The 2016 World Series already provided some thrilling moments, including a tense Game 5 at Wrigley and an incredible Game 6 in Cleveland — both with the Cubs on the brink of elimination. However, the biggest drama between between Chicago and the Cleveland Indians rests in the background. One team rides a championship drought of 108 years; the other counts 78 years since raising the trophy.
Maybe there is an appropriately thrilling finish in the works. However, to become one of the most memorable series, this Fall Classic faces an uphill battle. First, it needs to go seven games — check. Second, it almost certainly requires a walk-off to decide it all. If the Cubs and Indians could manage a scoreless tie until extra innings or deliver a home run that wraps up the World Series in the bottom of the ninth, then we’re talking.
Believe it or not, the greatest World Series finishes involve these impossible storybook endings. You can’t make them up, and they keep people shaking their heads in wonder for decades. Here are the three best in MLB history.
3. Yankees vs. Diamondbacks, 2001
What if you were trying to stop a Yankees dynasty from winning its fourth consecutive World Series? What if you had to do it at home with the greatest closer (postseason, regular season, preseason) on the mound? The Arizona Diamondbacks faced this scenario in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. New York produced a few unbelievable finishes at Yankee Stadium earlier in the series. However, it came down to the bottom of the ninth with Mariano Rivera on the hill and New York leading 2-1.
After allowing a leadoff single, Rivera fielded a bunt and threw the ball into center field, putting runners on first and second. He fielded the next bunt as well, this time getting the lead runner at third base. But the great Yankees closer had worn down in his second inning of work. He allowed a double to Tony Womack and, after hitting a batter, gave up a bloop single to Luis Gonzalez with the bases loaded and the infield in. Arizona remains the only team to walk off in the ninth after trailing to start the inning, and they did it to Rivera.
2. Twins vs. Braves, 1991
One run decided four of the first six games of the 1991 World Series. The trend continued in the seventh game for Atlanta and Minnesota, with John Smoltz starting for the Braves against Jack Morris for the Twins. Both pitchers brought their A-games; through seven innings the game remained in a scoreless tie. The tension continued mounting when Smoltz exited in the bottom of the eighth and Morris kept putting up zeros. After nine full innings, the game stood at 0-0.
Morris returned for the 10th inning and set the Braves down 1-2-3 without allowing a ball out of the infield. In the bottom of the 10th, Minnesota finally struck. Dan Gladden led off with a double and Chuck Knoblauch bunted him to third. Two intentional walks later, Gene Larkin drove the ball into left-center, past the drawn-in outfield, to win the World Series. Metrodome fans went beserk and the book closed on an epic Fall Classic.
1. Pirates vs. Yankees, 1960
Imagine hitting a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the World Series. Every baseball player dreams of such a preposterous storybook moment. Joe “Touch ’em all” Carter experienced the thrill when he ended the 1993 Fall Classic. But that was merely the sixth game of the series. In Game 7 of the 1960 World Series between the Pirates and Yankees, Bill Mazeroski hit the greatest home run in the history of the baseball.
Until then, the series was lopsided. The Yankees torched Pittsburgh in its three wins by a combined score of 38-3. Mantle had three home runs and drove in 11; Bobby Richardson somehow had 12 RBI. But it takes four wins to make a title, and the Bucs had home-field advantage in a game where they needed it. Down 4-1 in the sixth, New York scored four to take the lead on a Yogi Berra home run and tacked on two more in the eighth for a 7-4 lead. Pittsburgh answered with five in the bottom eighth for a 9-7 lead (seriously).
It wasn’t over yet. The Mick and Yogi forced a 9-9 tie in the top of the ninth, setting the stage for Mazeroski leading off the bottom half. His mighty swing produced a long drive to left-center, it cleared the wall, and Pittsburgh won 10-9. As a great announcer once said, “Go crazy, folks.”
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Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference