Great American Sports Moments of the 1960's

by Guy Belleranti

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The 1960's were full of memorable American sports moments.

The 1960 Summer Olympics saw Wilma Rudolph win 3 gold medals in track. This becomes especially amazing when one learns that this great female athlete had been stricken with polio as a child.

Also in 1960 was Bill Mazeroski's dramatic home run in game 7 of the 1960 World Series. The homer gave the Pittsburgh Pirates the championship over the New York Yankees. This was the first time a World Series was ended by a home run, and it is still the only time it has happened in the seventh and final game.

1961 brought another big baseball moment - Roger Maris of the Yankees smashing 61 homers to surpass Babe Ruth's longstanding 60 home run mark. Adding to the final thrill was the home run battle Maris waged with teammate, Mickey Mantle, during the season. Mantle finished with a career best 54.

Professional basketball took the limelight on March 2, 1962 when Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors scored 100 points in a Warrior win over the New York Knicks. This is still the highest point total ever scored in a NBA game.

The 1964 Summer Olympics saw another great U.S. track and field triumph. Little known American runner Billy Mills, a Lakota Sioux, won the Gold Medal in the 10,000 meter. Many called this the biggest upset in Olympic History. Years later, in the 1984, the movie "Running Brave" was made about Billy Mills and his great accomplishment.

Several Major League Baseball pitchers had defining moments in the 1960's:

- Southpaw Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers won Cy Young awards as best National League pitcher in 1963, 1965 and 1966. Koufax pitched no-hitters in 4 consecutive years including a perfect game in 1965. He also recorded an amazing 0.95 earned run average in four World Series and was MVP in both the 1963 and 1965 Series.

- Koufax's teammate Don Drysdale also made the record books, winning the Cy Young Award in 1962 and pitching a record 58 consecutive scoreless innings in 1968.

- St. Louis Cardinal right-handed pitcher Bob Gibson led his team to three World Series and two championships, and was the MVP of the '64 and '67 Series. And in 1968 he won the Cy Young award when he posted a season earned run average of 1.12, still the lowest in baseball since 1914.

January of 1967 brought the first Super Bowl. The National Football League (NFL) champion Green Bay Packers took on the American Football League (AFL) Kansas City Chiefs. The Packers led by Coach Vince Lombardi and quarterback Bart Starr defeated the Chiefs 35-10.

In January 1968 the NFL champ Packers won the championship game again, this time over the AFL champ Oakland Raiders 33-14.

January 1969 brought an upset. Quarterback Joe Namath of the AFL champion New York Jets guaranteed a victory over the NFL champ Baltimore Colts. Few believed this would happen as the Colts had won 15 of 16 games, and been the class of football that year. However, happen it did, with the Jets prevailing 16-7. The AFL had won its first Super Bowl Championship. After 1970 the NFL and AFL merged, and the Super Bowl became the NFL championship game.

Professional Basketball had been dominated by the Boston Celtics during the 1960s. And in 1969 the aging Celtics (led by player-coach Bill Russell) defeated the heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers (led by Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West) for their 11th NBA title in 13 years.

One of the greatest sport surprises of the 1960's had to be the 1969 New York Mets. The Mets had never had a winning season, and had in fact finished in 9th place (out of 10 teams) the previous year. By August of 1969 the Mets were 10 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the newly formed National League East Division. Then they got hot, aided by an outstanding young pitching staff.

The Mets won 38 of their last 49 games and won the Division with a 100-62 record. They defeated the National League West Division champ Atlanta Braves and advanced to the World Series.

Here they faced the American League champ Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles had posted a 109-53 record, the best in baseball that year. The Orioles won the first game of the Series, but then the "Miracle Mets" took over, winning four in a row to take the Series 4 games to 1. For the second time that year an underdog New York team had defeated a favored Baltimore team (the football Jets over the football Colts being the first in January).

Indeed, the 1960's had featured many memorable American sports moments, the result being a great sports decade.

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