Well that was fun.
David Freese‘s walk-off eleventh inning blast to dead center off little-used Mark Lowe capped off what proved to be another in an ever-mounting list of late inning Game Six heroics in World Series lore. Game Seven may be packed with pressure on both sides, but Game Six is where memories are made.
Tonight’s finale certainly will not be able to live up to yesterday’s predecessor. If it does, I’m not sure my eyeholes can take it. While we still have last night’s epic Epic still fresh in our minds let’s see where it ranks among the best Game Sixes in recent memory:
- 1993-Toronto 8, Philadelphia 6: Philadelphia closer Mitch Williams came on to pitch the bottom of the ninth with the Phillies clinging to a 6–5 lead. After beginning the inning by walking Rickey Henderson, Williams tried to counter Henderson’s legendary speed by using a slide-step in his delivery, something he had never done before in his career. The alteration reduced his velocity and led to a Paul Molitor single that moved Henderson to second. Joe Carter came up next and, with the count 2–2, he hit a three-run home run to win the second of back-to-back titles for the Blue Jays. A walk-off shot to win the crown is certainly memorable. This game could have been higher on the list, but the Blue Jays entered the game with a 3-2 series advantage and did not have their backs against the proverbial wall like the rest of the victors in this countdown.
- 1985- Kansas City 2, St. Louis 1: In arguably the most controversial call in World Series history, Don Denkinger called the Royals’ Jorge Orta safe at first base even though TV replays clearly showed that St. Louis pitcher Todd Worrell had beaten Orta to the bag. Denkinger’s call set the stage for a two-run Royals rally as Dane Iorg pinch-hit and singled in Onix Concepcion and Jim Sundberg in the ninth for a critical 2-1 victory. The Cards didn’t recover, losing Game 7 to the Royals in an anger fueled 11-0 romp. It was the first and only World Series title for Kansas City, who has yet to return to the playoffs.
2002- Anaheim 6, San Francisco 5: Leading 5–0 with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, eight outs away from the Giants’ first World Series title in San Francisco, Giants manager Dusty Baker pulled starting pitcher Russ Ortiz for setup man Felix Rodriguez after Ortiz gave up consecutive singles to third baseman Troy Glaus and DH Brad Fullmer, giving Ortiz the game ball on his way back to the dugout. This presumptive move of bravado obviously angered the baseball gods, and as Angels first baseman Scott Spiezio came to the plate and fouled off several Rodriguez offerings before finally hitting a three-run home run just over the wall in Anaheim’s right field. Darin Erstad hit a leadoff home run in the eighth, followed by consecutive singles by Tim Salmon and Garret Anderson. Barry Bonds misplayed Anderson’s shallow single, and the runners took second and third. With no outs, two runners in scoring position and now only a 5–4 lead, Baker brought in closer Robb Nen to pitch to Glaus to close out the series. Glaus doubled over Bonds’ head to drive in the tying and winning runs. The Angels went on to win Game Seven and take home their first and only World Series championship. Spiezio’s clutch homer in Game Six helped cement his case for MVP.
- 1991- Minnesota 4, Atlanta 3: In a battle of last place clubs from the year before, the Braves led the Twins 3-1 going back to Minnesota for Game 6. Atlanta’s Ron Gant sent a drive to the left-center field gap in the third inning after Minnesota jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Gant’s certain extra-base was not to be. Kirby Puckett leaped and made a sensational catch against the thirteen-foot high Plexiglas fence, sending Terry Pendleton back to first (where Puckett nearly doubled him off) instead of around the bases for Atlanta’s first run. Scott Erickson got out of it by getting a ground out from David Justice. The Braves were kept off the board until the sixth inning, ultimately tying the game and setting the stage for Kirby Puckett’s memorable 11th-inning walk-off homer off Braves lefty Charlie Leibrandt in the hankie-filled Metrodome. Minnesota would win a classic seventh game 1-0 behind Jack Morris’s unheard of 10-inning shutout, in what many believe to be the best World Series ever played.
