There’s nothing like a seventh game in the World Series. It’s a game in a season, and a season in a game. Astros vs. Dodgers. One game. Winner take all.
Throughout baseball history, there have been 38 seventh games since the first World Series in 1903. Tonight marks the first World Series Game 7 ever at Dodger Stadium, and the first for the Dodgers since 1965, when they beat the Minnesota Twins on a three-hit shutout by Sandy Koufax (pictured above), his second complete game shutout in four days.
Houston is hoping to win its first World Series since the franchise began play as the Colt 45s in 1962. The Astros, then a National League entrant, were swept by the White Sox in their only previous World Series appearance in 2005.
Just last year, the Cubs snapped a 108-year drought when they beat the Indians 8-7 in 10 innings in a memorable Game 7. So now baseball fans are blessed with a second straight World Series Game 7 for the first time since 2002, when the Angels beat the Giants for their only World Championship.
That was one of just six walk-off wins in Game 7 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. (Technically that was Game 8, since Game 2 wound up in a 6-6, 11-inning tie.)
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.
In 1960, the Pirates edged the Yankees, 10-9, on a home run by Bill Mazeroski, pictured at right. That remains the only Game Seven in World Series history to end on a home run. Incredibly, not a single strikeout was registered in that contest,
In 1991, Jack Morris pitched a shutout and Gene Larkin drove in the only run with a single in the 10th inning as the Twins beat the Braves.
Six years later, Edgar Renteria’s single in the 11th gave the Florida Marlins a 3-2 win over the Indians — and the championship.
In 2001, 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 inning.
Cardinals are Game 7 leaders
The St. Louis Cardinals have won eight seventh games (1926, 1931, 1934, 1946, 1964, 1967, 1982 and 2011), a record. Overall the Cards are 8-3 in Game 7. The Yankees have also played in 11 World Series Game 7s, winning five, four against the Brooklyn Dodgers and one against the San Francisco Giants.
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 started 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) in Game 7s, and the Giants are 0-4 (1912, 1924, 1962 and 2002).
Other Game 7 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 38.
- 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 Brooklyn Dodgers and then the Milwaukee 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 before last year, in 1945, they lost to the Tigers in Game 7.
- There were no seventh games between 1912 and 1924, the longest gap in baseball history.
- The Oakland A’s are the only team to win back-to-back Game 7s, in 1972 against the Reds and 1973 vs. the Mets.
- The Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Detroit Tigers in the first World Series Game 7 in 1909.
- The National League has won 23 of 38 World Series Game 7s; the American League 15.
- Game on.
MORE GAME 7: New York Post columnist Mike Vaccaro ranks World Series Game 7s.
Witnessing one bullpen failure after another in the playoffs makes baseball fans, especially Yankee fans, appreciate the great Mariano Rivera all the more.
Year after year, Rivera, pictured above with Jorge Posada and Scott Brosius after saving the final game of the 1999 World Series, compiled a post-season resume that is unrivaled in baseball history. In 96 playoff games and 141 innings, Mariano had a 0.70 ERA. He had 42 saves (same as his number) in 47 opportunities. Sure Mo blew a few – most notably against Arizona in the 2001 World Series in Game 7 and two games against Boston in the fabled ALCS 3-0 comeback. He was human.
That 0.70 ERA is the best all-time in MLB playoff history, ahead of such luminaries as Sandy Koufax, Christy Mathewson and Babe Ruth. And the 42 saves is more than twice as many as the runner-up, Brad Lidge.
Here’s another stat – Rivera allowed exactly two home runs in post-season, none after Jay Peyton took him deep in the 2000 World Series with the Mets. Heck, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen has given up as many homers in this World Series alone.
Name the only franchise to win both American and National League pennants? It’s the Houston Astros of course. They Astros won the National League pennant but were swept by the White Sox in the 2005 World Series. And this year they were American League champs.
Next Yankee Manager
If the Yanks continue their Joe trend, then third base coach Joe Espada will be named the next manager, succeeding Joe Girardi. Girardi won one World Series in 10 years. He took over from Joe Torre, who won four World Series in 12 years. And another Joe – McCarthy – managed the Yankees for 16 years between 1931 and 1946, winning a franchise best 1460 games and seven World Series.
