Top 10 Most Iconic Moments In MLB History

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The MLB has been in existence since 1903, so it comes as no surprise that the league has featured its fair share of iconic moments. Read on to learn about the most iconic moments in MLB history.

What are the Most Iconic Moments in MLB History?

  1. Jackie Robinson Signed into the MLB
  2. Lou Gehrig’s Retirement Speech
  3. Babe Ruth and the Called Shot
  4. Hank Aaron’s 715th Home Run
  5. Cal Ripken Jr. Setting New Record
  6. The Shot Heard ‘Round The World
  7. Pete Rose Gets Hit Number 4,192
  8. Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series Home Run
  9. Derek Jeter’s “Flip”
  10. Mazeroski’s Walk-Off Home Run

1. Jackie Robinson Signed into the MLB

The most iconic and influential moment ever in Major League Baseball history is when Jackie Robinson, a black man, signed for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 10, 1947. This momentous day has been written into not only MLB History, but American History as well. Jackie Robinson broke through the race barrier in baseball, becoming a catalyst for other MLB owners to recruit and sign players based on talent, not race. Robinson’s signing into the MLB did not come with pleasantries, however, as he was often harassed by fans and opposing teams throughout his career. Nevertheless, he ignored the negativity, and his talent shone through it all, putting his detractors to shame. Robinson was awarded Rookie of the Year in 1947, got inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, and was the first professional athlete to have his jersey number 42 retired across the sport, as well as worn by every single player across the league during games held on April 15, the date of his MLB debut, which is now known as Jackie Robsinson Day.

2. Lou Gehrig’s Retirement Speech

Lou Gehrig was easily one of the most prominent baseball players in MLB, playing for the New York Yankees, and it shocked the nation when he announced that he was retiring from the sport. He informed the nation on July 4, 1939 in his farewell speech, now coined “the Gettysburg Address of Baseball.” Gehrig had decided to retire from baseball after he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and he was such a beloved figure that this illness is often still referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” One of the iconic phrases in this speech that still lives on today is when Gehrig states that he is “the luckiest man on the face of the Earth” for being able to play baseball throughout his career, even when he was suffering from the early stages of his disease.

3. Babe Ruth and the Called Shot

This historic event in MLB baseball is still debated today, earning its position among the most iconic moments in MLB History. In the 1932 World Series, the Chicago Cubs and the New York Yankees were battling it out for the title. Game Three was held at Wrigley Field, and at the top of the fifth inning, Yankees legend Babe Ruth’s turn at-bat came up. “The Babe” swung two strikes, and then pointed two fingers up to the crowds at center field. His third swing drove the ball straight to center field, landing it in the stands. Ruth later stated that he did call that shot, and that he pointed two fingers towards the fans to let them know that he had two strikes, and the third was aimed for a home run. Some question the validity of this, but nevertheless, the moment has been ingrained into MLB History. 

4. Hank Aaron’s 715th Home Run

The year 1974 rewrote the Major League Baseball history books, as Hank Aaron surpassed Babe Ruth’s record of the most home runs ever hit by a single player. This marked a transition in the league, as it became noticeable that a new wave of professional baseball players would start to break more and more records originally set by legends, who were still known decades later. After breaking Ruth’s record, Hank Aaron ended his entire career with 755 home runs, setting the new record. He held this record until San Francisco Giants player Barry Bonds broke the records in 2007.

5. Cal Ripken Jr. Setting A New Record

September 6th, 1995 is an iconic moment in MLB History. Cal Ripken Jr., a shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles, surpassed Lou Gehrig’s record by playing 2,131 baseball games consecutively since 1982. The game that day was played on Ripken’s home turf in Camden Yards, and not only did the Orioles win the game, but Ripken solidified his talent by scoring a home run. Nicknamed the “Iron Man,” Ripken continued to play for the Orioles until 1998, totalling a new record of 2,632 consecutive games played. This record has not yet been broken, and many doubt that it ever will be.

6. “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World”

This iconic phrase in American history books–which is derived from a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson about the Battles of Lexington and Concord–was adopted by baseball in 1951, when the New York Giants won the National League Pennant. The Giants were playing against the Brooklyn Dodgers in a best of three game set, and the Giants were the obvious underdogs entering the game. Each team won a game, and in game three, at the bottom of the ninth, the score was 4-1 Dodgers. The Giants scored a run, and Bobby Thomson went up to bat with players on second and third, and the score now 4-2. Thomson unexpectedly hit the ball and it flew across the field, landing right into the left field stands, making it a home run and changing the game in a matter of seconds. The crowd, and the Giants, were ecstatic, and this home run score was later coined “the shot heard ‘round the world.”

