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Do You Believe in Miracles? Top 20 “Miracles” in Sports History

Posted on February 22, 2011 by A.J. Foss

31 years ago the U.S. Olympic Hockey team performed the greatest miracle in sports history.

Thirty-one years ago today, the United States Olympic Hockey team shocked the Soviet Union in a moment that became known as the “Miracle On Ice”.

With that in mind, here is a list of the 20 most memorable miracles in sports history.

The criteria for this list is that the moment or series of moments must have “miracle” in the title.

20. Miracle on Fourth Avenue (College Football) November 13, 1982

Years before the “Music City Miracle”, there was the “Miracle on Fourth Avenue”.

With 17 seconds to go and the game tied at 27-27 after a Texas Tech field goal, the SMU Mustangs

took the ensuing kickoff back for a touchdown when Blaine Smith picked up a squib kick and fired a lateral across his nine-yard-line to Bobby Leach, who caught the ball after one bounce and raced down the sidelines for a 91-yard touchdown to give the #2 Mustangs a 34-27 win and kept their undefeated season alive.

SMU would finish the season with a 10-0-1 record and #2 in both major polls.

Note: The game was played at Texas Tech’s football stadium, Jones Stadium, located on Fourth Avenue.

19. Miracle on 33rd Street (NFL) Fall 1975

After a 1-4 start, it appeared that the Baltimore Colts on their way to another bad season following a 2-12 effort in 1974.

But in a remarkable turnaround, the Colts won their last nine games to finish the season with a 10-4 record and win the first of three straight AFC East titles.

This led to NFL Films titling the team’s 1975 highlight film as “Miracle on 33rd Street”.

Note: The Colts played their games at Memorial Stadium, which was located on 33rd Street in Baltimore.

18. Monday Night Miracle (NHL) May 12, 1986

The St. Louis Blues scored three unanswered goals in the final 12 minutes of the third period to tie the game at 5, sending the game into overtime where Blues center Doug Wickenheiser scored the game-winning goal seven minutes and 30 seconds into the extra period to give St. Louis a 6-5 victory in Game 6 of the Campbell Conference Finals against the Calgary Flames.

The comeback forced a Game 7 back in Calgary in which the Flames won 2-1, denying the Blues a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals.

17. Miracle Catch (NFL) December 14, 1980

Tommy Kramer and Ahmad Rashad combined to lift the Vikings over the Browns.

Down 23-22 to the Cleveland Browns, the Minnesota Vikings were out of field goal range, so head coach Bud Grant called for a Hail Mary pass with one second to go and the Vikings at the Browns’ 46-yard-line.

Quarterback Tommy Kramer took the snap and retreated back to his 45-yard-line, then launched a desperation pass that was caught by wide receiver Ahmad Rashad for a touchdown as time expired giving the Vikings a 28-23 victory and clinching the team’s ninth division title in 11  years.

16. Memorial Day Miracle (NBA) May 31, 1999

Spurs forward Sean Elliott catches an inbounds pass near the sidelines, almost falls out of bounds, turns around and arcs a three-point shot over the outstretched hands of Blazers forward Rasheed Wallace, that goes in for the eventual game-winning basket in San Antonio’s 86-85 win over the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

The three-pointer completed the Spurs’ comeback from an 18-point third quarter deficit and was Elliott’s sixth of the game, despite playing with a kidney condition that would require a kidney transplant after the season.

15. Mardi Gras Miracle (College Basketball) February 5, 1994

Trailing 68-37 with 15:34 left in the second half, the Kentucky Wildcats make 11 three-point shots in the second half, including Walter McCarty’s go-ahead three-pointer with 19 seconds to go as Kentucky pulls out a 99-95 victory over the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge on Fat Tuesday, the day of the Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans.

14. The Miracle on Manchester (NHL) April 10, 1982

Led by Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier, the Edmonton Oilers built a 5-0 lead after two periods of Game 3 of their opening round best-of-five series with the Los Angeles Kings.

The Oilers were poised to take a 2-1 series lead but the Kings scored five unanswered goals in the third periods, the last goal coming with five seconds to go on a backhand shot by Steve Buzek.

Two minutes and 35 seconds into the overtime period, right winger Daryl Evans slapped the puck past Oilers goaltender Grant Fuhr for the game-winning goal and a shocking 6-5 victory.

The Kings would win the series in five games.

Note: The game took place at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California on Manchester Boulevard.

