We had a strong World Series this October. Two good teams, outstanding pitching, excellent defense, stars on both sides of the field, and an outcome that touched baseball history and gave us an underdog champion.
Not to mention it went the full seven games, giving us bonus baseball and the unmatched buildup and drama that only a Game 7 offers. Yup, all in all a terrific finish to the 2019 baseball season, which got me thinking about World Series games past.
As we sit between the end of 2019 game action and MLB’s awards season, it seems to make sense for a quick inventory of the most memorable World Series games contested during my lifetime. Emphasis on “game” here, not “series.” Additional emphasis on the word “memorable,” and not “best.” That last distinction becomes particularly important, because like most of the work SportsAttic puts out, this list is completely subjective, coming straight to you from AtticBro’s very own Isle of Me.
Also, please note the following important SportsAttic footnote: we will not be including Game 6 of the 1986 World Series in this post, as that game transcends any single sporting event memory, and has earned a place in the Top 5 moments of my entire life. Besides, another mention of the ’86 Series here may just put my pal Geno over the proverbial edge.
This is MY top five. If done correctly, the hope here is that should you take a look at this post, perhaps you’ll compile your own Top Five. To frame my list properly, understand that the choices will span from the first World Series to register in my baseball fan’s memory bank (the 1970 Fall Classic between the Orioles and Reds — aka the Brooks Robinson Series) through the one that concluded late last month (congrats once again to all you District of Columbia fans who can no longer be described as “long suffering”).
Here we go:
- 1977 Game 6 of Yankees vs Dodgers
Mr. October. Reggie Jackson was part of October baseball in seven out of 10 years during the decade of the 1970’s, which also happen to be the first ten World Series this fan ever tuned in for.
Reggie’s A’s lost in the ALCS in 1971 and 1975, and won it all from 1972-1974. He’d spent 1976 watching from home after his Orioles (Orioles?) had missed the playoffs, and joined forces with the Bronx Bombers as a free agent that winter, promising to be the “straw that stirs the drink,” and promptly pissing of his manager and most of his teammates with that statement. He then introduced himself to the New York media with a season-long string of me-first shenanigans that made the Bombers a must-watch club both on and off the field throughout the 1977 campaign.
And then it was all forgotten (at least until the next season), as Reggie deposited three consecutive pitches thrown by the Dodgers’ Burt Hooten, Elias Sosa and Charlie Hough into the Yankee Stadium seats on the final night of postseason baseball that October. Reggie’s three-homer feat, which at that point had only been accomplished once before, by the immortal Babe Ruth, closed out an entertaining and competitive series, while cementing Reggie Jackson as synonymous with World Series excellence forever after.
The ’77 series would be my last prior to entering my teenage years, and thus I was still required to beg for permission to watch the conclusion of baseball games played on school nights, even when a World Series hung in the balance. When Reggie launched his second blast, the series outcome was secure, but because it looked like Reggie would get another turn at bat with a chance at making history, my dad relented. And Reggie didn’t let us down. To this day, when I think of the Fall Classic, I start with Reggie Jackson.
2. 2000 Game 4 of Mets vs Yankees
The only Subway Series of my lifetime (so far) is best remembered for Game 2, where that cowardly phony and steroid cheat Roger Clemens inexplicably threw a broken bat barrel at Mike Piazza. Mets fans may also wake up at night screaming over Game 1 of this series, as we pleaded with Armando Benitez to put away the pesky Paul O’Neil and deliver us the all important confidence builder of a Game 1 win over the Yankees, who were seeking their third World Series title in as many years. No such luck.
For me, Game 4 is the one I’ll always remember. Mostly because this was the game AtticBride and I chose to attend in person, somehow scoring awesome seats only a few rows behind the visitors dugout. It was from that vantage point that I got to witness a shirtless, psychopathic Mets fan (face painted half in blue, half in orange) climb onto the Yankees dugout roof as the Yanks were completing their infield drills. This deranged member of Mets Nation absolutely unleashed the most profanity-filled, over the top verbal attack on Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter that this fan has ever witnessed. Jeter never took his eyes off the young “fan” and kept repeating back to him a deadpan “thank you, thank you” as he jogged down the steps into the Yankees dugout. Ten minutes later he emerged from the same dugout, and deposited Mets starter Bobby Jones’ first pitch into the left field seats to lead off the game. Totally took the fans out of it before the home team had even taken their first turn at the plate. I will always blame that fan, along with Armando Benitez, for the Mets losing that series.
For Game 4, the Yankees had started the unimpressive Denny Neagle in what amounted to a must-win for the Mets (who’d somehow come into the Series as betting favorites, despite a starting outfield that included Jay Payton, Benny Agbayani and Timo Perez — you can look it up). The Mets had pulled the series to 2 games to 1 by winning the first home game at Shea Stadium a couple of nights prior, and a Game 4 win to even the series that night would have signaled a total momentum shift.
