On this day in 1993, Nolan Ryan beat Robin Ventura by one throw in a game between the Texas Rangers and the Chicago White Sox. Ventura paused briefly after scoring as if to consider his course of action, then charged towards the mound where Ryan – 20 years his senior – put him in a headlock and punched him several times in the head before that Whole thing was broken up by the usual basebrawl crowd.
Three things are certain about this fight: First, Ryan was the clear winner. Second, it has become a staple of sports highlight shows and likely will remain so for as long as sports highlight shows exist. And third, if Twitter had existed in 1993, that moment would have dominated feeds.
You can easily imagine the pattern we’ve all seen many times since the social media service launched in 2006. The first reaction tweets. The scramble as everyone not watching tried to figure out what was going on. The first person to snap a video that gets tens of thousands of retweets in minutes. Big name athletes and celebrities who stick to the moment. The memes. The memes about the memes. The inevitable point when everyone gets fed up with the memes.
With the anniversary of the fight prompting everyone to take to social media to remember it, we’ve compiled a short list of moments before Twitter existed that certainly would have been the only thing talked about on the site — at least for a day or two.
Bo Jackson runs up a wall
On July 11, 1990, Kansas City Royals phenom Vincent “Bo” Jackson caught a flyball and ran up a wall to avoid colliding with it.
It’s difficult to narrow down Jackson’s best career highlight — this list might just be his career highlights, really. However, Jackson defying gravity by running up a wall after a catch would probably evoke the most reactions, if for no other reason than that it was unique.
Vince Carter jumps over Frederic Weis
Carter is another player whose best highlights could have easily spiked this list. However, his iconic dunk over center Frederic Weis at the 2000 Olympics would have had an immediate impact on proto-Twitter. Jump over a 7 foot human while playing for Team USA in the Olympics? So many people would have tweeted about it at once.
Continue reading: An Oral History of Carter’s Legendary Dunk
Brandi Chastain wins it for the USWNT
This one packs a punch – with the whole world watching as the two best sides in women’s football faced off in a penalty shootout at the 1999 Women’s World Cup, with Chastain scoring the winning penalty and instantly creating an iconic moment by removing her jersey from the Body jerked from the sheer jubilation.
Mike Tyson bites Evander Holyfield
Twenty-five years after the infamous ear bite between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, this week SC Featured tries to solve the mystery of what happened to the earpiece left behind.
Two of the greatest boxers in the world fight in Las Vegas in a rematch, and one of them bites part of the other ear off? Twitter might have had a thing or two to say about the ordeal.
Kerri Strug makes her final jump
For pure drama, this one is hard to beat. The buildup to Strug’s Vault, where she won gold for Team USA in the 1996 Olympic women’s gymnastics team event, had practically everyone watching, and the moment she stayed on touchdown it led to online pandemonium .
Christian Laettner meets “The Shot”
Duke. Kentucky. A trip to the Final Four on the line. A shot so catchy it’s known simply as “The Shot”. Basketball Twitter would have banged on his keyboards for about ten minutes afterwards.
On June 5, 1991, Michael Jordan switched hands in mid-air during the Bulls’ win over the Lakers in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
The magic of the best sports Twitter moments lies in the brief amount of time that everyone questions what exactly they just saw, whether because of the absurdity of the moment or the outrageous skill involved. This piece had a bit of both. Jordan doesn’t to have switching hands in the middle of that layup against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 2 of the 1991 NBA Finals. But he did, and among so many other things, that made him great.
Roger Clemens throws his bat at Mike Piazza
It’s not often that a broken bat comes straight back to the pitcher. It’s also not often that the pitcher throws it back at the batter. Add in the fact that Roger Clemens had beaten Mike Piazza earlier in the same series and it was all in Game 2 of the world series, and you can bet it would have gone viral.
Venus and Serena dominate the US Open
The Williams sisters were already stars by this point, but their dominance at the 2001 Open, where Venus didn’t lose a single set en route to defending their title against Serena, was unreal. The hype that led to their championship round duel would have been the talk of Twitter.
The Tuck Rule
Tom Brady admits the famous 2001 Tuck Rule game against the Raiders may actually have been a fumble.
Was it a fumble? The referees said no. What would the Twitterverse say about that? Given the stakes of this game – how the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders played very different avenues at the end – and the fact that instant replay was a relatively new phenomenon in the NFL, plus the fact that it could have gone either way, and Twitter might have been melted by the sheer volume of hot takes.
Doug Flutie’s Ave Mary
On November 23, 1984, Doug Flutie heaves one up and his Hail Mary is caught by Gerard Phelan to lift Boston College over Miami.
A last-second throw by the eventual Heisman Trophy winner in a nationally televised game between Boston College and Miami? After a desperate scramble? College football Twitter would have erupted.
The Bartman game
In at least one respect, Steve Bartman was lucky – his moment of shame came in the NLDS 2003, before the widespread adoption of social media. As it was, Bartman got more than enough hell from fans and pundits alike. Luckily, his story has something of a happy ending, as the Chicago Cubs gifted him a World Series ring from their 2016 win.
Watch: “Catching Hell” about the moment and its aftermath
Bill Buckner’s mistake
On October 25, 1986, Mookie Wilson’s ground ball bounced through the legs of Red Sox 1B Bill Buckner, allowing the Mets to hit the winning run in the 10th inning. New York would win the World Series while Boston’s curse continued.
Unfortunately, bad plays are as trendy as good ones – maybe even more so. This is another example of someone lucky enough to have their worst moment before the social media era. Twitter users may have been ruthless — but perhaps it would have been more sympathetic than we might have expected.
It seems almost impossible to believe, but there’s no footage of Wilt Chamberlain’s record-breaking 100-point game. Many think of the iconic photo above when they think about it.
But if it aired and Twitter existed then?
Wilt had 23 points by the end of the first quarter, 41 at halftime, and if all proto-NBA tweeters weren’t watching at this point, we’d be shocked.
Babe Ruth was traded to the Red Sox
OK, that would have taken a little more than just Twitter – PCs and the internet just for starters. However, can you imagine the reaction of the shocked Boston Red Sox fans when their team was sold? Babe Ruth of all days New York Yankees? your rivals? And all they got back was money considerations? #CurseoftheBambino would have been popular right away.
https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/34343545/moments-broken-sports-twitter Moments that would have broken sports Twitter