World Series Game 7: Top 20 in Major League Baseball history

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Koufax dominated the 1965 World Series as no other pitcher before or since, capturing MVP honors in leading the Dodgers to the title

 

On Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park in Houston, the host Astros will battle the Washington Nationals for the 2019 championship of Major League Baseball.

The first modern World Series was held all the way back in 1903 and has been conducted every year since 1905, with the notable exception of the 1994 season when the Fall Classic was cancelled due to a player’s strike.

Since 1922, the World Series has always been contested in a best-of-seven games format. That has not always been the case. The very first series in 1903 and again each year from 1919-21, there was a best-of nine games format utilized. None of those went the distance.

This will mark the 44th time (over 38%) that the Fall Classic has gone the ultimate full distance. On three occasions, there was a tie game in the series. Those took place in 1907, 1912, and in 1922. That 1912 series was notable in that it went a full seven games and also included one ending in a tie, so eight games were actually played.

The longest stretch that MLB has gone without enjoying a Game 7 in the World Series was in the decade between the 2002 and 2011 seasons.

The most consecutive Game 7’s occurred between 1955-58 when the drama went the distance in four straight years. From 1952-75 there was a halcyon period in which 15 (62.5%) decisive Game 7’s took place.

Here are my selections as the Top 20 Game 7’s in World Series history, with a brief synopsis. You’ll note that I haven’t chosen to rank them, but rather they are presented in reverse chronological order. Every one was a fantastic finish to the season. Feel free to leave a comment or response on social media with your own favorite.

2016: Cubs – 8, Indians – 7 (10 innings)

The Cubs were under the ‘Curse of the Billy Goat‘ for more than 70 years at this point, and had not won a World Series since 1908. They bolted to a 5-1 lead in the 5th inning, but the Indians roared back. The host Tribe got a two-out RBI double from Brandon Guyer and two-run homer by Rajai Davis off Aroldis Chapman to tie it up in the bottom of the 8th. The game rolled into extra innings, and Chicago scored twice in the top of the 10th for an 8-6 lead. The Indians were still not finished, with Davis delivering an RBI single to make it a one-run game. But Mike Montgomery got Michael Martinez to ground out, third baseman Kris Bryant firing to first baseman Anthony Rizzo to finally end the curse and bring the Cubbies and their long-suffering fans a world championship.

2014: Giants – 3, Royals – 2

Five of the previous six games in this Fall Classic had been blowouts, with only the Royals 3-2 win in Game 3 as a tight affair. This one would be won for the Giants by a fantastic five-inning relief performance from ace lefty Madison Bumgarner, who had previously won Games 1 and 5 as the starting pitcher. A one-out RBI single in the top of the 4th inning by Mike Morse off Kelvin Herrera scored Pablo Sandoval, breaking a 2-2 with what would prove the series-winning run. Bumgarner shut the Royals out on two hits over those final five frames, getting Salvador Perez to pop out with the potential tying run at third base for the final out.

2001: Diamondbacks – 3, Yankees – 2

The Yankees were the three-time defending World Series champions, and they took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the 9th inning at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix. There, manager Joe Torre turned the game over to living legend closer Mariano Rivera, one of the greatest postseason pitchers in baseball history. But the host Dbacks refused to lay down and go quietly. Tony Womack ripped a one-out RBI double to tie the game. Then, in one of the most dramatic endings of all-time, Luis Gonzalez looped a series-winning single to center, scoring Jay Bell with the walkoff run as the home crowd went crazy in celebration of the only World Series title in Arizona history.

1997: Marlins – 3, Indians – 2 (11 innings)

In just their fifth season of existence, the Florida Marlins became the first since MLB instituted Wildcard playoff teams for the 1994 season to reach the World Series and also the first to win it all. The Indians were kept from their first World Series crown since 1948, a streak that has now reached 72 years. In this one, the host Tribe led 2-1 into the bottom of the 9th inning. Craig Counsell‘s RBI sac fly off Jose Mesa brought Moises Alou home with the game-tying run, sending the contest to extra-innings. In the bottom of the 11th, Edgar Renteria walked it off with a two-out, bases loaded single that barely ticked off pitcher Charles Nagy‘s glove, scoring Counsell with the series-winning run.

