Was Saturday night the greatest World Series game you’ve ever seen? Possibly, depending on your age and level of baseball devotion.
But was it the greatest World Series game ever played? No, there is a pretty lengthy list of more important October classics.
So where does Tampa Bay’s 8-7 walkoff victory against the Dodgers in Game 4 fit in World Series lore? It can’t compare to an all-or-nothing Game 7, but you can make a pretty good case that it was one of the greatest non-clinching games in World Series history.
Here are our choices for the top 10 in chronological order:
Game 4, 1941: Yankees 7, Dodgers 4
Brooklyn took a 4-3 lead into the ninth and was three outs from tying the series at two games each. Hugh Casey, who had thrown 3.1 innings of shutout ball in relief, got two quick outs in the ninth. When he struck out Tommy Heinrich swinging, the game appeared to be over. But Brooklyn catcher Mickey Owen failed to catch the third strike and Heinrich reached first base on the error. The Yankees followed with single, double, walk, double. New York won the Series the next day.
New York Daily News: “They say a ballgame isn’t over until three are out in the ninth. Yesterday’s wasn’t over even when three WERE OUT IN THE NINTH.”
Game 5, 1956: Yankees 2, Dodgers 0
Six future Hall of Famers were on the field, but all the attention was on 27-year-old Yankees pitcher with a 30-40 career record. Don Larsen retired 27 Dodgers in succession for the first, and only, perfect game in World Series history.
New York Daily News: “The imperfect man pitched a perfect game yesterday.”
Game 6, 1975: Red Sox 7, Reds 6
Boston was up 3-0 early but by the eighth inning was losing 6-3 and facing elimination. That’s when pinch-hitter Bernie Carbo, a former Red, hit a two-out, three-run homer to centerfield. The Red Sox loaded the bases in the ninth with no one out, but failed to score. Cincinnati got runners on in the 10th, 11th and 12th innings, but failed to score. It was the bottom of the 12th when Carlton Fisk led off with a long drive down the leftfield line and commanded it fair with his body language while running to first base.
Pete Rose to Fisk when coming to the plate in the 11th: “This is some kind of game, isn’t it?”
Game 6, 1985: Royals 2, Cardinals 1
The game was scoreless until the eighth when the Cardinals scratched a run across with two singles and a walk. Jorge Orta led off the bottom of the ninth with a bouncer to the right side. First baseman Will Clark fielded and threw to Todd Worrell covering first. Orta was clearly out, but umpire Don Denkinger mistakenly called him safe. A single, a sacrifice and an intentional walk loaded the bases. Dane Iorg hit a two-run single and the game was over. So were the Cardinals who were blown out in Game 7.
Whitey Herzog: “We haven’t gotten one call yet from those (expletives).”
Game 6, 1986: Mets 6, Red Sox 5
The Red Sox were one out from ending a 68-year World Series drought. They had taken two early leads in Game 6, but the Mets came back to tie the score both times. Boston went up 5-3 in the top of the 10th, and Calvin Schiraldi retired the first two Mets in the bottom of the inning before Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell and Ray Knight hit three consecutive singles to knock in one run. Bob Stanley came in from the bullpen and threw a wild pitch that allowed Mitchell to score the tying run. Then Mookie Wilson hit a ground ball that went between the legs of first baseman Bill Buckner. Boston lost Game 7 and would have to wait another 18 years to break their Series curse.
Vin Scully: “If one picture is worth a thousand words, you have seen about a million words, but more than that you have seen an absolutely bizarre finish.”
Game 1, 1988: Dodgers 5, Athletics 4
The Athletics won 104 games in the regular season and looked like beasts going into the World Series. They spotted Los Angeles a 2-0 lead in the first inning, but were up 4-3 by the sixth. Dennis Eckersley, who led the AL with 45 saves, got the first two outs in the ninth. Then he uncharacteristically walked Mike Davis and the Dodgers sent up Kirk Gibson to pinch-hit. Gibson was hobbled with hamstring and knee injuries and barely able to move, but hit a 3-2 pitch over the wall for a walkoff homer. The Dodgers went on to win the Series in five games.
Jack Buck: “I don’t believe what I just saw.”
Game 6, 1991: Twins 4, Braves 3
The Twins were facing elimination in Game 6. They took leads of 2-0 and 3-2, but Atlanta came back to tie twice. The Braves got a leadoff single in the 11th but pinch-runner Keith Mitchell was caught stealing. Atlanta brought in Game 1 starter Charlie Leibrandt for his first relief appearance of the season. Kirby Puckett, who saved a run earlier in the game with a leaping catch in centerfield, led off the 11th with a walkoff homer. The Twins went on to win the Series the next day, 1-0.
Minneapolis Star-Tribune: “We’re back from the dead, one more time.”
Games 4/5, 2001: Yankees 4, Diamondbacks 3; Yankees 3, Diamondbacks 2
On back-to-back nights in the Bronx, the Yankees won walkoffs in extra innings. Down 3-1 in the ninth in Game 4, the Yankees got a one-out, two-run homer from Tino Martinez to tie it. Derek Jeter won it in the 10th with a two-out homer. The same script played out in the next game. Arizona was up 2-0 in the ninth when Scott Brosius tied the score with a two-out, two-run homer. Alfonso Soriano won it in the 12th with an RBI single. Arizona got the last laugh, however, when they scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to win Game 7.
John Sterling: “If you’re in Arizona how can you not be absolutely dazed at what happened? Two nights in a row.”
Game 6, 2011: Cardinals 10, Rangers 9
Absolutely bonkers back-and-forth action. Tying or go-ahead runs were scored in the first, second, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, ninth, 10th and 11th innings. Texas was one out from winning its first World Series in the ninth when David Freese hit a two-run triple to tie it. The Rangers were within an out again in the 10th but Lance Berkman tied with an RBI single. In the bottom of the 11th, Freese led off with a homer. Texas still has never won a World Series.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “It was nothing pretty, but an absolutely sight to see.”
Game 4, 2020: Rays 8, Dodgers 7
You can start with the ties and lead changes. The Dodgers were up 2-0, 2-1, 3-1, 3-2 and 4-2. The Rays were up 5-4. Then the Dodgers were back up 6-5. Then it was 6-6. Then the Dodgers were back up 7-6 in the ninth. Los Angeles closer Kenley Jansen got the first out in the ninth before Kevin Kiermaier hit a broken bat single. Joey Wendle lined out to left and Randy Arozarena walked. Brett Phillips, who had not gotten a hit in a month and wasn’t even on the ALCS roster, lined a single to right that scored Kiermaier. When the centerfielder bobbled the ball, Arozarena tried to score but wiped out rounding third. The Dodgers would have had him easily, but catcher Will Smith misplayed the relay and Arozarena crawled/stumbled home with the winning run.
Kiermaier: “I don’t know if anything like that has ever happened, especially in the World Series, and I don’t know if we’ll ever see it again.”
John Romano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @romano_tbtimes.