The Best, Worst and Weirdest in Sports, 2013; Part 5

The most memorable moments of the year, taken two months at a time. Enrique De La Osa/Reuters

Part 1 - January/February
Part 2 - March/April
Part 3 - May/June
Part 4 - July/August


Gareth Bails

Welsh soccer phenom Gareth Bale, a two-time Barclays Premier League Player of the Year at age 24, leaves his English club, Tottenham Hotspur, for Real Madrid of La Liga. The Spanish club pays Tottenham a world-record transfer fee of $132 million. Bale becomes teammates with FIBA World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo, whose transfer fee of $130 million in 2009 had been the record.

The Old Woman and the Sea

Diana Nyad, 64, completes a 110-mile swim from Havana, Cuba, to Key West, Florida, without a shark cage. Nyad, whose four previous attempts -- in 1970, twice in 2011, and in 2013 -- were unsuccessful, made the crossing in approximately 53 hours.

Suddenly Famous Jameis

Florida State redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston, making his collegiate debut at Pittsburgh and on prime-time television (ESPN), completes 25 of his 27 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns. One of the two incomplete throws is a dropped ball.

A Magnificent Seven

Facing the team that knocked his Denver Broncos out of the playoffs on this same field nine months earlier, Peyton Manning ties an NFL record by tossing seven touchdown passes in his home season opener versus the Baltimore Ravens. The Broncos win, 49-27.

Do You Believe in Oracles? Yes!

For about three days, Americans became yachting aficionados. Defending America’s Cup winner Oracle Team USA trailed Emirates Team New Zealand 8-1, with the Kiwis needing only to capture one more race to wrest the “Auld Mug” from the Yanks. Instead, Team USA, whose 11-man crew contained just one American, by the way, stormed back to capture eight consecutive heats in San Francisco Bay and defend its title, 9-8.

We Are Marshall…Mathers

Detroit native Eminem joins ABC’s Brent Musburger, 74, and Kirk Herbstreit in the booth at halftime of the Notre Dame-Michigan game (“Mathers, it’s a pleasure,” said Musburger). The spunky septuagenarian detonates Twitter by asking Slim Shady about the point spread for the following day’s Detroit Lions contest. This game, incidentally, sets an American sporting event attendance record (115,109).

Serena Holds Court

On the wrong side of her 30th birthday, Serena Willams caps perhaps her finest year with a victory at the U.S. Open. For the year, Williams, 32, wins two Grand Slams (also the French Open), 11 titles, 78 of her 82 matches and finishes ranked No. 1 in the world.

Yankee Doodles

On Sept. 11, The Captain, Derek Jeter, is placed on the disabled list for the fourth and final time of the season. The 18-year veteran plays just 17 games and bats a career-low .190... Alex Rodriguez, playing while his 211-game suspension is under appeal, clouts a grand slam versus the San Francisco Giants, giving him Major League career record 24. A-Rod’s blast displaces Lou Gehrig, perhaps the most revered Yankee of them all, who had held the record since 1938… On Sept. 26 Mariano Rivera pitches one and one-third hitless innings during a 4-0 loss in his final Major League appearance. Mo, who is lifted with two outs in the ninth inning by teammates Andy Pettitte and Jeter, departs with a Major League-record 652 saves.

Rubbed the Wrong Way

The score is tied 2-2 late in a match between Brazilian soccer clubs Aparecidence and Tuti when the latter club appears to have an open shot on goal. Then Aparecidence’s team masseur runs onto the field and blocks not one but two shots on goal. For reasons no one outside of Brazil can determine, the play stands and the match ends in a tie—which keeps Tuti out of the postseason.

The Tide Rises to the Occasion

In the most anticipated college football game of the season, No. 1 Alabama, the defending national champion, avenges its lone loss of the previous season with a 49-42 victory at Texas A&M. In a losing effort, Aggie quarterback Johnny Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, throws five TD passes and accounts for 562 yards (464 passing, 98 rushing), which is the most ever in a game between Southeastern Conference schools.

Splash Mob

The Los Angeles Dodgers, 9 ½ games out of first place in late June, clinch the National League West on September 19 at Arizona. To celebrate, the Dodgers throw an impromptu party in the pool the Diamondbacks use for VIP guests beyond the left-center field wall. Arizona senator John McCain is not amused, tweeting that it is a “"No-class act by a bunch of overpaid, immature, arrogant, spoiled brats!"

The Writing Was Near the Curb

After a 62-41 loss at Arizona State, Southern California coach Lane Kiffin is fired -- on the tarmac -- after the Trojan team plane touches down at Los Angeles International Airport. Earlier in the week, someone had painted “Kiffin” as a suffix to a “Fire Lane” on campus.


