Commentary

Stadium 50

Updated: March 1, 2013, 11:55 AM ET
By Playbook

Introduction: Take Your Seat

Our sports stadiums have hosted near-religious experiences -- e.g., the Immaculate Reception -- as well as actual religious events, such as the three papal masses at Yankee Stadium. Now it's time for us to celebrate the latter type, ranking the most significant noncompetition moments at North American sports venues.

What is noncompetition? Basically: Roy Halladay's many strikes in his 2010 playoff no-hitter are not eligible. President George W. Bush's single, inspiring strike at the 2001 World Series is.

50: Reliant Stadium, Houston -- Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" during Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show, 2004

Janet (or should that be Jackson since it was nasty?), ever so briefly exposed a breast -- gasp! -- to shocked American viewers who apparently had never seen such a thing on TV before. Guess it was appropriate that this Super Bowl had three XXX's in it.

49: The Metrodome, Minneapolis -- Ceiling collapses during winter storm, 2010

Heavy snow and winds caused the Dome's teflon roof to rip open, dumping snow on the field and closing the stadium. Just the year before, I had actually bounced on the roof for a video about the Twins leaving the Dome. I hope I wasn't the cause of the collapse.

48: Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas -- "Fan Man" glides Holyfield- Bowe fight, 1993

It was in Vegas, so it was only appropriate for a fan -- parachutist James Miller -- to sail his paraglider into the boxing arena in the middle of the bout. The only way that would have been more fitting is if he was also an Elvis impersonator.

47: Jack Murphy Stadium, San Diego -- The Chicken's Grand Hatching, 1979

Ted Giannoulas, the Famous Chicken, briefly lost the rights to his feathered character before winning them back in 1979. When he did, he returned to the field in what he called the Grand Hatching, which drew more than 45,000 fans. Depending on how you feel about costumed mascots, you can either credit or blame Giannoulas.

46: Griffith Stadium -- Pearl Harbor response, 1941

During the Washington-Philadelphia game on Sunday, Dec. 7, there was no official announcement the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, but reporters in the press box knew and fans must have realized something was up when top government officials and military personnel were constantly being paged. Not surprisingly, the football writers were told to keep their game stories short.

45: Le Stade Olympique, Montreal -- Bruce Jenner waves U.S. flag, 1976

After Jenner won the 1976 Olympic decathlon, a fan ran onto the track and handed him a small American flag. Not knowing what to do with it, Jenner waved it, starting a ritual that is now choreographed worldwide. If you agree with Jenner that the routine has grown a little over-the-top, be thankful that at least there were no Kardashians involved.

44: Boston Garden -- Bruins bid adieu to arena, 1995

Churchill, FDR and JFK all spoke at the Garden during its 70-year history, which the Bruins closed out with generations of former players -- including Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito -- skating around the rink one final time. It was a night of memories and tears -- or perhaps that was just the usual sweat pouring down from the lack of air conditioning.

43: Westminster Gym, Fulton, Mo. -- Churchill gives Iron Curtain speech, 1946

In one of the most famous speeches of the 20th century, Winston Churchill took the podium at Westminster College's gym and declared that an "iron curtain" had descended, cutting off Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe from the free world. He did not, however, comment on the Pinstripe Curtain the Evil Empire had drawn around the Bronx.

42: Schaefer (Foxboro) Stadium -- Patriots clear snow for winning field goal, 1982

The Snow Plow Game was played in such heavy snow the Patriots and Dolphins were scoreless late in the fourth quarter when New England used a machine to clear a spot for John Smith's game-winning field goal. The Weather Channel would have called it Winter Storm Field Goal.

41: Rice Stadium, Houston -- President Kennedy proposes the United States will land a man on the moon, 1962

In a September speech, JFK promised we would land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. It was as audacious as saying the Rice Owls would win the national championship or the Astros the World Series. But seven years later we were on the moon. Still waiting on the Owls and Astros.

40: Superdome, power failure cause delay in Super Bowl XLVII, 2013

Moments after Jacoby Jones returned a touchdown 108 yards to open the second half, the lights went out at the Superdome -- and Janet Jackson had nothing to do with it. By the time the game resumed 34 minutes later, the Ravens had apparently showered, dressed and headed to the airport before turning the bus around for the two-minute warning (a 28-6 lead turned into a narrow 34-31 win).

39: Olympia Stadium, Detroit -- The first octopi tossed onto the ice, 1952

A tradition was born when two brothers tossed an eight-tentacled octopus onto the ice to symbolize the eight playoff wins needed for the Stanley Cup. With the expanded playoffs, they really need some sort of beast with 16 suctioning limbs. You know, like an owner with his hands in every taxpayer pocket while seeking a new $500 million facility.

