The Robinson Library >> In The Year... >> 1979
Sports News and Highlights

Soviet Spartakiade

Held in Moscow, Russia, during the summer, the Soviet Spartakiade gave athletes preparing for the 1980 Olympics to show their stuff. Part exhibition, part competition, the event included both regular Olympic sports and group demonstrations (such as the living sculpture formed by platforms of gymnasts below).

living sculpture

Automobile Racing

Richard Petty won the first Daytona 500 to be televised in its entirety, on February 18.

Rick Mears won the Indianapolis 500 on May 27.

[All Automobile Racing News and Highlights]


The Pittsburgh Pirates came from a 3-1 deficit to win the World Series over the Baltimore Orioles, October 10-17.

The Cy Young Awards went to Baltimore's 23-game winner Mike Flanagan in the American League, and to Cubs reliever Bruce Sutter, who saved 37 games, in the National League.

The Little League World Series was held in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, August 21-25. In the champiionship game, the team from Pu-tzu, Taiwan, defeated the team from Campbell, California, 2-1, in eight innings.

Two former players -- Willie Mays and Hack Wilson -- and former league president Warren Giles were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on August 5.

[All Baseball News and Highlights]


On September 5, 1979, Ann Meyers, who had been a four-time All-American guard at UCLA, scored a first for women's sports by signing a contract with the NBA's Indiana Pacers.

[All Basketball News and Highlights]

Baton Twirling

Marci Papadopoulos swept the girls'competition at the U.S. Baton Twirling Championships in April, winning the solo, strut, dance-twirl, two-baton, and three-baton, making her the first contestant ever to win all five events in their class. The achievement made her "Twirler of the Year" for the second time, another first in baton twirling. These two accomplishments came barely a month after she had been one of two U.S. representatives at the First World Twirling Demonstrations in Venice, Italy. And, she did all of this at the "ripe old age" of 14.

Marci Papadopoulos


George Pappas won the $150,000 PBA Tournament of Champions, which was held in Akron, Ohio, in April.

The Women's International Bowling Congress Tournament, held in Tuscon, Arizona, in May, was won by Donna Adamek.

Mike Aulby won the PBA Championship in Las Vegas, Nevada, in June.


Reigning heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali publicly announced his retirement (for the third time in his career) on June 27 (after having informed the World Boxing Association by letter). To find a new champion, the WBA conducted an elimination tougnament among John Tate, Leon Spinks, Gerrie Coetzee, and Kallie Knoetze. Tate stopped Knoetze in eight rounds on June 2 in Mmabatho, Bophuthatswana, and Coetzee stopped Spinks in one round on June 24 in Monte Carlo, Monaco. Tate then won a decision over Coetzee in Pretoria, South Africa, on October 20 to become the new WBA Heavyweight Champion.

[All Boxing News and Highlights]


The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Dallas Cowboys 35-31 in Super Bowl XIII, which was played at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida, on January 21, 1979. Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw was named Most Valuable Player of the game.

Johnny Unitas, Dick Butkus, Ron Mix, and Yale Lary were the 1979 inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Southern California tailback Charles White (right), the leading rusher in the nation (180.3 yards per game), was the Heisman Trophy winner for 1979.

[All Football News and Highlights]


Fuzzy Zoeller became the first Masters rookie to win the tournament since Gene Sarazen in 1935, as well as the first sudden-death playoff winner in Masters history.

[All Golf News and Highlights]

Horse Racing

Hawksworth Farm's Spectacular Bid won the Kentucky Derby on May 5 and the Preakness on May 19, but finished third to Coastal in the Belmont Stakes on June 9.

Laffit Pincay, Jr., set a new single-season earnings record for jockeys when he rode Affirmed to victory at Aqueduct on December 9. Pincay's 410th victory put him over $8 million for 1979.

Ice Hockey

The Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup.

Bryan Trottier won the Hart Trophy.

Ice Skating

Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner won the World Pairs Figure Skating Championships in Vienna, Austria (March 13-18). They were the first Americans to win the title in 29 years.

[All Ice Skating News and Highlights]


Ingemar Stenmark swept the slalom races of the 1979 season, but failed to win his fourth straight World Cup because skiing officials changed the rules governing how the world championship was determined. Stenmark had won all three of his World Cups by dominating the giant slalom and special slalom, and had never skied a downhill race. Wanting the title to be held by an all-around skier, World Cup officials amended the rules to reduce the number of points a skier could receive in each category, and added four combined events.

Ingemar Stenmark


The Vancouver Whitecaps defeated the Tampa Bay Rowdies, 2-1, in Soccer Bowl 79 (aka North American Soccer League Championship), which was held at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on September 8. It was the first North American championship for the Whitecaps. Whitecaps midfielder Alan Ball was named Most Valuable Player of the game.

Soccer Bowl 79


Two swimmers set new world records at the Pan American Games -- 14-year-old Mary Meagher, with a 2:09.77 in the women's 200-meter butterfly; and 17-year-old Jesse Vassallo, with a 2:03.29 in the men's 200-meter individual relay.

Mary Meagher Jesse Vassallo

On August 16, Meagher broke her 200-meter butterfly record twice, first with a time of 2:08.41, and then with a 2:07.01.

Other world swimming records set during the year were:
men's 200-meter freestyle -- 1:49.83 -- Sergei Kopliakov
men's 400-meter freestyle -- 3:51.41 -- Vladimir Salnikov
men's 800-meter freestyle -- 7:56.43 -- Vladimir Salnikov
women's 200-meter freestyle -- 1:58.23 -- Cynthia Woodhead
women's 1,500-meter freestyle -- 16:04.49 -- Kim Linehan
women's 200-meter breaststroke -- 2:28.36 -- Lina Kachusite

Twelve-year-old Marcus Hooper became the youngest person to swim the English Channel on August 6, a feat that took him 14 hours 39 minutes. A day earlier, another 12-year-old, Kevin Anderson, swam the channel in 12 hours, but Kevin is three months older than Marcus.

On August 21-22, Diana Nyad became the first person to swim from North Bimini Island in the Bahamas to Juno Beach, Florida, a distance of about 92 miles.

Diana Nyad


Bjorn Borg defeated Roscoe Tanner, 6-7, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, to win the men's championship at Wimbledon on July 7.

Martina Navratilova defeated Chris Evert Lloyd, 6-6, 6-4, to win the women's championship.

[All Tennis News and Highlights]

Track and Field

Sebastian Coe broke three world track records in 41 days in 1979.

[All Track and Field Highlights]

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The Robinson Library >> In The Year... >> 1979

This page was last updated on June 05, 2017.