Just because it’s November that doesn’t mean I can’t remain stuck in October. The hot stove league might keep some baseball fans warm, but I like to stay cozy by heating up baseball history.
In my last article I noted that the most famous postseason games of almost all come from late in the Series. Trying to look at the games themselves in isolation, I wrote that column on the best Game 1s in World Series history. Continuing that theme, this piece looks at the best Game 2s that the Fall Classics ever provided.
Just because none of baseball’s defining moments happened in Game 2 doesn’t mean there haven’t been some sensational games played in the second act of the World Series, however.
The 10 best games twos
My last column had 14 games listed as the 10 best game ones. This time my counting skills are better; only 11.
10) 1992: Blue Jays 5, Braves 4. Of all the forgotten Fall Classics, this was one of the best. In game two, the Braves led early, only to see the Jays rally and tie it. Just as soon as they knotted it up, the Braves came ahead, manufacturing two runs.
Toronto didn’t give up, inching a little closer every inning. After a walk that led nowhere in the sixth, Pat Borders was stranded on third next inning. Then they finally pushed a run across in the eighth. 4-3.
In the ninth, the Blue Jays took their first lead of the game on a two-run Ed Sprague homer. That didn’t end the fun. The Braves put two runners on before going down by Tom Henke in the bottom of the ninth.
The game was a microcosm of Atlanta’s October hopes in the Cox-Mazzone era: looked like they were going to win it all, only to fall short right at the end.
Tied 1-1 in the ninth, the Mets knocked out three successive singles to go up. Then, proving that baseball in 1969 was very different from the current game, with two outs in the ninth inning and two runners on, manager Gil Hodges let the pitcher hit. He made an out, but held the Orioles in the bottom of the frame.
I generally don’t believe that during the regular season athletes let the pressure get to them, but October is a different story. Lose and there’s always another day in June. Lose two in a row and you’re behind the eight-ball here in the Series. If the Mets lost this game, they were finished. They lost the first game and couldn’t afford to fall further behind to the 109-53 Orioles.
For the Reds, winning the second game put them up two games to none, placing the intense October pressure on Oakland. The Reds fell behind early, but chipped away. After tying it late, a series of seeing-eye ground balls ended it in the 10th.
8) 1924: Senators 4, Giants 3. For all the talk of 1975 and 2001, 1924 might still be the greatest World Series of them all. Here, the Senators, down one game after a titanic opener, knotted it up in dramatic fashion.
When Washington went up 3-0 early in the game, it looked like the day was theirs. But for the second straight game, manager Bucky Harris was a little too loyal with his starting pitcher. After allowing a run in the seventh, Tom Zachary lost his stuff in the ninth. He allowed two more runs, most memorably Frankie Frisch scoring from first on a single. I’d like to have seen that.
Closing the barn doors once the cows had gone a’wandering, Harris belatedly brought in relief ace Firpo Marberry to quell the situation. However, many in the stands assuredly felt the game looked destined to be the squad’s second straight heartache.
Not if Roger Peckinpaugh had anything to say about it. In the bottom of the ninth, he hit a one-out RBI double to give the team it’s first ever World Series triumph, helping to set the stage for a legendary Game 7.
7) 2002: Angels 11, Giants 10. Game 2′s best slugfest. Giants starter Russ Ortiz set a World Series record for the worst game score. He and rival starter Kevin Appier only retired 10 of the 27 batters they faced while allowing four homers.
The Giants rallied from deficits of 5-0 and 7-4 to take a 9-7 lead in the top of the fifth. Of course in this game, it only took an inning and a half for the Angels to tie it up, and two more to take the lead for good.
Added bonus: the first inning contained a steal of home, by legendary speed demon Brad Fullmer.
6) 1973: Mets 10, A’s 7 (12). I like games that go into extra innings and go back and forth. This had both. It also had a great storyline, as the 82-79 Mets sought to out-grit the gamiest bunch of players that’s ever been, the defending champion Oakland A’s. The Mustache Gang had already won the first one, and the underdogs couldn’t afford to go down 2-0.
The Mets rubbed out Oakland’s early lead with a four-run burst in the sixth. But the 1972-4 A’s were like an especially virulent form of October weed: you just couldn’t get rid of them. With two outs in the ninth, three straight men reached base to tie the game.
The Mets threatened in the next two frames but couldn’t push anything through, while the A’s went lamely down in order each time. In the 12th the Mets finally broke through, scoring four runs off of four hits and two errors. All runs came with two outs.
Normally, when a team scores four runs in the top of an extra inning, the excitement over. But those damn A’s had an all-time great peskiness factor. Triple. Walk. RBI Single. And before you can say, “Hey, there’s no one out, yet” the tying run came to the plate. Back then the A’s were a team whose #### most certainly worked in the postseason.
Unfortunately, the bottom of the order was coming up. After an out, the A’s got a walk to put the tying run on. But the next two batters made outs. Game over.
5) 2005: White Sox 7, Astros 6. Postseason drama works on two levels: the drama within the game, and the drama over the Series. The former refers to how closely contested the game is, and the latter centers on how long the series lasts. By the latter standards, the 2005 Series wasn’t very good as the Sox swept Houston. By the former, it was a true Fall Classic as every game was close.