38: Altamont Speedway, California -- Rolling Stones concert ends with Hells Angels security killing fan, 1969

The concert is infamous for the violence, including a homicide and several accidental deaths. I don't know about you, but relying on the Hells Angels to provide any sort of security in exchange for a truckload of beer probably isn't the best way to keep things operating smoothly.

37: Astrodome, Houston -- Battle of the Sexes, 1973 For their much-hyped "Battle of the Sexes'' tennis match, Bobby Riggs entered the court riding a sedan chair carried by servants while Billie Jean King rode a similar chair surrounded by women. This was outrageously over-the-top for the time, though by now it would be low-key even for a closer's entrance.

36: Joe Louis Arena, Detroit -- Ronald Reagan receives the 1980 Republican nomination

Reagan starred as pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander in "The Winning Team,'' but his finest performance at a sports arena was when he accepted the 1980 GOP nomination and American politics took a decided right turn. Neither Alexander nor Reagan were lefties.

35: The Kingdome, Seattle -- The stadium is imploded, 2000

After the Kingdome hosted everyone from Billy Graham and Paul McCartney to Ken Griffey Jr. and Michael Jordan, Seattle finally did to the concrete tomb what always should have been: They destroyed it, with the sort of spectacular implosion rarely seen outside a Bruce Willis movie.

34: Dodger Stadium -- Leslie Nielsen films classic umpire routine in "Naked Gun,'' 1987

The scene takes place at an Angels-Mariners game but it was filmed at Dodger Stadium. Sparky Anderson once told reporters that he would love to see an actual umpire showboat like Leslie Nielsen does in his classic "Naked Gun'' routine. Then Sparky actually imitated Nielsen, even attempting a moonwalk. Why can't that be in the director's cut Blu-Ray/DVD?

33: Candlestick Park, San Francisco -- Juan Marichal attacks John Roseboro with a bat, 1965

Back in the days when the Giants-Dodgers rivalry was baseball's most heated, Marichal got so enraged with Roseboro that he attacked the catcher and cracked his bat over Roseboro's head. Can you imagine the reaction had that happened today? Marichal would be sent to Gitmo and Twitter would collapse.

32: Buffalo War Memorial Stadium -- Roy Hobbs hits his home run in "The Natural,'' 1984

In a spectacularly beautiful cinematic moment, Robert Redford crushed a home run through the stadium lights, setting off a chain of such marvelous, unending fireworks that hopefully it prompted the Buffalo fire department to investigate the park's electrical system.

31: Yankee Stadium, the Bronx, NY Nelson Mandela speaks, 1990

Just months after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela spoke at Yankee Stadium to more than 70,000 people while wearing a Yankees cap and jacket. He even said, "I am a Yankee.'' That was a great moment in a season that saw the Yankees finish last, lose their own no-hitter and owner George Steinbrenner receive a lifetime ban. Ahhh, those were the days.

30: Field of Dreams site, Dyersville, Iowa -- Kevin Costner builds it, 1989

One of the great sports movies, "Field of Dreams'' received a Best Picture nomination but lost to "Driving Miss Daisy'' in one of the worst miscarriages of justice in Academy Award history. Honestly, have you ever wanted to visit the "Driving Miss Daisy'' film site? FoD, meanwhile, turned an Iowa cornfield into a major tourist attraction (and also set a record for most male tears shed in theaters).

29: Montreal Forum -- Canadiens close out arena, 1996

After 72 years at the Forum, the Canadiens bid farewell by literally passing a torch from one Montreal great to another, including Maurice "Rocket" Richard. Sigh. If only they could pass a Stanley Cup amongst themselves at the new arena.

28: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Jimmy Chitwood hits the winning shot in "Hoosiers,'' 1986

As you might have heard a time or two when Butler reached the Final Four in 2010, the Bulldogs' gym was the site for the state championship game at the end of "Hoosiers.'' That movie is downright magical to sports fans, but as Gene Hackman pointed out, the basket is 10 feet off the floor, just like everywhere else.

27: Durham Athletic Park, Durham, NC -- Crash Davis holds a meeting about candlesticks in "Bull Durham,'' 1988

The minor league Durham Bulls played for years at the DAP but it was Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon who put the field on the map and helped usher in a new era of minor league ball with one of the greatest sports films ever made. Just remember: The rose goes in the front, big guy.

26: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum -- Candlelight ceremony for Roy Campanella, 1959

The Hall of Fame catcher was ready to move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles with the Dodgers in 1958, but a car accident paralyzed him and left him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. In a touching salute, more than 93,000 fans gathered for a candlelight salute to Campanella.

