Ranking the Top 25 Goats/Heroes in MLB League Championship History
This weekend, the MLB League Championship Series gets underway for both leagues. Since its creation in 1969, the LCS has certainly provided fans with a multitude of great plays, performances and spell-binding action.
They have also provided a measure of disappointment as well.
While we patiently await the series of games that determines each league's pennant-winner, we'll take a look back at the greatest performances as well as the biggest letdowns in MLB league championship history.
Our list will include a mixture of single-game achievements, gaffes, walk-offs and overall series performances that left fans either giddy with excitement or heartbroken in despair.
25. Carlos Beltran: 2006 NLCS, Game 7- Goat
Al Bello/Getty Images
The New York Mets were tied at three games apiece with the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2006 NLCS. However, they were trailing 3-1, heading into the bottom of the ninth inning.
With closer Adam Wainwright on the mound for the Cards, the Mets mounted a rally. The dangerous Carlos Beltran was at the plate with two runners aboard and two outs.
Representing the winning run, Beltran was facing an 0-2 count. Wainwright delivers, and Beltran watches the ball cross the plate for called strike three.
Game over, season over for Mets.
Whatever happened to the old adage of swinging at anything close with two strikes and the game on the line? Or, in this case, the season on the line?
24. Mike Hampton: New York Mets, 2000 NLCS- Hero
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
In his lone season with the New York Mets in 2000, Mike Hampton certainly left an impression.
Following a regular season in which he went 15-10 with a 3.14 ERA, Hampton did his best work in the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Hampton started and won Game 1, throwing seven hitless innings in the Mets' 6-2 victory.
He saved his best for Game 5, however.
Looking to close out the Cardinals, the Mets turned to Hampton once again. This time, Hampton went the distance, throwing a three-hit shutout to send New York to the World Series.
23. Reggie Jackson: California Angels, 1982 ALCS- Goat
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Slugger Reggie Jackson had already earned the name Mr. October for his hitting exploits with the New York Yankees in the 1970s.
However, in 1982 with the California Angels, October was not a kind month for Jackson.
After hitting .275 during the regular season with 39 home runs, Jackson was a bust in the ALCS against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Jackson hit just .111 with one home run, including an 0-for-3 performance in the critical fifth game as the Brewers defeated the Angels 4-3 to advance to the World Series for the first time in franchise history.
22. George Brett: 1985 ALCS, Game 3- Hero
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In 1985, the Kansas City Royals were in the ALCS for the sixth time in 10 seasons, facing the Toronto Blue Jays, who were in the ALCS for the first time in franchise history.
However, the Blue Jays acted like they had been there before, winning the first two games over the more experienced Royals.
George Brett made sure the Royals made an appearance in Game 3.
In a must-win situation, Brett delivered in a big way. He homered off Blue Jays starter Doyle Alexander in the bottom of the first inning to give the Royals a quick 1-0 lead.
Brett then doubled and scored in the bottom of the fourth, and then with his team trailing 5-3 in the sixth, Brett connected against Alexander again. His two-run home run tied the game at 5-5.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Brett singled for his fourth hit of the night and came around to score the go-ahead run on a single by Steve Balboni. The run would hold up as the Royals won 6-5 for their first win of the series. Brett was 4-for-4 with four runs scored and three RBI—literally a one-man wrecking crew.
Brett's performance put the Royals back in the series, and they would go on to win three of the next four games to win the American League pennant for the second time in team history.
21. Nelson Cruz: Texas Rangers, 2011 NLCS- Hero
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
In 2011, the Texas Rangers faced the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS. The Tigers gave the Rangers all they could handle, bashing 13 home runs in six games.
However, the Rangers had a potent weapon of their own.
Right fielder Nelson Cruz had a series for the ages, belting six home runs with 13 RBI, both postseason records, as the Rangers beat the Tigers in six games for their second consecutive American League pennant.
20. Alfonso Soriano: New York Yankees, 2001 ALCS, Game 4- Hero
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In 2001, the New York Yankees were in the ALCS for the fifth time in six seasons, facing the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners were in the ALCS for the second consecutive season and were looking to avenge their loss to the Yankees the previous year.
The Yankees got off to a 2-1 series lead, but in Game 4 the Yankees found themselves down 1-0 heading into the bottom of the eighth.
Center fielder Bernie Williams tied it up with a solo shot off reliever Arthur Rhodes. After Mariano Rivera retired the Mariners in the top of the ninth, manager Lou Piniella brought in closer Kazuhiro Sasaki to preserve the 1-1 tie.
Sasaki retired Shane Spencer on a groundout, but then gave up a single to third baseman Scott Brosius. Second baseman Alfonso Soriano then hit a towering blast over the wall in right-center field to give the Yankees a walk-off 3-1 win and a commanding three-games-to-one series lead.
19. Jack Clark: St. Louis Cardinals, 1985 NLCS, Game 6- Hero
Photo courtesy stlouis.cardinals.mlb.com
In 1985, the St. Louis Cardinals lost the first two games of the NLCS to the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, they stormed back to take the next three games at Busch Stadium and were looking to close things out at Dodger Stadium in Game 6.
The Dodgers had taken a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning, courtesy of a solo home run by right fielder Mike Marshall.
The Dodgers sent reliever Tom Niedenfuer back out to start the night, his third inning in relief of starter Orel Hershisher.