7. Pete Rose Gets Hit Number 4,192

Ty Cobb was the owner of MLB’s career hits record for 57 years, until Pete Rose did the seemingly unthinkable and broke Cobb’s record on September 11, 1985, at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. The record-breaking hit was a single to left-center field on a 2-1 pitch from Padres pitcher Eric Snow, and the resulting celebration featured a seven-minute standing ovation from spectators. Of all the career records in Major League history, Cobb’s hit total was always thought of as one of the most unbreakable. Nonetheless, Pete Rose topped Cobb’s career total and cemented his legacy as one of the greatest baseball players of all time. This record-breaking hit, and what it represents in the history of baseball, is one of the integral arguments as to why Pete Rose’s ban should be lifted in order for him to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

8. Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series Home Run

This event deserves to be in the most iconic moments in MLB history because the impossible literally became possible for Los Angeles Dodgers’ player Kirk Gibson. The LA Dodgers were in the World Series against the Oakland Athletics, and Gibson had sustained injuries to both of his legs before Game One even arrived. Gibson was originally taken off the batting lineup for the game due to his injuries, but at the bottom of the ninth with two outs on the board, Gibson was called to bat. Shockingly, he hit the ball perfectly, batting it straight out of the park to score two home runs for the Dodgers, changing the score to 5-4 Dodgers and winning them the game, after which they went on to win the World Series four games to one.

9. Derek Jeter’s “Flip”

The most recent iconic moment in MLB history, Derek Jeter made headlines with this unfathomable toss in 2001. In the third game of the American League Division Series against the Athletics, the Yankees were up 1-0, and Jeremy Giambi, a player on the Athletics, was looking to tie the game up from first base, hoping to score a run off of a hit by teammate Terrence Long. However, when the hit (a long ground ball) was made, Jeter appeared out of nowhere near first base, receiving the ball from infielder Shane Spencer when Spencer overthrew the ball into foul territory, and then tossing the ball backwards to catcher Jorge Posada, just as Giambi was reaching home plate. The umpire called Giambi out at home, and the Yankees continued to keep the score 1-0. This brought confidence to the team, and the Yankees won the AL Division Series, and then were victorious in the World Series.

10. Mazeroski’s Walk-Off Home Run

This event in MLB history is one to remember. Bill Mazeroski, second baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates, went up to bat in the last inning of the last game of the World Series in October of 1960. The Pirates were playing against the New York Yankees, and the score was 9-9, with no one on base. Mazeroski shocked the crowds when he swung the bat and the ball flew right out of Forbes Field. New York Yankees legends Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra tried to catch the ball, but they soon realized that it was hit out of the park. This World Series-winning home run for the Pittsburgh Pirates is truly iconic, and deserves a spot on this list. 

Honorable Mentions

Reggie Jackson in the 1977 World Series

Reggie Jackson was traded to the Yankees from the Orioles in 1977, and the team’s superb talent during that season led them to the World Series. In Game Six, Jackson did the unimaginable, hitting three home runs, and helping his new team beat the Dodgers in Game 6. Jackson’s performance also gave the Yankees the momentum to beat the Dodgers once again in Game 7, winning them the title of World Series Champions. Jackson’s talents in this fall series enabled him to earn the nickname “Mr. October.”

The Catch

Very rarely does a play in sports reach such legendary status that it becomes simply referred to as by the type of play that occurred, but “The Catch” is one of those rare instances. Willie Mays, MLB legend and Hall of Famer, made one of the most iconic plays in baseball history during Game One of the 1954 World Series while the game was tied 2-2. With runners on first and second, Cleveland batter Vic Wertz crushed a 420-foot fly ball to center field at the cavernous Polo Grounds. What almost surely should have been a two-run extra-base hit, however, was instead caught. Mays, who was playing in shallow center field, bolted after the ball and made a miraculous over-the-shoulder catch on the run, in what became one of the most iconic photographs in baseball history. This catch stunned Cleveland, and ultimately led to a Game One win for the New York Giants. The Giants would go on to win the World Series in a sweep that year, and Mays’ catch went down in baseball history as one of the greatest of all time.

Bill Buckner’s Blunder

While most of the moments that define the history of baseball involve miraculous plays on the field with historical significance and a legendary legacy, Bill Buckner’s involvement in Game Six of the 1986 World Series goes down as the greatest blunder in the history of the sport. Buckner was the first baseman for the Boston Red Sox, and Boston was on the verge of bringing the Curse of the Bambino to a close against the New York Mets. However, with one out between the 1986 Red Sox and immortality, Bill Buckner allowed an easy ground ball off the bat of Mookie Wilson to go clean through his legs and bring in the game-winning run home for the Mets. The Red Sox would go on to lose Game Seven, and fans in Boston regarded this as one of the many instances in which the famed “Curse of the Bambino” reared its ugly head on the baseball diamond. Buckner became the most hated man in Boston, even receiving death threats, and was released in the middle of the next season. Buckner wouldn’t return to Fenway Park until 2008, when he threw out the first pitch to thunderous applause, and the Red Sox would not win a World Series for another 18 years, finally breaking the curse in 2004.

