taken from behind the goal, would come to symbolize Orr’s career and the “thrill of victory.” This less-known angle shows the same moment from the vantage of center ice.
Vince Lombardi Rides Off into Victory
Head Coach Vince Lombardi helped give Green Bay the nickname “Titletown.” He guided the Pack to five NFL Championships in the 1960s, including the first two Super Bowls in 1966 and ’67. His victory celebration? Being carried off the field by his players. In this case, after Super Bowl II in Miami, Lombardi was lifted up by lineman Jerry Kramer.
As it turned out, this was Lombardi’s final ride as the Packers’ coach. Lombardi stepped down soon after this game, and would later coach the Redskins before dying of cancer in the early 1970s. The Super Bowl trophy was then re-named the Vince Lombardi Trophy in honor of the legendary Packers coach.
Bill Russell Blocks
One of the greatest defensive players of all time, Bill Russell revolutionized how basketball was played from a defensive standpoint. Russell, an 11-time champion and five-time MVP, was keen on blocking shots and snagging rebounds. Over his career, he amassed 21,620 rebounds, second in NBA history. But what’s more impressive is how Russell blocked his shots.
He used finesse, rather than force, to alter and block shots. Instead of swatting the ball into the stands, a crowd-pleasing display, Russell intentionally blocked or altered shots just enough so he or his teammates could corral the loose ball. This would send the Celtics off on the fast-break, changing the way basketball was played forever.
Super Bowl I
The first Super Bowl in NFL history was a match between the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs. The Pack won the highly-anticipated game 35-10, thanks to their strong offensive play and stout defense. This first Super Bowl was actually known as the AFL-NFL World Championship Game.
Running back Jim Taylor, pictured above, is shown leading the famous “power sweep,” the Packers’ most basic, and most unstoppable, running play in Vince Lombardi’s playbook. Taylor had 56 yards on the ground and one score as the Packers overwhelmed the inferior opponent from the upstart AFL. The Packers won 11 NFL Championships, two AFL-NFL Super Bowls, and two modern-day Super Bowls.
At Arizona State University, Phil Mickelson was America’s premier amateur golfer. He won three individual NCAA championships, and based on this photo, he really was a natural Sun Devil. In 1990, Mickelson led his Sun Devils to the NCAA Championship. He was also named a first-team All-American all four years he was in school.
Here, a young Phil and dapper Dr. J share a moment at a banquet. Following graduation, Mickelson went on to dominate his professional career. With five Major Championships and a record six runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open, Mickelson, alongside Tiger Woods, became the face of golf in the 2000s.
Larry and Magic
Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were legendary rivals on the court and great friends off it. They played for two of the NBA’s biggest rivals, the Celtics and Lakers, and squared off in the NBA Finals three times, with the Lakers winning twice. Following Bird’s Hall of Fame career, he took up coaching, a job that proved to be less successful than he would have hoped.
But it was the 1979 NCAA Championship game where the rivalry truly began, with Magic’s Michigan State Spartans defeating Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores 75-64. The title game would be a harbinger of things to come, with Michigan State becoming one of the NCAA’s most dominant programs and Indiana State fading into relative oblivion.
“Havlicek Stole the Ball!”
The Johnny Most call on the play may be more famous than the footage or picture itself. “Havlicek stole the ball! It’s all over!” It was Game 7 of the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics clung to a one-point lead over the 76ers with just seconds left in the game.
Philadelphia, inbounding the ball, was in prime position to upset the defending champs. They just needed to inbound and score. However, John Havlicek had other plans and stole the inbound pass. Time would expire and the Celtics would advance to the NBA Finals, where they’d win their seventh straight championship.
Bill Mazeroski’s Walk-Off
The only World Series Game 7 walk-off home run in MLB history belongs to Bill Mazeroski of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Against the heavily favored New York Yankees in 1960, the Pirates managed to take the series to seven games. In Game 7, the bats came alive and the score was tied at 9-9 going into the bottom of the ninth. Enter Mazeroski, the Pirates’ second baseman known best for his glove.
But on the second pitch of the at-bat, Mazeroski drove the pitch deep to left and high over the outfield wall, ending the game and series with one swing. This series also marked the only time in MLB history that the World Series MVP was awarded to a player on the losing team.
