The World Series has made it to Game Six in 61 of its 103 Octobers. However, these games have an advantage that makes up for their scarcity. All could end the season. Someone has to have three wins beforehand.
One interesting theme: The best Games Sixes are ones that didn’t end the Series. Of the nine highest-ranked games on my list, seven saw the Series continued to Game Seven. (Because I declare one tie, the nine games are in my top eight).
Makes sense—the drama of Game Six lies in whether a team can salvage its season when all is nearly lost. If a team clinches the championship, yeah, that’s nice, but it had another chance.
Random fact—teams trailing by a game went 35-22 in No. 6. Impressive, huh? Well, from 1955-75, teams trailing after five games went a staggering 14-1 in Game Six. The only exception was 1959.
Best Game Sixes
In 1992, Toronto led almost the entire game, but couldn’t put the Braves away. The Blue Jays had their opportunities, but couldn’t quite get it done. In the third, they left runners on the corners. Two innings later, another died at third. Next inning, they left another pair on. They got a man on every single inning.
Yet in the bottom of the ninth, they clung to a bare 2-1 lead. Atlanta rallied, tying it up on a two-out, two-strike stroke.
However, Toronto got too many men on that night. Their 17th base runner drove in two in the 11th inning. Atlanta put up a valiant effort, scoring one run and getting the tying run to third in the bottom of the 11th before Toronto gave Canada its first world championship.
Tom Glavine doesn’t have a great reputation as a big game starter, but he was masterful in 1995. With the Braves’ offense in a funk, he threw a no-hitter for five innings. He ended giving up one hit, allowing only one man to make it to second base. And that’s how Atlanta clinched its only championship under Bobby Cox.
Detroit threatened to put it away early, scoring a run and loading the bases in the first only to have Larry French hold them from further damage. The game settled into a rhythm where both teams put men on base, but neither exploded.
The Cubs tied it in the third. They could have had something bigger, but Augie Galan got thrown out trying to advance from first to third. This was an especially vexing out given that the next inning began with a single that could’ve driven him in.
Next inning, Detroit retook the lead, 2-1. Just as the Tigers finished congratulating themselves, Billy Herman homered for the first Chicago lead. Shortly afterward, back it forthed again, with Detroit tying it in the sixth, 3-3. Both pitchers kept scattering singles, and after eight innings, the game remained tied. Next team to score should win.
In this tense atmosphere, Chicago’s Stan Hack tripled to start the top of the ninth. Success was a fly ball away. However, the No. 8 hitter, Billy Jurges, whiffed on three pitches. Due up next was pitcher French, who hit .141 that year. But manager Charlie Grimm let him bat in this must-win game. He meekly tapped it back to Bridges. Now the Cubs needed a hit, but Galan hit their sac fly one out too late.
In the bottom of the inning, the Tigers had a man on second with two out when Goose Goslin slashed a ball into right field. The runner rounded third for home, but the throw beat him. Alas, the ball took an awkward short-hop bounce right in front of the plate. It got away from Gabby Hartnett, and Detroit had its first ring.
Herman later recalled, “When I think back on the 1935 World Series, all I can see is Hack standing on third base, waiting for somebody to drive him in. Seems to me now he stood there for hours and hours.” Now, some 630,000 hours later, Cubs Nation still waits.
As much disdain as the 1986 Mets get for being “the bad guys,” the 1985 Cards are a harder team for me to like. At least the Mets were openly obnoxious. The 1985 Cards were the Jeff Kent of baseball teams. Scratch the gritty exterior, and find something unpleasant underneath, as they showed in Game Seven.
St. Louis, 86-0 that year when leading after eight, entered Game Six’s bottom of the ninth up 1-0.
At that point, first base umpire Don Denkinger made a dreadful call—Jorge Orta safe on a clear groundout. But that didn’t give the Royals the game. That didn’t give them the next game. That didn’t cause the Cards to get outscored 13-0 the rest of the Series.
The Cards folded. Jack Clark misplayed a foul ball. Darrell Porter let a pitch squirt away. The Royals scored two runs. For all the blame given Denkinger, the Cards recorded only one frickin’ out. If they were too mentally unable to handle a bad call, I have a lot of trouble feeling sorry for them.
