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Weird, unforgettable moments

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

They are the moments in sports that the people involved would rather forget—while hoping fans, teammates, the entire sports world would do the same. However, some moments are so odd and blunder-filled that there is little chance of anything but infamy, like the play in the Pittsburgh Pirates-Chicago Cubs game, a baserunning masterpiece by Javy Baez that left the Pirates looking like a puzzled group of little leaguers. The gaffe at PNC is now part of sports lore, cataloged in the “Not So Great” section, joining these other historic mishaps…

Jose Canseco uses his head

Jonathan Daniel /Allsport

This might have been the weirdest baseball play of all time before the Pirates blunder against the Cubs. On May 26, 1993, Indians infielder Carlos Martinez hit a fly ball to the warning track in right field, and it looked like the Texas Rangers’ right fielder Jose Canseco was going to be able to make a play on it. The ball, however, found Canseco’s head and over the wall. They call that a home run.

Jim Marshall runs the wrong way

(AP Photo/Paul Battaglia)

The Minnesota Vikings’ Jim Marshall is infamous for his “wrong-way run,” a play in which he recovered a fumble and returned it 66 yards in the wrong direction—into his own end zone, where he threw the ball out of bounds, resulting in a safety for the San Francisco 49ers. A little bit of trivia from the 1964 play: George Mira threw the pass and Billy Kilmer — yes, who went on to play quarterback for Washington — fumbled it.

Flagged for throwing a shoe


Florida Gator’s Marco Wilson was penalized late in the fourth quarter of a tied game in 2020 after throwing the shoe of LSU tight end Kole Taylor, which had ended up in his hands following a third-down stop. That 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty kept a late LSU drive alive, and the Tigers were able to take a 37-34 lead with 23 seconds to go when kicker Cade York drilled a 57-yard field goal. Florida kicker Evan McPherson’s 51-yard field goal attempt as time expired drifted just wide.

Mickey Owen

(AP Photo/Murray Becker)

Mickey Owen is most remembered in baseball lore for a costly mistake he committed during the 1941 World Series. The Yankees held a 2-1 lead entering Game 4 on October 5 at Ebbets Field. The Dodgers were leading 4–3 in the top of the ninth inning, with two out and the count 3–2 on Tommy Henrich. Henrich swung and missed at strike three, which would have been the final out of the game, but the ball eluded Owen and went to the backstop, allowing Henrich to make it safely to first base. The Yankees scored four runs in the remainder of the inning and won 7–4.

The Tuck Rule

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Raiders fans will never forgive — or forget — the play in the snow of their 2002 AFC playoff game against the New England Patriots. In the closing moments of the fourth quarter in snowy Foxboro Stadium, with New England trailing by three points, Tom Brady dropped back to pass. Brady pulled his right hand down and touched the ball to his left hand… when the Raiders’ Charles Woodson knocked the ball out. Middle linebacker Greg Biekert then fell on the loose football. The officials initially called the play a recovered fumble, which would have sealed the victory for the Raiders. But after instant replay, referee Walt Coleman reversed this call, declared the play an incomplete forward pass, and gave possession back to New England. Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri later tied the game with a 45-yard field goal; in overtime, the Patriots defeated the Raiders on another field goal.

Miami bedevils Duke

(AP Photo/Rob Brown, File)

On a play that lasted 49 seconds, Miami lateraled the ball eight times and went back to their own 3-yard line before reversing the field and racing down the sideline to score against Duke. The refs immediately put the play under review. After the Hurricanes had rushed on the field from the benches, officials called a block in the back on Miami that would have resulted in a 10-yard penalty and an untimed down — crucially wiping out the touchdown. Eventually, officials determined that no Miami player was ever down on the play (though still shots of the return show that it was incredibly close) and that the block in the back was legal. The touchdown stood, giving the Hurricanes a 30-27 win.

Grand slam single

RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

The Grand Slam Single is the hit that ended Game 5 of the 1999 NLCS between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves. In the bottom of the 15th inning, the Mets loaded the bases against Braves relief pitcher Kevin McGlinchy. Todd Pratt drew a bases-loaded walk, tying the score 3–3. The next batter was Robin Ventura, who crushed the 2–1 pitch over the wall in right-center for an ostensible grand slam, winning the game for the Mets. Ventura, however, never reached second base as Pratt picked up Ventura in celebration. Subsequently, Ventura was mobbed by his teammates, never finishing his trot around the bases. Because he failed to touch all four bases, the hit was officially scored a single. Roger Cedeño, the runner on third at the time, was ruled the only runner to have crossed home plate, and the Mets were awarded a 4–3 victory. Thus, Ventura was only credited with a single and RBI.

Joe Adcock’s Home Run Double

(AP Photo/John Lindsay)

Another notable home run was the blast ending the epic duel between the Milwaukee Braves’ Lew Burdette and Pittsburgh Pirates’ Harvey Haddix on May 26, 1959, in which Haddix took a perfect game into the 13th inning. Adcock did not get credit for a home run, because Hank Aaron – who was on first base – saw Félix Mantilla, the runner ahead of him, score the winning run and thought the hit had only been a double and walked back to the dugout, causing Adcock to be called out for passing him on the base paths. (Eventually, the ruling was that instead of a 3-run home run for a 3–0 Braves victory, Adcock got a double and 1 RBI, and the Braves won 1–0.)

Earl Monroe’s basket burns bettors

Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Earl Monroe put a jump shot into the wrong basket as the buzzer sounded in a Blazers-Knicks game at MSG. The shot reduced a 6‐point Knick margin over Portland to 4 and was naturally unpopular with those who had bet on the Knicks and had given 5 1/2 or 6 points. It was determined there was no intent on The Pearl’s part … he thought the time had elapsed.

Miracle at the Meadowlands I

(AP Photo/G. Paul Burnett)

The Giants had the ball and the lead, ahead 17-12 with time running out. The game seemed like a lock for New York…until a defender hit quarterback Joe Pisarcik as he tried to give the ball to Larry Csonka, resulting in a fumble that was picked up by the Eagles’ Herman Edwards and returned to win the game 19-17.

Miracle at the Meadowlands II

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

In the final seconds of a Giants-Eagles game, a snap from Zak DeOssie to Matt Dodge was high, and Dodge hastily kicked a line drive punt to DeSean Jackson rather than kicking the ball out of bounds. Jackson received the ball at the Eagles’ 35-yard line and immediately muffed the catch before picking the ball up and backpedaling to the 30-yard line. Jackson ran through a group of Giants and made it to midfield before receiving a huge block by wide receiver Jason Avant on DeOssie, leaving no one in front of Jackson on the way to the end zone.

The Butt fumble

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Butt Fumble was a play from a game on Thanksgiving 2012 between the New York Jets and New England Patriots. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez collided with the rear end of his teammate, offensive lineman Brandon Moore, causing a fumble, which was then recovered by the Patriots’ safety Steve Gregory and returned for a touchdown.

Cover me

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Tucker hit a 55-yard field goal that gave the Ravens a 45-42 lead with two seconds to play. After a touchback on the ensuing kickoff, Cleveland had time for one play. Baker Mayfield completed a pass to Kareem Hunt on a short slant over the middle and then lateraled to Rashard Higgins, the first of seven laterals on the play. The ball ended up in the hands of Jarvis Landry, who was pushed out of bounds in the end zone for a safety, giving the Ravens a 47-42 win and the cover of the spread—and swung millions of dollars in bets.