1991: Twins – 1, Braves – 0 (10 innings)

The only Game 7 in World Series to go scoreless into extra innings took place at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minnesota. For the visiting Braves, John Smoltz went 7.1 shutout innings, allowing just six hits and one walk in a brilliant performance. Unfortunately he was out-dueled by a fellow future Hall of Famer, as Jack Morris went the distance for the host Twins. Morris shut the Braves out, scattering seven hits over 10 innings for the win. Dan Gladden led off the bottom of the 10th with a double off Atlanta reliever Alejandro Pena and moved to third base on a ground out. After back-to-back intentional walks to Chuck Knoblauch and Kirby Puckett loaded the bases, Gene Larkin walked it off with a series-winning base hit.

1987: Twins – 4, Cardinals – 2

Lefty Frank Viola gave the host Twins a strong eight innings on the mound at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome and the home team would rally from an early deficit for the victory. Kirby Puckett‘s RBI double tied the game up at 2-2 in the bottom of the 5th inning. Three of the first four batters in the bottom of the 6th each worked walks to load the bases, and Greg Gagne then produced an RBI single to put the Twins up 3-2 with what would prove the series-winning run. With two outs in the home 8th, Dan Gladden doubled off Cardinals closer Todd Worrell to drive in an insurance run. Twins closer Jeff Reardon coaxed Willie McGee to ground out, with third baseman Gary Gaetti firing across to first baseman Kent Hrbek to wrap the first World Series title since the franchise moved to Minnesota for the 1961 season. As the Washington Senators, they had previously won it all just once, back in 1924 in another seven-gamer that you will find listed below.

1982: Cardinals – 6, Brewers – 3

At Busch Stadium in Saint Louis, the visiting Milwaukee Brewers were looking for the first world championship in franchise history. Formed originally as the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969, the franchise had moved to Milwaukee for the 1970 season. This version of the team was nicknamed “Harvey’s Wallbangers” after manager Harvey Kuenn, and they took a 3-1 lead in the top of the 5th inning when future Hall of Famer Paul Molitor delivered an RBI single and later scored another run on a Cecil Cooper base hit. But Keith Hernandez tied it with a two-run single in the bottom of that inning, and George Hendrick followed with an RBI single to give Saint Louis a 4-3 lead. The host Cards tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the 8th, and future Hall of Fame pitcher Bruce Sutter closed it out with a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the 9th inning. The Brewers remain one of seven current MLB teams to never win the World Series, a list that the Nationals will try to knock down to six in tonight’s game.

1979: Pirates – 4, Orioles – 1

For the second time in the decade, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles were battling in a World Series Game 7. These “We Are Family” Pirates had rallied from a 3-1 series deficit, forcing this decisive game at Memorial Park in Baltimore. Trailing 1-0 in the top of the 6th inning, future Hall of Famer Willie Stargell crushed a two-run homer off Scott McGregor to put the Pirates on top. The Bucs would add a pair of insurance runs in the top of the 9th inning, and closer Kent Tekulve would shut the Orioles down in order in the bottom of the frame. The 39-year-old Stargell delivered four hits for the Pirates and was honored as the World Series MVP.

1975: Reds – 4, Red Sox – 3

The day after Carlton Fisk‘s historic 12th inning walkoff home run had tied the World Series at three games apiece, the visiting ‘Big Red Machine’ would battle back to win at Fenway Park in one of the most exciting Game 7’s in baseball history. An RBI single from future Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski gave host Boston an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 3rd inning. Reds starter Don Gullett then walked in a pair of runs later in the frame, and the Bosox had a 3-0 lead. It was beginning to appear as if the 57-year-old ‘Curse of the Bambino‘ was about to be broken. In the top of the 6th with Johnny Bench aboard, Tony Perez drilled a clutch two-out, two-run homer off Bill Lee to cut the Reds deficit to 3-2. Then with two outs and two on in the top of the 7th, Pete Rose RBI single scored Ken Griffey with the tying run. The game went to the top of the 9th inning still tied at 3-3 when, with two outs, Joe Morgan‘s looping RBI single scored Griffey to push the Reds in front by 4-3. Southpaw Will McEnaney set Boston down in order in the bottom of the 9th, getting Yaz on a fly ball to end it.

