Muhammed Ali once proclaimed: “I'm the king of the world, I am the greatest, I’m Muhammad Ali. I shook up the world, I am the greatest, I'm king of the world, I'm pretty, I'm pretty, I'm a bad man, you heard me I'm a bad man. Archie Moore fell in four, Liston wanted me more, so since he's so great, I'm a make him fall in eight, I'm a bad man, I'm king of the world! I'm 22 years old and ain’t got a mark on my face, I'm pretty, I easily survived six rounds with that ugly bear, because I am the greatest.”
I don’t know that the following players can claim as much as one of the best boxers we’ve ever seen, but they at least have something they can hang their hat on as being the best at. Take a look at three notable performances in non-traditional situations.
Greatest Hitter Performance on their Birthday
Nomar Garciaparra (7/23/2002) -- A year shy of 30, Nomar explodes to go 3-for-5 with three homers, eight RBIs, three runs and a walk in a game that saw his Red Sox rout the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 22-4. Nomar would only play one more full season from that point on, moving to Chicago, Los Angeles and finally ending things in Oakland.
Greatest Pitching Performance on their Birthday
Warren Spahn (4/23/1951) -- This one flat out amazed me. Sure, it’s a different era, but Spahn’s game stood out head and shoulders above the rest on the list. Spahn is most notably remembered for the poem about him and fellow teammate Johnny Sain.
“First we'll use Spahn
then we'll use Sain
Then an off day
followed by rain
Back will come Spahn
followed by Sain
by two days of rain.”
On his 30th birthday, Spahn would pitch 15 2/3 innings, complete the game in which he faced 56 batters, threw 184 pitches, struck out eight and walked just two. Unfortunately, he would allow two runs (one unearned) and get tagged with the loss.
Greatest Pitching Performance by a Teenager
When you think of this one, your mind instantly is drawn to a guy like Sandy Koufax, who retired from the game too soon. However, there was a certain other kid that pitched like a star before he left his teen years that did it not once, but twice, and within consecutive starts no less.
Dwight Gooden (9/7/1984 & 9/12/1984) -- After being selected fifth overall in the 1982 amateur draft, Gooden made his major league debut for the Mets in 1984. It was a debut that saw him win 17 games for the Mets. In September, Gooden would put up two starts for the ages, throwing back to back shutouts. Final line for both starts: 18 innings pitched, six hits, four walks, 27 strikeouts. Sheer dominance was how he’d close out the year as well, going 4-1 in the month with an ERA 1.29 and 62 strikeouts in just 42 innings pitched. If only he would have stayed clean. It would have been great to see what he was capable of over the long haul.
Joe Aiello writes for The View From the Bleachers blog, which is part of the SweetSpot network.