Just hours before the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers play the first World Series Game 7 in nine years, let’s look fondly (or not so fondly, depending on who you rooted for) back at the Fall Classic’s ultimate games over the last three decades.
2002: Anaheim Angels vs. San Francisco Giants
Venue: Edison International Field of Anaheim – Anaheim, CA
How they got there: This pains me to recap as a Giants fan. With a 3-2 series lead and headed back to Anaheim, San Francisco held a 5-0 lead in the seventh inning of Game 6. However, despite the monumental deficit, the Angels – with their infamous “Rally Monkey” – scored three runs in the seventh and eighth to force Game 7, 6-5.
How it went down: After huge letdown in Game 6, the Giants looked like they could shrug it off. They took an early lead in the second inning, only for Anaheim to score four runs in two innings, leading to a somewhat anticlimactic 4-1 victory – the first in Angels history.
2001: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. New York Yankees
Venue: Bank One Ballpark – Phoenix, AZ
How they got there: The Yankees seemed to take control of a World Series that was almost destined to be theirs, only six weeks after the tragedy of September 11, with walk-off wins in Games 4 and 5. However, Arizona pummeled the Yankees in Game 6, 15-2, to force a decisive game in the desert.
How it went down: After the D-Backs took a 1-0 lead in the sixth inning, the Yankees had an RBI single by Tino Martinez and a solo HR by Alfonso Soriano in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively. New York seemingly had their fourth consecutive World Series title in the bag, bringing in nigh-unhittable closer Mariano Rivera for a two-out save in the bottom of the ninth. That’s when Arizona scored two runs – ending on Luis Gonzalez’s series-winning RBI single to stun the Yankees, 3-2, and win their first ever World Series championship.
1997: Florida Marlins vs. Cleveland Indians
Venue: Pro Players Stadium – Miami Gardens, FL
How they got there: In a series that literally teetered back and forth, the upstart Marlins and the Cleveland Indians traded off wins in their first six games, the sixth coming off a 4-1 Indians victory in Miami Gardens.
How it went down: After the Indians took a 2-0 lead in the third inning, on a two-run RBI single by Tony Fernandez. It stayed that way until the seventh inning, when Bobby Bonilla homered to cut the lead to one. In the bottom of the ninth, Indians closer Jose Mesa blew the save on a sac fly to tie the game. The bottom of the eleventh made Marlins SS Edgar Renteria a hero, by hitting the RBI that gave the Marlins their first World Series, 3-2.
1991: Minnesota Twins vs. Atlanta Braves
Venue: The Metrodome – Minneapolis, MN
How they got there: With the Braves taking control of the series at Turner Field, winning all three games, they took a 3-2 lead back to Minnesota. After Kirby Puckett’s famous home run in the eleventh inning of a dramatic Game 6 forced a decisive game, two of the best pitchers of their era – Minnesota’s Jack Morris and Atlanta’s John Smoltz – would square off in a rematch of Game 4.
How it went down: It was a pitching duel at its finest, neither team scoring until the tenth inning, off a Gene Larkin RBI to score the game’s only run, and finishing off the Braves, 1-0.
1987 – Minnesota Twins vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Venue: The Metrodome – Minneapolis, MN
How they got there: The Twins were down 3 games to 2 – the same situation as in 1991. However, the Game 6 win for these Twins wasn’t as dramatic, wiping out the Cardinals with eight runs in two innings, to take the Series to a decisive Game 7, 11-5.
How it went down: the Cards pounced on Twins starter Frank Viola early, with two runs in the second. However, the Twins recovered with a run of their own in the bottom of the inning. In an infamous sixth inning, plate umpires missed a number of crucial calls. Ultimately, the Twins shut down the Cardinals’ offense, and scored four runs in eight innings to win the World Series.
1986 – New York Mets vs. Boston Red Sox
Venue: Shea Stadium – Queens, NY
How they got there: Bill Buckner. It’s all anyone seems to remember about the 1986 World Series. With the Red Sox mere outs away from their first championship since 1918, the Mets staged a comeback to stun Boston in the ninth. Infamous for the ball going through Buckner’s legs in Game 6, it was the culmination of a blown lead that helped the upstart Mets force a seventh game at Shea Stadium.
How it went down: Boston’s fortunes turned quickly in the second inning, scoring three runs and pitching strong through five. That’s when the Curse of the Bambino reared its ugly head again, as the Mets scored three runs in each of the sixth and seventh innings. Despite two runs by Boston in the eighth, New York countered with two of their own to win their second World Series title.
1985 – Kansas City Royals vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Venue: Royals Stadium – Kansas City, MO
How they got there: While Buckner was a pariah in the ’86 Series, some could argue that umpire Don Denkinger was an even bigger one for a blown call in Game 6, the year before. With the Cardinals leading the series 3-2 and carrying a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth, Denkinger blew a call at first base, in which the runner (Jorge Orta) was clearly out. The Cardinals came unglued as a result, and the situation ultimately culminated in a 2-1 win, forcing a Game 7.
How it went down: In one of the most anticlimactic Game 7s in modern baseball history, the Royals laid waste to St. Louis, 11-0, thanks to a six-run fifth inning, to win the championship. The Cards, meanwhile, were obviously still stunned from the Denkinger call, and could never recover.
1982 – St. Louis Cardinals vs. Milwaukee Brewers
Venue: Busch Stadium – St. Louis, MO
How they got there: With the Brewers leading the series 3 games to 2, the Cardinals stormed back at home, demolishing the Brew Crew in Game 6, 13-1, to force a decisive game.
How it went down: With the help of six runs in eight innings, the Cardinals took advantage of the key plays to win the World Series, 6-3.