Prime Time Deion Sanders was a winner on multiple levels. The football field, baseball diamond, and fashion game were no match for the future Super Bowl champion and Pro Football Hall of Famer. Drafted fifth overall out of Florida State (1989), Sanders entered the league as one of the most athletic players, a revolutionary athlete who could be utilized on all three phases of the game: offense, defense, and special teams.
Considered one of the greatest dual-sport athletes, Sanders played in both the MLB and NFL for multiple teams. In the NFL, he was a two-time Super Bowl champion, and in baseball, he led the National League in triples in 1992. Today, with youth athletes specializing in a single sport from such a young age, the chances of seeing another athlete of Deion’s ability are slim to none.
Hank Aaron is Crowned King
To baseball purists, Hank Aaron will always be the home run king. No steroids, no cheating, no asterisk. On April 8th, 1974, in the bottom of the fourth inning in front of a sellout crowd, Aaron launched a ball over the left-center wall for No 715, passing Babe Ruth for the record. Pandemonium.
Back in the day, when security was much more laid-back, fans could easily get on the field, and as Aaron rounded the basis, two eager fans enthusiastically greeted the new home run king.When Aaron finally reached home, a celebration worthy of a king took place, pausing the game as Aaron addressed his monumental feat.
Wayne Gretzky Hoists the Cup
The Great One. Wayne Gretzky is, without question, the greatest hockey player of all time. A four-time Stanley Cup Winner, Gretzky started off his career by joining a team that would become one of the greatest dynasties in NHL history. In his first nine seasons in the league, Gretzky would win four Cups.
However, following his final Cup victory in 1988, Gretzky would never again hoist the greatest prize in hockey. He’d spend the next 11 years trying to get back to the pinnacle, falling short each year. Today, Gretzky’s signature No. 99 has been retired league-wide, a fitting tribute to the great one.
Shaquille O’Neal and Monica Seles
A powerful dynamic duo, Shaquille O’Neal and tennis star Monica Seles share a moment at a press conference in New York. Seles, a tennis star who was an international sensation and the victim of a brutal on-court stabbing attack, agreed to be the first female investor in a multi-million dollar sports restaurant located in Times Square.
Other investors include Joe Montana, Wayne Gretzky, and Shaq. Shaq retired a four-time NBA champion and Seles finished her career with nine Grand Slam singles titles, eight of them coming when she was a teenager. The restaurant, called the Official All Star Cafe, went out of business in 2007 following the closure of the last existing location in Disney World.
Tackling Jim Brown was no easy task, and the photo above, where two Giants attempt to tackle the future Hall of Famer, further bolsters this statement. A nine-time Pro Bowler and three-time league MVP, Brown is widely considered the greatest Cleveland Browns player of all time, if not the best running back in NFL history.
To be fair, that franchise has a less-than-impressive history after its sterling entry into the league in the 1950s and is more known for it’s losing ways than winning. Besides being a standout football player, Brown was an All-American lacrosse player, a standout guard on the basketball team, and member of the track and field team at Syracuse University.
Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain holds the NBA record for most rebounds in a career at 23,924. He’s also the only player to score 100 points in a game, although footage of this monumental performance doesn’t exist. Off the court, Will is famous for his sexual escapades, claiming to have slept with thousands of women. With Wilt, everything was bigger.
Despite holding numerous records and being one of the more formidable players of his generation, Wilt only won two NBA championships. His contemporaries often criticized him for being too soft and not focused enough on winning. Or maybe he was too focused on wooing women and scoring off the court.
John Carlos and Tommie Smith
John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists for equality during the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. The buildup to the 1968 games was full of tension regarding social injustices taking place across the world. Questions swirled surrounding apartheid South Africa’s participation in the games, Mexico’s handling of the games, the Vietnam War, and racial inequality in America.
To raise more awareness, American sprinters Carlos and Smith (bronze and gold respectively) made a statement on the medal podium by raising black-gloved fists in the air and taking off their shoes to raise awareness for poverty and injustice in America. To some, this move was criticized and panned as a political stunt in an otherwise apolitical event. Others claimed the two runners were civil heroes using their platform for good.
Muhammad Ali versus Sonny Liston was the super-fight no one was able to see. Held in Lewiston, Me., due to security concerns, this 1965 super-fight took place in a high school gymnasium that only filled up half of its capacity on fight night — a record low crowd for a title fight.
After a tense, politically charged buildup, the fight questionably ended in the first round. Ali caught Liston with a quick, nearly invisible hook that sent the former champion tumbling to the canvas. The photo of Ali celebrating above his downed opponent has become one of the most famous in boxing.
