As the Yankees clinch the World Series in a good but not great World Series, I wanted to look back at what I consider the best of my life. I’ve done this for a few other events and like in those lists I mean ones I was old enough to watch. In this case it begins with the 1979 World series when I watched the Orioles blow a 3-1 lead to the “We are Family” Pirates. After this years, that makes 30 series in my consciousness. So here goes my list, tell me your thoughts.
Honorable Mentions that didn’t quite make it
St. Louis Cardinals in 7 over Milwaukee Brewers 1982
Florida Marlins in 6 over New York Yankees 2003
The Top Ten
10. Pittsburgh Pirates in 7 over Baltimore Orioles 1979
9. Minnesota Twins in 7 over St. Louis Cardinals 1987
8. Anaheim Angels in 7 over San Francisco Giants 2002
7. Toronto Blue Jays in 6 over Philadelphia Phillies 1993
6. New York Yankees in 6 over Atlanta Braves 1996
The last couple of games weren’t great in the ’79 series and my team lost, but it began a 30 year love of baseball. So it makes MY top 10. After dropping all 3 games in St. Louis, Minnesota won game 6 and came back from an early 2-0 deficit in game 7 to win in ’87. 2002 had the great comeback in game 6 for the Angels; and I don’t care what anyone else thinks…. I’m glad the greatest player of my generation Barry Bonds played in a World series. The 1993 series will never be forgotten because of Joe Carter’s walk-off home run, but I think the real turning point was when Toronto came from 5 runs back in the 8th in game 4. As for 1996, the moment I’ll never forget is Jim Leyritz huge late HR that turned around game 4 and was really the beginning of the Yankees dominant late 90′s run.
5. Kansas City Royals in 7 over St. Louis Cardinals 1985
St. Louis took a 3-1 lead based on some dominant pitching and the Missouri series looked over. But the Royals took game 5 in St. Louis and got the Cardinals to come back to Kansas City. I remember Dave Letterman was in love with Buddy Biancalanain that year, but Royals fans are in love with Don Denkinger. His safe call allowed the Royals a base runner when they were down a run in the ninth. The Royals took advantage helped by a misplayed foul ball and took the game and then romped 11-0 in Game 7.
4. Florida Marlins in 7 over Cleveland Indians 1997
This Series is often overlooked. But as someone who was mad at Cleveland for ending the Orioles season and someone witha Cuban grandmother, I was intently cheering on the Marlins. The teams took turns in the first 6 games. Marlins taking 1, 3, and 5. The Indians 2, 4, and 6. Games 3 and 5 were interesting. The Marlins scored 7 in the ninthin game 3 to open up a tie game and in the 5th game the Marlins held off a furious Indian rally to win by one. This series though was all about Game 7. I went to a bar to watch it with myfriend Dave Smith and even though much alcohol was consumed, we were absorbed in the game from the first pitch until Livan Hernandez screamed”I love you Miami”. The Marlins rally against Mesa in the ninth and Edgar Renteria’s championship winning hit in the 11th were edge of your seat baseball.
3. Arizona Diamonbacks in 7 over New York Yankees 2001
The Diamondbacks blew out NY in games one and two. Then this series really got going. George W. Bush threw out the first pitch in game 3 and then Roger Clemens shut down the hot D’back bats for a 2-1 win. In Game 4 Curt Schilling on 3 days rest gave Arizona a 3-1 lead heading into the 9th, but Yankee magic came up with a Tino Martinez homer to tie it. Then Jeter won it with a homer in the 1oth. NY took a 3-2 series lead in similar fashion in game 5. Arizona was up 2-0 in the 9th but Byun-HyunKim gave up a two run HR to Scott Brosius to send it to extras, where the Yankees won it in 12. After an Arizona blowout in Game 6, the Yankees took a one run lead into the ninth of Game 7. This time it was Arizona’s turn to come back, incredibly off of Mariano Rivera. Luis Gonzalez hit a soft looper over a drawn in infield to scoring Jay Bell for the Series winning run.
2. New York Mets in 7 over Boston Red Sox 1986
The series will always be remembered for Bill Buckner and Game 6. But there was more. Boston’s Bruce Hurst threw a memorable game in Game 1 to earn a 1-0 victory and Boston dominated Dwight Gooden in game 2 to go up 2-0 on the Mets at Shea Stadium. The Mets took games 3 and 4 to even the series at Fenway. Then in Game 5 Bruce Hurst of all people was dominant again leading the Red Sox to a 4-2 win. Boston got off to an early 2-0 start in Game 6 , but Roger Clemens let the Mets even the score in the 5th. The Red Sox led again 3-2 after the seventh, but a Gary Carter sac fly evened it in the 8th. The 9th came and went, but in the 10th a Dave Henderson homer helped the Sox to a two run lead. We all know what happened in the bottom of that inning. With two outs the Mets began a rally. After a Gary Carter single, a Kevin Mitchell single, a Ray Knight single, a Bob Stanley wild pitch, and a Bill Buckner error they headed to a Game 7. Boston took a 3-0 early lead and with Bruce Hurst back on the mound, it looked good for Boston. But in the 6th, the Mets got on track and put up the first 3 of an eventual 8 runs to clinch the series.
1. Minnesota Twins in 7 over Atlanta Braves 1991
Four years after winning all their home games to take the World Series, the Twins were back, and fortunately for them so was their home field advantage. Behind Jack Morris they took game one easily. Game 2 was tied at 2 going into the bottom of the eighth when Scott Leius hit one out off of Tom Glavine for the game winner. The series then headed south to Atlanta and fortunes changed. Minnesota came close to putting the series out of reach in Game 3, but the Braves bullpen pitched scoreless innings from the 9th through the twelfth. This allowed Mark Lemke to drive in Dave Justice for the 5-4 win. Game 4 yet again went down to the wire. It was tied heading into the ninth after Jack Morris and John Smoltz had both pitched excellent games (foreshadowing). This time Lemke scored the winning run on a very close play at the plate on a sacrifice fly. Atlanta won big in Game 5 and the series went back to the Metrodome. The score was yet again tied late in the game in game 6. In the eleventh inning of a 3-3 game, having exhausted much of his bullpen Bobby Cox put in number four starter Charlie Leibrandt. He promptly gave up one of the most famous homers in series history to Kirby Puckett and we headed to a game 7. After 4 one run games, what would these teams have left for game 7. Only the most exciting baseball game I’ve ever watched. Two guys that should be (eventually) in the Hall of Fame Jack Morris and John Smoltz took the mound. After seven innings goose eggs were littering the scoreboard. The Braves had a great chance in the eighth. Lonnie Smith was running on the pitch from first base. Terry Pendleton laced a double into left-center. Smith probably would have scored on the play , but he was duped by Chuck Knoblauch and Greg Gagne’s fake double play and he only advanced to third. Then with no outs Jack Morris induced a pop up and a double play to get out of the inning. Both Smoltz and Morris pitched 9 full innings of shut out ball. Morris came out for the tenth and it was just like the first nine. The Braves did not send Smoltz out. Instead going with closer Alejandro Pena. Dan Gladden doubled and was bunted to third with one out. The Braves then intentionally walked both Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek to get to unheralded Gene Larkin. He lofted a ball into deep left center. Normally it would have been an out, but with the outfield drawn in to throw out the runner at home, it won the World Series for the Twins. Yes, this was the greatest series I’ve ever seen and probably will remain that way.