In recent years, some of the biggest sports headlines generated on the Fourth of July have been about the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. But there have been plenty of memorable moments outside the realm of competitive eating while America celebrates its independence, including Lou Gehrig's famous "Luckiest Man" speech:
Fourth Of July: Memorable Sports Moments
1910: Jack Johnson's 'Fight Of The Century
Johnson, world heavyweight champion and son of a slave, defeats former champ Jim Jeffries in a fight that exposes America's racial tensions. After San Francisco declines to host the fight, Reno rushes to build a stadium specifically for the bout. Though Jeffries has slipped out of shape in retirement and Johnson is the champion, betting lines favor the ex-champ. Johnson scores a 15th-round knockout, leading blacks around the country to rejoice. But many are beaten by angry whites.
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 age 37.
1980: Nolan Ryan's 3,000th Strikeout
At only 33, Ryan notches the landmark strikeout with the Houston Astros. He continues pitching until he's 46, retiring with 5,714 strikeouts and seven no-hitters, both MLB records.
1983: Dave Righetti Throws No-Hitter
Righetti strikes out Wade Boggs for the final out 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 prior the final). Navratilova wins a combined 16 Wimbledon singles and doubles titles.
1993: Pete Sampras Wins At Wimbledon
Sampras finishes his career with a record seven Wimbledon titles. His first comes with a win in the finals against fellow American Jim Courier 7-6, 7-6, 3–6, 6–3.
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, which played more than half the match down a man, 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 bases-loaded, walk-off single.