Comparing Game Sixes: 1975 vs. 2011

How great was last night’s Game Six of the World Series?

Well, let’s look at it for a second. On Monday, I debuted a system for trying to rank the overall quality and excitement of a World Series based on several factors that generally help make a postseason series memorable. Let’s apply that system to Game Six of last night and see how many points it accrues. And for perspective, we’ll compare it to Game Six of 1975—the gold standards of World Series Game Sixes.

Key note: This system isn’t intended to be any final word on any matter. It’s more a starting point than a finishing point. It isn’t perfect by any means, but it does work pretty dang well.

If you’re curious, you can find the full methodology in the references and resources section at the end of my column from Monday. Okay, now on to the comparison.

Let’s start with 1975’s Game Six.

It forced an extra potential elimination game, which is worth five points. It also ensured the Series would go the full seven games, which is worth 10 points (a postseason series gets five points for going six games, and 15 for going seven). So that’s a total of 15 points so far.

The Red Sox won by one run; so that’s worth three points. 18 points in all.

They won on a walk-off home run by Carlton Fisk—that’s 15 more points. 33 points in all.

The game went extra innings. Any game gets three points for going into extra frames. On top of that, it gets four points for each individual extra inning. Since Game Six went 12 innings, that’s three extra frames so 12 more points, for a total 15 points caused by extra innings. That’s an overall total of 48 points so far.
Earlier on, the Red Sox tied the game in the eighth inning. That’s three points. 51 points total.

Lastly, there are comebacks. There are two kinds of comebacks, ones that just tie the score and ones that cause the lead to change hands. The latter are worth twice as much as the former. There were two comebacks in Game Six of the 1975 World Series; each of which caused the lead to change hands. Both were also comebacks from three-run deficits. In all, that’s eight points for comebacks

Add it all up, and Game Six of the 1975 World Series is worth 59 points.

Now for the new contender. Again, five points for forcing an extra game that could result in an elimination, and on top of that 10 points for making the World Series go a full seven games. That’s 15 points to start.

Also similar: three points for being a one-run win; this time 10-9 for St. Louis. So far, that’s 18 points.

Again, 15 points for a walk-off homer, this one by David Freese. We’re at 33 points and counting.

Then there’s extra innings. It also gets three points for going into extras. Since it went 11, that’s eight points for its two extra innings. St. Louis trailed entering the bottom of the 10th but came back to tie it. That’s worth five points. All extra inning stuff is worth 16 points. That gives this game a tally of 49 points, and we’re still not done.

However, instead of an eighth inning tie a la 1975, last night’s Game Six featured a ninth inning tie. That’s worth six points. So far, 55 points. Almost to 1975’s score.

Finally, comebacks. This game featured six of them, four of them from one-run deficits and the others from a two and three-run gap. Only three resulted in the leads changing hands—a pair of one-runners, and the two-run gap. In all, that’s worth six points. (Yes, there were more comebacks than in 1975, but most were from just one-run deficits and only half the time resulted in a lead change, so it doesn’t score as high).

Add it all together, and it adds up to 61 points, which tops 1975’s 59 points.

Does that mean this game was definitively better. No, of course not. That’s part of the beauty of baseball—there is no such thing as definitively better. But it does tell us this: Anyone who argues that this game was the best Game Six in World Series history has a legitimate point. He’s not just engaging in the all-too-commonly expressed historical amnesia that pronounced the most recent great event the greatest event ever. This one might have been.

Personally, I’d pick 1975’s Game Six over this one because the items not captured in the raw number favor 1975. While last night was very exciting, there was a lot of sloppy and frankly abysmal play. The teams committed five errors—and they were really ugly errors.

Alternately, 1975 had two fantastic moments not captured above. In the bottom of the ninth with the score 6-6, Boston loaded the bases with no outs, only to hit into a double play with a fly out and runner gunned down at the plate. Then a routine out ended the rally. In the 11th, Dwight Evans made an incredible catch on a Joe Morgan shot to right that resulted in a double play—the runner on first never though Evans could get to it.

Last night had Mike Napoli’s awesome pickoff play at third, and some interesting managerial gamesmanship, but in all I’d give a slight edge to 1975. But if someone wanted to argue for 2011—yeah, I could see that.

Oh, if you’re curious, Game Six of the 1986 World Series comes in at 51.3 points.

How do they all compare to the best Game Sevens? It’s an uneven playing field because I’m giving all the Game Sixes some points that are really more series-dependent; namely the 10 points for forcing a Game Seven and five points for ensuring there will be an extra elimination game. I’d want to remove those points before comparing them to a Game Seven. Or, to flip it around, a good argument can be made that I should assign the 10 points for causing Game Seven to a Game Seven. (After all, in the official methodology, a Series gets the extra points for going the distance, and a Game Six isn’t the distance).

Anyhow, let’s look at Game Seven of 1960, AKA the Mazeroski game. That’s worth 49.7 points—and that’s not including any additional 10 points for a World Series going seven games or any five points as an additional elimination game. Without those additional points, last night would come in at 46 points.

Again, the key point is that they’re all pretty similar. A case can be made one way or the other for what’s the greatest game of all-time. But when you get down to it — I don’ t see how you go against the Game Seven when it’s at all close.

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  1. Steve Treder said...

    Excellent job, Chris.  It is truly the case that last night we were privileged to witness one of those games that will be vividly remembered for decades and decades to come.

  2. Terry Elliott said...

    Interesting diagnosis. I’d like to see a similar one done comparing to the 1991 World Series. There both teams (not just one) had bases loaded, 1 out—and no one scored. There was the Kirby catch, and the Kirby home run to win it.

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