Five for The Fourth: Top Independence Day sports memories

Thirty-one years ago, Dave Righetti treated Wade Boggs and the Red Sox like they stole his firecrackers.

Barton Silverman/New York Times Co./Getty Images

The anniversary of our nation’s independence has also been a day reserved for some fairly historic moments in sports. Baseball is the major in-season sport while we are choosing between bottle rockets and firecrackers, so these star-spangled memories are usually associated with the national pastime. But there have been other athletic moments – not counting the mass consumption of hot dogs — that deserve our recognition.

Here’s a sampling of five July 4 sports memories that perhaps had us feeling just a little extra patriotic:

5. Rick Camp refuses to lose (1985)

Here’s the Mets-Braves game from July 4/5, 1985, by the numbers:

• Batters scored 29 runs on 46 hits

• Pitchers struck out 23 and walked 22

• There were three blown saves (two by New York, one by Atlanta)

• Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez hit for the cycle, and Braves left fielder Terry Harper went 5-for-10 (and was a triple shy of the cycle).

• Mets pitcher Tom Gorman entered in the 13th inning and pitched through the 18th.

• The Braves actually scored twice in the bottom of the 19th inning before losing by three.

However, the game never would’ve gone to the 19th in the first place had Braves reliever Rick Camp (#rip) not blasted his first career home run, a most unlikely power display during a game unlike most others. And when the Braves finally did lose, the scheduled fireworks still went off as planned — but at 4 a.m. local time.

Also: John Sterling used to call Atlanta Braves games? True fact!

4. Dave Righetti’s no-hitter (1983)

Any no-hitter is something to be celebrated, of course, but if there was any sort of knock on Tim Lincecum’s second annual no-no against San Diego on June 25, it was that the Padres don’t exactly specialize in, well, hitting. They came into that game with a .216 team batting average.

Now, compare that with what Dave Righetti did on July 4, 1983, when he managed to shut down a potent Boston Red Sox lineup that included Wade Boggs, Jim Rice and Dwight Evans. Perhaps most impressive of all was striking out Boggs twice in one game, one of which was the day’s final out. (Boggs struck out only 36 times in 685 plate appearances that season.) Then again, as impressive as Righetti’s feat was against such competition, his July 4 no-no and Lincecum’s most recent both accumulated the same exact Game Score (92).

And who’s Lincecum’s pitching coach? That would be Dave Righetti.

3. Jack Johnson knocks out James J. Jeffries (1910)

This is the heavyweight title match by which every boxing match since has had to compete against. It originally was scheduled for 45 rounds, but the champion Johnson pummelled Jeffries into defeat during the 15th round. In front of 20,000 rabid fans in Reno, Nev., Johnson cemented his status as the best fighter in the world. Riots broke out across the country in the wake of Johnson’s victory, and American boxing was never the same.

2. Richard Petty wins No. 200 (1984)

The greatest stock car racer of all-time victorious at the most-famous stock car racetrack of all-time, with the president of the United States on hand to watch. Even better, Petty’s final career victory gave him a nice round number, which we do love in America.

1. Lou Gehrig says goodbye to baseball (1939): The most emotional moment in MLB history, hands down. The Iron Horse bids farewell:

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