Who'll be the new hero who puts tonight's game on the list?
By Andrew Simon and Matt Kelly
The 2016 World Series returns to Cleveland for Game 6 after the Cubs' 3-2 victory over the Indians in Sunday night's Game 5 at Wrigley Field.
If history is any indication, tonight's tilt at Progressive Field could be one that will be remembered for a long time. Over the years, 61 best-of-seven World Series have featured a Game 6, and many of those have provided nail-biting action and signature moments that stand among the most iconic of all time.
Past Game 6 classics have etched into our collective memory the names of Hall of Famers who lived up to their superstar billing and role players who had career-defining moments. This postseason already has given us some new stars, but tonight someone could cement legendary status on this stage. Jake Arrieta could pitch the Cubs into Game 7. Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber or Anthony Rizzo may come through late to keep Chicago's season alive. Will Mike Napoli, Carlos Santana or Francisco Lindor deliver the key hit in Cleveland's first World Series title since the Truman Administration? Could Josh Tomlin equal Bob Lemon, who got the win in -- get this -- Game 6 in '48 to seal the Tribe's last title? Anything can happen, but based on what we've seen so far in this Fall Classic, tonight's game very well may end up on this list.
Certainly, there is no definitive way to measure the "best" of the past Game 6s, and fans of different teams will certainly have conflicting opinions on the matter. But in one attempt to come to an objective answer, we first narrowed the list down to a top 10 based on both teams' average leverage index, a stat that measures the magnitude of each plate appearance.
We then ranked those 10 by awarding three points for each lead change, two points for each tie (not counting 0-0) and one point for each extra inning played.
The points have been tallied, and the results are in. Here is a countdown of the most exciting Game 6s in World Series history:
10. Oct. 26, 1985: Royals 2, Cardinals 1
Otherwise known as the "Don Denkinger Game," this contest began with a terrific pitchers' duel as starters Danny Cox of the Cardinals and Charlie Leibrandt of the Royals traded zeros for the first seven innings. St. Louis finally broke through with an RBI single by Brian Harper off Leibrandt to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the eighth. Rookie Todd Worrell came on to try to close out the championship for the Cardinals in the ninth, but Denkinger called Kansas City's Jorge Orta safe at first on a ground ball when video replay clearly showed he was out. Pinch-hitter Dane Iorg would later deliver a bases-loaded single to score two runs and deliver a controversial walk-off win to the Royals, who would seal their comeback from three-games-to-one down with an 11-0 win the next evening.
9. Oct. 9, 1956: Dodgers 1, Yankees 0
One of only three contests in World Series history to go scoreless through the first nine innings, this game between two fierce intracity rivals featured brilliant complete-game performances by Brooklyn's Clem Labine and New York's Bob Turley. The Dodgers' winning run in the bottom of the 10th was classic small ball: a walk by Jim Gilliam, a sacrifice bunt by Pee Wee Reese and an intentional walk drawn by Duke Snider before Jackie Robinson knocked the walk-off single to left. The Yankees' offense would get fierce revenge the following day, scoring a dominant 9-0 win in Game 7 at Ebbets Field.
8. Oct. 16, 1971: Orioles 3, Pirates 2
Reliever Bob Moose got the start for Pittsburgh -- making him the sixth starter for the Pirates in the first six games of the Series -- and shut Baltimore out for the first five innings. But the defending champion Orioles showed their mettle, scoring a run in the sixth and seventh to tie the game at two. In the bottom of the 10th, Frank Robinson tagged up and dashed home to score the game-winning run on a sac fly by Brooks Robinson and send the Series to Game 7. The Pirates would prevail the next day, however, claiming the franchise's first title in 11 years.
7. Oct. 24, 1992: Blue Jays 4, Braves 3
Though not as famous as Toronto's Game 6 win on a Joe Carter walk-off homer a year later, this Game 6 had a similar game-changing hit in the ninth and went 11 innings.
The Blue Jays led 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth when the Braves' Otis Nixon hit a game-tying RBI single to send it to extra innings. Dave Winfield, playing at age 40, knocked a two-out double in the top of the 11th to bring home two runs for the Blue Jays. Atlanta came oh-so-close to tying it back up in in the bottom half, when pinch-runner Smoltz was left standing on third base as the tying run after Nixon was unable to execute a drag bunt attempt. When Nixon was thrown out at first, the Blue Jays clinched the title, bringing the World Series trophy north of the border for the first time in history.
6. Oct. 8, 1945: Cubs 8, Tigers 7
Similar to this year, the 1945 Cubs were on the brink of elimination -- with the big exception being they were hosting Detroit in a Game 6 at Wrigley Field. Chicago jumped out to a 7-3 lead, only to see it wiped away by a four-run rally by Detroit in the eighth. The game remained tied until the bottom of the 12th, when Hack doubled home pinch-runner Bill Schuster to deliver a walk-off 8-7 win for the North Siders. The Cubs went on to lose Game 7, making Game 6 in 1945 the last World Series contest won by Chicago at home before Game 5 of this year's Series on Sunday night.
5. Oct. 21, 1975: Red Sox 7, Reds 6
Facing elimination, Boston rallied from a 6-3 deficit when Bernie Carbo launched a two-out, two-strike, three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth. The game then stretched to the 12th, when the Sox got out of a two-on, one-out jam before Carlton Fisk led off the bottom of the frame with a blast that just managed to stay fair as it cleared the Green Monster. Unfortunately for Boston, the Reds still took Game 7 and the Series.
4. Oct. 26, 1991: Twins 4, Braves 3
The day before Minnesota's Jack Morris won his famous duel with John Smoltz to clinch the Series, the Twins were just trying to survive. The game was knotted at 3 heading into the bottom of the 11th, when Atlanta put Game 1 starter Charlie Leibrandt on the mound in relief. Minnesota's Kirby Puckett greeted the left-hander with a drive over the left-center-field wall at the Metrodome, forcing a Game 7.
3. Oct. 7, 1935: Tigers 4, Cubs 3
In a 3-3 game in the top of the ninth, Chicago got the potential winning run on third when leadoff man Stan Hack tripled. But Detroit starter Tommy Bridges wiggled out of the jam to keep things tied. Cubs starter Larry French had no such luck in the bottom of the ninth, surrendering a two-out, walk-off, Series-clinching single to Goose Goslin.
2. Oct. 25, 1986: Mets 6, Red Sox 5
The Red Sox, trying to close out their first championship since 1918, lost a 3-2 lead when Gary Carter hit a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth. Boston scored twice in the 10th, including Dave Henderson's leadoff homer, but with two outs and nobody on base in the bottom of the frame, things unraveled. After three straight singles, a wild pitch and Mookie Wilson's grounder through the legs of first baseman Bill Buckner, the Mets walked off to set up their Game 7 triumph.
1. Oct. 27, 2011: Cardinals 10, Rangers 9
Texas took a 7-5 lead into the bottom of the ninth and had St. Louis down to its last strike before David Freese's game-tying triple over the head of right fielder Nelson Cruz. A Josh Hamilton two-run homer in the 10th put the Rangers back in front, but the Cardinals again survived being down to their last strike, as Lance Berkman knotted things up with an RBI single.
Freese then played hero once more with his walk-off homer in the 11th, and St. Louis took Game 7 the next night.
Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.