Cardinals mob David Freese after his 11th inning home run against the Rangers forced a Game 7.
Was it the greatest game ever? The best World Series game? The top post-season game in history.
Time will be the judge, but the Cardinals never-say-die 10-9 win that denied the Rangers their first World Championship joins a long list of great World Series Game 6 contests.
St. Louis became the first team in post-season history to overcome two-run deficits in the ninth and 10th inning to win. David Freese, who won the game with a home run in the 11th after his two-out, two-strike, two-run triple tied the game in the ninth, became the first player in post-season history to hit a pair of tying or winning hits in the ninth inning or later.
Meanwhile, twice Texas was within a strike of a championship, and lost. The Rangers appeared to have victory in their grasp when Josh Hamilton hit a two-run homer in the top of the 10th, and lost.
And the headlines quickly changed from “My Gosh, Josh” to “Deep Freese.”
Some are already calling it the best World Series game in history. And it may well be.
But there have been plenty of great World Series Game 6 contests. Before the Cardinals’ heroics, this would be the SportsLifer Top 10:
1975 — Red Sox 7, Reds 6, 12 innings, Fenway Park, Boston
Following three days of rain in New England, the World Series resumed with Cincinnati holding a 3-2 lead in games. The Reds took a 6-3 lead into the eighth inning before Boston pinch-hitter Bernie Carbo hit a two-out, three-run homer to tie the score. Dwight Evans saved the day for the Red Sox with a great catch on Joe Morgan’s bid for a game-winning hit in the 11th. Then Boston’s Carlton Fisk, right, wishing the ball fair, homered off the left-field foul pole leading off the 12th to send Boston into delirium.
1993 — Blue Jays 8, Phillies 6, Skydome, Toronto
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.
1986 — Mets 6, Red Sox 5, 11 innings, Shea Stadium, New York
The Red Sox were one out (and later one strike) away from winning their first World Series since 1918 before the Mets rallied. Singles by Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell and Ray Knight produced a run, then Bob Stanley unleashed a wild pitch that allowed the tying run to score. Mookie Wilson then tapped a little dribbler down the first base line that went through the legs of Bill Buckner as Knight raced home with the winning run.
1991 — Twins 4, Braves 3, 11 innings, the Metrodome, Minneapolis
The Twins and Braves entered the bottom of the 11th inning tied at 3-3. Minnesota center-fielder Kirby Puckett, left, who earlier in the game made a great catch to rob Atlanta’s Ron Gant, crushed a 2-1 liner over the left-center field wall to send the Series to a seventh game. The image of Puckett rounding the bases, arms raised in triumph, was punctuated by CBS broadcaster Jack Buck saying “And we’ll see you tomorrow night!” The Twins then won Game 7, 1-0, in 10 innings behind Jack Morris.
1953 Yankees 4, Dodgers 3, Yankee Stadium, New York
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
2002 — Angels 6, Giants 5, Edison Field, Anaheim
Trailing 5-0 in the seventh inning, the Angels drew closer on Scott Spiezio’s three-run homer. Darin Erstad homered to lead off the eighth, then Troy Glaus belted a two-run double to give the Angels the win. Anaheim would go on to win Game 7, 4-1, for their only World Championship, denying the Giants their first title since moving to San Francisco from New York in 1958
1935 Tigers 4, Cubs 3, Navin Field, Detroit
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 104 years.
1977 — Yankees 8, Dodgers 4, Yankee Stadium, New York
The legend of Mr. October was born on a cool night in the Bronx. New York’s Reggie Jackson, below, joined Babe Ruth as the only players to hit three home runs in a World Series game in leading the Yankees to their first title in 15 years. Jackson hit a record five home runs, including four in his final four at bats, to earn World Series MVP honors.
1985 — Royals 2, Cardinals 1, Royals Stadium, Kansas City
Down 1-0 and three outs from elimination, the Royals get a break when umpire Don Denkinger called Jorge Orta safe on a disputed play at first base. After a single by Steve Balboni and a sacrifice, pinch-hitter Dan Iorg knocked in the tying and winning runs to force a Game 7. The Royals win 11-0 to win the Show Me State World Series and their only World Championship.