7. 1993: Blue Jays 8, Phillies 6. I was a TV-less college freshman. A guy with a kegger going on let me watch it in a room full of people, most of whom had no idea a game was on. When the room owner closed down the kegger to go to a party, it was the top of the ninth inning. That’s colors my memory of this game: It was eminently ignorable.
It’s one of the best Game Sixes to end the Series, but that highlights the gap between them and those that forced Game Seven. This was to walk-off homers what Joe Carter was to RBIs. It’s not a bad game, but it just leaves me a bit empty. There should be something more to it.
Arguably the highlight was the seventh, when the Phillies rallied to nearly salvage their season.
6. 1945: Cubs 8, Tigers 7 (12). Not the most famous example of a team winning with its back to the wall, but a helluva game.
The Cubs led by four after six innings. After the teams took turns scoring a pair, the Cubs entered the eighth needing only to maintain their 7-3 advantage to force Game Seven.
However, the Tigers made a comeback that inning. With nobody out, second baseman Eddie Mayo stepped to the plate, representing the tying run. He singled in a run but got greedy. The Cubs threw him out when he tried to take an extra base. It proved to be key as Hank Greenberg blasted a game-tying homer. If Mayo had been on, the Tigers would’ve taken the lead.
The teams spent the rest of regulation scaring each other. After the Cubs got a man on third with two out in the bottom of the eighth, the Tigers followed by getting men on first and third with two out. Next, the Cubs had a leadoff double. In every case, no one got the big hit.
In extra innings, Hack got revenge for his 1935 disappointment by lacing an RBI double to left, forcing Game Seven. It was the franchise’s final World Series win.
5. 1991: Twins 4, Braves 3 (11). Only No. 5, but that’s a sign of how good others were.
The Twins needed this one to stay alive. They took an early lead, and though the Braves came back, Minnesota never trailed. Once the Braves tied it in the top of the seventh, neither team ever seriously threatened until the bottom of the 11th, when Kirby Puckett launched his game-winning homer. Many moments are immortalized by a broadcaster’s comment. Jack Buck’s “And we’ll see you tomorrow night” is my favorite.
4. 2002: Angels 6, Giants 5. Rarely has such a large gap been surmounted with so much at stake.
The Angels needed to win to stay alive. For four innings, no serious scoring threats occurred.
In the fifth, the Giants broke the ice, and poured it on from there, taking a 5-0 lead at the seventh-inning stretch. Only nine outs separated the Giants from their first title since moving to San Fran almost a half-century before.
The seventh began with a ground out against Giants starter Russ Ortiz. Eight outs. However, the Angels got back-to-back singles for their first rally of the day. Relief pitcher Felix Rodriguez came in to face Scott Spiezio. In a key battle, Spiezio fouled off numerous pitches to work the count full, then smashed a home run to make it a 5-3 game.
The Giants escaped without further damage, but the Angels began the eighth inning energized. The first four batters combined for a homer, two singles, and a double for a 6-5 lead with none out. Anaheim held on to win the game, and its first title the next night.
The 1953 team may have been the best in Dodgers history. They won 105 games and scored almost 200 more runs than any other team in the league. Park factor, schmark factor—that’s incredible. However, in the Series, they dropped three of the first five to the Yanks, who had beaten them in three of the previous six World Series.
This looked like more of the same, as the Bronx squad quickly went up 3-0. Meanwhile, southpaw Whitey Ford held the Brooklyn batters in check, despite the fact that their offense was built to bash lefties. Jackie Robinson manufactured a run in the sixth, but that was it.
However, in the ninth, with a relief pitcher in, the Dodgers pounced. Carl Furillo tied it with a two-run homer. Finally, this might be their year.
As soon as hopes rose, their dreams were dashed. After a leadoff walk, Mickey Mantle beat out an infield single. Up stepped Billy Martin. Not a great talent, but not a man to be cowed by pressure, Martin singled in the season-ending run. The Yanks had won their fifth in a row.