Going out on a limb here, and tabbing Al Pedrique as a dark horse candidate for the next Yankee manager. Pedrique has been successful managing the Yankees Triple A affiliate Scranton, and has groomed many of the young Yankee stars, including Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez. Greg Bird, Luis Severino and more.
Old School Baseball
Game One of the 2017 World Series ran just two hours and 28 minutes, the quickest playoff game in more than 20 years. The game brought back memories of the old days, when games typically ran two hours, sometimes less.
As a kid, I used to go to Sunday doubleheaders at Yankee Stadium, and most times be home before dinner. And the price was right – $1.50 to sit in the upper deck, half price with a high school card. Two games for 75 cents. Top that.
As the wild card showdowns are decided and the MLB playoffs get started, the pressure is squarely on two teams – the Cleveland Indians and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
When the Chicago Cubs knocked off the Indians in a thrilling seven-game World Series last fall, they also passed along the stigma of baseball’s longest championship drought. The Tribe has come agonizingly close several times – most notably last year and in 1997, when they lost to the Florida Marlins in seven games. Cleveland also won the AL pennant but lost the World Series in 1954 and 1995.
You’ve got to go back the Truman administration in 1948 to find the last Indians championship squad. That year Cleveland beat the Boston Braves in six games. Do the math, that’s 69 years ago.
The Dodgers managed to win just one World Series in Brooklyn, beating the Yankees in seven games in 1955, before moving to Los Angeles in 1958. LA won five championships in its first 30 years on the West Coast, but none since. In fact, the Dodgers last made the World Series in 1988, when they knocked off the heavily-favored Oakland A’s in five games.
Many feel the Dodgers are due, having won five straight NL West titles and being crowned the best team ever by Sports Illustrated in August. Following that cover piece, the Dodgers reached a high water mark of 91-36, then proceeded to lose 16 out of 17 games, including 11 straight.
The Indians set an AL record with a 22-game winning streak in September, marking the Tribe as the team to beat in the AL.
The Dodgers wound up with the best record in baseball, 104-58, while the Indians finished second best at 102-60. Pressure’s on.
Was Cubs-Indians Game 7 the best game ever? Not so fast.
I do feel sometimes we tend to rush to judgement and instant gratification. For example, ESPN is already calling Game 7 the greatest game ever.
For Cub fans maybe.
But we need to bottle it for a bit, savor it, then enjoy it like a fine wine.
There have been plenty of great games throughout the last dozen decades of baseball history.
After all, there have been six walk-off Game 7 wins in baseball history alone, going back to 1912 and the Red Sox beating Christy Mathewson in extra innings all the way to Luis Gonzalez besting the great Mariano Rivera and the Yankees in 2001.
The Bill Mazeroski home run in 1960 that gave the Pirates an improbable World Series win was unforgettable. Amazingly, not a single batter struck out in that contest.
Some other great games that weren’t necessarily Series clinchers include Pudge Fisk and the Red Sox in 1975, the Mets and Bill Buckner in 1986, Kirby Puckett and the Twins in 1991, and David Freese and the Cardinals beating the Rangers in 2011.
And don’t forget Don Larsen’s perfect game vs. Brooklyn in 1956. Only time it’s ever happened in a World Series.
Even though they weren’t true post-season games, Bobby Thomson’s home run against the Dodgers that helped the Giants win the pennant in 1951, and Bucky Dent’s Fenway blast that lifted the Yankees over the Red Sox in 1978 were certainly dramatic.
Maddon’s questionable moves
Congrats to the Cubs and their fans. Maybe it’s me, but Joe Maddon did all he could to hand the Series to the Tribe — from his needless use of Aroldis Chapman in Game 6 to lifting Kyle Hendricks early in Game 7 to the 3-2 safety squeeze in the ninth inning that backfired
The Cubs ultimately prevailed because they were the better team with superior talent, but the better manager, Terry Francona, was in the Cleveland dugout in this World Series.
They call it over-managing. In business terms, micro management. It’s the Whitey Herzog syndrome, in honor of the Kansas City manager, who made some questionable moves against the Yankees in the ALCS back in the 70s.
It will never be the same
Well now that the Cubs have won and broken the 108-year jinx things are bound to be different. There’s already talk of the next baseball dynasty.