Timeline of Events

Below is a timeline of the events on this list, putting each into a greater historical context in regards to MLB History:

  • October 1, 1932: Babe Ruth’s Called Shot - During Game Three of the 1932 World Series, Babe Ruth makes a pointing gesture seconds before hitting a major home run, leading fans to believe that he predicted his own home run attempt, which he later states was the case.
  • July 4, 1939: Lou Gehrig’s Retirement Speech - After being diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig makes an emotional and unexpected retirement speech at Yankee Stadium, earning the adulation of his grieving fans when he states that he is “the luckiest man on the face of the Earth” for having been able to play baseball.
  • April 10, 1947: Jackie Robinson Signs with the Brooklyn Dodgers - Breaking the race barrier in baseball, Jackie Robinson becomes the first person of color to sign with a Major League team, cementing his legacy forever, and starting a career full of accolades.
  • October 3, 1951: “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World” - During the third game of a playoff series to win the National League Pennant, Bobby Thomson of the New York Giants hits a monster walk-off home run off of a pitch made by Ralph Branca of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The home run saves the game for New York, leading later broadcasters to reference it with the phrase “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” after a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson about the American Revolution.
  • September 29, 1954: “The Catch” - During Game One of the 1954 World Series, New York Giants center fielder Willie Mays makes one of the most legendary catches in MLB history, snagging a deep drive to center field over the shoulder while on the run, saving the game for the Giants and paving the way for them to win the World Series.
  • October 13, 1960: Mazeroski’s Walk-Off Home Run - In the seventh game of the 1960 World Series, with the two teams tied at a nail-biting score of 9-9, Bill Mazeroski of the Pittsburgh Pirates hits a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth to defeat the New York Yankees.
  • April 8, 1974: Hank Aaron Hits His 715th Home Run - In the bottom of the fourth inning of a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves broadcaster Milo Hamilton announces that Braves’ player Hank Aaron (who is stepping up to bat) is one home run away from breaking Babe Ruth’s record, having 714 home runs. Seconds later, Aaron hits his 715th homer, breaking Ruth’s all-time record.
  • October 1977: Reggie Jackson in the 1977 World Series - In a World Series matchup against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Baltimore’s Reggie Jackson puts on a stunning performance, hitting three home runs throughout the series and helping his team win both Games 6 and 7 to clinch the championship, earning himself the nickname “Mr. October.”
  • September 11, 1985: Pete Rose Breaks Ty Cobb’s Hits Record - In front of a crowd of over 45,000 at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, Pete Rose singles against Padres pitcher Eric Snow for his 4,192nd hit, breaking the all-time MLB record Ty Cobb had held since 1928.
  • October 26, 1986: Bill Buckner’s Blunder - Bill Buckner allows an easy ground ball to go through his legs in Game Six of the 1986 World Series, paving the way for the Mets to win Game Seven. This is one of the most legendary incidents in the long history of “The Curse of the Bambino,” and the Red Sox fail to win another World Series until 2004.
  • October 15, 1988: Kirk Gibson’s World Series Home Run - After being called up to pinch-hit for the Dodgers in the bottom of the ninth inning, Kirk Gibson, despite dealing with leg injuries, hits a two-run, walk-off homer to defeat the Oakland Athletics 5-4 in the series’ opening game. The Dodgers go on to win the World Series four games to one.
  • September 6, 1995: Cal Ripken Jr. Sets A New Record - At a game played in Camden Yards, Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. sets a new record for most games played consecutively, beating Lou Gehrig’s record when he plays his 2,131st game since 1982. Ripken goes on to play a total of 2,632 consecutive games across his entire career, a still-unbroken record.
  • October 13, 2001: Derek Jeter’s “Flip” - In the third game of the American League Division Series, Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees makes an astonishing grab off of a hit by Terrence Long of the Oakland Athletics, receiving an overthrown shot from infielder Shane Spencer and “flipping” the ball in a backwards throw to home plate to throw out Oakland’s Jeremy Giambi as he comes in for a run. The play is successful, holding the score of the game to 1-0 for the Yankees, and Jeter’s throw is remembered for its quirkiness and style, as well as for helping the Yankees clinch the AL Pennant and, later, the World Series.