If you watch enough of the MLB Network—and it will surely not shock you to learn I watch a lot of the MLB Network—you will eventually see footage of pretty much every notable baseball game or event for which footage is extant. Sometimes this is in ads for programming, sometimes the programming itself, but ultimately, you see it all.
I bring this up because I was watching something the other day—Quick Pitch, probably, which towers over every other baseball highlight show like Babe Ruth towering over the American League in the 1920s—and for some reason or another they played a clip from the 2004 ALCS.
As you might imagine, I’m not fan of seeing that. But it occurred to me that fans of nearly every team must experience this sometimes, which further got me thinking about what could be classified as the worst game in history for each team. So that’s what we’re doing this week.
Before we begin, a few notes. First, owing somewhat to space restrictions, but more towards the difficulty in picking them, I’m only listing the worst games for teams I feel sure about. Furthermore, I have been using the word “team” rather than “franchise” for a reason. Insofar as franchise history is concerned, the worst game for the Expos/Nationals is “Blue Monday” in the 1981 playoffs. For Nationals’ fans though, that game means little, and for Expos’ fans I can only assume that October 3, 2004—the last day the team was actually the Montreal Expos—is the worst. So we shall worry instead only about games taking place in the team’s current city.
One last thing before we begin: it is important I point here that, when discussing worst games, I am only discussing baseball worst. As bad as losing to Boston in 2004 was for Yankee fans, August 6, 1979, when the team hosted the Orioles after returning from Thurman Munson’s funeral, was far more terrible. That’s real-life—I’m only here for the game.
New York Yankees: 2004 ALCS Game 7
Ugh. The Yankees have had some tough losses, Game 7 of the 1960 World Series springs to mind, as does Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. Both of those games, however, either immediately preceded or followed a World Series victory. On the other hand, this game came a year after the Yankees had lost a World Series—ugh—and was the culmination of a disastrous four games that saw the team blow a 3-0 lead to the hated Red Sox and do so while getting blown out at home. Ugh. Let’s just move on.
|The Cards celebrate giving the Rangers their worst loss ever (US Presswire)|
Boston Red Sox: 1986 World Series, Game 6
Conceding there’s not a real way to make a study of this, I would guess the Red Sox have more “worst games” than any other franchise. Moving backwards in time (and excluding the worst game above), there was the final game of the 2011 season, Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, Game 7 of the 1975 World Series, Game 7 of the 1946 and so on. Those are all pretty bad losses in their own right, but even more so in the context of the Red Sox inability to win a World Series for so many years. Of course, they’ve turned it around since then as the above story—ugh—establishes.
Despite those other struggles, I think this is the clear choice for the worst game in Red Sox history. Decades away from their last World Series title, the Red Sox were repeatedly just one strike away from winning it all. Instead, they not only ended up losing the game, but losing the game owing to a succession of misplays.
Texas Rangers: 2011 World Series, Game 6
Speaking of losing the World Series when a team is just one strike away, it’s the 2011 Texas Rangers. This was one of the greatest games in baseball history, but I doubt any Ranger fans will want to watch it again for pure aesthetic appreciation. In both the ninth and tenth inning, the Rangers had two-run leads, including a two-run lead with two outs and two strikes in the ninth. No team has ever come closer to a World Series title without ending up celebrating.
San Francisco Giants: Game 7, 1962 World Series
Of course, when I say no one has come closer to winning a World Series without actually doing so than the Rangers, I am speaking figuratively. Speaking literally, no one has ever come closer than the 1962 Giants. In Game 7, trailing by one run, the Giants puts runners on second and third with two outs and slugging Willie McCovey at the plate. It had not been a great World Series for Stretch, but a hit in that situation would make everyone forget. On the other side, Yankees pitcher Ralph Terry, who had surrendered Bill Mazeroski’s series winning home run in 1960, was looking for redemption.
Ultimately, McCovey got a pretty good pitch to hit and sent a line drive in the direction of Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson. McCovey had made good contact—he would later say the ball was the hardest he ever hit—but Richardson was placed perfectly and made the catch to end the series. Had the ball been hit slightly to the left, or to the right, or up, the Giants would have unquestionably tied the game and—with Willie Mays on second—probably won it.
Florida Marlins: March 31, 1998
This is rather an unusual choice, but I think it is an easy one when it comes to the Marlins—who have had a lot more good than bad in their days. This day was the first of the 1998 season. On Opening Day 1997—a year which ended for the Fish, of course, with 92 wins and the World Series title—the Marlins starting line-up included Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown, Devon White, Moises Alou and “Mr. Marlin” Jeff Conine. By Opening day of 1998, all of those names save Sheffield were gone, replaced with the likes of Ryan Jackson, Josh Booty and a pre-competence Mark Kotsay. The Marlins would end up losing 108 games that season, and checking out the line-up on Opening Day, Marlins’ fans no doubt recognized the glory of 1997 was not to be repeated.
So that’s five teams. At this point, I throw it open to you to fill in the remaining 25 teams. I have some ideas on it, but for some teams, I’m at a genuine loss even for candidates for worst game. Let me know what you think in the comments, and perhaps we’ll revisit this topic another day.