By Steve Perrault – Follow on Twitter: @Steve_Perrault
Nothing in sports is better than the World Series. The Super Bowl is great, but it’s here and over before you know it. The NBA Finals are nice, but the series outcome rarely surprises you. The Fall Classic is simply different because you know how much it took to get there. The American League and National League winners just grinded through 162 regular season games, every pitch, every walk-off win, all the highs and lows, and (at least) two full series’ of playoff ball, just to get a shot at winning it all and heading into the winter as the champions of baseball.
With the World Series getting underway Tuesday night, there’s no better time to have a refresher of the top moments in the Fall Classic dating back to the year 2000.
10) 2005 World Series, Game 4 – White Sox Win First World Series Title in 88 Years:
Was this World Series extremely memorable? No. Is breaking an 88-year World Series drought a big deal? Hell yes.
The fact that the White Sox ended the second longest drought in baseball (still waiting on you, Cubs) is definitely good enough to land them on this top ten list. It’s too bad for these Sox that the other Sox COMPLETELY stole their spotlight just a year before, in terms of ending a miserable drought of World Series titles. Either way, good for you Chicago. You got your first World Series title since 1917 when you were playing the New York (baseball) Giants.
9) 2011 World Series, Game 3 / 2012 World Series, Game 1 – Albert Pujols & Pablo Sandoval Both Hit 3 Home Runs in 1 Game:
As a kid, we all dream of one day getting the chance to play in a major league game, and maybe even being lucky enough to make it to the World Series. To say that we hoped to hit a home run in the World Series would probably be a little greedy. But to imply that we would one day hit three home runs in one Series game?! Now you’re just downright insane, kid. But that’s exactly what happened here. Think of how crazy that is to hit three round-trippers in ONE Fall Classic game? That’s got to be one of the greatest feelings in the world, next to finding a $20 bill in your pocket of course.
Both Pujols and Sandoval joined Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson as the only players to hit three home runs in a World Series game. Decent company, I suppose.
8) 2008 World Series, Game 5 – Phillies World Series Clincher Happens on Two Separate Days Due to Rain Delay (last out at 1:17:45 mark):
This series was just weird for so many reasons. You had the Tampa Bay (newly named) Rays making their first World Series appearance in team history. A club that’s better known for their awful stadium and minimal fan base found a way to beat the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox in a back-and-fourth ALCS that went the distance.
Then you had the Phillies. A team that had a complete re-birth, as they were no longer the cellar-dwellers of the NL East anymore, rather a favorite to win it all for the later half of the 2000s.
Weirdest of all was how the Phillies won the series. It couldn’t have been any more anti-climactic.
In a do-or-die Game 5 for Tampa, if the Rays hadn’t tied the game in the bottom of the 6th inning – right before it was postponed due to rain – then the Phillies, by rule, could have been declared World Series champions. Obviously, a regular season game is declared official after five innings are completed – or four and a half if the home team is leading – but the playoffs are subject to the Commissioner as to how to handle the scheduling of the games. Bud Selig informed both the Rays and the Phillies before Game 5 began that a team would not be allowed to clinch the Series in a rain-shortened game.
But let’s live in a world where the playoffs go by the same rules as the regular season for a minute. How insane would it have been to win it all on a rain postponement?? The ump calls in the tarp…the rain never stops…the game is called…annnnd the Phillies are World Series champions!!! That would have been a moment for the ages, but instead we’re left with the game resuming two days later and the Phillies winning their 2nd World Series title in team history.
7) 2000 World Series, Game 2 – Roger Clemens Throws Piece of Broken Bat Right Back at Mike Piazza (replay at 1:05 mark):
This has to be one of the most bizarre decisions in baseball history. There are so many different aspects to this play that need to be addressed, so let’s try and do just that.
First off, we must observe the prior history Clemens and Piazza had, dating back to just earlier that season when Clemens hit Piazza off the helmet with a fastball.
It’s really hard to give Clemens the benefit of the doubt on this pitch. He was known for buzzing guys off the plate with his heater, but this was high and tight from the jump. I wouldn’t be shocked in the least if Clemens meant to hit Piazza all along.
Anyway, fast-forward to that October and we have Game 2 of the 2000 World Series, which was dubbed the “Subway Series” as it featured the two major league clubs that call New York home. In Piazza’s first at-bat against Clemens, he breaks his bat on a ball that roles uneventfully foul. As you saw in the clip, the barrel of the bat that had snapped off goes in the direction of Clemens. And now his first thought, his very FIRST thought is to throw that bat back at Piazza…?! This, by itself, is one of the dumbest moves in the history of the game.
But then, read Clemens’ lips as Piazza approaches him. At the 1:25 mark of that clip, Roger says “I thought it was the ball” in an attempt to excuse the fact that he just threw a sharp piece of wood directly at another player. You thought it was the ball, Roger? What?? Even if it was the ball, why would you throw a ball back at Piazza? A kindergartner could have come up with a better excuse than that.
