U.S. Olympic Hockey
An early chink in the Iron Curtain—the tow-headed child crusaders beat the paid Soviet goons—was also one of those rare times when a U.S. team was the underdog in a sport Americans cared about. And after these seventh-seeded innocents won the final over Finland, never did anybody look better wrapped in a flag. Who can ever forget Jim Craig searching the stands: "Where's my father? Where's my father?"
San Diego Chargers
While the Chicago Bears were hammering out their NFL championship with defensive muscle, the Chargers were a flash of sunlight, running up a 51-10 score—and 610 yards of offense—on the Boston Patriots in the AFL title game. What a collection of talent: Hall of Fame offensive tackle Ron Mix; Lance Alworth, the AFL's first homegrown Hall of Famer, blazing deep; and All-AFL end Earl Faison leading a defense coached by Chuck Noll. Overseeing the whole thing was Sid Gillman, the genius of the passing game, the originator of the true West Coast offense.
8 The King and His Court
"I am the world's finest softball pitcher by at least 100 percent," says Eddie (the King) Feigner, whose four-man fast-pitch circus has played more than 10,000 games in 53 barnstorming years. "I once struck out a man on one pitch," he boasts. "He swung and missed three times at the same changeup."
New York Mets
Facetiously named the Amazing Mets, the inaugural Mets and their bungling were chronicled by Jimmy Breslin in Can't Anybody Here Play This Game? whose title was a plaint whined by New York's stand-up comic cum manager, Casey Stengel. The players were best represented by Marvelous Marv Throneberry, who later promulgated his ineptitude in a beer commercial, opining, "If I do for Lite what I did for baseball, I'm afraid their sales will go down."
While not exactly shot through with blonds, the Trojans were otherwise as California as could be, trumping every hard-held Midwestern value. What rattled the heartland most? The gorgeous cheerleaders, O.J. Simpson's effortless sweeps (above) or the drollery of coach John McKay, who gave Indiana a free scouting report for the Rose Bowl: "We will continue to operate from two plays, which I will signal to O.J. I'll tell him to run left or right," Final score: USC 14, Indiana 3.
The last NFL team actually allowed to smile, the Madcaps of the Midway also danced and rapped. Mike Ditka was the coach, Jim McMahon the ineffable field general, but the prime-time celebrity was an industrial-sized Refrigerator—Perry—who went both ways: straight and comic.
Milan (Ind.) High Basketball
In Indiana the allegory of tiny Milan High is imparted to young boys and girls before they hear about David and Goliath. The Indians—a team of Scott Skiles look-alikes who learned their set shooting in the family barns—cruised through the state tournament, laying waste to schools with 10 times their student body. Fictionalized in the film Hoosiers, the Milan Miracle endures, further evidence that Indiana ought to return to its single-class high school basketball tournament.
Boston bumper stickers read JESUS SAVES...AND ESPO SCORES ON THE REBOUND. Bobby Orr glided to places where no defenseman had ever glided, did things no defenseman had ever done. Phil Esposito stood in the slot and scored goals with production-line efficiency. The roster was filled with raucous characters like Derek (the Turk) Sanderson and Johnny (Pie) McKenzie, who rolled through the Stanley Cup playoffs as if they were a back road in Ontario on a Saturday night.
14 Torvill and Dean
It only takes two to make a team. Even if we weren't sure that what Torvill and Dean were doing was sport, we were sure it was greatness. They redefined the limits of ice dancing by removing them. They could be spunky, acrobatic or romantic—their showstopping Bolero program in the '84 Olympics was the sexiest performance in the history of skating.
Chicago White Sox
In the third World Series the White Sox proved that anything is possible in the Fall Classic. It was amazing enough that the Hitless Wonders won the American League pennant while finishing last in batting average (.230). But how could they possibly beat the National League champion Cubs of Tinker, Evers and Chance, the team whose 116-36 record remains the best ever? Well, the Sox did, though they hit .198 in the Series. Long live the lessons of the Dead Ball era.