1958 — Yankees 4, Braves 3, 10 innings, County Stadium, Milwaukee
The Yankees, who trailed the Series 3-1 at one point, won Game 5 to send the festivities back to Milwaukee. A home run by Gil McDougald and run scoring single by Bill Skowron gave the Yankees a two-run lead in the top of the 10th, but Hank Aaron pulled the Braves within a run with an RBI single. With the potential tying and winning runs on base, Frank Torre lined out to McDougald at second base.
1992 – Blue Jays 4, Braves 3, 11 innings, Fulton County Stadium, Atlanta
Dave Winfield’s two-run doubles gives Toronto its first World Championship.
1971 — Orioles 3, Pirates 2, 10 innings, Memorial Stadium, Baltimore
Brooks Robinson’s sacrifice fly plates Frank Robinson with the winning run.
1956 — Dodgers 1, Yankees 0, 10 innings, Ebbets Field, Brooklyn
The Dodgers Clem Labine and Yankees Bob Turley traded zeroes into extra innings before Jackie Robinson’s single over the head of New York left-fielder Enos Slaughter drove in Jim Gilliam.
1945 — Cubs 8, Tigers 7, 12 innings, Wrigley Field, Chicago
Stan Hack’s double drives home the winning run in the last World Series game the Cubs have won.
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.
No matter what he does the rest of this World Series and for the remainder of his career, Albert Pujols carved out his own special niche in baseball history with three home runs in the third game of the 2011 World Series.
The 31-year-old Pujols is a sure-fire, first ballot Hall of Famer once he retires, but unless he’s Babe Ruth (more on that in a moment) this World Series tour de force will be his signature moment.
More than a generation ago, on October 18, 1977, Reggie Jackson became Mr. October when homered three times on a cool night at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Jackson, like Pujols, homered off three different pitchers as he led the Yankees to their first World Championship in 15 years with an 8-4 win over the Dodgers.
That year, Jax set a record with five home runs in a single World Series, including four in his final four swings. Mr. October was named 1977 World Series MVP.
Fittingly, Babe Ruth is the only other player to hit three home runs in a World Series game. Ruth accomplished the feat twice, both times against the Cardinals.
Babe Does It Twice
But unlike Pujols or Jackson, Ruth had dozens of signature moments. His record-breaking 60th home run in 1927, his called shot in the 1932 World Series, and his three home run game with the Boston Braves in 1935 days before he retired are three that come to mind.
In Game Four of the 1926 World Series, Ruth hit three home runs at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis to lead the Yankees to a 10-5 victory. The Yanks won the next day and returned to New York with a 3-2 lead, but Hall of Fame right-hander Grover Cleveland “Old Pete” Alexander beat the Yankees 10-2 with a complete Game 6 effort.
In the decisive seventh game, Alexander came on in relief in the seventh inning to fan Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded. He walked Ruth, who had homered earlier in the game, with two outs in the ninth to put the tying run on base. But the Babe inexplicably tried to steal second base and was thrown out to end the Series with Bob Meusel on deck and Lou Gehrig in the hole.
Two years later, Ruth again hit three home runs in a World Series game against the Cardinals at Sportsman’s Park. The Yankees won the game 7-3 to sweep the Series. Ruth hit .625 in the 1928 World Series with those three homers and four RBIs and batted .625.
As the late Yankee broadcaster Mel Allen might say: How about that?
A Brewers-Rangers matchup in the World Series would make rare history. Call it a fluke, a statistical oddity, a freak of nature, whatever you want. Call it strange, maybe even unbelievable. But since 1920, only once have two teams squared off in the Fall Classic, each one seeking a first World Championship.
The Brewers began as the Seattle Pilots in 1969, then moved to Milwaukee the following season and became the Brewers. The Brewers, aka Harvey’s Wallbangers, won the American League pennant in 1982 but lost a seven-game series to the Cardinals. They moved to the National League in 1998, but haven’t been back to the Series since 1982.