Tiger Woods and Greg Norman
Before Tiger Woods was the greatest golfer of the 2000s, he was a kid at Stanford University. Pictured here are Woods and Greg Norman at the 1995 Masters. As a 19-year-old freshman at Stanford, this would be Woods’ first major championship. Tiger placed 41st in the tournament and was the only amateur to make the cut. Norman finished tied for third place.
Two years later, Woods would win his first Masters, becoming the youngest — and first person of color — to win the tournament. Years later, Tiger solidified himself as the world’s best golfer amid a remarkable, unprecedented run at winning tournaments. After an ugly extramarital affair and numerous injuries nearly derailed his career, Woods found himself on top once again after winning the 2018 Tour Championship.
Joe DiMaggio’s 56-Game Hit Streak
One of the streaks in sports that doesn’t seem like it’ll ever be broken is Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak in 1941. The nine-time World Series champion’s crowning achievement isn’t the nine championships or the three MVP awards. It’s his seemingly unbreakable hitting streak and one of the most impressive streaks in sports history, regardless of sport.
The next longest hitting streak in the modern era was Pete Rose’s during the 1978 season where he hit safely in 44 straight games — an impressive feat that falls considerably short of DiMaggio’s. With improved pitching and defensive schemes, understanding batters better, and the game of baseball being more technical than ever before, hitting safely in 56-straight games is highly unlikely.
During the Cold War, sports was one of the great equalizers used to determine which philosophy — Eastern or Western — was better, more advanced, more dominant. Pictured here is Canadian goalie Tony Esposito during the intense eight-game hockey series in 1972 that pitted the Soviet Union against Canada. This heated series symbolically marked the intensity of the Cold War and was one of the War’s signature head-to-head battles, except it was fought on ice.
At the time, the USSR dominated international hockey because NHL players were barred from playing, putting Canada at a severe disadvantage. Dubbed the Summit Series, each team fielded their best roster regardless of professional status. Team Canada, led by Hall of Fame goalie (and older brother of Phil Esposito) Tony Esposito, won four games and tied one, while the Soviets won three games.
Widely regarded as one baseball’s greatest hitters, Babe Ruth ushered in the live-ball era of baseball with tremendous power and exciting home runs. He was an integral part of baseball’s growth and was both a successful pitcher and feared hitter – something not seen until Japan’s Shohei Ohtani.
Following his trade from Boston to New York (known as the catalyst for the “Curse of the Bambino”), Boston suffered an 86-year long World Series championship drought while New York dominated baseball decade after decade. Ruth was one of the original members of the Baseball Hall of Fame and retired with 714 home runs.
The face of the Boston Red Sox, Ted Williams did it all for Boston except win a World Series. Williams, a fighter pilot during World War II and the Korean War, is considered the greatest overall hitter in baseball’s long history. He’s the last player to hit above .400 in a season and was as decorated on the field as he was a pilot.
An American hero, Williams flew 39 combat missions in Korea. He also hit over 500 home runs and has the highest on-base percentage of all-time. Following the Korean War, Williams seamlessly transitioned back to baseball as if he never left. Theo only thing missing from Williams’ impressive resume is the elusive World Series victory.
Bob Feller High Kick
Bob Feller was an eight-time All-Star pitcher for the Cleveland Indians who helped the franchise win the World Series in 1948. He was also the first athlete to volunteer for military service during World War II, serving in the United States Navy. Besides being a national hero, Feller was a national attraction any time he stepped on the mound.
Most famous for his exaggerated leg kick, Feller’s delivery was unique yet effective. He retired from baseball as one of the most celebrated pitchers and was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1962. Note in the picture how the mound is much shorter than its current height, meaning pitchers had to be that much more effective and accurate.
Roger Bannister Sub-Four Minute Mile
Breaking the four-minute mile was thought to be impossible, a task too great for humans. That is until Roger Bannister, a skinny kid from Harrow, England, broke the record in 1954. With an official time of 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds, Bannister instantly became one of the world’s most celebrated athletes and an English hero.
Although the record would last only 46 days, his remarkable feat paved the way for future generations of runners. Today, with runners breaking records at an unprecedented clip, Bannister’s name is still the one called and traced back to. It’s still the gold standard, the hallowed saint from one of the most revered sports. Following his running career, Bannister became a well-respected neurologist.