Though Yankees starter Bob Turley wasn’t as good as Larsen had been, he wasn’t much worse. Through seven innings, he held Brooklyn to two scratch hits. One had come with two outs, and on the other, the runner was nailed right away while trying to take second base. A leadoff double in the eighth provided the Dodgers with their first threat, but the runner died on that base. For 18 straight innings, they hadn’t reached third.
Meanwhile, Clem Labine (who hit that eighth inning double) matched Turley frame-for-frame. The Yankees had seven hits, but they hadn’t had a man on third base either.
After nine innings of deadlocked ball, Brooklyn had to wonder if it ever would score. But in the 10th, Robinson singled home the first Dodger run since forever. They lived to fight another day.
2. 1986: Mets 6, Red Sox 5 (10). I remember watching this Series as a kid. As a Cubs fan, I never liked the Mets. Also, for no reason, I always liked the Red Sox. Aside from 2005, I’ve never had such a strong rooting interest in any World Series as this one.
Boston, needing just one more win, led for most of the game. However, the Mets tied it in the bottom of the eighth. For a moment, it looked like the Mets were going to win in the ninth when they led off with a walk and Mookie Wilson reached on an error. On this occasion, however, relief ace Calvin Schiraldi snuffed the rally.
ALCS hero Dave Henderson homered in the 10th, and when the first two Mets made outs in the bottom of the inning, the Red Sox were closer to victory than any non-champion had ever been.
Single. Eleven years old, sitting at home, I had a bad feeling. Remembering the 1984 NLCS, I wasn’t counting chickens before they hatched.
Another single. I had a sense of doom. Somehow, some way, I felt the Red Sox were going to blow it. I can’t explain it.
Another accursed single. Run scores. Tying run on third. Oh Jesus, oh Jesus, oh Jesus. Up until now, I’d had bad feelings, but now the intellectual part of my brain was giving up.
Bob Stanley relieves Schiraldi to face Mookie Wilson, and throws a wild pitch. Tying run scores, winning run on second. CRAP! It’s bad enough I have to be so pessimistic. Do they have to justify it? Mookie battles, fouling off several pitches.
All inning long I’d expected the worst. All throughout the frame, I expected the Mets to win that inning. Then, I finally found some relief when I saw Mookie bounce a harmless grounder to Bill Buckner for an easy ou – GAAAAAAHHHH!!!
I felt like I’d stuck my tongue on the third rail. I can only imagine how horrible that play must have felt for a Red Sox fan.
Afterwards, a sportscaster stuck in the catacombs of Shea didn’t know what had happened because of his location. From the cheering he knew the Mets won, but that’s it. Determined to find out what happened, Dan Patrick asked the first player he saw, “Bill Buckner, what happened?”
1. 1975: Red Sox 7, Reds 6 (12). There’s no truth to the rumor that this holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for most late inning heroics. After all, Guinness doesn’t keep that as a record. What can I say about this one that hasn’t been said a million times? Allow me to touch briefly on the four moments that made it famous.
In the bottom of the eighth, Boston trailed by three with two on and two out. Technically, this wasn’t the last chance, but you didn’t want to miss opportunities down by this much with only four outs left in the season. Not only did Bernie Carbo tie it on a pinch-hit homer, but he did it right after looking really stupid on the previous pitch.
In the bottom of the ninth, it looked like the Red Sox had it wrapped up when they loaded the bases with no out. Then, on a fly out, the lead runner misheard the third base coach’s “No, no, no” as “Go, go, go.” Cincy threw him out at the plate, effectively ending the rally.
In the 11th, the Red Sox pulled off a surprise double play. With a man on first, Dwight Evans desperately lurched at the last possible moment toward what appeared to be a homer by Joe Morgan, somehow snaring it. Then, he used his famous arm to nail the runner, ending the inning.
Then, Fisk. That’s all I need to say. You’ve all seen it a million times.
That only leaves Game Seven. Anytime that’s close, it should be a classic.
References & Resources
Enders, Eric, “100 Years of the World Series, 1903-2003.” New York City: Barnes & Noble, 2004. This helped out big time.
Feldmann, Doug, “September Streak.” Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2003. Helped with the 1935 game.