Nationals Arm Race

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Where would 2011 WS Game 6 rank all time?


David Freese's name will go down in history for his historic Game 6 performance. Photo AP/Jeff Roberson via

(This post was inspired by the very last question in David Shoenfeld‘s 12/20/11 chat, asking where this game ranks among the greatest ever games played).

For those of you with the MLB network (channel 213 on DirecTV), the series they featured this year profiling the “Greatest 20 games of the last half century” was my favorite bit of sports programming since the 30-for-30 series on ESPN debuted.  Bob Costas and Tom Verducci hosted and did 1-2 hour reviews of these 20 games and brought in guest hosts for each game in the form of actual players and managers who participated in the games themselves.  These guest hosts provided fantastic commentary on the state of the dugouts at each critical juncture as well as first hand knowledge of their own thought processes throughout.  If you haven’t seen the series, I highly suggest setting your DVR and watching them.

Now the interesting question: where would Game 6 of our most recent World Series have ranked, if it were a candidate to be included?

For me, game 6 was absolutely the most entertaining game I’ve ever witnessed, in person or on TV.  It wasn’t the best played game (with errors and questionable manager decisions and no less than three blown saves) but it was amazingly entertaining, suspenseful, and with a story-book ending that was almost out of a movie script.  But does it rank with the best game list that MLB network came up with?

First, here’s their list, counted down from 20 to 1 (with captions borrowed from the MLB link above and augmented by me):

  • No. 20: May 17, 1979: Phillies @ Cubs; Phils, Cubs combine for 45 runs.  This is the only regular season game on the list and for good reason; the first inning alone had 13 runs scored.
  • No. 19: Oct. 4, 2003: Giants @ Marlins; Ivan Rodriguez tags out Eric Snow as he tries to bulldoze Pudge at the plate to end the game and send the Marlins to the World Series.
  • No. 18: Oct. 12, 1980: Phillies @ Astros; Phils win battle in 10th to win the NLCS with an epic comeback over Nolan Ryan.
  • No. 17: Oct. 17, 2004: Yankees @ Red Sox; Dave Roberts‘ stolen base and David Ortiz‘s walk-off homer cap the Boston win, an epic part of the Boston comeback from 3-0 down in the 2004 ALCS.
  • No. 16: Oct. 6, 2009: Tigers @ Twins; Twins win a game 163 sudden death playoff game for the AL Central title.
  • No. 15: Oct. 8, 1995: Yankees @ Mariners; Edgar Martinez hits “The Double” to get a walk-off win in the ALDS, capping a 10th inning comeback as a young Ken Griffey Jr absolutely flies around the bases to score from first.
  • No. 14: Oct. 23, 1993: Phillies @ Blue Jays; Joe Carter‘s walk-off WS homer foils a great Philly comeback.
  • No. 13: Oct. 26, 1997: Indians @ Marlins; Edgar Renteria wins it for Fish in a World Series game 7 classic.
  • No. 12: Oct. 31, 2001: D-backs @ Yankees; Tino Martinez ties it with a 2-out, 2-run homer in the bottom of the 9th and Derek Jeter hits first November homer and earns himself the nickname for which he’s continued to be known.
  • No. 11: Oct. 2, 1978: Yankees @ Red Sox; Bucky Dent‘s improbable 3-run homer caps a massive October collapse for Boston and continues the legendary rivalry between the teams.
  • No. 10: Oct. 15, 1988: Athletics @ Dodgers; Injured slugger Kirk Gibson hits a pinch hit walk-off home run off of the dominant Dennis Eckersley for one of the most magical home runs in baseball history.
  • No. 9: Nov. 4, 2001: Yankees @ D-backs; Luis Gonzalez floats a ball over the drawn-in infield against Mariano Rivera to win a classic Game 7.
  • No. 8: Oct. 12, 1986: Red Sox @ Angels; Dave Henderson hits an improbable 3-run homer in the 9th to help Boston come back from 1-out away from elimination to eventually beat the Angels in the 86 ALCS.
  • No. 7: Oct. 14, 2003: Marlins @ Cubs; The infamous Steve Bartman game, which overshadowed an utter collapse by Mark Prior, Alex Gonzalez, the Cubs bullpen AND Kerry Wood the following day to continue the Cubs curse that lasts til today.
  • No. 6: Oct. 16, 2003: Red Sox @ Yankees; Aaron Boone suddenly homers off Tim Wakefield in extra innings to end a classic ALCS game 7 between the bitter rivals.
  • No. 5: Oct. 15, 1986: Mets @ Astros; Mets win in 16 as Jesse Orosco put in the relief performance of a lifetime.
  • No. 4: Oct. 14, 1992: Pirates @ Braves; the injured Sid Bream barely beats Barry Bonds‘ throw to score the series winner and effectively send the Pittsburgh franchise into a 20 year tailspin.
  • No. 3: Oct. 25, 1986: Red Sox @ Mets; Probably the most “infamous” game of all time, especially to Boston fans, as Bill Buckner‘s error follows a series of mishaps by the Red Sox pitching staff to turn a 10th inning 2 run lead into a game 6 loss.
  • No. 2: Oct. 27, 1991: Braves @ Twins; Jack Morris‘  seminal performance; a 1-0 10 inning shutout over the Braves in perhaps the best Game 7 of any World Series ever.
  • No. 1: Oct. 21, 1975: Reds @ Red Sox; the game forever known for Carlton Fisk waving his walk-off homer fair, but which should be known for the unbelievably clutch Bernie Carbo 8th inning homer to tie the game and enable the extra inning fireworks.

