Three Moments in MLB History that Completely Changed the Game Forever

The following is a guest post by Sarah Saker.

I don’t care what anyone says, or what the TV ratings say about how many people tune in for the NFL.  To me, baseball is, and always will be, America’s favorite pastime. Football fans can keep their star quarterbacks, and basketball fans can have their rebounds and slam dunks. I’ll keep my pitchers, batters, home runs, and strikes. I love the game with all my heart, and that’s never going to change.

That being said, I’ll be the first to admit that the game has certainly changed over the years. We’ve seen some incredible moments that have inspired the entire nation to join together in celebration, and we’ve had some embarrassing moments that left us wondering whether or not anyone would ever put their trust in the game again. This has left us with a storied history of triumph, defeat, elation, depression, and change. Always change.

No matter what changes though, baseball has always been the sport where players, coaches, umpires, and administrative officials remain humble in their success, and readily admit their mistakes.

There’s a character in baseball that I fell is severely lacking in other sports. We always encourage sports in young people because it instills physical fitness, teamwork, determination, and most importantly, respect for others. If the pros don’t set that example, then we’re lying to ourselves and our children about the virtues of sports.

Fortunately, the people who have centered their entire lives around baseball have always taken responsibility for all they’ve done, and all they’ve failed to do. And there’s been plenty to own up to, the good, the bad, and the downright strange. Join me as we take a look at some of the most important and defining moments in MLB history, some good, some bad, but all moments that redefined not only the way the organization operates, but the very nature of the game we all know and love.

Babe Ruth’s Called Shot

In a career that spanned 22 seasons, Babe Ruth became one the first heroes in baseball, and has remained an icon that signifies what the game is all about. He distinguished himself as one of the best hitters, and pitchers, that the game has ever seen - an especially notable feat given that he was a lefty.

One of The Babe’s greatest moments came during the 1932 World Series, when Ruth and the New York Yankees faced off against the Chicago Cubs. After stepping to the plate, Ruth ominously pointed towards the center field bleachers before preparing himself to swing. Though many historians debate exactly what he was indicating, what is established is that Ruth’s next swing resulted in a home run that landed exactly where he’d pointed.

It would become one of the all-time best moments in MLB history, and would serve as the career capstone of a man who had shattered records left and right while leaving an indelible mark on the game. Since that moment, dozens of other players, movies, TV shows, and commercials have emulated, paid tribute to, or parodied this unforgettable moment in sports history.

The Shaming of Mark McGwire

He could have been remembered as one of the greatest players, with one of the greatest records, in the history of major league baseball. Instead, Mark McGwire is now most often remembered as one of the most prominent players to have admitted using performance-enhancing steroids in a scandal that rocked the league to its very core.

Overall, McGwire enjoyed a memorable major league career, beginning in 1986 with the Oakland Athletics.  The highlight of his career would come on September 8, 1998, as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, when he hit his 62nd home run of the season, breaking the previous record of 61 set by Roger Maris in 1961.  McGwire went on to finish the 1998 season with a mind-boggling 70 home runs.

McGwire retired after the 2001 season, but his home run record and career numbers were called into question in the years that followed as MLB began cracking down more seriously on steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. On March 17, 2005, McGwire and several other players were invited to testify during a Congressional hearing regarding the use of steroids in major league baseball.  During the hearing, McGwire refused to answer questions about whether he used steriods while he played, with his most famous response being "I'm not here to talk about the past."

In 2010, McGwire removed all doubts about his past when he finally admitted to using steroids during his record-breaking year in 1998.  The admission permanently tarnished his image and the image of major league baseball.  Though McGwire was not the only player embroiled in the scandal, his stature as one of the MLB greats shattered much of the respect that the MLB had enjoyed up until then. The scandal caused fans across the country to question not only his achievements, but the records of baseball heroes from years past, and would haunt the league for many years to come.

Jackie Robinson Joins the Brooklyn Dodgers

In a moment that transcended sports, and created a milestone for cultural and societal progression, African American Jackie Robinson officially joined the Brooklyn Dodgers at the start of the 1947 season, playing his first game on April 15 of that year.

While there had been many talented black athletes, in both baseball and other sports, before him, Robinson was the first black player that was allowed to join not only a non-segregated league, but a recognized professional league. Robinson would go on to earn his keep, becoming the 1947 Rookie of the Year, earned distinction as an All-Star player from 1949 to 1954, and won the National MVP award in 1949. He was also the first player to receive the honor of having his player number retired from all MLB teams, in 1994. To this day, each year on April 15, the anniversary of his first game, players and fans alike join to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day, and it is the only day of the year where you’ll see the number 42 on all MLB players.

Robinson’s entry into the MLB transformed the league into an organization that was far ahead of its time. He opened the door for professional black athletes a good 10 years before the Civil Rights Movement was officially recognized, and always conducted himself honorably, and without violence, opting to let his love of the game be the message that rang the clearest.

For Many Years to Come

We hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane as we’ve relived some of baseballs most famous, and infamous, moments. There are plenty of other examples from history that we could talk about which have literally filled entire books. If you agree with us, and especially if you don’t, we would encourage you to register your own sports blog, and help keep the conversation going.

No matter how you feel about it, you can’t deny that baseball has a long storied history, one that will continue to grow and inspire entire generations of fans and players for many years to come.
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