1972: Athletics – 3, Reds – 2

Two great dynasties of the 1970’s were meeting here. The A’s would win three straight World Series titles from 1971-73, and the ‘Big Red Machine’ would capture back-to-back championships in 1975-76.  The first five games in this Fall Classic were each decided by a single run. In Game 7 at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, the two teams were tied at 1-1 into the 6th inning. There, Gene Tenace and Sal Bando ripped back-to-back two-out RBI doubles to push the “Swingin’ A’s” out to a 3-1 lead. Tony Perez sac fly off Rollie Fingers scored Pete Rose with a run to make it a 3-2 game in the bottom of the 8th inning. Then, with two outs in the bottom of the 9th, Fingers hit Darrel Chaney with a pitch, giving the host Reds once final shot. But Fingers retired Rose on a fly to left, and the A’s had the second of their three straight World Series crowns.

1971: Pirates – 2, Orioles – 1

This was a meeting between two of the top teams from the entire decade of the 1970’s. The Pirates won six NL East Division crowns in the decade, two NL pennants, and a pair of World Series titles. The Orioles won five AL East Division crowns, three AL pennants, and a World Series title during the decade. The defending world champs, Baltimore was hosting Game 7 at Memorial Stadium. Mike Cuellar would toss a gem for the O’s, holding the potent Bucs attack to just two runs on four hits over eight innings. Unfortunately for him, Pittsburgh starter Steve Blass was even better. He went the distance, also allowing just four hits. With two outs in the top of the 4th, Roberto Clemente gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead with a home run blasted to left-center field. The two teams traded 8th inning runs and went to the 9th with the Bucs clinging to a one-run lead. Blass retired slugger Boog Powell and future Hall of Famer Frank Robinson to open the bottom of the 9th, then ended it with a ground out.

1965: Dodgers – 2, Twins – 0

This one was all Sandy Koufax. The future Hall of Fame southpaw had shut the Twins out over the first six frames of Game 2, but was lifted for a pinch-hitter and watched as Minnesota got to the Dodgers bullpen for five runs in a 5-1 win that put the Twins up 2-0 in the series. Koufax returned for the start in Game 5, shutting Minnesota out on just four hits in a complete game victory to put the Dodgers up 3-2 in the series. The Twins then tied it up, setting up this Game 7 at Dodger Stadium. Manager Walter Alston opted to bring Koufax back on just three days rest, and his ace would not let the team down. Once again, Koufax tossed a shutout, allowing just three hits as the Dodgers won their fourth World Series title in 11 years, their third since moving from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958. In all, Koufax allowed a single earned run and 13 hits over 24 innings across his three starts with a 29/5 K:BB ratio, and was awarded his second World Series MVP Award in three years.

1962: Yankees – 1, Giants – 0

One of only two 1-0 Game 7’s in World Series history took place at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. This would mark the 20th World Series crown for the dynastic Bronx Bombers in 40 years, but would also be their last for the next decade-and-a-half. Meanwhile, the Giants would have to wait another 38 years to celebrate a championship. Ralph Terry tossed a complete game shutout for the Yanks, allowing just four hits. The game’s lone run scored in the top of the 5th when the Yankees loaded the bases against Giants starter Jack Sanford with a pair of singles and a walk. Tony Kubek then hit into a double play, but Bill Skowron raced home with a run to give New York a 1-0 lead. With two out and Matt Alou standing at first base in the bottom of the 9th, Willie Mays ripped a double to right field. Right fielder Roger Maris made a tremendous play on the ball, getting it back in to second baseman Bobby Richardson to hold Alou at third base. This brought future Hall of Famer Willie McCovey to the plate with the potential tying run at third and winning run at second. McCovey ripped a line drive that he would later claim was the hardest hit ball of his career. But the liner sank as it reached Richardson, who fielded it cleanly for the final out.

