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Friday, March 13, 2009

Top Ten single-game performances by Chicago athletes

Chicago’s first pro sports team was the Cubs, then known as the White Stockings, who began playing ball in 1867. Since then, the White Sox (1904), Bears (1920), Blackhawks (1926) and Bulls (1966) have joined them, making our town one of the greatest sports cities in the entire country. The five teams combined have played thousands of games throughout the years, and in those games, there have been quite a few amazing performances.

But what was the best game ever turned in by a Chicago athlete? It’s a simple question, but the answer’s not so easy. Lot’s of great games were considered, but we settled on the ten best, with the goal to include at least one player from each of the five pro teams. So here they are, the ten best single-game performances by a Chicago player. And don’t worry, we know we missed some great ones, so feel free to comment on amazing moments we failed to include.

10: Nate Thurmond-- First ‘official’ quadruple-double in NBA history
This is what people mean when they discuss impressive debuts: In Thurmond’s first game in a Bulls uniform, he turned in 22 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists and 12 blocks. That October 1974 game, a 120-115 Bulls overtime win over Atlanta, was the first ever quadruple-double recognized by the league (The NBA didn’t start counting steals and blocks as official stats until 1973). Thurmond finished the ‘74 season averaging double-figures only in rebounding.

9: Lance Johnson-- Six hits- inc. three triples- in 1995 White Sox game vs. Twins

Two things stuck out when examining the White Sox single-game record book. First is that surprisingly only one of the records was set this decade and the other was just how awesome One Dog was in this game versus the Twins. Johnson tied or set team records with the six hits and three triples, and also drove in four runs in the Sox’s 14-4 victory. His 12 total bases are also pretty amazing as well, considering he was hitting lead off.

8: Grant Mulvey-- Scored five goals and dished out two assists in 1982

For a lot of hockey players, it might take them a couple of weeks to record seven points. Mulvey did it in one night. Five goals and two assists helped the Blackhawk right-winger to set a team record during a win over the St. Louis Blues. The output was especially rare for Mulvey, who only scored 149 goals total in his 586-game career. He is now the treasurer for the Blackhawks Alumni Association.

7: The Ryne Sandberg Game

June 23, 1984. Cubs trail the Cardinals 9-8 in the bottom of the ninth. Hall-of-Fame bound closer Bruce Sutter is on the hill for St. Louis. Ryne Sandberg, who is heading to Cooperstown as well, at the plate. After fighting off some tough pitchers, Ryno finally gets a hold of one, crushing a homer to Wrigley’s left field bleachers. Tie game. Top of the tenth, the Cards score two, making it 11-9. Head to the bottom of the inning, Sutter’s still throwing. Now with a man on, the second baseman comes back to the plate. He fights off some more pitches until again getting a hold of one, smacking a second homer in two innings versus the best relief pitcher of the decade to tie the game at 11 apiece. One inning later the Cubs drive in another run, winning 12-11 in 11 innings, sending them to an eventual NL East crown and Sandberg to the ’84 NL MVP.

6: Michael Jordan--35 points, six three’s in first half of Gm. 1 in ’92 Finals

This list could have been entirely devoted to Jordan games, but I decided to limit it to two of MJ’s best. One was obvious- see #2- but choosing the second was tougher. Other TTCS staffers suggested his 69-point night versus Cleveland, the 63 he dropped on Boston in the ’86 playoffs or the double-nickel game against the Knicks. But I felt this performance topped them all, simply for the fact that it showed fans something new. Mike had never been and never was a long-distance shooter. But for those 24 minutes of game one, Jordan was hotter than a Las Vegas summer. Add in the famous shrug and you have a game for the ages.

5: Pat Seerey-- Four home runs in White Sox game

Most of Seerey’s career wasn’t note-worthy, as he was a lifetime .224 hitter for the Sox and Indians. But in June 1948 against the Philadelphia A’s, Seerey swung his way into the record books by hitting four homers in one game. He’s the only player on either side of town to pull off that accomplishment and one of only 15 players all-time to do it.

4: Walter Payton--275 rushing yards on 40 attempts

On Nov. 20, 1977, the man known as Sweetness ran into the NFL record books, as his 275 yards versus the Vikings edged the former record, held by OJ Simpson, by two. The amazing part of the game was how #34 got better as the game went on. Payton ran for 77 yards in the first quarter and 67 more in the second. The third quarter saw 48 yards and then finally in the fourth Payton dropped the hammer on Minnesota, running for 83 yards in the game’s final 15 minutes. Payton’s single-game rushing record stood for 23 years before Cory Dillon of the Bengals ran for 278 yards. Since then, both Jamal Lewis of the Ravens and Adrian Peterson of the Vikings have topped Dillon.

3: Gayle Sayers-- 6 touchdowns in one game ties NFL record

How crazy is it to scores six TD’s in one game? Last season it took Bears rookie star Matt Forte to week 12 before he crossed the goal line for the sixth time. Sayers was the definition of an all-around threat, as his six touchdowns versus the 49ers in December 1965 consisted of one TD catch (an 80-yard screen pass), four rushing scores (21, 7, 50 and 1 yard runs) as well as an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown. By the end of the game Sayers had accounted for 134 return yards, 113 rushing yards and 89 receiving yards, as the Bears won over San Francisco 61-20 at Wrigley Field.

2: Michael Jordan--38 points in 44 minutes during NBA Finals with stomach flu
It’s one of those stories nobody would believe if it weren’t actually true. The greatest player of all time in bed all day throwing up after eating some bad food, barely able to warm up, decides to play for the Bulls in game 5 of a tied NBA Finals series versus Utah. Jordan ends up scoring 38 points, including the game-winning three with 25 seconds left, to give the Bulls the 90-88 win. The ‘Flu Game’ goes down in the history as the gutsiest and most courageous performance in MJ’s amazing career.

1: Kerry Wood-- 20 strikeouts against Houston in fifth career start

Talk about peaking too soon. Kid K, who wasn’t even old enough to celebrate at his favorite Wrigleyville establishment, fooled with Houston and the Killer B’s (Craig Biggio, Derek Bell and Jeff Bagwell) like they were a team of four-year old T-Ball players, not the eventual NL Central champs. The combination of a high-90’s fastball and knee-shattering breaking ball helped Wood throw what many statisticians call the greatest game ever pitched. And Cubs fans know were it not for the slow glove of third baseman Kevin Orie, the 20K game would have also been a no-hitter.

(Also, note in that picture there are four people wearing #34 jerseys, yet none of them were Kerry Wood's. Strange)


Jimmy said...

Great list. Don't think you can leave off the 63-point game against Boston. Had no supporting cast and the Celtics went on to win the NBA title that year.

Matthew Olsen said...

Yup, that game was no joke, marking the death of the Celtics dynasty and announcing the reign of Sir M. Jeff.

And while it may not be worthy of a Top Ten spot, but the game against the Rams in which D. Hest took two to the house is deserving of Honorable Mention.

(Even though T. Holt made him look like stupid on that fade route).

Rick said...


Phil Barnes said...

Haha "you know, that rookie?"

GM-Carson said...

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Link: http://morehardball.blogspot.com/2009/03/hottest-fan-in-mlb-divisional-series.html

We'd appreciate the plug if you're so inclined.