It’s a memorable day on the calendar each year. First and foremost, it is the celebration of the independence of the United States of America. It also marks a sort of mid-point to the summer. July 4th lands about halfway through the Major League Baseball season as well. However, it’s not just baseball that has provided some of the more memorable sports moments on the Fourth of July.
Richard Petty Wins 200th
It was two days after his 47th birthday. Petty would win for the final time in his storied career at the Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Petty had appeared in over 1,200 races in his career and had seven NASCAR Cup Series championships.
On July 4, 1984, Petty won his record-setting 200th race that day. He would go on to race for another eight years but never won another NASCAR Cup Series event.
John McEnroe Beats Bjorn Borg
Wimbledon begins near the end of June and often some of the Grand Slam tournament’s events occur on July 4. In 1981, John McEnroe faced Bjorn Borg for the men’s singles title. McEnroe was just 22 years old and Borg had won five straight Wimbledon titles. At the time, Borg had won 41 straight matches at Wimbledon. McEnroe would upset Borg for his first Wimbledon title. He would win twice more in his career.
Kevin Durant Signs with Golden State
It wasn’t an on-field performance, but in 2016 the free agent Durant announced he would be leaving Oklahoma City to head to Golden State. The Warriors had just set an NBA record with 73 wins in the previous season. Durant would go on to win consecutive NBA Finals MVPs the next two seasons.
Phil Niekro, Nolan Ryan Get to 3,000 Ks
In 1980, Ryan went up against the Cincinnati Reds and their loaded lineup. He struck out Ken Griffey Sr. in the first inning and then got Cesar Geronimo in the second for his 3,000th strikeout. Ironically, Geronimo was also the 3,000th victim of Hall of Famer Bob Gibson.
Four years later, Phil Niekro would add his name to the list of MLB pitchers with 3,000 strikeouts. The knuckleball pitcher would finish his career with 3,324 strikeouts.
In 1983, Yankees pitcher Dave Righetti pitched a complete game no-hitter against his team’s biggest rival – the Boston Red Sox. Righetti would strike out Red Sox star Wade Boggs to complete the feat. Boggs would strike out only 36 times all season and end up winning the AL batting crown.
Righetti’s teammate, SS Bert Campaneris, would add to his MLB record. Campaneris played in 11 no-hitters during his career. Righetti would go on to win three World Series championships as a coach of the San Francisco Giants from 2000 to 2017.
The Luckiest Man Alive
It was about a month after one of the greatest players in New York Yankees’ and MLB history was forced to retire. Lou Gehrig played in 2,130 consecutive games, won six World Series titles, was a seven-time All-Star, and won the American League MVP twice.
On July 4, 1939, he gave a speech that still brings chills to those that listen to it. Gehrig had been diagnosed with the disease that now bears his name. He returned to Yankee Stadium where he made his final public appearance that day.
Gehrig’s speech was just 275 words, but the most famous of those was this, “…today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” The Yankees would split a doubleheader with the Washington Senators that day. Gehrig would pass away less than two years later.
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