Picking up from last week, here are my five favorite sporting events from 2004.
5) Redbirds 9, Omaha 8 (August 24) -- Down by three runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Redbirds rally for four runs to beat the Omaha Royals, 9-8. Scott Seabol, Cody McKay, and Mike Mahoney drive in the big runs in front of a few hundred fans left at AutoZone Park. At once, this game was what makes minor-league baseball so wonderful (late-game heroics by talented, hungry baseball players) and such a lost cause (with all those empty seats where season-ticket holders should have been, where were the cheers?).
4) Memphis 83, TCU 56 (March 3) -- Senior Night is always special, but this one had some magic to it. Tiger Nation had to say goodbye to C-USA Player of the Year Antonio Burks in what would be the final Tiger basketball game at the Pyramid. As emotional as Burkss sendoff was, Modibo Diarras ovation was somehow louder. The big native of Mali strode to midcourt and wound up clapping for his 16,000 friends in attendance as much as they were clapping for him. The next time you wonder about the virtues of college basketball when compared with the NBA, picture a prolonged standing ovation for a player who averaged 1.7 points per game over his 93-game career. Dibo is a U of M graduate, and a champion
3) Wizards 103, Grizzlies 91 (November 3) -- Forget the score. Forget it. This was a party the likes of which local basketball fans merely fantasized about only a few years ago. An NBA outfit with Memphis on their shirts playing in an arena that is definitevely Memphis (right down to the dancing restroom icons!). There will be wins and losses, exultation and heartache under the roof of FedExForum. But the most exciting aspect of having this package (the Grizzlies and their new den) is the knowledge that sports history will unfold on what amounts to a national stage, just south of Beale Street. What would Elvis say?
2) Memphis 30, Southern Miss 26 (November 12) -- Wherever DeAngelo Williams goes, however famous he may become, this is the game Ill tell my grandchildren about. This was a cold Friday night, the Black and Blue Game on national television, the Tigers eight days removed from a heartbreaker against Louisville. Not only is Southern Miss the standard by which C-USA football programs are measured, but the Golden Eagles had won nine of their last ten against Memphis. With his team down 26-21 and just over a minute to play in the third quarter, Williams took a handoff from Danny Wimprine, sprinted around left tackle and galloped 75 yards for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown, one of the most significant ever scored at the Liberty Bowl. For the junior tailback, this was merely his fifth-most productive game of the season: 199 yards.
1) Boston 4, St. Louis 1 (October 26) -- When combined, pleasure and pain make for a powerful emotional cocktail. Having waited 17 years for the St. Louis Cardinals to return to the World Series, my dad -- via Vermont, London, and Boston (long story) -- flew down to join me for the drive north to see Game 3 at Busch Stadium. Through the kindness of some very special people, we wound up with seats ten rows behind the Cards dugout. Its hard to remember now, but there was actually hope in St. Louis before the first pitch of Game 3, before the base-running meltdown suffered by the Cardinals starting pitcher Jeff Suppan, before Bostons Pedro Martinez punched his ticket to the Hall of Fame. Thank you, Larry Walker, for that ninth-inning home run. The very least a father and son could ask for on their World Series pilgrimage.