25: Olympic Stadium, Atlanta -- Muhammad Ali lights the Olympic cauldron, 1996

Setting the stage for one of the trashiest and blatantly commercial Olympics ever, the Atlanta opening ceremonies included a parade of pickup trucks. By having Muhammad Ali light the Olympic cauldron, however, the organizers made up for it. Well, almost.

24: Chicago Stadium -- Franklin D. Roosevelt receives Democratic nomination, 1932

Breaking precedent, Roosevelt accepted the Democratic nomination in person and promised in his speech that he would deliver a "New Deal'' for the American public. Chicago Stadium eventually was more famous as the arena where Michael Jordan would soar, but even His Airness never reached the heights there that a man handicapped by polio did on that day.

23: Invesco Field at Mile High, Denver -- Barack Obama receives Democratic nomination, 2008

Obama became the first African-American to receive the presidential nomination from one of the two major parties -- and eventually, the first black president. And fans thought John Elway had made history at the old Mile High.

22: Fenway Park, Boston -- The park's 100th anniversary, 2012

If they had baked a caked, there would have been plenty of people to blow out all the candles, what with a sellout crowd and more than 200 former players and coaches on hand for the 100th birthday of America's most historic and beloved stadium. And at 100, Fenway looked better than ever -- something the rest of us can scarcely say at age 30.

21: Yankee Stadium, the Bronx, NY -- Papal masses, 1965, 1979 and 2008 Yankee Stadium didn't host the World Series in 1965, which left the House That Ruth Built available for something bigger -- a mass with Pope Paul IV. Popes John Paul II and Benedict also later celebrated masses, providing the most religious voices there outside the Voice of God himself, Bob Sheppard.

20: Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena  Rocky Balboa loses to Apollo Creed in "Rocky,'' 1976

Yo, Adrian! The Oscar-winning "Rocky'' took place in Philadelphia, but the most inspiring defeat in boxing history (fictional or otherwise) was filmed in Los Angeles at the Sports Arena. That's not the bad news, though. No, the bad news is that Sylvester Stallone filmed five more "Rocky'' movies anywhere at all.

19: The Palace of Auburn Hills -- The Pacers and Pistons brawl, 2004 It was bad enough when the players started fighting on the court, but the situation quickly grew out of hand when Ron Artest started fighting with fans in the stands. Nine players were suspended without pay while fans learned a valuable lesson: Don't throw a cup of beer on Artest (now, ironically, Metta World Peace), no matter how much you've had to drink.

18: Shea Stadium, Flushing, NY -- The Beatles play their most famous concert in America, 1965

The home clubhouse didn't host many stars in 1965, but the visitors' clubhouse certainly did. In addition to Mays, Aaron, Clemente and Koufax, that dressing room saw McCartney, Lennon, Harrison and Starr suit up. The Beatles drew 55,600 for their concert, and their set list included a harbinger for the free-agency era: "Can't Buy Me Love.''

17: Fenway Park, Boston -- Ted Williams throws out the first pitch of 1999 All-Star Game

Pedro Martinez struck out the first four batters he faced, but he was overshadowed by a single pitch before the game. That highly emotional moment was when an ailing, 80-year-old Teddy Ballgame, aided by Tony Gwynn, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. That night, there was crying in baseball.

16: Cleveland Municipal Stadium -- A 10-Cent Beer Night promotion leads to a riot and forfeit, 1974

Hmmm. Earlier we wrote that hiring the Hells Angels to provide concert security in exchange for beer was not a wise move. But it seems like an act of genius compared to selling beer for 10 cents at a baseball game. Maybe there is justification for $9 beer.

15: Herb Brooks Arena, Lake Placid, NY  Olympic hockey gold medal ceremony, 1980

The Miracle on Ice remains perhaps the greatest national sports moment in U.S. history, inspiring millions of fan and at least two movies. And when Mike Eruzione waved his arms and called his teammates up to join him on the podium, Americans around the country were so emotional they felt like they had a puck stuck in their throats.

14: Rose Bowl, Pasadena -- Brandi Chastain removes top after U.S. women win 1999 World Cup

Moments after her World Cup-winning penalty kick, Chastain whipped off her jersey to reveal The Sports Bra Seen Around the World. Not only did it show women good be athletic, powerful and sexy, it also was much more pleasing than when Steve Lyons dropped his pants at first base.

13: Madison Square Garden, New York City -- Star-studded concert for Hurricane Sandy relief, 2012

Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, The Who, Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Billy Joel, Eric Clapton and, oh yes, the Rolling Stones all performed in a massive concert to raise money for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. It was the greatest lineup at the Garden since the Knicks won an NBA title.

