Think of the many players who ended a postseason series with a walk-off hit. Each player’s name is etched into the fabric of his team’s history as one of the franchise’s great heroes.
And there is no consistency to which players get to experience that glory of ending a series with one swing of the bat. Some are Hall of Famers like Bill Mazeroski and Goose Goslin. Others are All-Stars like Luis Gonzalez, Magglio Ordonez, David Ortiz and Joe Carter. Some were solid if not spectacular players like Billy Martin, Chris Chambliss, Edgar Renteria and Kenny Lofton. Others started the game on the bench, like Gene Larkin and Aaron Boone.
And a few, like Francisco Cabrera, defy all logic.
But there are many other players who came to the plate with the opportunity to win either a World Series, League Championship Series or Division Series with one swing of their bat, but did not come through. Each faced down a pitcher in a potential clinching game and had his chance for permanent hero worship from a fan base and a career-defining highlight come and go.
These are the players who came to the plate with a chance to win, only to see their team eventually lose the series all together. I wonder if they relived those a- bats in their minds over and over again.
Maybe they aren’t as masochistic as I am. But in case any of them wanted to hide, no such luck. We’re looking at everyone who missed his greatest chance for immortality.
1926 New York Yankees
Bob Meusel: at bat when Babe Ruth caught stealing. So in essence Meusel never got the chance to win the Series.
1952 Brooklyn Dodgers
1958 Milwaukee Braves
Down 4-3 in the bottom of the 10th. Ryne Duren pitching. Two outs. Hank Aaron on first.
1962 San Francisco Giants
1972 Detroit Tigers
1980 Houston Astros
1985 Toronto Blue Jays
Garth Iorg: Struck out.
1986 California Angels
Gary Pettis: Executed a sacrifice bunt, moving Jones to second.
Joe Sambito relieved Bob Stanley.
Rob Wilfong: Singled, scoring Jones.
Steve Crawford relieved Sambito
Dick Schofield: Singled, sending Wilfong to third with the pennant-clinching run and only one out.
Brian Downing: Walked intentionally.
Doug DeCinces: Popped up to shallow right.
Bobby Grich: Lined out to the pitcher.
Tied 6-6, bottom of 10th. Crawford pitching.
1991 Pittsburgh Pirates
Orlando Merced: Sacrificed Varsho to second with a bunt.
Jay Bell: Hit line drive to right field.
Andy Van Slyke: Wild pitch advanced Varsho to third. Hit a long drive that hooked foul. Struck out looking.
2001 Oakland Athletics
Division Series Game Three versus New York Yankees.
Down 1-0 in the bottom of the ninth. Mariano Rivera pitching. One out. Jermaine Dye on second.
2002 Atlanta Braves
Division Series Game Five versus San Francisco Giants
Down 3-1 in the bottom of the ninth. Robb Nen pitching. No outs. Rafael Furcal on third. Julio Franco on first.
2002 Oakland Athletics
Ray Durham: Hit pop up that the second baseman caught in foul ground.
2003 Oakland Athletics
Jose Guillen: walked.
Derek Lowe relieved Williamson.
Ramon Hernandez: Hit a sacrifice bunt sending Byrnes to third and Guillen to second.
Adam Melhuse: Struck out looking.
Chris Singleton: Walked.
Terrence Long: Struck out looking.
2004 New York Yankees
Tony Clark: Struck out swinging.
2006 New York Mets
There are some odd points of interest when looking at this collection of near misses. Terry Puhl and Rob Wilfong actually delivered game-tying hits in these scenarios. Joe Adcock, Willie Mays and Dick Schofield also produced hits.
Pitchers Warren Spahn and Joe Sambito were allowed to bat when one swing would have meant a postseason series victory.
And I know for sure that Willie McCovey, Gary Pettis and Andy Van Slyke came close to hitting walk-off homers.
The 1980 Astros were the only team to lose two games in one season when they had the clinching run at the plate. The 1986 Angels sent up the most number of batters with the ability to clinch it at 10. And the Oakland A’s could have won three straight postseason series between 2001 and 2003 with a single well placed swing in each year.
A fat pitch here and baseball could have had a few more Francisco Cabreras, Aaron Boones and Magglio Ordonezes. It has to weigh on those hitters. It is clearly weighing on me!
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