Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre homers in Game Five win over St. Louis.
(This is a blog I first posted on October 25, 2008, during the 2008 World Series between the Phillies and the Rays. Philadelphia won that Series in five games. Here, three years later, on the eve of a sixth game between the Cardinals and the Rangers, we’re still hoping for a Game Seven.)
We need a seven-game World Series. This year.
There’s nothing like a seventh game in the World Series. It’s a game in a season, and a season in a game. One game. Winner take all.
Throughout baseball history, there have been 35 seventh games since the first World Series in 1903.
The last seven-game series in 2002 saw the Angels beat the Giants for their only World Championship.
The previous year, as the nation recovered from the 9/11 attacks, the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees in seven on a bloop, walk-off single by Luis Gonzalez off Marino Rivera in the bottom of the ninth.
Since 1987, the only other seven-game series occurred in 1991 when the Twins beat the Braves, and 1997 when the Marlins beat the Indians, both in walk-off extra inning games.
Jack Morris pitched a shutout and Gene Larkin drove in the only run with a single in the 10th inning for the Twins win. Six years later, Edgar Renteria’s single in the 11th gave Florida a 3-2 win and the championship.
There have been a total of six walk-off wins in Game Seven overall. The Red Sox beat the Giants in 1912 when some Giant misplays and Larry Gardner’s sacrifice fly against Christy Mathewson enabled Boston to rally for a 3-2, 10-inning win.
Walter Johnson and the Washington Senators won their only World Series in 1924, also against the Giants, on a bad hop single by Earl McNeely in the 12th.
And in 1960, the Pirates edged the Yankees, 10-9, on a home run by Bill Mazeroski. That remains the only Game Seven in World Series history to end on a home run.
The St. Louis Cardinals have won seven seventh games (1926, 1931, 1934, 1946, 1964, 1967 and 1982), a record. Not surprisingly, the Yankees have played in the most, winning five out of eleven.
The Cards twice beat both the Yankees (1926, 1964) and the Red Sox (1946, 1967) in Game Seven showdowns. St. Louis Hall of Famer Bob Gibson, above right, pitched in three seventh games in four seasons, beating the Yankees in 1964 and the Red Sox in 1967 before losing to the Tigers in 1968.
The Pirates have the best record at 5-0 (1909, 1925, 1960, 1971 and 1979) and the Giants are 0-4 (1912, 1924, 1962 and 2002).
Other Game Seven facts and figures that may interest only me:
- A total of 16 seventh games were staged between 1952 and 1979, nearly half of the all-time total of 35.
- Six seventh games occurred in the 60s; five apiece in the 50s and 70s.
- Between 1955 and 1958, the Yankees played four straight seventh games, exchanging wins with the Dodgers and then the Braves.
- All four of those World Series were won by the road teams, including the first and only championships for Brooklyn and Milwaukee, in 1955 and 1957.
- The Yankees avenged those losses in 1956 and 1958; they also beat the Dodgers in seven in 1947 and 1952.
- The last time the Cubs appeared in the World Series, 1945, they lost to the Tigers in Game Seven.
- There were no seventh games between 1912 and 1924, the biggest gap in baseball history.
- The Oakland A’s are the only team to win back-to-back Game Sevens, in 1972 against the Reds and 1973 vs. the Mets.
Edgar Renteria homers to give Giants a 3-1 win and a World Championship.
Edgar Renteria joined some mighty select company. His three-run home run off Texas Rangers’ ace Cliff Lee in the seventh inning snapped a scoreless tie and gave the Giants the runs they would need to win their first World Series since moving to San Francisco in 1958 — and their first title since the New York Giants swept the Cleveland Indians in 1954.
The Colombian-born shortstop became just the fourth player in baseball history to have the game-winning RBI in two different World Series, joining Yankee immortals Lou Gehrig (1928, 1936), Joe DiMaggio (1939, 1949) and Yogi Berra (1950, 1956).
Wait, there’s more. Of that august quartet, Renteria is the only player to have a walk-off hit among his game-winners. Exactly 4,755 days earlier, in 1997, he lined a single up the middle to knock in the winning run in the 11th inning of the seventh game. Renteria was just 21 years old then, and his clutch hit led the Florida Marlins to their first World Championship with a 3-2 win over the Indians at Pro Player Park.
Renteria also made the final out of the 2004 World Series when he grounded back to the box, giving the Red Sox a 3-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals and their first World Championship in 86 years.