13. Miracle on Grass (World Cup Soccer) June 29, 1950

The United States, whose odds to win the World Cup were 500-1, shock the #1 team in the world, England, thanks to a header by Joe Gaetjans in the thirty-seventh minute, for a 1-0 win in both teams’ opening matches of the 1950 World Cup.

The result was so shocking that when the score came across the newspaper wires, many writers thought the score was a typo and that England had defeated the United States 10-0 or 10-1.

12. Danny and the Miracles (College Basketball) April 4, 1988

Danny Manning led the Kansas Jayhawks to a surprising NCAA title.

With help from his unheralded group of teammates, player of the year Danny Manning lead the sixth-seeded Kansas Jayhawks out of the Midwest Regional and to the Final Four in Kansas City where they defeated the Duke Blue Devils 66-59 to advance to the National Championship Game.

The Jayhawks faced their Big 8 rival the Oklahoma Sooners and behind 31 points and 18 rebounds from Manning, Kansas upset Oklahoma 83-79 for the school’s first national championship since 1952.

Manning scored a then NCAA tournament record 163 points in the six games, averaging 24.8 points per game, and was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

11. Miracle Bowl (College Football) December19, 1980

Behind 45-25 with four minutes in the 1980 Holiday Bowl, BYU quarterback Jim McMahon led his Cougars to three touchdowns in the final minutes for a 46-45 victory over the SMU Mustangs.

The first touchdown came with 2:33 to go when McMahon found Matt Braga for a 15-yard touchdown that made it 45-31 after a failed two-point conversion.

After BYU recovered the onside kick, McMahon lead his team to another touchdown, a one-yard touchdown run by Scott Phillips who then caught the two-point conversion to make it 45-39 with 1:58 to go.

The Cougars failed to recover the next onside kick but were able to force a punt which they blocked, giving them possession at the SMU 41-yard-line with 13 seconds left.

After two incomplete passes, McMahon fired a Hail Mary into the end zone that was caught by tight end Clay Brown between four SMU defenders as time expired.

Kurt Ganther came on and kicked the game-winning extra point that completed the remarkable comeback.

10. Milan Miracle (High School Basketball) Spring 1954

In a town of only 1,150 residents and 161 students, the Milan Indians shocked the entire state of Indiana by winning the Indiana state high school basketball championship.

Milan defeated Muncie Central, whose enrollment was 2,200 students, 32-30 in the championship game when Bobby Plump hit a jumper as time expired, making Milan the smallest school to win the state title.

The story of the Milan High School basketball team served as the inspiration for the 1986 movie Hoosiers starring Gene Hackman.

9. Miracle Braves (Baseball) July-October 1914

Following two losses on a July 4th doubleheader, the Boston Braves had a 26-40 record and were in last place of the National League, 15 games behind the New York Giants.

However, the Braves engineered one of the greatest turnarounds in baseball history as the team went 70-19 in their last 89 games of the regular season to win the National League pennant by 10 ½ games over the New York Giants.

If that were not shocking enough, the Braves went on to sweep the heavily-favored Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series for the franchise’s first championship

8. The Bluegrass Miracle (College Football) November 9, 2002

Even though there was still two seconds to go, the Kentucky Wildcats and their fans began to celebrate an apparent upset victory over the LSU Tigers as they lead the game 30-27 with LSU at their own 26-yard-line.

Fans pour onto the sidelines in anticipation of the clock running out, so they could tear down the goalposts and head coach Guy Moriss had already been dowsed with Gatorade.

On the final play of the game, LSU quarterback Marcus Randall took the snap, backed up a few yards, and threw a pass that was going to fall 25 yards short of the end zone.

But the ball was tipped around a few times, and then caught by wide receiver Devery Henderson at the 15-yard-line, who then ran into the end zone for a 75-yard touchdown and a 33-30 win for the Tigers.

Kentucky students who had started to tear down the goalpost behind the players once the ball was thrown, had to stop when they saw the LSU players celebrated in the other end zone.

7. The Monday Night Miracle (NFL) October 23, 2000

After the end of the third quarter, the New York Jets were behind 30-7 in their game with the Miami Dolphins, leading Jets radio announcer Howard David to say to his listeners” With a whole quarter to go, this game is over”.

But the Jets pulled off the greatest fourth quarter comeback in the history of “Monday Night Football” as they outscored the Dolphins 30-7 in the fourth quarter to force overtime, thanks to four touchdown passes by Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde on 18-of-26 passing for 235 yards in the final 15 minutes.

In the overtime period, the Jets would get an interception that they converted into a 40-yard field goal by John Hall 6:47 into the extra quarter for a 40-37 win that was voted by fans as the greatest game in “Monday Night Football” history.