(A quick glance at the top 20 list above has one glaring game that I’d honestly replace immediately; the Bartman game was more iconic for the individual play and not for the game itself, which ended up being a blowout when all was said and done.  Nearly every other game on this list featured late game comebacks and walk-off hits).

The earliest game on this list is 1975 and if the moniker “last 50 years” is true then the classic Bill Mazeroski homer game from game 7 of the 1960 World Series must not have been eligible.  Because certainly it should have been in the top 5 otherwise.  A quick note about this game; click on the link for the box score to imagine just how amazing this game must have been.  Recap:

  • Pittsburgh jumps to a 4-0 lead early.
  • Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle help spark a 4-run rally in the 6th to take a 5-4 lead.
  • The  Yankees extend their lead to 7-5 in the top of the 8th.
  • The Pirates rally for FIVE runs in the bottom of the 8th for a 9-7 lead.
  • The Yankees’ two hall of famers Berra and Mantle manage to drive in the tying runs in the top of the 9th to make it 9-9.
  • Mazeroski blasts a walk-off homer on a 1-0 count to lead off the bottom of the 9th and win the world series.

Where to put 2011’s game 6?  I think I’d place it right around the #4 spot.  David Freese‘s heroics will soon settle into place as one of the legendary performances in post season history.  I can’t dislodge the current top 3 games on MLB’s list.  Its a common folly for the immediate labeling of recent events as “the best ever” without standing the test of time, but in this case I feel comfortable in the statement that this game is one for the ages, absolutely.

12 Responses to 'Where would 2011 WS Game 6 rank all time?'

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  1. The first thing I thought of when reading the 1st paragraph was the home run by Bucky F. Dent in ’78, a lot because of where I was that place & time.

    Most people err when talking about the Buckner game. The Mets did their heroics against Calvin Schiraldi, who had been a lockdown closer all year before then. The Buckner error was 80-90% on the manager, as Buckner had 3 screws holding his ankle together and any manager with a brain would have had defensive replacement in there.

    Eligibility concerns notwithstanding, the Mazeroski game & Freese game are both in the top 3-4.

    Let the conversation begin!!!

    Mark L

    27 Dec 11 at 9:47 am

  2. Completely agree on the Buckner game but didn’t emphasize it much in this post. Same goes for the Bartman game; as with Buckner Bartman really was just one part of a collapse, not the be-all, end-all reason.