10 Unforgettable Aspects of Baseball’s 2013 Postseason

10) Tampa Bay’s Wild Ride: Between Sunday, Sept. 30 and Wednesday, October 3, the Rays play must-win games at Toronto, at Texas and at Cleveland just to earn the right to meet Boston –in Fenway Park, of course—on Friday for Game 1 of their ALDS series. The Sox win that one 12-2, as Tampa Bay right fielder Wil Myers, the AL Rookie of the Year, inexplicably lets a David Ortiz ball drop behind him, igniting a five-run rally.

9) Game 4, Braves-Dodgers, NLDS: Los Angeles leads the series two games to one, but trails 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning with the meat of their order due up. Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel, who led all of baseball with 50 saves, is ready to enter the game after Yasiel Puig hits a leadoff double. Instead, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez calls for journeyman David Carpenter, who promptly surrenders the go-ahead home run to Juan Uribe. The Dodgers win the game and thus the series. Kimbrel is last seen in the bullpen, hands on his hips, glowering.

8) Justin Verlander: In three starts, Detroit’s ace strikes out 31 and allows just one run in 23 innings. And yet Verlander is credited with one win, one loss and one no-decision. In the seventh inning of Game 3 of the ALCS, Verlander surrendered a solo home run to Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli that would be the only run of the game.

7) A’s Rhymes with K’s: The Oakland A’s strike out 57 times, a Major League record for a postseason series, as the Tigers defeat them in the five-game ALDS.

6) Nearly a No-No: Detroit’s Anibel Sanchez, the fourth pitcher in the rotation, comes within two outs of pitching a no-hitter against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in Game 1 of the ALCS. Left fielder Daniel Nava, who would bat .200 in the postseason, breaks up Sanchez’s no-hit bid with a one-out single to center in the bottom of the ninth inning, but Detroit holds on to win, 1-0.

5) Michael Wacha: In the National League Championship Series, the 22 year-old St. Louis Cardinal rookie throws 13 and 2/3 innings of shutout ball and records two wins. Wacha, who had come within one out of a no-hitter in his last start of the regular season, would finish 4-1 in the postseason.

4) Tangled Up at Third: The Cardinals win Game 3 of the World Series, 5-4, when pinch hitter Allen Craig is awarded home on an obstruction call on Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks. Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia fields a chopper and throws home to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who tags out Yadier Molina. Saltalamacchia then throws to third to make a play on Craig, but the ball skips past Middlebrooks, who gets entangled with Craig. When Craig trips over Middlebrook, umpire Jim Joyce rules obstruction.

3) The Pick Off: With the Fox cameras focused on a female fan in the Busch Stadium stands, Red Sox closer Koji Uehara picks off Cardinal pinch-runner Kolten Wong for the final out of Game 4 of the World Series. At the time the Cards trailed by two runs and Carlos Beltran, their best hitter, was batting. For the second time in as many nights a World Series contest ended via a play (here, a pick-off) that had never ended a World Series game before.

2) The Grandest Slam: Through 16 innings of the ALCS, the Boston Red Sox had been held to one run by the Detroit Tigers. Trailing 5-1 with two outs in the bottom of the eighth and the bases loaded, designated hitter David Ortiz approaches the plate. Big Papi crushes a line drive to right field off Joaquin Benoit and Tiger right fielder Torii Hunter gives chase. Hunter flips over the wall as Red Sox bullpen catcher Mani Martinez snares Ortiz’s grand slam without even moving out of his crouch. Boston will win the game and the series, even though Ortiz will only record one other hit in his 22 at-bats.

1) David Ortiz’s Historic World Series: David Ortiz, the guy who had two hits in 22 at-bats in the ALCS? Boston’s popular designated hitter treated the Fall Classic as if it were a beer-league softball tourney, reaching base 19 times in his 25 plate appearances. Big Papi had 11 hits, including two home runs, and was walked eight times as he led Boston to its third World Series championship in a decade while batting a check-the-math-again .688, the second-best batting average in World Series history.

Don’t Change Another Letter, Please

San Francisco 49er safety Donte Whitner, a man who gives wide receivers nightmares, legally changes his surname to Hitner.

Cam McDaniel is Cam McDreamy

A relatively obscure Notre Dame running back loses his helmet while carrying the ball versus USC, but a photo of the moment, shot by Jonathan Daniel of Getty Images, reveals a visage of placid calm on a face that belongs in GQ. By week’s end the photo owns the Internet and McDaniel, a junior who would lead the Fighting Irish in rushing, is appearing on the Today show.

Catch a Wave

At Nazare, on Portugal’s central coast, Carlos Burle of Brazil catches what is believed to be the largest wave ever surfed, taller than 100 feet, and rides it home. Earlier in the day Burle, 45, saved the life of a fellow surfer and countrywoman, Maya Gabeira, who’d been crushed under a giant wave. Burle located Gabeira, floating face down, by using a jet ski and returned her to shore, where it took five minutes to revive her.