Game 2 was an amazing back-and-forth affair. Not only were there twists, but they were so damn dramatic twists. The Sox didn’t just score four in the seventh to take the lead; they did it on a Paul Konerko grand slam, with two outs no less. Houston didn’t just tie it; they scored their final pair of runs in the ninth inning (again with two outs) off closer Bobby Jenks.
The game saved the best for last though, with Scott Posednik‘s walk-off homer. Plenty of men have hit walk-off bombs, but none this unlikely. In 568 plate appearances during the regular season, Posednik hit zero homers. Of the 243 guys in baseball with at least 359 PA that year, 241 hit homers. He didn’t have the most power, but he had the timeliest.
4) 1913: Giants 3, A’s 0 (10). Now this is what a World Series game outta look like. Two Hall of Fame, 300-game winners face off against each other. Both already had plenty of big game experience and each had won a ring in past seasons. After nine innings, the game is tied with nary a run scored.
Early on it looked like it might produce some offensive fireworks. The A’s, looking to show up the pitcher who shut them out three times in the 1905 World Series, threatened early. In the first they got a man on third base with only one out with the fearsome Frank “Home Run” Baker at the plate. Strikeout followed by a flyout. They wouldn’t make it back to third base for quite a while.
In the third, it was New York’s turn to get a man on third with only one out. Fielder’s choice, runner nailed at the plate, followed by a fly out.
Then the pitchers took over. Batters didn’t score. Heck, they couldn’t get to third. They only made it to second if there were two outs, and those trips were mighty rare. Then came the ninth.
In the bottom frame, the A’s led off with a pair of singles, and thanks to an error by second baseman Larry Doyle they had runners on second and third with no outs. Damn shame for them that Christy Mathewson was still Christy Mathewson. Pitching in a pinch, he got out of the jam with some well-placed groundouts.
After a lead-off single and a sacrifice, in the top of the 10th, the Giants finally drew blood with an RBI single. The batter who finally broke the ice? Fittingly, it was Christy Mathewson. On a day dominated by pitchers he was the natural choice to do the honors.
3) 1944: Cardinals 3, Browns 2 (11). “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been.’” John Greenleaf Whittier wasn’t referring to the 1944 St Louis Browns when he penned those words. Rather, he didn’t realize he referred to the 1944 St Louis Browns.
The squad was a perpetual sad sack in baseball, in their last 28 years in St Louis, the Browns finished last in attendance 26 times. WWII brought the team it’s only pennant, though.
And the World Series got off to a right start for them, narrowly edging their city rival 2-1 in the opener. If they won Game 2, then like the Reds nearly a half-century later, they would’ve been in perfect position to make their opponents sweat.
Early on, they didn’t play like AL champs. They played like, well, like the Browns. The Cards scored one in the third and another in the fourth. Both were error-aided unearned runs highlighted by pitcher Nels Potter committing two errors on one play in the third inning. Meanwhile, through six innings, the Browns had exactly two hits, both mere singles. Only one of their players got past first base, and he died at second.
The seventh inning promised more of the same as the first two batters meekly made outs with the bottom of the order coming up. To the surprise of everyone, they rattled out a single, double and another single to tie the score. Suddenly, this might be the Browns’ year after all.
In the eighth, the Browns’ Max Kreevich blasted a lead-off double, putting them that much closer to glory. Alas, all it did was chase starter Max Lanier from the game, as Kreevich never advanced. Still tied 2-2, the game entered overtime.
George McQuillan gave the Browns another lead-off double in the 11th. Alas, he immediately proved the old adage that you should never make the first or third out at third base, getting nabbed in a fielder’s choice. This time, the Cards made them pay, turning two singles, a bunt, and a walk into the winning run.
The Browns went on to win Game 3. Had they won this game, they would have been up three games to none, in an exceptionally good position to carry the series. Ah yes, the saddest of words truly are “it might have been.” The Browns never won a championship.
Early on it didn’t look like he was doing very well. In the first three innings he allowed two runs off of six hits. It could’ve been worse, but AL left fielder Goose Goslin threw out Joe Medwick at the plate to end the third.
Then he retired the next 22 batters he faced. After a double, he didn’t allow another base runner. 28 up, 27 down. Only Don Larsen can top that in October. The Tigers chipped their way back into it, tying it in the bottom of the ninth and winning in the 12th.
1) 1916: Red Sox 2, Robins (Dodgers) 1 (14). The 1916 and 1924 are the only Series to make the Top 10 list for Games 1 and 2 While 1924 remained great, it was all downhill for 1916.
This was one of the greatest pitchers duels of all-time, with both hurlers going the distance. The winning pitcher, some fella by the name of Ruth, set a record that still stands for most innings pitched in a World Series game. He also has what is still the best game score in World Series history. Really.
Brooklyn’s Hy Myers hit an inside-the-park homer in the first inning, but the team never seriously threatened again. Only one other Bum made it to third, and he went down in a fielder’s choice in the eighth. In the rest of the game, only one other Brooklynite made it to second.
Boston hit a pair of triples, one of which led to a game-tying run when Ruth got the RBI, and another the man died on third when Ruth whiffed.
Someone had to lose, and in the 14th, Boston finally manufactured a run on a walk, bunt, and single, giving them a two games to none lead in the Series.
Looking back, there’s very little separating the games on this list, especially the top six (in fact, at one point I had 1973 at #1). Yet none of these are really well known. And when you get down to it, Game 3s are rarely historic ones either, but that’s for another time.