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Unforgettable moments in baseball history

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.

Lou Gehrig Gives A Retirement Speech For The Ages

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.

Joe DiMaggio’s ‘Unbreakable’ Record

On May 15, 1941, Yankees outfielder Joe DiMaggio hit a modest single that marked the start of one of the most legendary records in baseball history: the 56-game hitting streak. For two months, the baseball world watched in awe as DiMaggio got at least one hit in game after game. By the time DiMaggio’s streak ended two months and 55 games later, he had set a record that many baseball experts consider to be unbreakable. So far, they have yet to be proved wrong. While DiMaggio himself said that he believed that someone would one day surpass his 56-game hitting streak, in the 80 years since he set the record, nobody has even come close. The longest hitting streak since, achieved by Hall of Famer Paul Molitor in 1987, was just 39 games long, a full two weeks shy of Joltin’ Joe’s seemingly immortal record.

Jackie Robinson Breaks The Color Barrier

Before Jackie Robinson made his major league debut on April 15, 1947, professional baseball was a racially segregated sport in the United States. Robinson’s historic debut at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field broke the so-called “color barrier” that had kept Black and white players in separate leagues. Robinson faced great challenges during his MLB career, but his courage and talent opened the door for future generations of baseball legends. His abilities on the field earned him a spot in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and in recognition of his trailblazing career, his number, 42, was retired league-wide in 1997. He remains the only player to ever receive such an honor.

Willie Mays Makes ‘The Catch’

Willie Mays is one of the greatest baseball players in the history of the sport, and one of the most enduring parts of his legacy is the stunning play he made in the 1954 World Series — known to history simply as “the Catch.” Mays made the play in the eighth inning of Game 1, with the score tied 2-2 between Mays’ New York Giants and the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland slugger Vic Wertz hit a long fly ball toward Mays in center field. Mays turned and sprinted backward, making a miraculous over-the-shoulder catch 425 feet from home plate. As if that wasn’t a stunning-enough achievement, Mays completed the play by spinning around and making an incredible throw from the outfield to prevent Cleveland’s baserunners from getting home. The play saved the game for the Giants, who went on to sweep Cleveland in four games to become World Series champions.

Hank Aaron Breaks Babe Ruth’s Home Run Record

For nearly four decades after his retirement, Babe Ruth was hailed as the undisputed home run king. His 714 career home runs stood as a monument to his unrivaled power at the plate. Then Hank Aaron arrived. Since his MLB debut in 1954, Aaron had been an extremely consistent slugger, and he led the league in home runs four separate times. The years of steady power hitting paid off on April 8, 1974, when Aaron hit his 715th career home run and surpassed Ruth to inherit one of baseball’s most hallowed records. Aaron’s historic career continued for another three seasons, during which time he added 40 homers to his career total, retiring with a staggering 755 home runs. This record was eventually surpassed by Barry Bonds in 2007, but to this day Aaron remains celebrated as the first player to surpass the Sultan of Swat as the home run champion.

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