The Fourth of July is all about celebrating freedom, with some room, of course, for firing up the grill and enjoying some competition. Here are some of the more notable developments in the sports world on Independence Day:
1910: Jack Johnson's 'Fight Of The Century
Johnson, the heavyweight champion of the world and son of a slave, defeats retired former champion Jim Jeffries in a fight that exposes America's racial tensions. After San Francisco declines to host the fight, Reno hastily rushes to build a stadium specifically for the bout. Though Jeffries has slipped out of shape in retirement and Johnson is the world champion, the betting lines favor the ex-champ. Johnson proves the doubters wrong with a 15th-round knockout, leading blacks around the country to rejoice. However, many are beaten by angry whites in one of the uglier Independence Day moments.
1939: Lou Gehrig's Farewell Speech
Days after he is diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which had ended his record consecutive games streak at 2,130, Lou Gehrig makes a farewell speech at Yankee Stadium. It goes down as arguably the most famous speech in sports history, with Gehrig telling the fans "today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth." Gehrig passes away less than two years later at 37.
1980: Nolan Ryan's 3,000th Strikeout
At only 33, Ryan notches the landmark strikeout with the Houston Astros. Ryan continues pitching until he's 46, retiring with 5,714 strikeouts and seven no-hitters, both MLB records.
1981: John McEnroe Ends Bjorn Borg's Wimbledon Reign
In the 1980 Wimbledon final, McEnroe escaped five match points while winning a fourth-set tiebreaker 18-16, but ultimately lost the championship to Borg. A year later, McEnroe wins the rematch in four sets. It is his first Wimbledon title and ends Borg's run of five consecutive championships.
1983: Dave Righetti Throws No-Hitter
Righetti strikes out Wade Boggs to no-hit the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. Righetti not only helps America and Yankees fans celebrate, but also owner George Steinbrenner, who was born July 4, 1930.
1984: Phil Niekro's 3,000th Strikeout
One year later, another Yankee brings Fourth of July memories to the Bronx. The 45-year-old knuckleballer ends up pitching three more seasons after 1984, retiring with 3,342 career strikeouts and 318 wins.
1984: Richard Petty's Final Victory
With President Ronald Reagan watching, Petty takes his 200th and final victory lap by winning the Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway. It counts as a birthday present for Petty, who was born July 2, 1937.
1985: Mets And Braves Go 19 Innings
Dwight Gooden (pictured here against the Cardinals) starts the game for the Mets, but lasts roughly an eighth of it, pitching 2.1 innings. New York wins after 4 a.m. in Atlanta, which has a fireworks show prepared for the Fourth of July. The show proceeds, awaking startled residents nearby Fulton County Stadium, who fear the city is under attack or apocalypse.
1987: Martina Navratilova Wins Eighth Wimbledon Singles Title
Navratilova defeats rival Steffi Graf in straight sets after losing to Graf in the French Open final. Graf eventually finishes the year with the No. 1 singles ranking, but Navratilova wins the '87 U.S. Open as well (Graf had been eliminated before the final). Navratilova wins a combined 16 Wimbledon singles and doubles titles.
1994: U.S. Loses World Cup Heartbreaker To Brazil
Remembered as the team that put U.S. men's soccer on the map, the Americans hang around with eventual champion Brazil in the second round until a goal in the 73rd minute at Stanford Stadium. The tournament also contains tragedy, as Colombian defender Andrés Escobar is murdered after an own-goal against the U.S. in group play.
2008: Albert Pujols Hits 300th Homer
Three years before Cardinals fans shun him for leaving, Pujols is at the peak of his adoration in St. Louis. He smacks his landmark homer against the despised Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium and goes on to win the 2008 and 2009 National League MVP awards.
2008: Rockies Erase Nine-Run Deficit
On the same night that Pujols hits home run No. 300, the Rockies and Florida Marlins play a wild one in Denver. The Marlins jump out to a 13-4 lead in the fourth inning, but Colorado storms back for an 18-17 victory on catcher Chris Iannetta's (pictured) bases-loaded, walk-off single.
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