However, consider this. After the Red Sox broke the Curse of the Bambino in 2004, they became just another successful franchise, lost in the shuffle of successful teams.
Just like the Sox, the Cubs have lost their lovable loser mojo.
The Chicago Cubs aren’t the only MLB team with a long World Series drought. The Cleveland Indians, who captured the American League pennant, haven’t won a World Series since 1948.
Although the Tribe’s streak pales in comparison to the Cubbies, who haven’t won since 1908, it’s still the second longest championship drought in baseball history.
Baseball fans across America are praying for a Cleveland-Chicago World Series, since once of those two franchises will finally get off the schneid.
When the Indians last won in 1948, Harry S. Truman was POTUS, Gentleman’s Agreement starring Gregory Peck won the Oscar for Best Picture, and pacifist leader Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated.
That year Cleveland defeated the Red Sox in a one-game playoff at Fenway Park to determine to AL pennant winner. The Indians then went on to beat the Boston Braves in six games in the first World Series to be televised nationwide. Outfielder Larry Doby hit .318 to pace the Tribe, while Bob Lemon won both of his starts, including the Game 6 clincher.
The Indians won AL pennants in 1954, 1995 and 1997, but lost the World Series both times.
You have to go back 108 years to find the last time the Cubs won a World Series. In 1908, when Chicago beat the Detroit Tigers in five games for its second straight title. The Peerless Leader, Frank Chance, managed the Cubs that season and also led all batters with a .421 average. Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown and Orval Overall each won a pair of games.
The Cubs last visit to the World Series came in 1945, 71 years ago, when they lost to the Tigers in seven games. Chicago also advanced to the Fall Classic in 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, and 1938, only to lose each time.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, currently battling the Cubs in the NLCS, also have a long championship drought. LA last appeared in the World Series in 1988, when they beat the Oakland A’s in five games.
In their first three decades in Los Angeles, the transplanted Brooklynites went to the World Series nine times, winning five. But it’s been 28 years since the Dodgers’ last title.
SportsLifer Flashback: The 1908 Cubs
In the last inning of the 2014 World Series and his team trailing by a run, Royals left-fielder Alex Gordon singled and raced all the way to third on an error by Giants center fielder Gregor Blanco. In an alternate universe Gordon might have attempted to score and propelled the Kansas City to a win. But he stopped at third, the next batter Salvatore Perez popped out to end the game, and San Francisco won its third World Series in five years.
If Gordon had run and scored, he coulda been a hero. One of many guys who could have been World Series heroes, if only things had played out differently.
Maybe there’s a coulda been hero in this year’s World Series. Here’s the past list of guys who didn’t quite make it, dating back to 1912:
2011 – Josh Hamilton – His two-run homer in the top of the 10th in Game 6 appeared to seal the deal for the first championship for the Texas Rangers. However St. Louis rallied to tie the game, then won it 10-9 in the 11th on a home run by David Reese. The Cardinals then won Game 7 easily to take the crown.
2001 – Alfonso Soriano – His eighth inning home run against Curt Schilling gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead and within grasp of their fourth straight championship. But Arizona scratched out a pair of runs against closer Mariano Rivera to pull out a 3-2 win and their first and only championship.
1997 – Tony Fernandez – They’d have built a statue of this guy in downtown Cleveland if only things hard turned out differently in Game 7. Fernadnez hit a two-run single in the third inning that held up until the last of the ninth. The Marlins rallied against Jose Mesa to tie the game, then won it 3-2 in the 11th on Edgar Renteria’s single. The Indians have not won a World Series since 1948.
1986 – Dave Henderson – Hendu was going to be an all-time rock star in New England. His home run in the top of the 10th put the Red Sox on the brink of their first championship in 68 years, since 1918. However the Mets rallied to win Game 6 6-5 in 10 innings as Mookie Wilson’s grounder eluded first baseman Bill Buckner, and then took Game 7 and the title two nights later.
1976 – Thurman Munson – The Yankee captain hit .529, the highest batting average ever for a player on a losing team. However, the Reds, sparked by Johnny Bench, swept the Yankees in four straight games. Less than three years later, after winning World Series in 1977 and 1978, Munson was killed in a plane crash.
1960 – Whitey Ford – He pitched a shutout in Game 3 and another in Game 6. Too bad, this was the year that Bill Mazeroski hit the most dramatic of home runs and the Pirates beat the Yankees 10-9 in Game 7 to win the World Series. Ford continued his shutout string the next year, breaking Babe Ruth’s record for most consecutive scoreless innings pitched in a World Series and won the MVP.
1953 – Carl Furillo – He rallied Brooklyn with a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to tie the score 3-3 in Game 6. However, 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 4-3 win and a record fifth straight World Championship
1946 – Dominic DiMaggio – Joe’s little brother hit a two-run double in the eighth inning that pulled the Red Sox even with the Cardinals in Game 7. However DiMaggio injured his hamstring rounding first, and was replaced in center field by Leon Culberson. It was Culberson’s weak relay to Johnny Pesky in the bottom of the inning that led to Enos Slaughter scoring the decisive run in a 4-3 victory.
1919 – Dickey Kerr – With eight of his teammates, the infamous Black Sox, attempting to throw the Series, left-hander starts and wins two games. Kerr pitches a shutout in Game 3 and wins 5-4 in a 10-innings in Game 6. However Cincinnati takes the Series in eight games.
1912 – Fred Merkle – The goat of the 1908 NL pennant race for the New York Giants was almost a hero. Fred Merkle singled in the go-ahead in the decisive Game 8 (one game ended in a tie). With the great Christy Mathewson on the mound, the Giants appeared to have the title well in hand. 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, scoring Steve Yerkes with the winning run.
Madison Bumgarner, aka Bum, rang up one of the great World Series performances of all time when he led the San Francisco Giants past the Kansas City Royals. Great stuff, but MadBum and all the rest take a back seat to the New York Giants right-hander and Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson, who pitched three complete game shutouts to lead his team to a five-game win over the Philadelphia A’s in the second World Series ever in 1905.
Matty, pictured above, threw a four-hitter in Game 1 as the Giants won 3-0. He followed that up with another four-hitter in a 9-0 New York win in Game 3. And he closed the deal two days later at the Polo Grounds, allowing just five hits as the Giants won 2-0. All five games in the 1905 Series ended up in shutouts – Chief Bender for the A’s in Game 2 and Joe McGinnity for the Giants in Game 4.
Mathewson’s 1905 WS line was 27 innings pitched, 13 hits allowed, 18 strikeouts and one walk. He even had a couple of base hits. For his career Mathewson won 373 games, nearly twice as many as he lost, with a lifetime 2.13 ERA. He set modern National League records for wins in a career, wins in a season (37) and consecutive 20-win seasons (12), records that still stand today.
Mathewson was nicknamed Big Six when sportswriter Sam Crane compared him to New York City’s Big Six Fire Company, “the fastest to put out the fire.” Matty served in France in World War I where he was a captain in the Army’s Chemical Warfare Division. While there, Mathewson was exposed to mustard gas during a training exercise. He suffered from tuberculosis the rest of his life, and died in 1925 as the World Series was being played.
It’s tough to top Matty’s World Series heroics in 1905, but here are 10 who made history in their own rite, in chronological order.
2014: Madison Bumgarner evoked memories of immortal and fellow Giant Matthewson as he almost single-handedly silenced the Royals. MadBum, shown at left, stopped the red-hot Royals and their eight-game playoff win streak in the opener, and then pitched a complete-game shutout in Game 5 for his second win. With the season on the line in Game 7, he threw five innings of two-hit ball to earn the save in a 3-2 Series clinching win. Overall MadBum allowed nine hits and one run in 21 innings, an 0.43 ERA.
1991: Jack Morris was at his absolute best in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. Refusing to come out of the game, the Minnesota Twins finally rewarded his efforts when Gene Larkin’s 10th-inning, walk-off single game the Twins a 1-0 win over the Atlanta Braves. In outdueling John Smoltz of the Braves, Morris allowed seven hits over 10 innings and struck out eight. Morris won Game 1 of the Series and had a no-decision in Game 4. He was 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA in the Series.
1988: Orel Hershiser of the Los Angeles Dodgers maintained his late-season roll with two stellar performances in the World Series. After setting a new record with 59 consecutive scoreless innings in September, Hershiser shut out the heavily-favored Oakland A’s 6-0 in Game 2, then won the Game 5 clincher 5-2 with another complete game. His totals – 2-0 record, 18 innings pitched, 7 hits, 17 strikeouts, and 3-for-3 at the plate.
