Jerry Rice’s 101st career touchdown catch, breaking the record for most career touchdowns previously held by Steve Largent, came on a rainy afternoon in San Francisco, during only his eighth season with the NFL. (By contrast, Largent made his 100th TD reception in his 14th season.) With 8:56 left in the game (a 27-3 rout of the Miami Dolphins) Rice made a quick move to get open in the middle of the end zone, where he caught a 12-yard pass from Steve Young. Mobbed by his teammates, he ran off the field in triumph. Two years later, Rice became the NFL’s all-time touchdown leader (127), passing the great Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown.
In 1987, Joe Montanaof the San Francisco 49ershad 31 touchdown passes, a career high, in just 13 games. He also set an NFL record by completing twenty-two consecutive passes, passed for 3,054 yards, and had a passer rating of 102.1. Though the 49ers finished with the best record in the NFL, they lost in the NFC semi-finals to the Minnesota Vikings. A true student of the game, Montana won the NFL’s passing title in both 1987 and 1989.
Prior to the 1987 season, Bill Walsh completed a trade for Steve Young, then a quarterback with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Young went on to appear in eight regular season games for the team and finished the year with a passer rating of 120.8.
In 2001 Barry Bonds broke not only his own personal records but several major league records. In the Giants’ first 50 games in 2001, Bonds hit 28 home runs, including 17 in May—a career high. This early stretch included his 500th home run hit on April 17 against Terry Adams of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He also hit 39 home runs by the All-star break (a major league record), drew a major league record 177 walks, and had a .515 on-base average, a feat not seen since Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams over forty years earlier. Bonds’ slugging percentage was a major league record .863 (411 total bases in 476 at-bats), and, most impressively, he ended the season with a major league record 73 home runs. On October 4, he tied the previous record of 70 set by Mark McGwire (which McGwire set in the 162nd game in 1998) by homering off of Wilfredo Rodríguez in the 159th game of the season. He then hit numbers 71 and 72 the following night off of Chan Ho Park. Bonds added his 73rd off of Dennis Springer on October 7. The ball was later sold to toy manufacturer Todd McFarlane for $450,000. McFarlane previously bought Mark McGwire’s 70th home run ball from 1998. Bonds received the Babe Ruth Home Run Award for leading MLB in homers that season.
The Catch refers to a memorable defensive baseball play by Willie Mayson September 29, 1954, during Game 1 of the 1954 World Series between the New York Giants and the Cleveland Indians at the Polo Grounds in New York on a ball hit by Vic Wertz. The score was tied 2-2 in the top of the 8th inning. Starting pitcher Sal Magliewalked Larry Doby and gave up a single to Al Rosen, putting runners on first and second. Giants manager Leo Durocher summoned left-handed relief pitcher Don Liddle to replace Maglie and pitch to Cleveland’s Wertz, also a left-hander.
Wertz worked the count to two balls and one strike before crushing Liddle’s fourth pitch approximately 420 feet to deep center field. In many stadiums the hit would have been a home run and given the Indians a 5-2 lead. However, this was the spacious Polo Grounds, and Giants center fielder Willie Mays, who was playing in shallow center field, made an on-the-run, over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track to make the out. Having caught the ball, he immediately spun and threw the ball, losing his hat in characteristic style. Doby, the runner on second, might have been able to score the go-ahead run had he tagged at the moment the ball was caught; as it was, he ran when the ball was hit, then had to scramble back to retag and only got as far as third base. (Rosen stayed at first on this play.) Liddle was then relieved by Marv Grissom, to which he supposedly remarked “Well, I got my man!” (The next batter walked to load the bases, but the next two batters were retired to end the inning with no runs scored.)
Willie Mays’ incredible catch:
“Winners, I am convinced, imagine their dreams first. They want it with all their heart and expect it to come true.” – Joe Montana