The key moment in this one came in the 5th, when the Mets put two on with two out for Piazza. The crowd was back in it, with the Mets trailing 3-2 and looking to break it open. Yankees skipper Joe Torre emerged from the dugout doing that familiar walk of his out to the mound, head down, hands in jacket pockets as always, and he summoned former-Met David Cone to replace Neagle. Cone had pitched to a 6.91 ERA during the 2000 season, and was clearly nearing the end of his spectacular career. Torre needed one out. Conie got Piazza to pop out to the infield, and an hour later the Yanks were up three games to one.
3. 1996 Game 3 of Yankees vs Braves
Conie again. This was the first World Series game I ever attended in person, landing an upper deck seat with a work buddy who hailed from Atlanta. From our nosebleed-level vantage point, we suffered through countless renditions of The Macarena, as the Braves fans carried on as though their second consecutive title was a foregone conclusion. And who could blame them, since they’d just returned home after taking the first two games of the series on the road at Yankee Stadium.
Cone had suffered an aneurism earlier that 1996 season, and had staged a remarkable return to the Yanks in September. He wasn’t at his best this night, but battled, giving up only one run over his six innings of work, and exited having survived a bases loaded, one out threat in his final inning. What’s most memorable to me as I think back on that game, was seeing in person the early-career excellence of Mariano Rivera — as a set up man. The future Hall of Famer relieved Cone to start the seventh inning, and actually got pulled after giving up the Braves’ second run in the 8th. Graeme Lloyd and John Wetteland closed things out, setting the stage for the Yanks to run the table the rest of the way and win the series in six games.
The other notable memory from that cool 1996 night was seeing Atlanta fans heading for the exits after that failed rally in the sixth. The game was only 2-1 at that point, and I was flabbergasted that the home fans were calling it a night so early. The fact that the Braves never did mount a serious rally from there has nothing to do with what a shameless display this was to me. To this day it remains one of the most disappointing efforts by an entire fan base I’ve ever witnessed, and it forced me into doing the unthinkable for the remainder of that 1996 series — rooting for the Yankees to bring home a championship.
4. 1989 Game 3 of Giants vs A’s
The earthquake game. A half hour before the LaRussa/Canseco/McGwire A’s were scheduled to continue their beatdown of their Bay Area rivals over at Candlestick Park, an enormous earthquake hit, fracturing the Bay Area to the tune of 6.9 on the Richter scale. When it was over there would be $5 billion in damages and 67 dead. The Fall Classic was delayed for ten days, allowing the Game 1 starters to take the mound for the second time in Game 3. The outcome would be the same, as Dave Stewart got the win over Mike Moore, and one of the least competitive series of all-time concluded a couple of days later.
But this one was incredibly memorable to me. I’d been working late at my New Jersey office, and one of the guys came running in saying his wife had just called and there’d been a huge earthquake right before the game had begun. We all huddled around a black and white TV set watching all hell break loose on the west coast. The SI cover above remains iconic to this day.
5. 2016 Game 7 of Cubs vs Indians
Okay, maybe we had to sneak a “best” game into the Top Five. But man it was memorable, too. I’d flown to the east coast earlier that day, the three-hour time difference making it possible for me to remain awake for the entire 4:28 of game time. The problem was that I had to be up at 5:30 eastern the following morning to get to an early meeting, so when the rain delay hit after the ninth inning concluded, I was nearing delirium.
But what a game, and there was no way I was turning this one off (I’m no Braves fan, after all), especially after watching these two great teams slug it out into this instant-classic of a Game 7. I actually remained wide awake and rooting for more baseball right to the bitter end.
This contest is recent enough that most remember the high drama. The Cubs and their World Series drought dating back to 1908, facing the Indians, who hadn’t won it all since 1948. The Indians owning more momentum than seemingly imaginable after scoring three in the bottom of the 8th off Aroldis Chapman, with Rajai Davis’ two-run, game-tying shot the key blow, tying the game at 6. Cleveland had destiny on their side, but not so fast. Talk about divine intervention in the form of a just-long-enough torrential downpour.
Then the Cubbies came out of the fifteen minute rain delay scoring two in the top of the 10th, only to teeter and give one back in the bottom half of the frame, while putting the tying run on base, before Kris Bryant’s off balance grab/toss to Anthony Russo ended it. As Bryant charged that ball, picking it up off a still wet infield with speedy Michael Martinez making his way down the line, all I wanted was to see Bryant throw it into the seats.
Not just to keep the Cubs from ending their curse (although I did love that curse), or because I was riding hard on the Indians bandwagon (even though I practically had the whip in my hand by the time Game 7 rolled around), but because I simply wanted more baseball. All good things must come to an end, though, and thus ended Game 7 and the Cubs jinx with one perfect Bryant throw.
Honorable mention on my list of most memorable World Series games:
*The Matt Harvey Game in 2015
*The Joe Carter Walk-off Game in 1993
*The Jack Morris Game in 1991
*The Mariano Rivera Blown Save Game in 2001
What’s your Top Five?