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Brian Johnson: My top thrilling sports moments as a youth

Brian Johnson
Sports Editor

With the Sports World shut down due to COVID-19, I got to thinking about some top thrilling sports moments during my youth days..

Let's step back in time and review some of my favorites as a child and in not any particular order:

University of Tulsa's run to an NIT Championship in 1981

The Golden Hurricane had experienced years of losing. Enter Nolan Richardson, who was coming off a junior college national championship at Texas Western College. Richardson brought with him four of his Texas Western players – Paul Pressey, Greg Stewart, David Brown and Phil Spradling – and recruited a player off the team he defeated in the JUCO finals (Mike Anderson) and Tulsa soared to exciting levels.

Tulsa finished third in the Missouri Valley Conference, lost in the semifinals of the postseason tournament and then received the jolting news that they were unable to land a berth in the NCAA Tournament, which then consisted of just 48 teams.

That wasn't the end to the season, however. The Golden Hurricane received a bid to the National Invitational Tournament and went on a magnificent 5-0 run to the championship, edging out West Virginia in the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden and then topping Syracuse two nights later in overtime.

That season launched many successful years for the program. Tulsa went on to play in the NCAA Tournament the next season and was bounced out by the University of Houston which ultimately blossomed into the most famed basketball fraternity ever in Phi Slama Jama.

The Hurricane went on to receive many NCAA bids and even won another NIT Championship in 2001. Tulsa even reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tourney in 2000, under head coach Bill Self.

Three Tulsa head coaches went on to capture national championships at other schools - Richardson at Arkansas in 1994, Tubby Smith at Kentucky in 1998 and Self at Kansas in 2008.

1974-75 National Championships for Sooners

I attended my first OU football game as an 9-year-old...saw many awesome runs to Big 8 and Big 12 titles since. But the 74-75 seasons, were magical to me.

I was awed by Steve Davis engineering the wishbone, Joe Washington running seemingly for a million yards and, of course, the Selmon brothers from Eufaula, known to tackle everyone and everything.

Through that two-season run, coach Barry Switzer's Sooners lost just once (to Kansas in 1975 in Norman). I will never forget that shocking day. I was actually at a Tulsa football game being played at the same time and had a transistor radio (that's the way we rolled then) tuned to the OU-KU game. After what seemed like a thousand fumbles that day by the Sooners, the Jayhawks came out on top 23-3.

There were many transistors blaring in Skelly Stadium, tuning into the game that day. I remember an older gentleman, sitting a row in front of us getting upset with what was going on in Norman, slam his chair-back seat on the bleachers and walk out of the stadium.

That's when I got the notion that Sooner football was indeed huge in this state.

Some other memories during those seasons were the Scott Hill 1975 massive 'hit' on Pitt's Tony Dorsett, a game in which I attended, and the Sooners' 14-6 win over Michigan in the 1976 New Year's Day Orange Bowl which featured a reverse by Billy Brooks for a TD.

1982 World Series: Cardinals vs. Brewers

St. Louis won the series, 4-3, against a team referred to as Harvey's Wallbangers, a play on the alcoholic drink. Milwaukee, then in the American League, was managed by Harvey Kuenn and led by Paul Molitor, Robin Yount (210 hits to lead the AL that season) and Gorman Thomas (39 home runs).

Whitey Herzog's Cardinals, of course, were led by my all-time favorite in shortstop Ozzie Smith (or the Wizard), who never had a big bat, but was in my opinion, the best defensive player in the history of the game. A hit up the middle or a potential gapper between short and third was never a sure thing when the Wiz was patrolling the shortstop position.

Offensively, St. Louis didn't overpower you with the long ball as George Hendrick was the team home run leader that year with just 19, though he did rack up 104 RBIs on the year. Outfielder Lonnie Smith topped the team with a .307 average and first baseman Keith Hernandez batted .299, barely missing out on a .300 season, and outfielder Willie McGee at .296.

My lasting memory was Game 7 and Bruce Sutter on the mound as the closer. He entered in the eighth and retired the sides in the eighth and ninth for the save in a 6-3 Cardinals' victory. He recorded 36 saves that season.