From walk-off moonshots to last-chance bloops, here are the greatest knocks in Fall Classic history
By Barry M. Bloom
Special to MLB.com |
World Series history is littered with heroes who were superb during the one week when it mattered most before disappearing into the background. Not the guys on this list, though. Among the 10 players who knocked the greatest hits in Fall Classic history are five Hall of Famers, plus another who will certainly be voted in when he's placed on the ballot in 2020. Many played for historic, enduring franchises, like the Yankees, Cardinals, Dodgers and Red Sox, that have dominated postseason history, often because of their clutch stars.
So, without further adieu, here are the hits that defined some of the most memorable World Series.
1. Oct. 13, 1960: Raise the Jolly Roger
Pirates defeat Yankees, 10-9, in Game 7 at Forbes Field
In perhaps the greatest game in World Series and baseball history, Bill Mazeroski hit the first home run ever to win a Fall Classic.
The 1960 World Series was notable for the fact that the Yankees won their three games by a total of 38-3 and that Bobby Richardson, the second baseman on the losing team, was named Fall Classic MVP for his Game 3 grand slam and 12 RBI in the Series.
Mazeroski may have finished his career with just 138 homers, but his blast to lead off the bottom of the ninth of Game 7 gave Pittsburgh its first title since 1925 and may be the most famous homer of all time. After all, there have only been 15 walk-off homers in 646 World Series games. And his shot off Ralph Terry over the high left-field wall is the lone blast to end a Game 7.
"Hell, I thought it would be just another hit to win a ballgame," said Mazeroski, now 80 and a member of the Hall of Fame. "It's bigger now, I think."
The home plate where Mazeroski was mobbed is now encased in the lobby of a University of Pittsburgh building in nearly the very place it once sat. Fans still visit the remnant of the center-field wall, which is all that remains of Forbes Field, on the anniversary.
2. Oct. 23, 1993: Mighty Joe Walks Off
Blue Jays defeat Phillies, 8-6, in Game 6 at the Skydome
It took 33 years, but Joe Carter finally matched Mazeroski's Series-ending walk-off feat. But it still wasn't Game 7.
This one handed the Blue Jays their second straight title, though, and involved two future Hall of Famers. Rickey Henderson and Paul Molitor walked and singled to lead off the bottom of the ninth and set up Carter for the most famous play north of the border. Left-handed closer Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams threw two quick pitches and evened the count at 2-2. The right-handed-hitting Carter ripped the next offering toward the left-field foul pole. "Ninety-nine times out of 100, I hook that pitch way foul," Carter later recalled.
Not that time. The three-run blast won the Series for the Blue Jays, who didn't reach the postseason for the next 22 years. Carter, meanwhile, had recorded his sixth and final home run in the postseason.
"I actually dreamed of that moment many times when I was a kid," Carter said. "I'd be sitting in my father's garage and daydreaming about that. I even wrote it down: 'My dream is to hit a home run to win the World Series.'" Consider it a dream fulfilled.
3. Oct. 15, 1988: Hobbling Home
Dodgers defeat A's, 5-4, in Game 1 at Dodger Stadium
It was a most unlikely home run from the most fitting star player. And even though it decided the first game of a Series that the Dodgers would go on to win in five games, it is still one of the most memorable in World Series history.
Kirk Gibson, the eventual NL MVP, was hobbled by knee and hamstring injuries and couldn't start the game. When he came to the plate, it was his first and only at-bat of the entire Series. But with the Dodgers down, 4-3, in the bottom of the ninth, what an at-bat it was.
"All year long, they looked to him to light the fire, and all year long, he answered the demand until he was physically unable to start tonight," venerable announcer Vin Scully, who was calling the game for NBC, said as Gibson stepped in to pinch-hit against A's reliever Dennis Eckersley with a runner on first.
A scout had told Gibson to look for a back-door slider, and when it came, he lifted the ball into the right-field pavilion. As he limped around the bases, he pumped his fists. "It was an act of emotion," he said.