My theory is that, in the heat of the moment, Clemens did a weird, unnecessary thing. Have you ever had one of those moments where you do something and immediately after you’re like “Why the hell did I just do that?” Well, that’s exactly what happened to Roger here. That certainly doesn’t dismiss his laughable excuse that he thought he was throwing the baseball back at Piazza instead of the broken bat, but it is more than likely what took place during this bizarre play in Game 2 of the 2000 World Series.
The Yankees would go on to beat the Mets in five games, capping off their third straight World Series title. They became the first baseball team to three-peat since the Oakland Athletics from 1972-74.
6) 2003 World Series, Game 6 – Josh Beckett Shuts Out Yankees in The Bronx to Win the Title:
In a postseason that barely missed seeing an improbable World Series matchup of the Cubs and Red Sox, a young Josh Beckett made a name for himself in one of the more surprising World Series outcomes of all time.
This was your classic David and Goliath affair, as the high-powered Yankees were going against the little-known Marlins. The Yankees payroll for that 2003 season was over $180 million, while the Marlins were significantly lower, at $63 million. Both teams had plenty of momentum coming off of improbable wins in their championship series’, but the Marlins were the only team that actually carried that momentum over to the Fall Classic.
Imagine being 23 years old, in your second full season in the big leagues, and being asked to close out a World Series against the big bad Yankees…IN New York? With the magnitude of that game, Beckett treated it like any old casual mid-June outing, as he cruised from start to finish. And we can’t forget that Beckett was pitching on just three days rest! Five hits, nine strikeouts and nine shutout innings later and Beckett’s performance would go down as one of the best in the history of the Fall Classic.
To this day, the Marlins have been in the playoffs just twice. They have won the World Series both times.
5) 2002 World Series, Game 6 – Angels Late-Inning Comeback vs. Giants to Keep Season Alive:
The Angels and Giants World Series bout in 2002 can be remembered for many things: Barry Bonds’ last chance at a ring, a young John Lackey proving his worth, and even the damn Rally Monkey. But it should be remembered most for how close the Giants were to winning their first championship since moving to San Francisco in 1958.
Barry Bonds hit his 8th home run of the playoffs, which is still tied for the most in a single postseason, and the Giants were inching closer to a title. They were eight outs away from planning a parade when..
Hope was still alive for Giants fans, as they still held a 1-run lead with just six outs to go to win it all. But Troy Glaus wasn’t ready for his season to be over.
Obviously the Rally Monkey is the only way to explain the Angels comeback in Game 6. That stuffed animal that has absolutely nothing to do with baseball is clearly the only way to describe such an unexpected win.
On a more serious note, this was a great stretch for Series MVP Troy Glaus. The fact that there was a later report that showed Glaus received multiple shipments of performance enhancing drugs to his house around this time, is neither here nor there. Especially when we’re talking about a World Series that featured Mr. Steroid himself, Barry Bonds.
The Angels would go on to win it all the in Game 7 the next night, capping off their only World Series title in team history.
4) 2014 World Series, Game 7 – Madison Bumgarner Shuts Down Royals Out of Bullpen to Win It All:
In a series that featured five of the first six games ending in blowout fashion, Game 7 lived up to the hype. Both of these clubs had used the momentum they had gained in their Wild Card Game wins to carry them all the way to the World Series.
The Giants relied heavily on their ace Madison Bumgarner just to get to a Game 7 in the World Series, as he had already recorded wins in game’s 1 & 5 in the series. So what could he possibly have left in the tank for Game 7? Well a lot, actually.
In a move that surprised many, the Giants brought Bumgarner in from the bullpen in the fifth inning of Game 7 with a 1-run lead. The expectation was that he would shut the door on the Royals and not allow them to cross the plate for the rest of the game. He did just that, in one of the gutsiest World Series performances we have ever seen.
Bumgarner pitched 52 2/3 innings in that postseason for a record, eclipsing Curt Schilling’s 48 1/3 for Arizona in 2001. Bumgarner and the Giants clinched their 3rd World Series title in five seasons.
3) 2004 World Series, Game 4 – Red Sox Win World Series For First Time in 86 Years (last out at 2:44:20 mark):
It goes without mentioning how significant this World Series win was for the Red Sox. Whenever numerous fans say they can now “die in peace” after a team wins a championship, you know it was a larger-than-life experience. But the reason the Red Sox winning their first World Series title in 86 years doesn’t top this list simply comes down to how easily they cruised through this series. Boston was coming off of (arguably) their biggest high of all time after completing the largest comeback in baseball history over the rivaled Yankees. They still remain the only baseball club to win a best-of-seven series after trailing that series three games to none. So how could the World Series top that moment?
Red Sox fans would have never expected it at the time, but that enormous ALCS victory overshadowed the entire 2004 World Series. Pretty insane when you think about it, but the World Series was such a cake-walk that you almost don’t remember it at all. In fact, the Cardinals didn’t have a lead for the entire series. I repeat, St. Louis did not have a lead for a single second of the 2004 World Series.
While the series itself was rather uneventful, the significance of breaking the “Curse of the Bambino” still goes down as one of the most memorable World Series moments of all time.
