| After a summer in which baseball commissioner Bud Selig refused to shut up about all the terrible problems that apparently plague the game, MasterCard's "Greatest Moments" promotion struck us as wholly refreshing. Finally, Major League Baseball is doing that strange thing other business do called "marketing." And despite the corporate sponsorship, we thought this promo was well-conceived. Baseball's best selling point really is a 120-year history that makes the NFL and NBA seem like diaper-clad toddlers by comparison.
Of course all that doesn't mean we're not going to ridicule the final list, selected by fan vote, which put Cal Ripken's record breaking 2,131th consecutive game as the top "moment." For one, the list features an absurd bias towards events of the last two decades, perhaps best exemplified by the appearance of Nolan Ryan's seventh no-hitter (No. 10). Ryan is wildly popular, undoubtedly in large part because he beat the crap out of Robin Ventura during a 1993 bench-clearing brawl, but his seventh no-hitter happened in April of 1991. What's more, Ricky Henderson broke Lou Brock's career stolen base record a few hours prior, meaning Ryan's no-no was arguably not even the best achievement of that day.
That brings us to our second point, which has been mentioned by a fair number of sports columnists but bears repeating: "moment" is generally considered to mean a relatively brief interval of time. So events like the 1998 home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa (No. 4), Ted Williams' .400 season (No. 7), and Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak (No. 8) are only "great moments" in the way that high school was a "great moment" for the dude that smoked pot and got all the chicks.
Another source of confusion surrounds the several achievements that made the Top Ten "moments" list. We've all seen footage of Hank Aaron hitting his record-breaking home run, Pete Rose hitting his record-breaking single, and Cal Ripken shaking fans' hands at his record-breaking game, and, granted, there was major drama there. But, if you're going to pare down a list a baseball's Greatest Moments(TM), you're going to have to make some tough choices. As amazing as those feats of longevity were, at the time, there was little question that the records would be broken, which makes the events substantially less dramatic.
The fans' #3 pick was certainly dramatic, although it's hard for us to imagine how Jackie Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier was a "great" moment. Look, Robinson endured unimaginable hardship to complete a truly Herculean task, and he deserves more than merely having the Rookie of the Year Award named after him. But when he ran onto the field in 1947 and listened to several seasons' worth of racial slurs and taunts, it was a demonstration of all that was wrong with baseball and America. Do we really want to call this a "great" moment? And by the way, baseball still has a front-office hiring record that would make some suburban country clubs look progressive by comparison.
No, we're of the opinion that baseball's greatest moments were the few on-field instances of unplanned and miraculous, individual triumph that changed the course of an entire season. Kirk Gibson's game-winning home run in the 1988 World Series (No. 9) made our list. So did Willie Mays' unreal catch and spin, Bobby Thompson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World"---apparently inaudible to voters of the 1970s---and Carlton Fisk's epic body-language home run in 1975, all three inexcusably left off the official list.
Of course the real winner here was MasterCard, who finally got the ceremony it had been advertising all summer. What a great moment for those guys.