The Rangers began as the second rendition of the Washington Senators in 1961 (the original Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins). They moved to Texas in 1972, and made their first World Series appearance last year, losing in five games to the Giants.
The last matchup between teams seeking their first championship occurred 31 years ago, when the Phillies beat the Kansas City Royals in six games for the first title in the 97 year history of the franchise. The Phillies were led by Series MVP Mike Schmidt, who homered twice and batted .381, and left-hander Steve Carlton who won a pair of games, including the clincher.
Up to that point, the Phillies had played in two World Series — losing to the Red Sox in 1915 and being swept by the Yankees in 1950.
The Royals were playing in their first World Series after knocking off the Yankees in three straight, highlighted by George Brett’s game-winning, three-run homer against Goose Gossage in the clincher.
In 1920, the Cleveland Indians won their first World Series, beating the Brooklyn Dodgers, five games to two. Brooklyn had played in one previous Series, losing to the Red Sox in 1916.
The highlights of the 1920 World Series came in the fourth game, which the Indians won, 8-1. But that wasn’t the story. In that game, Cleveland’s second baseman, Bill Wambsganss pulled off the only unassisted triple play in post-season history. That same day, the Indians Elmer Smith hit the first grand slam ever in the World Series.
The third instance of two teams seeking their first World Championship occurred way back in 1909, when the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Detroit Tigers in seven games. The storyline that year was the matchup between Pittsburgh’s shortstop Hone Wagner and Detroit outfielder Ty Cobb. Wagner won that duel, batting .333 with six stolen bases, while Cobb managed to his just .231 with two steals.
In every other World Series played in the past 102 years, at least one of the combatants was a previous World Champion.
Wherever he is, George Steinbrenner is mighty pissed off.
Citizens of the Yankee universe were desperately seeking some sort of George Patton-like missive from The Boss following the Bombers timid showing against the Tigers in the ALDS. You know, the front office memo that apologizes to the fans, rips the team and vows to fight to the death for a World Championship next year. We’re Yankees, we’re battered and we’re beaten, but we bleed pinstripe blue. Something like that.
There really are no excuses for the Yankees loss to the Detroit. George would agree, and he’d know where to point the finger.
It’s as easy as 1-2-3….or in this instance 4-5-6. The heart of New York’s lineup, 4-5-6 hitters Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher, played like kitty cats against the Tigers and cost the Yanks the series. The numbers don’t lie:
- A-Rod — 2-for-18 against Detroit .180 batting average in his last 14 playoff games.
- Tex — 3-for-18 against Detroit, .170 post-season BA since joining Yankees in 2009.
- Swisher — 4-for-19 against Detroit, .160 post-season BA since joining Yankees in 2009.
Wait, It Gets Worse
In the Yankees last two post-season series, losses to the Tigers and to the Rangers in the 2010 ALCS, A-Rod is 6-for-39, Teixeira 3-for-32 and Swisher 6-for-41. That’s 15-for-112, a combined .134 batting average.
Rodriguez has six years and $143M left on his contract. An albatross, he’ll be 42 when that contract runs out, and his body is already breaking down. Old-Roid played in just 99 games this season.
Take away 2009, and A-Rod has been a post-season bust. He’s struck out to end each of the Yankees last two playoff series.
Teixeira has five years and $112.5M left his contract, and is signed through 2016, when he will be 36. And Swisher, who turns 31 next month, will be back next year if the Yankees exercise their $10.25M option.
That’s a lot of time and money invested in three middle-of-the-order guys who can’t hit in the clutch.
Red Sox Favorites
After failing to sign free agent pitcher Cliff Lee, the Yankees entered the 2011 season in a strange position — underdogs. The Red Sox were the consensus pick to win the AL East.
However Boston fell apart during in an epic September swoon, and the Yankees won the division.
That’s great, but Yankee teams are judged on one criteria — championships won.
As The Boss knows, anything less is a disappointment. A very big disappointment.