Michael Jordan and His Super Cars
Michael Jordan knew how to ball and intimidate his opponents before the game even started. He also knew how to appreciate the finer things in life. An avid cigar smoker and sports car collector, Jordan was known to arrive at the arena in some of the flashiest cars on the market including Ferraris and Aston Martins.
He did this partly because he liked the supercars, and partly to let everyone know he was in the building. Jordan asserted his dominance before he even stepped on the court. He was even so passionate about sleek sports cars that he had one of his iconic Jordan shoes — the Air Jordan XIVs — designed after a Ferrari F335.
Jesse Owens 1936
Although the Olympics are supposed to be an apolitical spectacle, a strict demonstration of sport, they hardly ever are. And in 1936, the Berlin Olympics were supposed to be Adolph Hitler’s way of broadcasting to the world Germany’s supremacy. The podium was supposed to be full of blonde-hair, blue-eyed Germans.
But American sprinter Jesse Owens had other plans. Owens, an African-American, won four gold medals during the games while setting multiple world records. More importantly, he stood up to Hitler in a hostile environment and crushed the dictator’s belief in Aryan superiority. Note the two different salutes in the picture.
Red Auerbach 1963 ECF champs
Victory cigars are an essential part of a proper athletic achievement celebration. Michael Jordan can be seen chomping away at a cigar following each of his six titles. Same with Kobe and many other athletes who like to inhale the smoke of victory. But this trend wasn’t always in style.
It was legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach who popularized the victory cigar during his run as head coach. And with nine championships in a 10-season span between 1957-66, the image of Auerbach with a cigar was omnipresent. Today, the cigar is a staple of locker room celebrations, even though its negative health effects are much more known.
Super Bowl IV
The final Super Bowl that pitted the AFL vs. the NFL was held on January 11, 1970, between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Minnesota Vikings. Although many people believed the NFL to be the far-superior league, the Chiefs of the AFL dominated the game from the outset. The Vikings have yet to win a Super Bowl.
The muddy game, held in New Orleans’ Tulane Stadium (since demolished), saw kicker Jan Stenerud (above, No. 3 ) hit three field goals and converted on two extra points. Stenerud was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1991.
First World Series
The first World Series in modern history took place in 1903. In an exhausting nine-game series, the Boston Americans defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates five games to three. Here, storming the field was still an acceptable practice in professional sports. Now that act is reserved strictly for college, and it’s becoming less common-place with each passing year.
Pictured here are fans storming Boston’s Huntington Avenue Grounds (presumably) following Boston’s victory in the series. Today, the ground is home to Boston University’s sports teams. And while Hunting Avenue Grounds was a classic venue, the Red Sox upgraded to Fenway Park, an equally classic and impressive home field that has seen its fair share of World Series.
First NBA Finals
The first NBA Finals took place in 1947 between the Chicago Stags and the Philadelphia Warriors. At that time, the predecessor to the NBA, the Basketball Association of America (BAA), was the sport’s premier governing body. A few seasons later, the BAA and the National Basketball League (NBL) merged together to form the NBA as we now know it.
However, the NBA considers all BAA records and stats to be their own. Thus the 1947 Finals are considered the first NBA Finals in history. Philadelphia won the series 4-1. To date, the Sixers have won three NBA championships. Notice how the entire roster, including the coaching staff, is Caucasian.
First Stanley Cup Finals
In 1926, the World Hockey League folded and the league was purchased by the National Hockey League, who immediately became the sole league in charge of Lord Stanley’s Cup. Thus, the 1927 Stanley Cup Finals was the first in NHL history exclusively featuring two NHL teams. The Ottawa Senators squared off against the Boston Bruins (pictured above), winning the series 2-0.
To date, it’s their most recent Stanley Cup victory. As for the Bruins, their most recent Cup victory came in 2011 – their sixth overall. One interesting thing to notice is the lack of helmets and padding. It appears that the players only wore padded gloves during this era, the exception being the goalie who wore a chest protector.
Ali’s First Fight
Before Muhammad Ali converted to Islam, he was Cassius Clay, the quick-witted and even quicker striking legend from Louisville, Kentucky. After a promising amateur career, Ali took on Tunney Hunsaker, a West Virginia policeman, in his first professional fight. In front of a sold-out home crowd at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ali won in a unanimous decision.
The two opponents would later become good friends, but it would Ali who would be remembered as the greatest boxer of all time. In 1981, Ali retired from boxing and three years later was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. In 2016, Ali passed away Scottsdale, Arizona, after a long, arduous fight with the disease.