4. Oct. 18, 1977: Reggie! Reggie! Reggie!
Yankees defeat Dodgers, 8-4, in Game 6 at Yankee Stadium
Looking back on early World Series feats of power, Babe Ruth accomplished them all. Until this night in the Bronx, Ruth was the only player to have hit three homers in a single World Series game, doing it for the Bombers in both 1926 and '28.
Reggie Jackson's three blasts on three consecutive swings against three Dodgers pitchers locked up his Series MVP Award and propelled the Yanks to their first world title since 1962. The homer off Charlie Hough to lead off the eighth inning was hit into the far reaches of the batter's eye in center field at the rebuilt version of Yankee Stadium. When Jackson passed Dodgers first baseman Steve Garvey as he circled the bases, Garvey tapped his glove. "If you can't recognize greatness," Garvey recalled, "you really can't appreciate the game."
The fiery Jackson, who battled with Manager Billy Martin all season - his first in New York after signing as a free agent -- set a record with five homers in the Series. His slash line was an unimaginable .450/.542/1.250 with eight RBI. By any metric, it was one of the greatest World Series performances ever.
5. Oct. 10, 1964: For the Record
Yankees defeat Cardinals, 2-1, in Game 3 at Yankee Stadium
Back to Ruth. At the time he and Mickey Mantle played, there were no division winners, no Wild Cards, no multi-tiered playoffs. The first-place team in each league won the pennant, and they met in the World Series from 1903-68, aside from 1904 when it wasn't played.
In that era, Ruth held the record with 15 World Series homers. Mantle broke it. Mick entered his 12th and final Fall Classic in 1964 tied with Ruth. But the switch-hitter smacked three homers in a Series the Yanks lost to St. Louis in seven games, bringing his total to 18, a mark that may never be surpassed.
The one that put him ahead of the Babe came off veteran Cardinals knuckleballer Barney Schultz at what should be called the original, original Yankee Stadium. Tim McCarver was behind the plate that day, and claims Schultz's pitch didn't knuckle.
"The first pitch to Mantle, a knuckler, didn't dance or flutter or defy expectation," McCarver said. "It was dangled like bait to a big fish. Plus, it lingered in that area that was down, and Mickey was a lethal left-handed low-ball hitter. The pitch was so slow that it allowed him to turn on it and pull it."
It went deep into the right-field seats in the bottom of the ninth to end Game 3.
6. Oct. 1, 1932: Ruth Calls his Shot
Yankees defeat Cubs, 7-5, in Game 3 at Wrigley Field
Babe Ruth may never have hit a World Series walk-off, but did he call his shot? That's been a point of controversy since the instant it allegedly happened.
On this day, Ruth and teammate Lou Gehrig each hit a pair of homers, all off Cubs right-hander Charlie Root. When Ruth came up with one out in the fifth, the Cubs' bench was heckling him so relentlessly that the Babe stepped out of the box and pointed his fingers at their dugout. Before the 2-2 pitch, Ruth seemed to again point two fingers, this time toward the center-field bleachers. He deposited the very next pitch right there. Gehrig greeted Ruth at the plate and hit his second homer of the game for back-to-back blasts. Ruth claimed that he indeed had called his shot, although Root thought the Babe was waving two fingers to indicate there were two strikes on him.
"It was a tough Series, both clubs riding each other, trying to get each other's goats," Ruth later said in a radio interview about a Series the Yanks ultimately swept. "There was a particular time when I came to bat, Charlie Root was pitching."
There were two called strikes that seemed off the plate, the Babe recalled, and he didn't like either.
"I stepped out of the box and guys over [in the dugout] were going crazy," he said. "I looked out at center field and I pointed. I said, 'I'm going to hit the next pitched ball right by the flag pole.' Well, I guess the good lord was with me."
7. Nov. 4, 2001: The Biggest Bloop in History
D-backs defeat Yankees, 3-2, in Game 7 at Bank One Ballpark
One at-bat against famed closer Mariano Rivera was all it took. After jumping out to a 2-games-to-none Series lead over the Yankees, the D-backs dropped the next three games in New York in heartbreaking fashion, as the Yankees walked off in Games 4 and 5, two of the most dramatic World Series contests ever. But the D-backs, in just their fourth season as a franchise, could head home confident; aces Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling were slated to start the final games.