    When game 6 ended I said aloud, “that was the best game i’ve ever seen.” I still can’t believe the 9th inning and the walk-off homer. It falls just behind those three epic games in my book b/c of the lack of “cleanliness” in the game. The Morris 1-0 game was as cleanly played as you can imagine.

    Todd Boss

    27 Dec 11 at 9:59 am

  3. Not to take away from the performances of the Morris game, but I always have trouble watching and respecting baseball played on plastic & indoors.

    It’ll be interesting to see how we all feel about the Freese game in a few years. There was a real “what the hell just happened” quality to that game.

    Mark L

    27 Dec 11 at 10:46 am

  4. Speaking of Morris, what are your thoughts on his hall of fame candidacy? I have a HoF post written but not yet published where I talk about him a bit…

    Todd Boss

    27 Dec 11 at 11:32 am

  5. Good question about Morris. His raw numbers aren’t great but he delivered a few times on the big stage.

    He’ll probably have to wait a few more years; a good barometer will be Curt Schiling, who doesn’t have the regular season stats but is in the great pantheon of ‘money pitchers’.

    To me, hitters are easier to quantify; I’ve always been teased by what I call the 10 per centers, those players who are about 10% shy of making it. Don Mattingly & Dale Murphy are the two who first come to mind.

    I’ll look forward to the Jack Morris piece.

    Mark L

    27 Dec 11 at 5:37 pm

  6. There’s as much anti-Morris sentiment now as there was pro-Blyleven chatter for the past 5 years on the blogosphere. Its amazing really. Honestly, it isn’t worth trying to make a pro-Morris argument because you can’t use any stat to help your cause. He was a big-game pitcher … how do you quantify that? Any baseball argument these days has to have copious amounts of stats behind it or else you get killed as being a “Joe Morgan” level of analyst.

    Schilling, to me, is a no-brainer too. He’ll have a much easier time though; in addition to his big game proclivity, he also has a number of fantastic seasons, 3000 K’s and was a late bloomer else he would have been closer to 300 wins.

    Todd Boss

    28 Dec 11 at 9:24 am

  7. Yeah, if the statheads were the only ones calling the shots Sandy Koufax would have never made it.
    Another great ‘money pitcher’.

    I’m still hoping for Luis Tiant in his lifetime getting in. Man, I loved watching him pitch!

    Peter Gammons made a very eloquent arguement 4-5 years ago that Tiant was the best pitcher not in the Hall.

    Mark L

    28 Dec 11 at 10:39 am

  8. Koufax; agree. Another one that doesn’t really gibe with the stat-heavy argument is Nolan Ryan. Yeah he was a great K guy but he was barely a .500 pitcher and despite 5700 strikeouts only retired as a career 112 ops+ guy. No cy youngs, only about the same number of All star appearances as Morris. Yet he’s a 98.79% first ballot hall of famer, only missing on 6 of 497 ballots. I mean, not to complain about Ryan, but there seems to be a double standard here. Say what you want about Morris’ career ERA and his career ERA+, but to tell me that one guy is nearly a unanimous HoFer while the other is being vehimently argued against doesn’t make sense.

    Todd Boss

    28 Dec 11 at 10:47 am

  9. I’ve seen all top 20 in the mlb series. Agree that it is excellent.

    I would put 2011 WS game 6 (the Freese game) somewhere in the top 5, maybe number 1.

    mike L

    30 Dec 11 at 10:54 am

  10. […] ended one of the best games in MLB history (Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS between Boston and the Yankees, ranked #6 by MLB’s panel a few years back when ranking the best 20 games of the last half century).  Ironically one of his […]

  11. […] ended one of the best games in MLB history (Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS between Boston and the Yankees, ranked #6 by MLB’s panel a few years back when ranking the best 20 games of the last half century).  Ironically one of his […]

  12. […] 2011 Game 6: I thought it was a top 5 game when I saw it live, and i’d put it 4th or so on the above list. […]

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