Renteria’s 1997 World Series walk-off was one of 11 in baseball history:
1912 — Red Sox 3, Giants 2 (10 innings) at Fenway Park, Boston
Red Sox win series 4-3, with one tie
The Giants took a 2-1 lead in the top of the 10th inning, and seemed to have a championship well in hand with the great Christy Mathewson on the mound. But Giants center fielder Fred Snodgrass dropped a routine fly ball to start the home half of the 10th, and Larry Gardner later hit a deep sacrifice fly to Josh Devore in right, scoring Steve Yerkes with the winning run.
1924 Senators 4, over Giants 2 (12 innings) at Griffith Stadium, Washington, D.C.
Senators win series, 4-3
The Senators rallied to tie the score with a pair of runs in the eighth, aided by a fielding error by the Giants 18-year-old third baseman Freddie Lindstrom. The stalemate continued until the 12th thanks to flawless, four-inning relief pitching from Washington immortal Walter Johnson. In that inning, the Giants committed two major fielding errors including a replay of the missed grounder to third and a dropped foul by catcher Hank Gowdy, who tripped over his own mask. The winning run scored when the Nats Earl McNeely hit a grounder that took a bad hop and bounced over the head of Giants third baseman Fred Lindstrom, scoring Muddy Ruel and giving Washington its first, last and only World Championship.
1927 Yankees 4, Pirates 3 at Yankee Stadium, New York
Yankees sweep, 4-0
One of the most renowned teams in baseball history, the 1927 Yankees, looking for a sweep and tied with the Pirates 3-3, loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of ninth. Pittsburgh relief pitcher John Miljus then struck out Lou Gehrig and Bob Meusel, but threw a wild pitch to Tony Lazzeri, scoring Earle Combs and ending the game. The Yankees had won their second championship title, the crowning achievement to a magnificent season. They also became the first team ever to sweep the National League in a World Series.
1929 A’s 3. Cubs 2 at Shibe Park, Philadelphia
A’s win series, 4-1
Facing the Chicago Cubs, the A’s trailed Game 5 before a two-run homer by Mule Haas over the right field wall tied the score 2-2 with one out in the ninth. Max Bishop then singled and with outs, following an intentional walk to Jimmie Foxx, Bing Miller doubled off the Shibe Park scoreboard to plate the winning run. It was Philadelphia’s first title since 1913, while Chicago, which lost an 8-0 lead in Game 4 before bowing 10-8, lost a heartbreaker. It was a sad portent of things to come for the Cubbies.
1935 Tigers 4, Cubs 3 at Navin Field, Detroit
Tigers win series, 4-2
With the score tied 3-3, the Cubs stranded Stan Hack on third base with nobody out in the top of the ninth. Detroit catcher Mickey Cochrane led off the bottom of the ninth with a single, and scored the winning run two outs later on Goose Goslin’s base hit to right field. Detroit won its first World Series, while the Cubs continued their championship drought, which has now reached 102 years.
1953 Yankees 4, Dodgers 3, at Yankee Stadium, New York
Yanks win series, 4-2
Yankee second baseman Billy Martin, who had 12 hits and 8 RBIs while batting .500 in the series, knocked in Hank Bauer from second base with the game-winning run in the ninth inning to give the Bombers a record fifth straight World Championship. Brooklyn had rallied to tie the score in the top of the ninth on a two-run home run by Carl Furillo.
1960, Pirates 10, Yankees 9, at Forbes Field, Pittsburgh
Pirates win series, 4-3
With one of the most famous home runs in baseball history, Pittsburgh second baseman Bill Mazeroski vanquished the heavily-favored Yankees, who outscored the Pirates 55-27 in the seven-game series. The Yanks scored two runs in the top of the ninth to tie the score at 9-9 before Maz led off the home half of the ninth. With a 1-0 count against New York reliever Ralph Terry, Mazeroski smashed his historic home run over the wall in left field to end the contest and give the Pirates their first championship in 35 years.
1991 — Twins 1, Braves 0 (10 innings), at the Metrodome, Minneapolis
Twins win series, 4-3
Game 7 matched Detroit native John Smoltz of Atlanta against his hometown hero and former Tiger Jack Morris, now Minnesota’s ace. Both the Twins and Braves blew chances to score in the late innings, and the two clubs battled scoreless into the bottom of the 10th. Dan Gladden, right, opened the Twins half of the inning with a double, was sacrificed to third, and after a pair of intentional walks pinch-hitter Gene Larkin singled to give Minnesota and Morris, who went the distance, the championship.
