As another World Series gets set to start tonight in Kansas City, where will the matchup of the San Francisco Giants-Kansas City Royals fit in the scope of modern World Series history? Here’s a look back at the top nine Fall Classics in the modern era.
The modern era at TheSportsNotebook, for reasons outlined here, begins in 1975. By way of personal preference, I’m giving a higher value to World Series that were tied after four games, though there are cases of teams coming from 3-1 down to win.
My reason is that the Series that was tied early on was good from the outset, whereas the comeback series had a brief period in the middle where a fan without an emotional tie to either team might have concluded it was over.
1975: The Big Red Machine, after postseason disappointments in 1970, 1972 and 1973, was at risk of going down in history as a team that could never get over the top, especially when the Boston Red Sox grabbed Game 1 at home. But Cincinnati won the next two, and the teams traded wins all the way to the end, with Cincy rally from a 3-0 deficit in Game 7 and scored the winning run in the ninth inning.
2002: The Anaheim Angels and San Francisco Giants went back and forth, but San Francisco looked to finally be in control, with a 3-2 lead in games, and 5-0 lead in the eighth inning of Game 6. The Angels put on a stirring rally to win that game, and then closed it out at home one night later.
2011: Who doesn’t remember this one from just three years ago? The Texas Rangers were on the ropes early, trailing 2-1 in games. A bullpen snafu in Game 4, where St. Louis brought in the wrong reliever helped the Rangers off the mat and they were poised to close it out in Game 6. Then David Freese tied the game. Then Josh Hamilton put Texas up one more time. Then Lance Berkman tied the game. Finally, Freese won it, and the Cardinals won Game 7.
1982: Another St. Louis rally at home. The Cardinals and Brewers went back and forth in a contrast between speedy St. Loo and power-laden Milwaukee. The Brewers led Game 7 by two runs into the sixth inning, but the Cardinals rallied and won their first World Series title in 15 years.
1991: The Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves played a homefield World Series. The Twins had the luck of the draw, with the rotation that determined homefield going their way. They also had Kirby Puckett and Jack Morris. The former saved Game 6 with a great catch and a walkoff home run. The latter threw ten shutout innings to win a Game 7 for the ages, 1-0.
1986: It brings about anguished memories in New England. The Red Sox won the first two games on the road and appeared home free. The Mets answered with two wins in Fenway Park, but Boston took Game 5 and was one strike away from winning Game 6, with a two-run lead and no one aboard. Then came the sequence that ended with Bill Buckner’s error. The Red Sox led the seventh game 3-0 early, but in shades of 1975, the lead disappeared and the Mets won 8-5.
1985: The Kansas City Royals were in a 3-1 hole at St. Louis, but they won Game 5 and got the Series back home. They were down to their last three outs in Game 6, trailing 1-0. A bad umpire’s call opened the door to a rally to win that game, and the Cardinals crumbled in Game 7. Kansas City won 11-0 to win George Brett and a proud group of veterans their first ring.
2001: In the aftermath of 9/11, Game 3 at Yankee Stadium had an electric atmosphere with President Bush throwing out the first ball. Games 4 & 5 had an electric atmosphere for different reasons—the Yankees, already on the mat after losing the first two games in Arizona, tied Games 4 & 5 with ninth-inning home runs and won each in extra innings. In Game 7, they had a ninth-inning lead and Mariano Rivera on the mound. Arizona pieced together a rally and won its only World Series.
1979: Willie “Pops” Stargell put the Pittsburgh Pirates on his back at all the key moments of the postseason and none more so than in Game 7. Pittsburgh had already faced a 3-1 hole in games, and even after winning Game 5, still had to come to Baltimore. The Pirates trailed 1-0 in the sixth inning of the decisive game when Stargell hit a two-run homer that cleared the glove of Oriole outfielder Ken Singleton by inches. The 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates remain the last game to win the last two games of a World Series on the road.