In 1941, Williams hit .406 — a mark that has not yet been bested by any major league baseball player.
That same season, DiMaggio set a record for baseball’s longest hitting streak at 56 games. A record that still stands. Both have since been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
On October 14, 1947, a noted test pilot and retired general in the United States Air Force, Chuck Yeager became the first pilot to travel faster than the speed of sound. In December 1976, the U.S. Congress awarded Yeager the Congressional Silver Medal for risking his own life for the greater good of aerospace science. In December 1976, President Gerald Ford presented the medal to Yeager in a ceremony at the White House. Known as "the fastest man alive," Yeager has been highly regarded for decades as being amazingly fearless.
A famous mountaineer and philanthropist, Sir Edmund Hillary became one of the first individuals to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. The feat, accomplished in 1953, spanned a grueling 29,035 feet. The seven-week journey forced Hillary to overcome the freezing temperatures, potentially deadly cliffs and extreme effects of altitude.
Aldrin, a West Point graduate (1951), served as a jet fighter pilot in the Korean War before embarking on his career with NASA. He successfully piloted Gemini 12, setting a record for Extra-Vehicular-Activity demonstrating that astronauts could work outside of spacecrafts. In 1969, he became an American hero as the lunar module pilot of Apollo 11. Aldrin, along with Neil Armstrong, formed the first team to both land and walk on the Moon. Following his career at NASA, Aldrin commanded the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base. He is an active promoter of space exploration.
Famous for his 1947 Kon-Tiki expedition, Heyerdahl constructed a traditional pae-pae raft from balsa wood and embarked on a 101-day journey across the Pacific Ocean. The voyage spanned 5,000 miles between Peru and French Polynesia. Heyerdahl embarked on the journey in an effort to prove ancient societies and their people could make voyages covering similar distances. The accomplishment supported his thesis that ancient peoples were capable of long sea-bound travel, and thus able to create contact with otherwise distant societies. Heyerdahl documented his travels in his book “The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By Raft Across the South Seas.” The journey also produced an Academy Award®-winning documentary titled “Kon-Tiki.”
Complete with his own group of fans dubbed "Arnie's Army," the presence Palmer brought to the sport was unmatched by any other golfer.
Nicklaus came on the scene in 1962, winning the U.S. Open over Palmer in a heated playoff. During the next few years, the two combined to win five straight Masters Gold Tournament championships. Palmer went on to win seven major tournaments while Nicklaus won 18.
More so than any two drivers in NASCAR history, Pearson and Petty competed against each other during their absolute peak years, finishing first and second in an astounding 63 races.
The most memorable of these races (and arguably of all time) was the 1976 Daytona 500, in which Pearson and Petty changed leads twice during the final lap and both spun out less than 50 yards from the finish line. While Petty struggled to re-start his car, Pearson managed to barely push past the finish line, winning the race. Petty, however, holds the all-time edge with 289 wins to Pearson's 261.
Driving for Ferrari, Lauda shot out to an early lead with wins in five out of the first 10 races. Driving for McLaren, Hunt took first place in just two out of the first 10 races, one of which coming on a fateful day in West Germany that would change Formula 1 forever. On the infamous Nürburgring course, Lauda sustained life-threatening injuries after a terrible accident on a rain-soaked track. With Lauda fighting for his life in the hospital, Hunt closed the gap and locked in pole position to win the championship. However, Lauda made an astonishing comeback to finish the last four races of the season.
The title challenge came down to the last race, which ironically took place on another dangerously rainy day in Japan. Despite his perseverance and amazing will to compete, Lauda lost the championship title by a single point to Hunt.
The rivalry nearly went from competitive tennis to fisticuffs in the 1982 Michelob Light Challenge, when then top-ranked McEnroe and third-ranked Connors had an aggressive confrontation during the finals.
Tired of McEnroe’s antics, Connors crossed the net to give him a piece of his mind. A brawl was avoided and the match concluded in a peaceful but tense way. The pair dueled in 34 matches during a 15-year period, with McEnroe winning 20. They competed in two epic Wimbledon finals, each winning one.
Their battles would continue in the NBA as the two became the faces of the most storied franchises in NBA history. Johnson led the flashy “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers while Bird led the gritty Boston Celtics.
Each player, separately or against each other, competed in the NBA finals every year in the 1980s. The two faced each other three of those years, with Magic and his Lakers winning two. Both are credited with laying the foundation for the NBA’s emergence as a premier sports league. They are both Hall of Famers and remain close friends despite their long-standing rivalry from their playing days.
Montana, drafted out of Notre Dame in 1979, led the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowl championships during the ’80s, cementing the franchise’s legacy as well as his own. Elway, the first pick in the 1983 draft—known as the greatest draft in NFL history—was at the center of a controversy as he refused to play for the team that drafted him, the Baltimore Colts.
In 1983, the two were nearly traded for each other in a transaction that would have sent shockwaves through the league. Ultimately, Elway landed with the Denver Broncos, leading the team to five Super Bowl appearances and two victories in his illustrious 16-year career. The two faced off in Super Bowl XXIV, with Montana’s 49ers winning 55-10.
Laird has been known to attack 70-foot waves at up to 50 mph. A master of his trade, Hamilton has been monumental in his groundbreaking approach to surfing. His most recent feat included breaking the world speed record on a hydrofoil board.
An Austrian native, Baumgartner is a noted daredevil and extreme sports enthusiast. He began his climb to notoriety by regularly breaking world BASE jumping records in the late 1990s. He continued his adventures in the sky by completing a free-fall flight across the English Channel in a carbon wing. On October 14, 2012, he used a stratospheric balloon to ascend 128,100 feet into the Earth’s atmosphere. From there, he completed the highest free fall in history, peaking at supersonic speeds before landing on Earth.
A high-wire artist, aerialist and acrobat, Wallenda has coined himself "The King of the Wire." As a seventh-generation member of The Flying Wallendas family, he specializes in high-wire performances without a safety net. One of his most famous performances made him the first person to walk a tightrope from one end of Niagara Falls to the other. Holding seven Guinness World Records, his other death-defying accomplishments include a high-wire stroll across the Grand Canyon that took him a mere 22 minutes, and the world record for the longest and the highest bicycle ride on a high wire, which was 250-feet long and 260-feet above the ground.