1960: Pirates – 10, Yankees – 9

This was one of the more unusual World Series in history in that the Yankees won their three games by routs, outscoring the Pirates 16-3, 10-0, and 12-0. Meanwhile, the Bucs three wins came in more competitive 6-4, 3-2, and 5-2 ball games. Game 7 was played at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, and the host Pirates scored twice each in the 1st and 2nd for an early 4-0 lead. The Bronx Bombers battled back to take a 7-4 lead in the top of the 8th. The big hit came in the top of the 6th when 35-year-old future Hall of Famer Yogi Berra crushed a three-run homer. The Pirates chipped away for two in the home 8th to make it a 7-6 game. Then Hal Smith drilled a three-run home run, scoring Roberto Clemente and Dick Groat to push the Pirates back on top by 9-7 as the game went to the 9th inning. But the Yankees failed to surrender, tying it up on an RBI single by Mickey Mantle and RBI ground out by Berra. With the game knotted at 9-9 in the bottom of the 9th, second baseman Bill Mazeroski led off the inning against Ralph Terry. On a 1-0 pitch, Maz drove a ball just over the wall in left field, giving the Pirates a dramatic walkoff World Series title with what has been called “the greatest home run in baseball history.”

1946: Cardinals – 4, Red Sox – 3

Boston. Saint Louis. Boston. Saint Louis. Boston. Saint Louis. That was how the 1946 Fall Classic went over the first six games, with the Red Sox and Cardinals trading wins to set up a winner-take-all Game 7 at Sportsman’s Park in Saint Louis. This was the first World Series played after World War II, and would turn out to be the only shot at a championship for perhaps the greatest hitter the game has ever seen, Ted Williams. It would not be a great series for ‘Teddy Ballgame’, who had served in the U.S. Marine Corps as an aviator in WWII and who would do so again in Korea. Williams batted just .200 with five hits over 25 at-bats, five walks, and just one RBI. He would to 0-4 in the Game 7 finale. Dom DiMaggio, brother of Yankees star and Williams’ rival Joe DiMaggio, would try to play the Bosox hero, driving in all three Boston runs. His clutch two-out, two-run double in the top of the 8th inning tied the game at 3-3. In the home 8th, Enos Slaughter led off with a base hit. Then with two outs, Harry Walker lined a double to center. Slaughter was running on the play, and then ignored a stop sign at third put on by coach Mike Gonzalez. Boston shortstop Johnny Pesky took the relay throw, turned, appeared stunned that ‘Country’ Slaughter was running, and fired weakly to the plate. Slaughter was safe at home on his now famous ‘Mad Dash‘, and the Cardinals had what would prove to be the World Series-winning run.

1940: Reds – 2, Tigers – 1

Detroit and Cincinnati traded wins over the first six games, with neither team able to put together two in a row to take control. This set up a dramatic Game 7 at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Ohio. The visiting Tigers jumped out first on a two-out RBI single from 37-year-old future Hall of Fame second baseman Charlie Gehringer. Tigers starting pitcher Bobo Newsom and Reds starter Paul Derringer would each go the distance in this one, and that 1-0 lead for Detroit held into the bottom of the 7th inning. Back-to-back doubles to lead off the frame by Frank McCormick and Jimmy Ripple tied it up, and later a one-out sac fly by Billy Myers brought home Ripple with what would prove the series-winning run. Derringer set Detroit down in order in the 9th, wrapping up the first World Series crown for Cincinnati since the 1919 club had won a controversial title against the scandalous Chicago “Black Sox” team. It would be the last Cincy title until the ‘Big Red Machine‘ came along in the 1970’s.

1926: Cardinals – 3, Yankees – 2

The Yankees, whose 27 World Series crowns are more than any franchise in Major League Baseball, had won just one title in the first 26 years of their history to this point. The Cardinals have won 11 championships, more than any team in National League history. Their franchise had been around since 1882, but had not yet won a championship since joining the NL for the 1892 season. This was the first of five meetings in the Fall Classic between the two teams, something that has not happened now since 1964. The great Babe Ruth homered three times in Game 4 to pull the Yankees even at two games apiece. This was the legendary game in which Ruth had promised a sick boy, Johnny Sylvester, that he would hit a homer for him. But it would also ultimately be a base-running gaffe for which the Bambino would be remembered for in this series . With the Cardinals leading by a run and two outs in the bottom of the 9th at Yankee Stadium, Ruth drew a walk off fellow future Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander. On the first pitch to the next batter, Bob Meusel, Ruth took off for second base. The throw from catcher Bob O’Farrell to second baseman Rogers Hornsby easily beat the sliding Ruth for the final out. It remains the only World Series to ever end on a caught stealing.

