As the end of the year approaches, everyone is making their “best-of lists” for the year. I thought I’d take a look back at a decade when Detroit sports saw many dramatic events and when I continued to enjoy being a fan of Motown sports – the 1990s.
Here are my five greatest moments from the 1990s (aside from championship winning moments).
1. YZERMAN’S DOUBLE-OT WINNER
The sight of the red light created an indescribable feeling that some of us will never experience again. It would be awfully difficult to match, considering the circumstances. Forty-one years without a Cup. Three straight postseason heartbreakers. Two Game Seven defeats. A beloved Captain who carried the team on his back but typically fell short of the accolades he deserved.
All of that was erased with a blue-line blast from the ages that sent an entire city into pandemonium. Yzerman’s Game 7 double-overtime winner against St. Louis in the 1996 second round ended a classic, up-and-down series that featured a controversial open door in Game 4 that softened the St. Louis ice surface, a shocking Game 5 defeat on Mother’s Day at Joe Louis Arena, a frantic third-period rally by Brett Hull that fell short in a Game 6 Wings triumph, then a scoreless Game 7 that had our hearts lodged in our throats for four-plus periods.
One shot. From the blue line. The rest is history.
2. BARRY 2K
A two-yard gain officially placed Barry Sanders at 2,000 yards as the Silverdome crowd began to cheer on December 21, 1997. The referee stopped the game and father William Sanders caught his son’s historic football on the sideline, but we still didn’t feel satisfied, or comfortable, given Sanders’ history of losing yardage.
On the very next hand-off, there was no doubt, and all pandemonium.
Barry weaved though the N.Y. Jets defense, all the way down to the 3-yard line for a euphoric 53-yard run that nearly blew off the Silverdome roof.
3. LIONS BEAT DALLAS IN DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
Nothing went wrong. The Silverdome crowd was charged with 100,000 volts from the starting lineups, to the three touchdowns delivered by quarterback Erik Kramer, who completed 29-of-38 passes.
This was dome-field advantage at its finest. It was 17-6 Lions at the half, but it felt like 55-6. They weren’t losing in front of a pom-pom pumping fan base who cherished the franchise’s first playoff game in eight years.
And as we look back and remember this 38-6 victory against Dallas on January 5, 1992, it reaffirms our belief: If the Lions ever get into the Super Bowl, the city will implode.
4. FEDOROV’S FIVE GOALS
He couldn’t miss, and it was absolutely unbelievable. On December 26, 1996, Fedorov recorded his third goal in the third period and the Joe Louis Arena crowd could just feel the electricity when he hopped the boards for the remainder of the game against the Washington Capitals.
Fedorov stood on the doorstep and drilled home a pass from Igor Larionov to give him his fourth goal of the night with 7:52 left in the third period.
Then in overtime, here came the Wings into the attacking zone, and there lurked No. 91. The entire rink knew that if the puck found his stick, he was scoring. Here came a drop pass from Vladimir Konstantinov, and Fedorov received it skate-to-stick and snapped a puck past the right shoulder of Olaf Kolzig for his fifth goal of the night.
Say what you want about Sergei’s departure, but the guy was an amazing talent.
5. CECIL’S 50TH HOMER
The sight of Cecil Fielder hopping up and down as he watched a behemoth blast sail to left field in Yankee Stadium is a sight etched into the mind of die-hard Detroit Tigers fans. On October 3, 1990, Fielder, who went five games without a home run, connected on a pitch from Steve Adkins and hammered it well beyond the 318-fence in the season finale for his historic 50th homer.
Screw the steroid era. Cecil was a pure home run hitter full of pizza, hamburgers and hot dogs. His 50th home run occurred when 50 home runs was still a big deal. He was the first player to accomplish the feat since Cincinnati’s George Foster in 1977 and the 11th player in Major League history.
Again: Screw the steroid era and wipe it out, because none of the 50-home run guys after Cecil were legit. He was genuine. He was real.
Who can ever forget the classic picture of Cecil, cigar in mouth, walking across his territory on the Tiger Stadium rooftop, the place where he bombed so many pitches?
That’s my list – what are your favorite Detroit sports moments from the 1990s? Share them in the comments section below.