It’s the 30th anniversary of June 17, 1994: World Cup in Chicago; Knicks vs. Rockets; O.J. Simpson car chase

Written by on June 17, 2024

Thirty years ago from this date was one of the most memorable and infamous days in sports history. There were moments of great celebration that featured iconic sports figures, but they were all overshadowed by the late O.J. Simpson and his white Ford Bronco.

Friday, June 17, 1994, was packed with notable sports moments, beginning with Arnold Palmer teeing up his final U.S. Open round and ending with Los Angeles police bringing Simpson into custody following a two-hour low-speed car pursuit.

In between, New York City had championship fever, the first World Cup on U.S. soil began, and Ken Griffey Jr. pulled off a feat only previously accomplished by Babe Ruth. The through line for all those events was the dark discussion about murder charges being filed against Simpson, a former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL MVP who had parlayed his gridiron accomplishments into success as an actor, football analyst and commercial pitchman.

Let’s take a look back at perhaps the most unforgettable day in American sports history. All times Eastern.

9:07 a.m. | Arnold Palmer tees off at final U.S. Open round

At the age of 64, Arnold Palmer teed off for his final U.S. Open round. Palmer hadn’t played the event in 11 years, but he received an exemption from the USGA to play at Oakmont. As one might expect, Palmer’s scorecard didn’t look great. He missed the cut at 16-over, but it was still a special day for the golfing legend. Palmer received immense support from the crowd and got emotional after the round.

As for the rest of the tournament, Ernie Els went on to win his first major at the age of 24. Els beat Loren Roberts in a sudden-death hole after the two were tied at the end of an 18-hole playoffs.

10:17 a.m. | Rangers’ Stanley Cup Parade rolls through New York

Just three days earlier, the New York Rangers ended their 54-year Stanley Cup drought when Mark Messier, who guaranteed a series win, scored the deciding goal against the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden. On June 17, the Rangers celebrated by parading the Cup up New York’s “Canyon of Heroes.” An estimated 1.5 million people packed the streets, sidewalks, balconies and rooftops trying to catch a glimpse of Lord Stanley. The parade ended with the players receiving keys to the city from Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

The Rangers haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1994, and the closest they got was losing to the Los Angeles Kings in 2014. The Rangers nearly returned to the Final this year, but they lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final to the Florida Panthers.

11:09 a.m. | Murder charges filed against O.J. Simpson

The chaos really began when news broke that murder charges had been filed against Simpson, who was accused of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. The bodies of Brown Simpson and Goldman had been found just a few days earlier outside of her house. The pair had been brutally stabbed to death, and O.J. Simpson wound up as the Los Angeles Police Department’s prime suspect after several days of investigation.

3:00 p.m. | United States hosts its first World Cup match

The 1994 FIFA World Cup was the first time the event was held in the United States. The opening ceremonies were held at Soldier Field, the home of the Chicago Bears, and it was a star-studded affair. Oprah Winfrey introduced Diana Ross, who performed a choreographed musical number on the field, and President Bill Clinton addressed the crowd before kickoff of the opening game. The first World Cup match on American soil was between Germany and Bolivia, with the Germans pulling out a 1-0 win that afternoon.

The United States made it to the knockout stage in the 1994 World Cup, but it was eliminated in the Round of 16 by eventual Brazil on the Fourth of July. Brazil went on to win its fourth World Cup title, a first in soccer history.

4:55 p.m. | LAPD press conference

Just hours after murder charges were filed against Simpson, LAPD commander David Gascon held a press conference saying that authorities were searching for the former NFL MVP. Gascon noted that the department was currently in “pursuit” of Simpson, who had not turned himself in after charges were filed. Gascon added that he had spoken Simpson’s lawyer, Robert Shapiro, about getting Simpson into custody. “We spoke to Mr. [Robert] Shapiro, we expressed our dismay and we indicated to him that we expect to see Mr. Simpson immediately, if not sooner,” Gascon said when asked about Simpson’s whereabouts.

8:06 p.m. | Ken Griffey Jr. ties Babe Ruth with 30 home runs before June 30

Ken Griffey Jr. got off to a scorching start in the 1994 MLB season. The 24-year-old slugger was hitting the ball out of the park at a rate not seen since Babe Ruth. On June 17, Griffey crushed a solo home run off Kansas City Royals pitcher David Cone, tying him with Ruth as the only players in history to hit 30 homers before June 30. Unfortunately for baseball fans everywhere, no one got to see how much damage Griffey could have done in a full season. That’s because, earlier in the day, MLBPA executive director Donald Fehr met with 55 players to discuss the owners’ proposal for a salary cap, an idea the players immediately spurned. 

Just five days later, on June 22, Griffey would pass Ruth with his 31st dinger of the season. And, with the players having balked at the owners’ proposal, that set the wheels in motion for the 1994-95 strike. The season ended on Aug. 11, and the World Series was canceled for just the second time in history.

8:56 p.m. | Police pursuit of O.J. Simpson begins

Things really began to spiral out of control when Simpson and his friend, Al “AC” Cowlings, fled from police in the former’s white Ford Bronco. The low-speed chase lasted a couple of hours and covered roughly 60 miles of California pavement. The chase was shown live on every news broadcast in America. Simpson had a gun in the car with him, but police eventually talked him down and allowed him to return home without incident. Mobs of people lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the chase or see Simpson as he fled from the authorities. The chase finally ended when Simpson pulled into his driveway at 10:57 p.m.

9:00 p.m. | NBA Finals Game 5: Knicks vs. Rockets

With the tension of the Simpson situation rising in Los Angeles, Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Houston Rockets and New York Knicks was getting underway across the country in Madison Square Garden. The start of the game was normal enough, but about 45 minutes in, during the second quarter, NBC briefly pre-empted the game to provide updates on Simpson whereabouts, which by this point was a pursuit. Eventually, in the third quarter, NBC pushed the game to a small corner of the screen while showing the live police chase in the main picture. The NBA Finals might have been an afterthought to some, but the Knicks were able to pull out a 91-84 win behind Patrick Ewing’s 25 points. Houston’s Hakeem Olajuwan led all scorers with 27 points. 

Unfortunately for the Knicks, that was the last game they would win as they dropped both Games 6 and 7 in Houston to lose the series. Both clubs have reached the NBA Finals one more time. Houston swept the Orlando Magic the following season, and New York was defeated by the San Antonio Spurs in 1999.

11:47 p.m. | LAPD takes Simpson into custody

With a slew of news crews and bystanders on the street outside Simpson’s home, police finally talked Simpson into ditching his gun, getting out of the Bronco and entering his home. Simpson then called his mother and drank a glass of orange juice before the LAPD took him into custody.

Simpson would be charged with the murders of his ex-wife and Goldman. The murder trial began in January of 1995, lasted until October, and it became one of the most highly publicized cases in American history. After a lengthy and controversial trial, Simpson was eventually acquitted of the murder charges

In 1997, Simpson was found liable for wrongful death and battery in a civil lawsuit filed and was ordered to pay more than $30 million in damages to the families of Brown Simpson and Goldman. The case has remained a point of interest throughout the years, and it has become the subject of multiple TV shows and documentaries. On April 10, 2024, Simpson died at the age of 76 after a battle with cancer.

The post It’s the 30th anniversary of June 17, 1994: World Cup in Chicago; Knicks vs. Rockets; O.J. Simpson car chase first appeared on CBS Sports.


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