This October, two teams will enter the 111th Fall Classic with an opportunity to etch themselves into the memories of generations of baseball fans. Here’s our list of the top 10 World Series match-ups of all time.
2002 World Series: Angels over Giants (4-3).
The Angels made their first ever Fall Classic appearance during the 2002 World Series. This all-California match-up marked the first time in baseball history that two wild card winners squared off for the title.
After a 16-4 Game 5 throttling, San Francisco was poised to wrap up the series in Game 6, leading 5-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning. But a Scott Spiezio three run homer helped propel the Angels to a 6-5 win, evening the series. In a pivotal Game 7, mid-season Anaheim call-up John Lackey became the first rookie pitcher to win a World Series Game 7 since 1909.
1988 World Series: Dodgers over Athletics (4-1).
The powerful A’s had won 104 regular-season games and boasted a roster of All-Star players including Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Dave Henderson, and Dave Stewart.
In Game 1, Kirk Gibson, who had been hobbled by injuries to both knees, limped to the plate to pinch-hit in the bottom of the ninth. The Dodgers were down 4-3 and A’s closer, Dennis Eckersley, was on the mound at the apex of his career. Gibson – visibly shaken in the batter’s box – fouled off two straight fast balls. Then, he belted an off-speed pitch into the right-field bleachers for the walk-off win. Gibson didn’t play the rest of the Series, though the Dodgers went on to win in a memorable five games.
1993 World Series: Blue Jays over Phillies (4-2)
Philadelphia finished last in the American League in 1992, so their presence in this World Series was somewhat unexpected. Toronto, however, entered the matchup as defending champions.
The Blue Jays were up 3-2 in the series, but down 6-5 in Game 6. The Phillies were intent on forcing Game 7, and just needed their All-Star closer, Mitch Williams, to shut the door. After walking Rickey Henderson and giving up a single to Paul Molitor, Joe Carter stepped to the plate. The 2-2 pitch exploded off his bat toward the left-field stands and over the wall, giving Toronto the title. This remains the only time in baseball history a player hit a come-from-behind, World Series-winning home run.
1997 World Series: Marlins over Indians (4-3).
In a classic David v. Goliath match-up, the 1997 World Series pitted the Marlins – in their fifth season of existence – against a juggernaut Indians team that featured the likes of Omar Vizquel, Jim Thome, Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton, Manny Ramirez, and Eddie Murray. With the series knotted at 3-3 and Game 7 headed to the bottom of the ninth inning, Marlins batter Craig Counsell tied the score with a sacrifice fly. In the bottom of the 11th, 21-year-old rookie Edgar Renteria singled up the middle with two outs and the bases loaded, giving the Marlins a 3-2 win and its first-ever World Series title.
1956 World Series: Yankees over Dodgers (4-3).
For the fourth time in five years, the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees met in New York City for the 1956 title. The Bronx Bombers had downed Brooklyn in three of their last four World Series meetings. The Yankee’s Don Larsen picked up the Game 5 ball in what would become one of the greatest individual performances in World Series history (hat tip to Madison Bumgarner’s 2014 World Series effort). Larson retired each Dodger batter in order – 27 up, 27 down – for the only perfect game in Fall Classic history. Larsen shut out five future Hall of Famers: Dick Williams, Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, and Duke Snyder. The Yankees would go on to take the series in seven games.
1975 World Series: Reds over Red Sox (4-3).
The Big Red Machine entered the 1975 World Series after winning a Major League high 108 regular-season games. In Game 6 – a game many call the greatest in baseball history – the Red Sox found themselves down by a game. With the score tied in the bottom of the 12th, Carlton Fisk stepped to the plate. Fisk sent a fastball soaring down the left-field line. As the ball drifted fould, Fisk waved his arms towards fair territory while trotting down the first base line. It worked – the ball stayed fair and the Sox forced a definitive Game 7.
In the series finale, Cincinnati’s Joe Morgan hit the game-winning single, scoring Ken Griffey, Sr. from third, to gave the Reds their first title since 1940.
1912 World Series: Red Sox over Giants (4-3).
This dead-ball era series had everything. Game 2 was called as a 6-6 tie due to darkness. Game 3 was called for the same reason, with the Giants leading at the time. In the top of the 10th inning of Game 8, the Giants took the lead on a Fred Merkle RBI single. In the bottom of the inning, Giants outfielder Fred Snodgrass misplayed a Red Sox popup, leading to two runs and a World Series defeat.
2001 World Series: Diamondbacks over Yankees (4-3).
The Yankees were coming off of back-to-back-to-back World Series championships, while the start-up Diamondbacks were in just their fourth season of existence. Up 2-1 in the series, Arizona closer Byung-Hyun Kim blew saves in Games 4 and 5 thanks to walk-off hits from Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano, respectively. The Diamondbacks clobbered the Yankees 15-2 in Game 6 to force a pivotal Game 7.
Leading 2-1 in Game 7, the Yankees turned to future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera to close out the series. However, an RBI double from Tony Womack tied things up, and a one-out bases loaded bloop single from Luis Gonzalez gave the Diamondbacks the walk-off win. Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling earned co-World Series MVP honors, pitching in a combined six games and striking out 45 batters.
1991 World Series: Twins over Braves (4-3).
Minnesota and Atlanta became the first two teams in Major League Baseball history to go from worst to first in the space of a single season. The Twins were trailing 3-2 in the series after a 14-5 Game 5 thrashing, when Kirby Puckett led off the bottom of the 11th with a walk-off home run to keep the Twins’ championship hopes alive, spawning Joe Buck’s famous call, “And We’ll See You Tomorrow Night!”
Game 7, arguably the greatest game in World Series history, would remain scoreless through regulation. In fact, four games during the 1991 World Series were won in the last inning. Minnesota would win Game 7 behind Jack Morris’ 10 inning pitching effort and a Gene Larkin pinch hit walk-off single.
1986 World Series: Mets over Red Sox (4-3).
“Bill Buckner, Game 6.” Those four words encapsulate the greatest season in New York Mets history and the greatest moment of despair to Red Sox fans.
With AL MVP Roger Clemens on the mound for the Sox in Game 6, Boston looked poised to win its first World Series in 68 years. Instead, the game went to extra innings. The Red Sox took the lead in the top of the 10th. After Calvin Schiraldi retired the first two Mets hitters, Boston was just one out away from its first championship since 1918.
The Mets’ Mookie Wilson, with a full count and third basemen Ray Knight on second, hit a slow ground ball down the first base line. Bill Buckner dropped his glove to the dirt in anticipation. The ball took a funny hop and squirted off the dirt, through Buckner’s legs, and into right field. The error gave the Mets the win. Two nights later, New York took Game 7 and the