- 1986- New York 6, Boston 5: As in last night’s game, the visiting team (this time the Red Sox) were one out away from clinching the crown while holding on to a two-run lead. The first two Mets were easily retired in the bottom of the 10th, then three singles off deer-in-the-headlights Calvin Schiraldi made it 5-4. John McNamara brought in Bob Stanley, who got Boston within one strike of victory before uncorking a wild pitch past Rich Gedman that scored Kevin Mitchell to tie the game once again. Stanley was then within a strike of the 11th inning before Mookie Wilson‘s famous ground ball that went between Bill Buckner‘s legs, scoring Knight and ending the game. The Sox would jump out to an early 3-0 in Game Seven, but the Mets would pull even in the sixth and then get to Schiraldi again for three more in the seventh, going on to win the clincher 8-5.
- 2011- St. Louis 10, Texas 9: The web has been overrun this morning with freshly minted stories of either Cardinal triumph or Ranger second-guessing. But there is one common acknowledgement from both sides of the argument- last night gave us not only one of the best Game Sixes ever, not only one of the best World Series games ever, but one of the best BASEBALL games ever. It was by no means perfect, as the 12 walks, 47 runners left on base (!) and five errors ranging from the ridiculous (Matt Holliday colliding with Rafael Furcal; Michael Young‘s two bobbles) to the sublime (David Freese inexplicably dropping a can of corn over his head; Holliday getting picked off third) can attest to. However, along with the miscues came questionable managerial decisions (Colby Lewis left in to bat for himself with the bases loaded in the fifth, deeply positioned outfielders playing in Fort Worth in the late innings), a parade of relief pitchers throwing up on themselves in the magnitude of the moment (three blown saves in one game?) and hitters named Berkman, Descalso, Beltre, Cruz, Hamilton and Freese that had no qualms about rising to the equation this game was a testament to the heart of baseball. It wasn’t the shiniest example of a superbly played game, but it had the most to offer. And even then with a game-tying triple on STL’s final strike in the ninth and an improbable-yet-somehow-predictable titanic game ender in the eleventh, David Freese rose above them all.
- 1975- Boston 7, Cincinnati 6: Like this year’s Series, Game Six in ’75 was pushed back by rain. This game would go down as one of the greatest games not only in World Series and post-season history, but baseball history as well. Fred Lynn opened the scoring in the first with a two-out, three-run homer off Reds starter Gary Nolan. The Reds finally broke through a scoreless Luis Tiant in the fifth. With two on, Ken Griffey sent a drive to deep center that Lynn almost made a spectacular leaping catch on against the wall. Two runs scored as Griffey ended up with a triple. Johnny Bench singled Griffey home to tie the game at 3–3. In the seventh, George Foster put the Reds ahead with a two-run double and, in the top of the eighth, Cesar Geronimo hit a solo homer to chase Tiant and give the Reds a 6–3 lead. In the bottom of the eighth, Bernie Carbo, a former first-round pick of the Reds, who had pinch-hit a home run in Game 3, was called on to bat for pitcher Roger Moret. Carbo tied the game with a three-run home run just to the left of dead center field. Then in the ninth the Sox loaded the bases with no outs. Denny Doyle walked and went to third on a Carl Yastrzemski single. Will McEnaney then intentionally walked Carlton Fisk to load the bases to face the left-handed hitting Lynn. Lynn flied out on a short fly ball to Foster in left, and Foster threw out an ill-advised Doyle, who tagged up and attempted to score. McEnaney then retired Rico Petrocelli, ending the inning. In the top of the eleventh, with Griffey on first, Joe Morgan hit a deep drive to right off Dick Drago that looked to be headed over the fence. Dwight Evans, however, made a spectacular catch with his back to the plate robbing Morgan and doubling Griffey off first. The game moved to the bottom of the twelfth where Fisk golfed Pat Darcy‘s sinker down the left-field line. Waving the ball fair, Fisk iconically leaped up the first baseline ultimately rejoicing as the game-winner struck the foul pole deep in the Boston night. Still, the Reds survived the momentous blow, withstanding the punch in the gut to start Game Seven and charged back from a late 3-0 deficit to win the first of consecutive titles for the Big Red Machine.