Ali Wins Gold
The 1960 Summer Olympics took place in Rome and featured a young Cassius Clay, who would later become Muhammad Ali in 1964. At the Olympics, Ali represented the country he would later take to court to fight his drafting into the Vietnam War. In the Olympic tournament, Ali went 4-0 and won the Light Heavyweight division by beating a Polish boxer in the finals.
It would be Ali’s only Olympic games as an athlete. Decades later, after fighting for civil rights in America, Ali it the torch at the Atlanta Summer Games in 1996. Although he was a highly controversial figure during his heyday, Ali’s image and reputation improved with time and is now considered an icon of the Civil Rights Movement.
Kentucky vs. Baylor 1948
The University of Kentucky has one of the most storied basketball programs in America. Their head coach, Adolph Rupp, was one of the most successful coaches of all time and built the Wildcats into the powerhouse that they are today, and he did it without the help of television exposure and signing highly touted one-and-done recruits.
Their winning ways began in 1948 when the program won their first NCAA title. Adolph Rupp’s Wildcats defeated the Baylor Bears 58-42. They’d win four titles in a five-year span. Notice how the shoe of choice, the only shoe on the court for that matter, is the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star, a shoe not seen at all on courts today.
UCLA’s First Perfect Season
Head Coach John Wooden had a knack for winning. He won a record 10 NCAA Championships and led four teams to perfect seasons. The first undefeated season was in 1964 and was capped off by a 15-point victory against Duke University. The two programs would continue to lead the nation as two of the most successful programs.
It would be Wooden’s first of many championships and was UCLA’s first basketball title. Fittingly, Wooden acquired the nickname the “Wizard of Westwood” and, to this day, UCLA has been trying to regain their form from the Wooden era. Since Wooden retired, UCLA has only managed to win one NCAA Championship, coming in 1995.
Texas Western’s National Championship
The University of Texas El Paso doesn’t have the most storied athletic department in NCAA history. But they do have one of the most monumental victories in the NCAA Tournament. In 1966, UTEP, then known as Texas Western, defeated Kentucky 72-65 to claim the university’s first title. The importance of the victory wasn’t the final score, however.
Their victory marked the first time in history that a team started five African-American players in a title game. Kentucky, conversely, had no black players on their team. Since their historic victory, UTEP has failed to get back to the Final Four and has been to the Sweet Sixteen just twice since then.
The second (and last) Heisman winner in the U.S. Naval Academy’s history belonged to All-American quarterback Roger Staubach. One of the greatest athletes to emerge from the Naval Academy, Staubach won the 1963 Heisman Trophy Award and was a highly coveted NFL prospect. But service to country came before the gridiron.
Before starring for the Cowboys, Staubach served in the U.S. Navy and was deployed to Vietnam. In the NFL, Roger led the Cowboys to two Super Bowl victories in four appearances. Since retiring, Roger launched a successful real estate company that sold for over $600 million.
O.J. Simpson USC
Before the juice was on the loose in his White Ford Bronco, he was breaking free of tackles and scoring with ease. Considered one of the most prolific players in USC’s illustrious history, Simpson finished his career a National Champion, two-time All-American, and Heisman winner. Side note: look at how basic the Oregon uniforms are, a far cry from what they wear today.
In the 1969 NFL Draft, Simpson was taken first overall by the Buffalo Bills. He’d finish his NFL career a 5-time Pro Bowler and won, among other awards, an MVP. However, it would be his controversial off-field incidents that truly defined O.J. Simpson, a sad way to remember a dominant running back who could have been the face of the NFL for decades.
Known for his houndstooth hat and jacket, Alabama’s Bear Bryant guided his teams to six national championships and fully solidified ‘Bama as one of the premier programs in college football- a title they have yet to relinquish. He’s also one of the few coaches to have coached at a stadium named after himself.
When he retired in 1982, Bryant held the record for most national championships by a coach, something Nick Saban would tie many years later while coaching at Alabama. So for all of you hating Alabama football, you can thank Bear Bryant for installing and implementing a program that would redefine football.
Namath’s Super Bowl
“Broadway” Joe Namath is known for his epic drunken public display of affection on an ESPN NFL telecast and for his famous guarantee before Super Bowl III. Namath, the star quarterback for the Jets, declared to the media, “We’re going to win the game. I guarantee it.” Bold move, Joe.