1993 — Blue Jays 8, Phillies 6, at Skydome, Toronto
Jays win Series, 4-2
Phillies closer Mitch Williams was brought in to protect a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the ninth, but walked leadoff hitter Rickey Henderson and surrendered a one-out single to Paul Molitor. On a 2-2 count, Toronto’s Joe Carter sent a home run over the left field fence to give the Blue Jays the 8-6 win and their second consecutive World Championship. Carter joined Pittsburgh’s Bill Mazeroski as the only players to end World Series with walk-off home runs.
1997 — Marlins 3, Indians 2 (11 innings) Pro Player Park, Miami
Marlins win series, 4-3
Cleveland, seeking its first title in 49 years, took a 2-1 lead into the last of the ninth before the Marlins rallied to tie the score. In the 11th, Edgar Rentereia’s two-out single drove in Craig Counsell with the winning run. The celebration in Florida was short-lived; the Marlins roster was broken up and the following season the team finished 54-108.
2001 — Diamondbacks 3, Yankees 2 Bank One Ballpark, Phoenix
Arizona wins series, 4-3
The Yankees, seeking their fourth straight World Championship, took a 2-1 lead into the last of the ninth with closer Mariano Rivera on the mound. Rivera had converted 23 straight postseason saves and had struck out the side in the eighth. However the Diamondbacks rallied, tying the score on a double by Tony Womack and then winning the Series when Luis Gonzalez, above left, connected for a shallow looping single to center that just cleared the infield and scored Jay Bell with the decisive run.
The Texas Rangers will square off against the San Francisco Giants this week in one of the unlikeliest World Series pairings in baseball history.
Texas, which had never won a single playoff series prior to this year, knocked off the two teams with the best records in the American League — the Rays and the Yankees — to reach the World Series for the first time in their 50th season.
The Rangers weren’t always the Rangers. They started out as the expansion Washington Senators in 1961, and lost 100 games in each of their first four season. In 1972 they moved to Arlington, Texas, became the Texas Rangers, and promptly lost 100 games in each of their first two years. The original Washington Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins in 1961.
The Giants were heavy underdogs against the Phillies, who were attempting to become the first National League since the St. Louis Cardinals (1942-44) to win three straight pennants.
The Giants, who have called San Francisco home since 1958, won their last World Series in 1954, when they were the New York Giants playing in the old Polo Grounds. Only the Cubs (102 years and counting) and Indians (62 years and counting) have gone longer without a World Series title than the Giants, who lost the Series in 1962, 1989 and 2002.
There aren’t many people who picked a Rangers-Giants World Series in April…..and those who claim they did are probably lying. Either Texas or San Francisco will become one of the more surprising World Champions in baseball history.
Here are the SportsLifer’s 10 most unlikely World Champions of all time (in chronological order). With apologies to the 1944 St. Louis Browns, 1959 Chicago Go-Go Sox, the 1967 “Impossible Dream” Red Sox, and more recently the 2007 Rockies and 2008 Rays, who won pennants but failed to grab the ring.
1906 – The Hitless Wonders, the Chicago White Sox, defeated a Cubs team that won 116 games, still the National League record for a single season.
1914 — The Boston Braves, in last place on the Fourth of July, stormed to the NL pennant and then swept Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s in the World Series.
1924 – The Washington Senators (first in war, first in peace, last in the American League) won their first and only World Series, edging the Giants in a thrilling, seven-game Series.
1948 – The Cleveland Indians beat the Red Sox in a one-game playoff, then held off the Boston Braves in six games.
1954 – The New York Giants swept the Cleveland Indians, who won an AL record 111 games in the regular season, to stop the Yankees run of five straight championships.
1960 – The Pittsburgh Pirates, on the strength of Bill Mazeroski’s ninth-inning, walk-off home run, stunned the New York Yankees in seven games.
1969 – Perhaps the unlikeliest World Series winner of all, the Miracle New York Mets rise from ninth place the previous year to stun the Baltimore Orioles.
1991 — After finishing last in their respective divisions in 1990, the Twins and Braves rebounded and made the World Series. Minnesota beat Atlanta in a hard-fought, seven-game series.
2004 – The Red Sox ended 86 years of futility, coming back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Yankees in the ALCS and then brushing aside the Cardinals in the World Series.
2005 – The Chicago White Sox win their first World Series since 1917, sweeping Houston in the Astros’ only World Series appearance.