Arizona ran away with Game 6 behind Johnson, and all focus shifted to Game 7. The home team trailed, 2-1, heading into the bottom of the ninth, but with two men on and one out, shortstop Tony Womack doubled to tie the score. Rivera hit batter Craig Counsell to load the bases, yielding the floor to Luis Gonzalez, who had struck out twice earlier in the game. The Yankees drew in their infield to prepare for a play at the plate, but Gonzalez used that to his advantage, depositing an 0-1 pitch for a bloop single just over the head of shortstop Derek Jeter. The ball barely dropped onto the outfield grass, but it was enough for Jay Bell to score the winning run from third. Gonzo jumped up and down as he ran toward first base, leaving a lasting image of Arizona's first World Series title.
8. Oct. 21, 1975: Winning Fair and Square
Red Sox defeat Reds, 7-6, in Game 6 at Fenway Park
In 1975, the Red Sox were hoping to break the curse again, this time at home against the Big Red Machine. It was the bottom of the 12th inning, and the score was knotted, 6-6. Anyone who saw it live, or has seen the video since, will remember future-Hall-of-Fame catcher Carlton Fisk hitting the shot off Pat Darcy far into the Boston night, down the left-field line toward the Green Monster.
Fisk knew he hit the ball far enough, and as he started down the first-base line waved his arms to the left (his right), almost willing the ball to stay fair. It hit the foul pole, and the Red Sox won one of the rowdiest postseason games in club history.
"I just wanted to make sure I touched every little white [base] I saw if I had to push people out of the way or straight-arm somebody," Fisk said that night.
9. Oct. 27, 2011: Freese Frame
Cardinals defeat Rangers, 10-9, in Game 6 at Busch Stadium III
This has to rank among the top World Series games of the 21st century. Twice the Cardinals were one strike away from elimination. Twice they survived.
David Freese was the guy who sent the game into extra innings. With two on, two outs and two strikes against him, he launched a fly ball to deep right field off Texas closer Neftali Feliz. Nelson Cruz backtracked, shied away from the wall and missed a catchable ball, allowing it to become a game-tying two-run triple. Freese then ended it in the bottom of the 11th with a home run off Mark Lowe, the Rangers' seventh reliever. The Cards would win Game 7 and take the Series the next night. Freese was named MVP of the World Series, the same honor he earned in the NLCS.
"I've had plenty of days in my life where I thought I wouldn't even be close to being a Big Leaguer," Freese said. "I'm here because of everybody around me. And to do this, I'm just full of joy."
10. Oct. 31, 2001: Mr. November
Yankees defeat D-backs, 4-3, in Game 4 at Yankee Stadium
The backdrop was the devastation of Sept. 11. During every Yankees home game that postseason, an eagle soared from home plate toward center field, where a tattered American flag found in the rubble of the World Trade Center flew. Games 3-5 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium were the most emotional contests in the old edifice. The Yankees had become America's team. They would lose the Series in seven games to Arizona on the aforementioned Gonzalez bloop hit, but not before Derek Jeter played hero.
In Game 4, the Yanks were trailing, 3-1, in the bottom of the ninth. Tino Martinez hit a towering two-run homer off D-backs reliever Byung-Hyun Kim into the right-center-field bleachers to tie the game. The stadium shook, rattled and rolled.
It did again with two outs in the 10th, when The Captain lined another Kim offering into the right-field porch. The clock read four minutes past midnight and the scoreboard read November, the first time the Fall Classic had crept into the year's 11th month.
"I've been scuffling," said Jeter, who came into that game 1 for 11 in the Series. "But I've had good swings. That's the beauty of the postseason. Regardless of how you've done, every time you come up you have a chance to do something special.
"We've been spoiled over the years, but this is huge. When I hit it, I had no idea whether it was going to go out. But once it goes, it's a pretty special feeling."
This article appears in the MLB Official World Series Program. To purchase a copy, visit mlbshop.com.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter and columnist for
MLB.com. He covered seven of these hits and saw two on TV. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.