1968: The St. Louis Cardinals were big favorites, and when Bob Gibson struck out 17 Tiger batters and beat Detroit 31-game winner Denny McLain things didn’t look good. Mickey Lolich to the rescue. The portly southpaw beat the Cardinals 8-1 in Game 2 and hit a home run as well. With the Tigers down three games to one, he won Game 5, 5-3. Finally, pitching on just two days rest, Lolich won his third game of the World Series, outlasting Gibson and the Cards 4-1 in the Game 7 clincher.
1967: The 1967 World Series belonged to St. Louis Cardinals righthander Bob Gibson who doused the Impossible Dreamers, the Boston Red Sox. Gibson was 3-0 with 26 strikeouts and a 1.00 ERA in three complete game showings. He won Game 1, 2-1, and pitched a five-hit shutout to take Game 4. After the Red Sox rallied to tie the Series, Gibson homered in a 7-2 win in the Game 7 Cards wrap.
1963: During a five-year stretch in the early and mid 60s, Sandy Koufax was as dominant as any pitcher has ever been. And the Los Angeles Dodger left-hander, pictured right, dominated the Yankees in 1963, setting a WS strikeout record with 15 Ks to win Game 1, and completing the sweep with a 2-1 victory and eight strikeouts in Game 4.
1957: Yankee castoff Lew Burdette returned to haunt the Bronx Bombers in the 1957 World Series. The Milwaukee Braves right-hander won Game 2 and then proceeded to shut out the Yankees in Game 5. With the Series on the line, Burdette threw another shutout in Game 7 at Yankee Stadium, winning 5-0. Overall, Burdette was 3-0 and allowed just two runs in 27 innings for 0.67 ERA.
1933: The last time Washington was in the World Series, the Senators lost to the New York Giants in five games. New York’s screwball artist Carl Hubbell won the opener 4-2, striking out 10. In Game 4, Hubbell went all the way allowing eight hits as the Giants won, 2-1 in 11 innings. Although Hubbell gave up three runs in the two games, none of them were earned. His ERA in 20 innings was 0.00.
1926: Grover Cleveland Alexander won 373 games in his career, tying Christy Mathewson for the most all-time in the National League. And he was nearly as good as Matty in the 1926 World Series. Pitching for the Cardinals, Old Pete beat the New York Yankees in Game 2, and when he threw another complete game to win Game 6, 10-2, the 39-year-old future Hall of Famer probably figured he was done for the Series. Not so fast. With the Cardinals in front 3-2, two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh inning of Gam 7, Alexander was called on to face Tony Lazzeri. After a loud foul down the left-field line at Yankee Stadium, Alexander struck out Lazzeri. He threw hitless ball the rest of the way, saving the Cardinals first World Championship.
1921: New York Yankee right-hander Waite Hoyt matched the mighty Matty in the first subway Series, with all games played at the Polo Grounds. He pitched 27 innings against the cross Harlem River Giants, and had a 0.00 ERA. Hoyt pitched a five-hit 3-0 shutout in Game 1 in the Yankees first World Series game ever. He allowed a pair of unearned runs in in Game 5 and won again, 4-2. In the finale, Game 8, Hoyt, pictured at left, gave up an unearned run on an error by shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh in the top of the first and then blanked the Giants the rest of the way. However the Yankees couldn’t score and lost both the game, 1-0, and the Series, five games to three.
2001: Randy Johnson, Kurt Schilling, two-headed monster, combined to win all four games, three by the Big Unit, as the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Yankees in seven games.
1960: Whitey Ford, the winningest pitcher in World Series history with 10, hurled complete game shutouts in Games 2 and 6 and was well on his way to breaking Babe Ruth’s record for consecutive scoreless innings.
1956: Don Larsen. The Yankee righty pitched a perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers, nuff said. Larsen got bombed in Game 2, but so what. He’s a perfect fit.
1946: Crafty Cardinal lefty Harry Breechen won three games in this Series, including a relief effort in Game 7 to edge the Red Sox. The Cat finished 3-0 with an 0.45 ERA
1912: Smokey Joe Wood, won three games, including the clincher. The Red Sox flame thrower was 3-1 with a 4.50 ERA