In one of the biggest Super Bowl upsets, Namath and the underdog Jets offense picked apart the vaunted Colts defense on their way to a 16-7 victory. It proved to be the Jets only Super Bowl victory. Namath was named MVP of the game. The Jets, since Namath retired, have yet to find a permanent franchise quarterback.
The 1967 NFL Championship game saw the brightest stars freeze before the masses. Two future Hall of Fame coaches in Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry. Two of America’s most popular teams. And one frozen stadium. With temperatures approaching -13 degrees Fahrenheit (-48 with wind chill), Lambeau Field was, quite literally, frozen.
Dubbed the Ice Bowl, this grueling contest for the championship was eventually won by the Packers by a score of 21-17. Fans froze, players turned to ice, and whistles were rendered useless. The Packers, to this day, still play in Lambeau- one of the NFL’s most historic, iconic, and traditional stadiums.
1919 Black Sox
The biggest scandal to rock Major League Baseball happened in 1919. The Chicago White Sox intentionally threw the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. At the time, Chicago was one of baseball’s best clubs. They were also one of the unhappiest. Despite being a formidable team, players griped at how little they were compensated. When a local mobster proposed the White Sox fix the World Series for some extra cash, some players were all-in.
In total, eight players were found guilty of throwing the series and were banned from baseball for life and were prohibited from being elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. This, along with the Cubs being more likable, kept the White Sox firmly located in the second spot for the most loved baseball team in Chicago.
The man that would break baseball’s color barrier needed to be amazing on the field. He had to prove to potential suitors that he was capable of playing in an all-white league, with all eyes on him. That he, despite racism, taunting, and threats of violence, could perform at a high level and not fight back.
When Jackie Robinson broke through to the Majors in 1947, he proved that he — and blacks across America — belonged. Robinson finished his monumental career a six-time All-Star, World Series champion, and National League MVP. More importantly, he finished his career a trailblazer who would change the fortunes of minorities in America by opening doors previously shut. Major League Baseball universally retired his number 42 across the league.
The Red Sox would not win the 1975 World Series. They would lose in heartbreaking fashion in Game 7. But to get to Game 7, Boston would be on the right side of one of baseball’s most clutch home runs. In the bottom of the 12th inning of Game 6, Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk hit a walk-off, Game 7-forcing home run that clanked off the left-field foul pole.
The iconic image of Fisk jumping in the air, desperately trying to wave the ball fair, is burned in the minds of baseball fans everywhere. It wouldn’t be until 2004 that the Red Sox would win their first World Series since 1918. Three years later, the Red Sox would win another World Series by sweeping the Colorado Rockies.
Russian-Polish relations during the Cold War were lukewarm at best and leaned towards the side of very tense more often than not. So when the 1980 Summer Olympics took place in the Soviet Union, there were bound to a number of tense interactions. The games were a way to showcase Communism vs Capitalism.
And when Polish pole vaulter Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz set the world record in pole vaulting en route to a gold medal, his landing was more than emphatic. Pictured above is Kozakiewicz giving what’s known as the Italian Salute to the raucous Soviet crowd. Kozakiewicz defected to Germany where he still lives today.
Abebe 1960 Olympics
Ethiopian marathon runner Abebe Bikila became the first Olympian to successfully defend his marathon title. Abebe’s first gold medal performance came during the 1960 Rome Summer Olympics where he, pictured above, ran the course barefoot. Some people prefer sneakers, he preferred calluses, presumably many of them. Some people prefer Nike, he preferred natural.
Four years later, Abebe went on to win gold in the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics, this time with shoes. Today, the thought of running barefoot, let alone a marathon, is unimaginable. Although barefoot running made a comeback of sorts in the mid-2000s, the fad has basically disappeared.
Jim Brown’s Lacrosse Career
He may be the greatest all-around athlete in American sports. We mentioned him before while he was playing for the Browns, but Jim Brown was also an All-American lacrosse player at Syracuse University. He was a goal scorer, physical presence, and lighting fast runner. If you were in Jim Brown’s way, you better move or face severe consequences- both mental and psychical.
Had lacrosse been as profitable and popular as football, Brown easily could have had a career scoring goals instead of touchdowns. Brown himself loved the sport more than football and believed he was more talented at it. Thankfully, a little thing called the NFL existed, and Brown eventually dropped lacrosse to make a living as a running back.
