The Bay Area is home to six major league sports teams and numerous first-division college teams, making for some absolutely unbelievable moments over the years. From miraculous gameplays to live broadcasting flubs, we’ve taken a look back at some of the most memorable, surprising, and defining moments in Bay Area sports history. How many do you remember?
1. The Catch
This unbelievable play from the 1981 NFC Championship Game between the Dallas Cowboys and the SF 49ers is widely regarded as one of the most defining moments in NFL history. After an 89-yard drive, the 49ers still found themselves down 27-21 with 58 seconds left in the game. Quarterback Joe Montana made an ambitious pass into the end zone, which wide receiver Dwight Clark miraculously leapt to catch inbounds. The Catch led the 49ers to a 28-27 victory at Candlestick Park and preceded their Super Bowl victory two weeks later, marking the beginning of the 49ers’ domination in the NFC.
We can’t embed the video in this article, but you can watch The Catch on YouTube here.
2. Loma Prieta Earthquake during the 1989 World Series
The SF Giants and the Oakland A’s were due to go head-to-head at Game 3 of the 1989 World Series in Candlestick Park. But less than half an hour before play, California’s biggest earthquake in recent history struck in an unforgettable moment during the pre-game TV broadcast. ABC’s Al Michaels was commentating over replays from Game 2 when the broadcast began to cut out. Viewers heard him say, “I’ll tell you what, we’re having an earthquake!” before the feed cut to a default green background reading “WORLD SERIES.”
According to History.com, the quake was followed by a “brief lightheartedness” in the park as they played Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” But soon the destruction became apparent with 67 deaths, 3,700 injured, and $5 billion in property damage. Game 3 was postponed and ended up taking place 10 days later, with the A’s taking the victory.
3. The Play
The 1982 Big Game between rivals Cal and Stanford is remembered for one of the most unbelievable moments in college football history. Stanford kicker Mark Harmon managed to kick a 35-yard field goal, bringing Stanford to a 20-19 lead with 8 seconds left in the game. When Stanford began celebrating prematurely, the ref gave them a penalty and Harmon had to kick off again from the 25 with just 4 seconds left.
Harmon went for a squib kick (a short, low kick that is difficult to return) but Cal’s Kevin Moen managed to get ahold of it at the 46-yard-line. A sequence of 5 lateral passes ensued, although the Stanford band had already begun storming the field to celebrate their team’s assumed victory. Moen sprinted all the way into the end zone, knocking over trombonist Gary Tyrell and securing a miraculous 25-20 victory for Cal to enormous confusion and uproarious celebration in Memorial Stadium.
4. The Heidi Game
The crowd in Oakland Coliseum enjoyed a riveting finish during the last moments of the 1968 NFL game between the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets, but viewers at home missed the crucial final minute due to a flubbed broadcasting call by NBC. With 65 seconds left to play, the Jets kicked a field goal to take a 32-29 lead, at which point NBC went to commercial and then promptly began showing the film Heidi as had been originally scheduled. Unbeknownst to NBC viewers, the Raiders then scored two spectacular touchdowns in just nine seconds, winning the game 43-32.
For weeks, NBC execs had been convinced that the film Heidi would bring them high ratings, and planned to screen it at 7pm even if the game ran long. They changed their minds at the last minute but were unable to get through the busy telephone lines to tell the programmer in charge. Furious football fans called the network in droves, blowing NBC’s switchboard and clogging phone lines at the telephone company, the NY Times, and the NYPD. The oversight led to a new clause in the NFL’s TV contracts guaranteeing complete broadcasts, and NBC installed a new “Heidi Phone” in the control room to forestall any other such disasters.