12: Crosley Field, Cincinnati -- The first night game in baseball history, 1935

"Baseball turns on the lights." Fifty-six years after Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, the Reds ushered in a new era by installing lights and play the first night game in baseball history. And the next day, columnists around the country complained that ballgames were lasting too long for kids to listen to on the radio.

11: Candlestick Park, San Francisco -- Earthquake postpones the World Series, 1989

When I was growing up, my mother never let us visit San Francisco to see the Giants because "there would be an earthquake.'' Ridiculous, right? Except what happened when I finally attended my first game there as a baseball writer? San Francisco's worst earthquake since the Big One in 1906 struck just before Game 3, delaying the series 10 days. And back home, my mother said, "I warned him.''

10: Oakland Coliseum and Husky Stadium, Seattle -- The conception and then the birth of the wave, 1981

A cheerleader named Crazy George started the Wave during an Athletics playoff game Oct. 15, 1981. But it didn't start spreading until students at Husky Stadium began doing it, first in the Stanford game two weeks later. Husky fans didn't know about the Crazy George wave at the time. I know this, because I was in the student section when we started doing it. And for helping start The Wave, I apologize.

9: Camden Yards, Baltimore -- Cal Ripken Jr. circles field after breaking Lou Gehrig's record for most consecutive games played, 1995

Ripken broke the record when the game became official after the top of the fifth. Ripken then circled the field, receiving and exchanging high-fives and handshakes with the fans. The moment was so emotional that even players who had never heard of steroids suddenly developed goosebumps the size of Mark McGwire's biceps.

8: Cobo Arena, Detroit -- Nancy Kerrigan is attacked with a crowbar to help secure Tonya Harding a spot on the Olympic team, 1994

As Kerrigan left the ice after a practice skate at the U.S. championships, Shane Stant suddenly smacked her leg just above the knee with a tire iron, immediately turning figure skating into a national obsession & and prepping the media for coverage of the later OJ Simpson case.

7: Yankee Stadium, the Bronx, NY -- President Bush inspires nation by throwing out first pitch Game 3, 2001 World Series after 9/11

Beforehand, Derek Jeter warned Bush not to bounce the pitch "or they'll boo you.'' Not to worry. Many presidents have thrown out the first pitch before a big game, but none showed such good form as when Bush fired a strike to home -- and to American pride.

6: Mexico Olympic Stadium -- Tommie Smith and John Carlos protest with their black-gloved salute, 1968 Olympics

During the 200 meter medal ceremonies, Smith and Carlos took to the podium barefooted to symbolize black poverty and raised their gloved fists in what Carlos says was a protest against inequality and injustice around the world regardless of race. It was a brave and highly controversial stand -- IOC president/fascist Avery Brundage kicked them out of the Olympic Village -- and certainly more meaningful than the Dream Team using the U.S. flag to cover up the logo of a non-Nike sponsor.

5: Astrodome, Houston -- Astroturf is installed for the first use of artificial turf in sports, 1966

Ex-infielder Dick Allen famously said,"If horses won't eat it, I don't want to play on it.'' Nonetheless, because grass could not grow under the Astrodome roof, they developed artificial turf to replace it. It took decades before sports -- and athletes' knees -- would recover.

4: Yankee Stadium, the Bronx, NY -- Lou Gehrig declares himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth in his farewell address, 1939

His words not only reverberated over the loudspeakers that day, more than 70 years later they still echo. "Today (dayyy, dayyy, dayyy) & I consider myself (self, self, self) ..." Of course, the question is which is more memorable: Gehrig's actual speech, or Gary Cooper's re-enactment of the speech in "The Pride of the Yankees.''

3: Ebbets Field, Brooklyn -- Jackie Robinson takes the field to break the color barrier on opening day, 1947

The greatest and most important day in baseball history was opening day 1947, when the Dodgers wrote Jackie Robinson's name on the lineup card and the color barrier finally ended. Baseball -- and America -- would not be the same. Nor would the Dodgers, who would eventually win a World Series with Robinson.

2: Old Comiskey Park, Chicago -- The infamous Disco Demolition Night promotion leads to a riot and a forfeit, 1979

Mike Veeck had fans bring their disco records to Comiskey Park and then blew them up between games of a doubleheader. And then all hell broke loose as a sellout crowd rioted, stormed the field and forced a forfeit. It was either the worst promotion of all time -- or the greatest.

1: Superdome, New Orleans -- The stadium provides refuge to thousands of refugees from Hurricane Katrina, 2005

Although the site of several Super Bowls, the stadium's most famous and important moments took place when an estimated 20,000 New Orleans residents took refuge inside the dome from Hurricane Katrina. At least three people reportedly died inside before everyone was evacuated several days later. The stadium re-opened to the NFL a year later after $140 million of repair work. Although they probably should have paid closer attention to the power system.