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A Top 10 list from the not-so-distant past

April 15, 2004|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

So, do you think you could make the putt Phil Mickelson made to win the Masters?

Yes, you probably could. Were it not the final hole of the final round of arguably the most important tournament in golf - and were 10,000 "patrons" not watching you with bated breath - you probably could make it at least three of 10 times.

Moments like the one Sunday are the reason I've got this job. For if I had never become interested in - nay, addicted to - sports, I wouldn't be writing this column.

So then I started thinking about the most clutch moments in sports, or at least the ones I've been fortunate enough to see or read about during my lifetime, so anything before the late 1980s is basically omitted.

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Here's my list, from 10 to 1 ... and to be different, I'll throw in a couple of local high school moments worth savoring:

10. Walkersville's Dustin Kolb launches game-winning home run to win 2003 Class 2A state baseball title. Tied with Eastern Tech at 4-4 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Kolb gets the pitch he wants - a fastball - and drills it over the fence in left for his first homer of the season, lifting the Lions to the title.

9. Boonsboro's Brett Morrell launches himself an astounding 23 feet on the last jump to edge out Smithsburg's Corey Brown - who had passed Morrell moments before on his last jump - for the 2003 state Class 1A long jump title. Morrell's effort was nearly a foot longer than his previous best that day, and Brown's second-place effort (22 feet, 8 1/2 inches) was a school record. I wasn't there, but I wish I had been.

8. Hasim Rahman drops Lennox Lewis with a right hand in the fifth round to become the heavyweight champion. Rahman has since lost the title back to Lewis and wound up in the middle of what is currently a big heavyweight mess, but for one night, he was the talk of the sports world. Rarely has one single punch created such a result.

7. Toronto's Joe Carter hitting the World Series-winning home run off Philadelphia's Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams in 1992. It's literally the only thing I remember about that World Series

6 (tie). Mark O'Meara and Phil Mickelson win Masters titles with birdie putts on the final hole. I don't know how you separate the two, really - they're both the same, memorable moment (Remember, many regarded O'Meara as the best player never to have won a major before he earned his green jacket).

5. Buster Douglass knocks out Mike Tyson to win the heavyweight title. This wasn't the same type of one-punch knockout that Rahman employed, but in this case, it was who the unknown Douglass beat - the seemingly invincible Iron Mike - that made the moment shocking.

4. Kerri Strug's final, successful vault on an injured ankle, giving the United States the team gymnastics gold at the 1996 Summer Olympics. Guys, drop the machismo stuff on this one ... most of you were watching, and most of you had tears in your eyes.

3. Kirk Gibson's game-winning home run off Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. Watching Gibson hobble to the plate, and watching his first two swings against Oakland's star closer, you wondered what Los Angeles skipper Tom Lasorda was smoking. And the next thing you know ... "I don't believe what I just saw!" This was probably the moment that started my love affair with sports.

2. Michael Jordan hits the final shot he takes in a Chicago Bulls uniform to win a sixth NBA title. That the shot came in Utah, in front of a hostile crowd, against a team that by all rights looked like it could actually beat the Bulls (heresay!), just made it more memorable. Frankly, it should have been the last shot of Air Jordan's career.

1. Adam Vinatieri's 47-yard, line-drive field goal ties Oakland with no time left in regulation in the snow in the Raiders' "black hole" in the 2002 AFC Divisional Playoffs. All I could do was stare at the TV screen and ask myself, "Did he really just do that?!" I mean, it was a freaking blizzard, and it was 47 yards! I put the odds of any kicker hitting that field goal at 10 percent, tops.

Yes, Vinatieri went on to win that game with a shorter try in overtime, and has since drilled two Super Bowl-winning kicks to quite possibly become the most clutch performer in sports history (I'll accept Jordan and Lance Armstrong as arguments). But that 47-yarder at the end of regulation ... that was the definition of a clutch moment.




Dan Kauffman is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reaches at 301-733-5131, ext. 7520, or by e-mail at kauffman@herald-mail.com

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