Those Who Stand Out during Clutch Moments in Sports History

By Bill Barrows
I was involved in a discussion recently about all time clutch sports moments. The conversation prompted a series of questions about different sports and a variety of opinions on the subject. Actually there were more questions and subjects but I narrowed it down to four.

You are the manager of a Major League Baseball team in the World Series and its Game 7. You have to win this one game. Who is your pitcher? This led to a discussion. Current pitcher or of all-time? It was decided that we would span the all time list. A few names were tossed about. Madison Bumgardner of the Giants came to mind. How about Tom Glavine or John Smoltz? What about Bob Feller?  Pedro Martinez pitched in the clutch in World Series competition. How about Don Drysdale in the ‘60s for the Dodgers. Whitey Ford in the ‘50s and early ‘60s with the Yankees? How about Jim Palmer of the Orioles in the ‘60s?

For my money, I would have to take Bob Gibson of the Cardinals in the late ‘60s or early ‘70s. He was feared by hitters. He would throw a fastball high and tight and then come back with a sharp curveball that would buckle the knees of any power hitter. He was a two-time World Series MVP, won two Cy Young Awards and earned nine Golden Glove Awards in his Hall of Fame career. He also hit 24 home runs.

Next question: You have the winning run in scoring position in that same Game 7 in the bottom of the 9th inning. Who do you want to bat in that situation? Many a hitter could fold in this situation. Yogi Berra comes to mind, a great clutch hitter for the Yankees dynasty that spanned 1949-1962. How about Pete Rose? In his prime, he was as good a hitter in tough situations as anybody in the game. Willie Mays comes to mind as does Frank Robinson. I’ll take any of those but Derek Jeter seemed to always come to bat in a situation where failure wasn’t an option. How many game winning hits did he have in the post-season? Even in the last at bat of his charmed career, he hit a signature inside-out hit to right field to beat Baltimore when the Orioles were in a pennant race.

Question No.3: You are the head coach of an NFL franchise in the Super Bowl. You are 80 yards from a winning touchdown with two minutes left on the clock. Who is your quarterback? Based on recent history, it could be a no-brainer, Tom Brady. He’s a five-time Super Bowl Champion whose team was 28 points down at halftime of this year’s game and won it. Other choices could be Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr from yesteryear. How about Bret Favre or John Elway? What about Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning? Then there is Joe Montana. He didn’t even start at Notre Dame until late in his career. Speaking of comeback kids? Joe Cool set the standard in the Super Bowl era before the current crop came along. A four-time Super Bowl Champ with two MVP Awards, he won Super Bowl XXIII with a classic drive for the ages, coming from behind to do so.  He also won two others by bringing the 49ers from behind to do so.

The last question:  Your team is in the championship game, doesn’t matter what sport. You have to win. Who do you want as your coach? There are a lot of great tacticians historically, others who influenced the sports genre. And then there are guys who were great leaders. Names that were bandied about during our debate varied. We really didn’t come up with a clear cut, head and shoulders above the rest standout. John Wooden of UCLA Basketball fame was mentioned. Tony LaRussa, who managed the Athletics and Cardinals to multiple World Series Championships, was another. How about Bobby Knight? When the Indiana Hoosiers got to the Final Four under the Knight regime, they seldom lost. Bill Belichick has now won five Super Bowls and is a master tactician. Red Auerbach won nine NBA Titles in 10 years with the Boston Celtics during an era of dynasties. How about Sparky Anderson? He won a World Series with the Cincinnati Reds and then did the same with the Detroit Tigers. And not to be outdone, Vince Lombardi left the NY Giants in 1958 and headed west to little known Green Bay, Wis., and took a franchise that was 1-10-1 and won three NFL titles, including the first two Super Bowls. He never had another losing season. What other coach has the championship trophy of his sport named after him?

Those were our choices. What are yours? Email it to me at:

Posted on 2017 Jun 06