Since the sport’s first professional game was played in 1869, the history of baseball has been filled with memorable moments both triumphant and tragic. Often, these moments reflect the history and spirit of America itself: Lou Gehrig’s heartfelt retirement speech has become a symbol of grace and humility in the face of tragedy, while Jackie Robinson’s courageous breaking of baseball’s color barrier presaged the national fight against racial segregation. Though baseball has gone through many incarnations over the years, one thing that has remained constant is the game’s capacity to generate great stories. From the rigging of the World Series to Willie Mays’ unforgettable catch, here are seven major moments in the history of baseball.
The Chicago “Black Sox” Throw the World Series
Even before the Cincinnati Reds defeated the Chicago White Sox in the 1919 World Series, rumors had been circulating that the losing team was planning to deliberately underperform in order to throw the World Series and allow the Reds to win. A grand jury convened in 1920 discovered that eight White Sox players had been involved in a gambling conspiracy to corrupt the series in the Reds’ favor, and three players admitted to the grand jury that they had accepted money from gamblers. The plot to throw the 1919 World Series became known as the “Black Sox scandal,” and it remains one of the most significant controversies in the history of baseball. Eight players, including the legendary outfielder “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, were permanently banned from Major League Baseball, and in order to prevent future corruption, the role of commissioner was established and strict laws against gambling were instituted that remain in place today.
Babe Ruth Calls His Shot
One of the most famous home runs in baseball history occurred in Game 3 of the 1932 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the New York Yankees. At the top of the fifth inning, Yankees slugger Babe Ruth, often considered the greatest baseball player of all time, faced off against Cubs pitcher Charlie Root with two balls and two strikes. Just before the pitch, Ruth pointed toward the outfield, and when the pitch came, he hit a towering home run to center field. In the newspapers the next day, ecstatic reporters announced that Ruth had “called his shot,” and that his gesture toward the bleachers was a prediction of the home run he would hit on the next pitch. Thus was born one of the greatest legends in baseball history. Although the exact details of where exactly Ruth was pointing and why are disputed, the home run that became known as the “called shot” has nevertheless become an immortal part of the Great Bambino’s legacy.