(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.