2) 2001 World Series, Game 7 – Luis Gonzalez With Walk-off Blooper to Deny Yankees of 4th Straight Title:
This series had it all. Soon-to-be co-MVPs Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson recorded convincing wins in game’s 1 & 2, respectively. Then you had President Bush throwing out the first pitch before Game 3. This was a very significant moment in baseball history, as the country was not far removed from the attacks of September, 11. The President throwing a perfect strike was the best possible way to get the Bronx roaring and lead the Yankees on their way to three straight 1-run victories.
I need to take a quick timeout to discuss how improbable the Yankees wins were in game’s 4 & 5 of this series. Byung-Hyun Kim, the (then) Diamondbacks closer, is probably still having nightmares about how he blew back-to-back games in bizarro-world fashion. And that’s with Arizona winning the World Series. I can’t imagine how he would feel if they actually lost the title.
Anyway, the Yankees were trailing 3-1 with two outs in the 9th inning of Game 5. Normally you would think this game is all but over, right? Wrong.
Derek Jeter would go on to hit a classic, barely-over-the-fence chip shot home run to right field in the 10th inning, giving New York the Game 4 victory.
Then, the VERY NEXT NIGHT, you wouldn’t believe the scenario that Kim was facing. You guessed it, the Yankees trailing by two runs in the 9th inning with two outs. I wonder what happened?
Scott Brosius does his best Tino Martinez impression to tie things up at two when New York was down to their last hope. Then an Alfonso Soriano game-winning RBI single in the 12th inning and all of a sudden the Yankees had “taken control,” as they brought a 3-2 series lead back to Arizona.
The Diamondbacks demolished New York, 15-2 in Game 6, and now we are here at one of the most iconic moments in World Series history.
The Yankees were two outs away from winning their FOURTH straight World Series title. No other organization had ever accomplished the feat, but crazily enough the Yankees had already done this twice (1936-39, 1949-53). Then it all fell apart in the 9th inning for future Hall-of-Famer Mariano Rivera.
This moment meant more than a walk-off win in a Game 7. It was a sign to all of baseball that parity was a possibility. Since 2000, there still hasn’t been a repeat champion in baseball, and that all started on that November night when Luis Gonzalez found a way to give the Diamondbacks their first (and only) World Series title.
1) 2011 World Series, Game 6 – Cardinals With Two Improbable Comebacks to Keep Title Hopes Alive vs. Rangers:
Two major things hit me the moment Game 6 of the 2011 World Series was over. First, that this was one of the best games I had ever watched in any sport – especially considering the do-or-die nature of it all. And second, that the Rangers had ZERO chance of coming back and winning the next night in Game 7.
It’s the 9th inning of Game 6 of the 2011 World Series and the Cardinals had dug themselves a hole that few teams had ever crawled out of (See 2001 Yankees – game’s 4 & 5). The Rangers had St. Louis on the ropes as Texas was ONE STRIKE away from winning their first World Series in team history. Then David Freese had one of the most memorable and clutch hits in World Series history.
While this was a huge moment for St. Louis, can we take a breather and look at Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz on this play? This has bugged me for four years now as there is NO WAY Cruz should not have caught this ball. Even though he was not 100% for this Series (as no one was) he, for some reason, decided to almost jog after this ball once he got his initial read on it. Go to the 0:50 mark of that clip and look at how Cruz put it in cruise-control after he made his jump. Um, HELLO! If you catch that ball you win the WORLD SERIES. How on Earth is he not running toward the wall full speed? I will never understand this.
Ok, now that I got that out of my system, what an amazing hit by Freese. Such a pressure situation and he came through big.
After this huge hit, the Cardinals couldn’t get Freese home from third. Then in the top of the 10th inning Josh Hamilton hit, what appeared to be, the biggest home run of his life, as he put the Rangers on top, 9-7 heading to the bottom of the inning. There’s no way the Rangers could come back again right? Wrong (again). Another Cards rally topped by a Lance Berkman game-tying flair sent Game 6 further into the night, as we were all tied up once more, 9-9.
Then came one of the biggest home runs of the millennium.
Have you ever seen a game where a player had the biggest hit of his life, TWICE? That’s exactly what happened here, as David Freese somehow topped his improbable season-saving, game-tying triple with a season-saving, game-winning home run.
The look on (then) Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan’s face at the 1:02 mark of that clip says it all. That look tells you how much confidence the Rangers would have heading into Game 7 the next night: none.
This crazy Game 6 moment reminds you of some other improbable Game 6’s that led to us forgetting Game 7 even took place.
For instance, the 2003 Marlins after the infamous “Bartman game,” and the 1986 Mets after the “Buckner game.” In both instances, as Cubs and Red Sox fans would rather forget, there was still a Game 7 to be played. There was still a chance to erase some of the (potential) worst moments of your franchise’s history. But, in each case, the team that had just suffered the major downfall wasn’t able to turn things around in Game 7 either. And now all we remember is “what could have been” in Game 6.
Like the Marlins and the Mets, the Cardinals would also go on to win Game 7 and capture the World Series title. But Game 6 is the one that everyone will remember. It was, simply put, the greatest baseball game of the 21st century.