For the first time since 1994, Major League Baseball entered a lockout, and the baseball world skidded to a halt. There is no noteworthy news emanating from the league. Therefore it’s time to change course. Instead of poring over old ground, we will look at some of the best moments since baseball’s last lockout.
Due to baseball’s 162-game schedule, there are plenty of moments to choose from; narrowing it down to just 27 was incredibly tough. Baseball is America’s pastime, and it creates moments that stand the test of time. The world has changed unrecognizably in the last 27 years, yet through it all, the world’s most enduring, curious game traverses time to make us all pause and take a moment. It’s time to see what moments made our list.
Moment 27: Barry Bonds Is The Home Run King
Barry Bonds’ irreversible links with steroids are why this moment is at the bottom of our list. Nonetheless, it was an epic moment, enhanced by the call from local Bay Area commentator Duane Kuipers. On a cool summer’s night by the San Francisco Bay, Bonds swung his way into baseball immortality and controversy. Questions will always remain a part of Bonds’ legacy, and some fans and pundits will maintain that Hank Aaron is still the king. However, for one night, Bonds rocked the baseball world and the city of San Francisco.
Moment 26 – The Long Gone Summer of ’98
Many fans held a deep mistrust of baseball after the locked-out 1994 season. Baseball was still working its way back into people’s minds before it erupted to the forefront in 1998. The steroid-fueled, testosterone-charged home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa dominated the sports scene as the duo went shot for shot in the “Summer of Love”. McGwire did break the single-season record, although controversy would rear its head as the federal government investigated both for the use of performance-enhancing drugs. While the questions and doubts linger to this day, baseball ruled the world for one summer, and it was courtesy of these two sluggers.
Moment 25 – The Pirates Rattle Johnny Cueto
Many members of the baseball cognoscenti look upon the Pittsburgh Pirates as a joke. The Pirates routinely finish bottom of the NL Central and play their games in front of near-empty stadiums. That is not befitting a team that plays in a city that sports the Roberto Clemente Bridge. However, the 2013 season saw the Pittsburgh Pirates buck the trend as they sailed into the playoffs after posting a 94-win season.
That set them up on a collision course with the NL’s other wildcard team: their divisional rivals, the Cincinnati Reds. Pirates fans packed the picturesque PNC Park stadium to the rafters, and the home faithful got after Reds starter Johnny Cueto. They heckled and jeered Cueto, and when clubhouse leader Russell Martin stepped up, the noise grew. Cueto looked nervous, and on the fourth pitch of the at-bat, he grooved an off-speed pitch into the middle of the zone. Martin squared up and clubbed it into the stands. It set Pittsburgh on course for a 6-2 win. The banks of the Allegheny River haven’t shaken like that in a long time.
Moment 24 – Justin Verlander Triples Up
Lightning doesn’t strike twice, they say. The people that proclaim this are correct; this phenomenon is a random piece of luck. Therefore in 2019, lightning didn’t strike thrice when Justin Verlander twirled his way into history. The veteran pitcher no-hit the Blue Jays, posting his third career no-hitter (the only active player to have such). Only two pitchers boast more than the former Tiger. Despite Verlander’s veteran status and whispers about his arm, he blew away the Jays in a dazzling display of velocity and command. The performance also helped Verlander win the 2019 Cy Young Award.
Moment 23 – Albert Hit’s 3,000
Some of the members that vote for the Hall of Fame are arguably clueless. The continued controversy highlights that every year. However, there will be no drama when Albert Pujols is on the shortlist. Pujols is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He is one of three players to hit 600 home runs and have 3,000 base hits. Pujols strangely broke the record as an Angel, rather than for his beloved Cardinals. The Anaheim version of Pujols is clearly a diminished power. However, the baseball world stood up and applauded Pujols for a legendary moment.
Moment 22 – Bryce Blasts a Walk Off Homer
When the Philadelphia Phillies made Bryce Harper a $300 million man, Philly natives expected big things. The mercurial left-hander inked a mammoth 13-year deal in the early part of 2019. Expectations immediately rose in Philadelphia as the best striker of a ball in baseball joined the team. The season ultimately disappointed as the Phillies missed out on a playoff spot, but Bryce Harper did underline his season with one dramatic swing. In the ninth inning, the Phillies were down 5-3, although they had loaded the bases. The Cubs attempted to play the matchup game and had a left-hander on the mound to try and cramp Harper. Instead, the former Home Run Derby winner extended his arms and crushed a ball into the second deck. In one moment, Harper confirmed that he was the franchise player in Philadelphia.
Moment 21 – The Freak Sets San Francisco Ablaze
It was hard to fathom that the San Francisco Giants hadn’t won a championship between 1954 and 2009. The Giants made up for that by winning three titles in five years. The first one in 2010 got kickstarted by quite possibly the unique pitcher of the modern era. Tim Lincecum weaved a wicked spell of pitching in game one of the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves. The Freak struck out 15 batters and pitched a shut-out as the Giants started their playoff campaign in style. Lincecum’s wild action allied with speed and movement caused nightmares for the Braves batters. Lincecum dominated, and he set the tone for the Giants in 2010. Baseball’s ugly duckling is often forgotten; however, the Giants won’t forget the gem he pitched to start their march to glory.