6. The Miracle at Michigan (College Football) September 24, 1994

Michael Westbrook's catch lifted Colorado past Michigan.

Down 26-21 and at their own 36-yard-line with six seconds to go, it appeared that the Colorado Buffaloes would fall to the Michigan Wolverines.

On the last play of the game, quarterback Kordell Stewart took a snap, drifted back to the 27-yard-line, and launched a pass that traveled 70 yards in the air to the end zone.

The ball was deflected by Buffaloes wide receiver Blake Anderson and caught by Michael Westbrook for a 64-yard touchdown to give Colorado a 27-26 victory before over 100,000 shocked fans at Michigan Stadium.

5.  Music City Miracle (NFL) January 8, 2000

After a 41-yard field goal by Steve Christie that gave the Buffalo Bills a 16-15 lead with 16 seconds remaining in their AFC Wild Card Game against the Tennessee Titans, Titans head coach Jeff Fisher called for a play called “Home Run Throwback” on the ensuing kickoff.

Christie lofted a pooch kick that was caught by Titans fullback Lorenzo Neal at the Titans’ 25-yard-line, who handed it off to tight end Frank Wycheck, who then threw a lateral to Kevin Dyson.

Dyson proceeded to run down the sidelines for a 75-yard touchdown, which was reviewed and upheld, to give the Titans a 22-16 win.

The dramatic touchdown propelled the Titans to the Super Bowl, where they fell one yard short of forcing overtime as they lost to the St. Louis Rams 23-16.

4.  Miracle at the Meadowlands (NFL) November 19, 1978

All the Giants had to do was take a knee with 31 seconds remaining and they would come away with a 17-12 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

But Giants quarterback Joe Pisarcik bobbled the snap, then fumbled the ball when he tried to hand it off to running back Larry Csonka, which was recovered on a bounce by Eagles defensive back Herman Edwards who ran it in for a 26-yard touchdown and a 19-17 victory for the Eagles, which propelled Philadelphia to their first playoff berth since 1960.

The next day, Giants offensive coordinator Bob Gibson and following the season, the rest of the coaching staff including head coach Jim McVay were fired.

3. Miracle Mets (Baseball) October 1969

After seven seasons in which they finished no better than ninth place in the 10-team National League, the New York Mets stunned the sports world by winning 100 games in the regular season and then winning the World Series.

The Mets won 39 of their last 50 games to overcome a nine ½ game deficit to the Chicago Cubs and win the National League East Division, then went on to sweep the Atlanta Braves in the inaugural National League Championship Series, to advance to the World Series where they would face the Baltimore Orioles, a team that had won 109 games in the regular season.

The Orioles won Game 1, but the Mets won Game 2 in Baltimore and then swept all three games in Shea Stadium for a 4-1 series victory for the team’s first world championship.

2. Miracle of Coogan’s Bluff (Baseball) October 3, 1951

Bobby Thomson hit the Miracle of Coogan's Bluff to lift the Giants over the Dodgers in the 1951 NL playoffs.

Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” culminated the New York Giants’ comeback from a double digit deficit to win the National League pennant.

On August 11, the Giants trailed their arch rival, the Brooklyn Dodgers, by 13 ½ games, before going on a 16-game winning streak and winning 37 of their last 44 games to force a three-game playoff with the Dodgers for the pennant in which the Giants claimed in Game 3 with Thomson’s three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 3.

Note: Coogan’s Bluff is a promontory or small cliff that overlooked the Polo Grounds, the stadium of the New York Giants.

1. Miracle on Ice (Olympic Hockey) February 22, 1980

It is the miracle that asked if we believed in miracles.

The United States Olympic Hockey Team, comprised of mostly college players, shocked the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics, on their way to the gold medal.

The Soviets had won the previous four Olympic hockey tournaments and had defeated a team comprised of NHL All-Stars 6-0 in February 1979 and the consensus favorite to win the gold medal in Lake Placid in 1980.

The Americans on the only other hand were not expected to win a medal and were seeded seventh out of the 12 teams before the tournament.

The U.S. made it out of group play where they faced the Soviets, 12 days after losing to them 10-3 in an exhibition game in Madison Square Garden.

With 36 saves by goaltender Jim Craig and captain Mike Eruzione’s go-ahead goal midway through the third period, the Americans shocked the Soviets 4-3 setting off a wild celebration in the arena and homes throughout the United States.

Two days later, the U.S. defeated Finland 4-2 to win the gold medal.


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