1960 U.S. Hockey
Before the “Miracle on Ice,” there was Squaw Valley. During the 1960 Olympic hockey tournament, held in Squaw Valley, Calif., the United States were heavy underdogs to the faster and stronger skaters from the Soviet Union. Played in a small semi-covered rink, most fans in attendance believed the U.S. would not emerge victoriously.
Somehow, the United States managed to go undefeated leading up to their semifinal matchup against the Soviet Union. Facing the far-superior USSR, the Americans pulled off the tournament’s greatest upset, winning the game 3-2, and marking the first time the U.S. beat the Soviets in Olympic competition. The following day, the U.S. defeated Czechoslovakia 9-4 to win their first Olympic gold.
Three-time NFL Champion and winning quarterback of “The Greatest Game Ever Played” — the 1958 title game and first sudden-death game in NFL history — Johnny Unitas truly popularized the quarterback position. Drafted out of Louisville in 1955, Unitas had a prolific career primarily throwing for the Baltimore Colts.
His long-standing record of consecutive games with a passing touchdown stood for 52 years before Drew Brees finally broke it in 2012. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979 and retired a three-time NFL Champion (pre-Super Bowl) and 10-time Pro-Bowler. When the Colts moved to Indianapolis, they kept Unitas’ number retired.
Defensive players just don’t win the NFL MVP Award. Unless you’re Alan Page, Hall of Fame defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings. Page, a nine-time Pro Bowler, and nine-time All-Pro, was the league’s first defensive player to win the prestigious MVP Award. He won it in 1971, two years removed from his first and only NFL championship before the merger with the AFL.
Following his football career, in which Page’s Vikings would appear in three more Super Bowls, Page became an Associate Justice with the Minnesota Supreme Court. In 1988, Paige was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. While Page was still playing with the Vikings, he became the first active NFL player to complete a marathon, but his weight loss also contributed to his dismissal from the team.
Lew Alcindor At UCLA
Before Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was Kareem, he was Lew Alcindor of the UCLA Bruins, converting to Islam and changing his name before his senior season. In his three years starring on the varsity squad for UCLA, Alcindor won three National Championships, was a three-time All-American and was named the NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player three times.
In three years, Alcindor and the dominant Bruins lost a total of two games, bringing their record over that time period to 88-2. In 1969, Alcindor was drafted first overall by the Milwaukee Bucks. He retired from basketball a six-time champion and the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. He also retired with a different name- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
The Dream Team
Larry Legend is one of the greatest NBA players and Celtics of all time. With three championships and 3 MVP awards to complement his 12 All-Star appearances, Bird was pure dominance. On the international stage, the sharp shooter shined as well. Here, Bird relaxes on the court during the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.
As a member of the greatest basketball team ever assembled, the Dream Team, Bird would easily win the gold medal by blowing out the competition nightly. Next to him is Charles Barkley. A great player himself, Barkley won two Olympic gold medals (1992, 1996) but never reached the pinnacle of NBA success- winning the Finals.
The man behind the most prestigious pitching award in Major League Baseball is, in fact, Cy Young. The right-hander played for 22 seasons in the Majors and won a record 511 games while capturing one World Series title. One award he couldn’t win? The eponymous Cy Young Award.
One year following his death, baseball introduced the Cy Young Award, given annually to the best pitcher in baseball (one pitcher is awarded from both the American and National League). In 1937, Young was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, his second ballot. In 1955, he passed away at 88.
Bob Cousy was one of the original pure point guards in the NBA, leading the league in assists eight straight seasons. He won six championships as part of the Celtics dynasty and was named to 13 All-Star games. Check out No. 15 on the opposition, bending over in pain after a vicious Cousy cross-over.
Before his time in the pros, Cousy was leading his college, Holy Cross, to the NCAA Tournament. After retirement, Cousy coached both college ball and the NBA. After removing himself from coaching, Cousy began color commentating for the Celtics. To date, Cousy holds the Celtics record for steals in a game with a staggering 28 assist.
1966 World Cup
For a country that loves soccer as much as England does, for a country that boasts it has the best soccer league in the world, for a country that puts so much pride into the sport of soccer, it’s relatively amazing that they only have one World Cup victory to show for it.
In 1966, England, in front of its home crowd, won its first and only World Cup by defeating West Germany 4-2. Only time will tell how long it takes for England to reach the pinnacle of the soccer world once again. Until that day does come, England will remain perpetually frustrated with their country’s performance at the World Cup.