1925: Pirates – 9, Senators – 7

Relevance to tonight’s Game 7 of course in that it was the last World Series to be played in our nation’s capital until this past week. The Senators were the defending world champions. The Pirates had won the 1909 World Series, and would not win another after this one for another 35 years. Washington bolted out of the gate, scoring four times and knocking Pittsburgh starter Vic Aldridge out in the very 1st inning at Forbes Field. But the Pirates fought back, narrowing their deficit to just 7-6 as the game entered the bottom of the 8th inning. Future Hall of Famer Walter Johnson retired the first two Pittsburgh batters. But then suddenly the Pirates bats erupted. Three doubles, a walk, and an error combined to give the home team three runs, two unearned, and a 9-7 lead. The Senators went down in order in the 9th, and Pittsburgh celebrated its second World Series title.

1924: Senators – 4, Giants – 3 (12 innings)

The first of three straight Fall Classics to make this list, it has also, to this point, been the only World Series ever won by a team from Washington, D.C. The Senators would get four shutout innings of relief from the ‘Big Train’, future Hall of Famer Walter Johnson, and rally from a 3-1 deficit at Griffith Stadium in D.C. to force extra innings, finally take it in the 12th inning. A solo home run off the bat of Bucky Harris gave Washington an early 1-0 lead. But the Giants scored three times in the top of the 6th aided by a pair of Senators infield errors to take that 3-1 lead. Harris would again play the hero in the bottom of the 8th, delivering a two-out, two-run single to tie it up. Then with one out in the bottom of the 12th, Sens catcher Muddy Ruel stayed alive when Giants catcher Hank Gowdy dropped an easy foul pop. Given the new life, Ruel doubled. One batter later, Earl McNeely ripped a hard grounder through to left field for the walkoff hit, Ruel rolling home with the World Series-winning run.

1912: Red Sox – 3, Giants – 2 (10 innings)

It is difficult to compare a World Series from so long ago to those of today’s game. And yet it remains an indisputable fact that this ninth contest pitting the winners of the upstart American League against the champions of the more established National League is one of the greatest World Series in the game’s long history. Four of the eight games were decided by a single run, two others were tight affairs, and Game 2 was called off and ruled as an official tie result due to darkness after the two clubs battled to a 6-6 stalemate over 11 innings. So, this Game 7 was actually the eighth game of the series. The two teams were knotted at three wins apiece as they took the field at Fenway Park, now the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball, but then finishing up its very first season of existence. The Giants future Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson would go the distance on the mound and took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the 7th. There, one of the earliest and most unlikely heroes in World Series history struck. Olaf Henriksen, a reserve outfielder who had just four extra-base hits over 75 regular season plate appearances that year, was sent up to face the great ‘Christian Gentleman’ as a pinch-hitter with two outs and two men on base. Henrickson came through, ripping a line drive RBI double, scoring Jake Stahl with the tying run. The game went to extra innings, and in the top of the 10th the Giants recaptured the lead on Fred Merkle‘s RBI single. Then in the bottom of the 10th, Giants center fielder Fred Snodgrass made an error on a fly ball by Clyde Engle that would become known in baseball history as “the $30,000 muff“, putting the tying run at second base. Three batters later, Tris Speaker scored him with a game-tying single. Two batters after that, Larry Gardner lofted a sac fly to right field, with Steve Yerkes tagging and coming home with the first walkoff run in World Series history.

Will we get an unforgettable, historic moment in tonight’s Astros-Nationals contest to equal Slaughter’s Mad Dash, or the walkoffs provided by Mazeroski, Renteria, or Gonzo?

Maybe there will be a shutdown pitching performance from the two starting pitchers, Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke, each of whom is already likely headed to the Hall of Fame. Something to equal the performances of Koufax or Bumgarner.

This 2019 World Series will mark the third time in the last four years that the Fall Classic has gone the full seven games. Whichever team wins, the real winners as the drama unfolds are sure to be all true fans of the game of baseball.

 

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