Niedenfuer put himself in a jam, allowing a single to Willie McGee and a walk to Ozzie Smith. With runners on second and third with two out, first baseman Jack Clark stepped to the plate.
Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda then made a crucial error. Instead of walking Clark and loading the bases to set up a force at any base, he elected to pitch to Clark.
Clark launched a Niedenfuer pitch 450 feet into the left-field seats, giving the Cardinals a 7-5 lead.
The Dodgers went down meekly in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Cardinals the National League pennant.
18. Grady Little: Boston Red Sox, 2003 ALCS, Game 7- Goat
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The Boston Red Sox were leading the New York Yankees 5-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. Starter Pedro Martinez had given his team seven strong innings.
Walking off at the end of the seventh inning, it certainly appeared that Martinez' night was over. He was receiving high-fives and handshakes in the dugout and had the look of man whose work was done.
Manager Grady Little had other ideas.
Little sent Martinez back out the bump to start the eighth inning.
Martinez retired Nick Johnson on an infield pop-out, then gave up four consecutive hits. By the time the dust had settled, Martinez' night was over and the Yankees had plated three runs to tie the game at 5-5.
Little's decision to put Pedro back on the hill would ultimately cost him his job.
17. Ron Perranoski: Minnesota Twins, 1969 ALCS- Goat
Photo courtesy sportsecyclopedia.com
In in article published last year, I wrote about the travails and perils of Minnesota Twins reliever Ron Perranoski in the 1969 ALCS.
Minnesota Twins reliever Ron Perranoski should have thought about calling in sick after the 1969 regular season ended, because the postseason made him, and Minnesota Twins fans, even sicker.
Perranoski had enjoyed a terrific regular season, posting a 2.11 ERA with 31 saves. In Game 1 of the ALCS against the Baltimore Orioles, Perranoski, pitching his fourth inning in relief of Jim Perry, lost the game in the 12th on a suicide squeeze by Paul Blair that plated Mark Belanger with the winning run.
In Game 2, Perranoski was again called upon, this time in the 11th inning after Dave Boswell had worked 10 2/3 innings. With a runner on first and second, Perranoski gave up a single to score the winning run once again.
Perranoski worked the ninth inning of Game 3 as well, and gave up three runs on three hits. However, the game was already out of reach, so thankfully Perranoski was spared the indignity of choking away three games in a row.
16. David Ortiz: Boston Red Sox, 2004 ALCS- Hero
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz had already started to develop a reputation as a clutch hitter by the time the 2004 ALCS had started. Ortiz put the Red Sox in the ALCS with a series-winning walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 3 of the ALDS.
The Sox would find themselves in need of Ortiz' clutch hitting once again. Or, maybe more than once.
Down three games to none against the Yankees, the Sox fought back in Game 4, tying the game in the ninth inning to send the game to extra innings.
In the bottom of the 12th inning, Ortiz kept the Red Sox hopes alive with a two-run walk-off home run off Yankees reliever Paul Quantrill.
The following night saw another nail-biter as the Sox and Yankees battled to a 4-4 tie, forcing extra innings once again.
In the bottom of the 14th, with runners on first and second with two out, Ortiz stroked a line-drive single to center field, scoring Johnny Damon with the winning run.
Ortiz would also start the Red Sox' offensive barrage in Game 7 with his two-run home run off Yankees starter Kevin Brown in the first inning.
15. Steve Garvey: San Diego Padres, 1984 NLCS, Game 4- Hero
The San Diego Padres were trying to claw their way back into the 1984 NLCS against the Chicago Cubs after dropping the first two games at Wrigley Field.
After winning Game 3 at Jack Murphy Stadium to stay alive, the Padres battled the Cubs to a 5-5 tie heading into the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 4.
Facing Cubs closer Lee Smith, Alan Wiggins struck out to lead off the inning. Tony Gwynn then singled, keeping Padres' hopes alive.
First baseman Steve Garvey then delivered the biggest clutch hit in Padres history—a game-winning two-run home run to force a fifth and deciding game.
14. Ozzie Smith: St. Louis Cardinals, 1985 NLCS, Game 5- Hero
In his first eight seasons in the majors, shortstop Ozzie Smith had hit just 13 home runs.
On Oct. 14, 1985, Ozzie hit No. 14.
The defensive wizard delivered offensively on this night, giving his Cardinals a 3-2 series lead and affording Jack Clark his opportunity to shine in the spotlight two nights later.
13. Armando Benitez: Baltimore Orioles, 1997 ALCS- Goat
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
The Baltimore Orioles returned to the ALCS in 1997 for the second consecutive year, this time facing the Cleveland Indians.
The Orioles took Game 1 on a brilliant effort by starter Scott Erickson. However, in Game 2, reliever Armando Benitez allowed a three-run home run to Marquis Grissom in the eighth inning, giving the Indians a come-from-behind 5-4 win.
With the Orioles facing elimination in Game 6, starter Mike Mussina shut the Indians down, allowing just one hit in eight innings. But Indians starter Charles Nagy was equally dominant, keeping the Orioles off the scoreboard as well.
After reliever Randy Myers gave the O's another two scoreless innings, manager Davey Johnson went to Benitez to start the 11th.
Benitez got the first two outs, but the third batter, Tony Fernandez, proved to be one too many for Benitez.
Fernandez took Benitez' first pitch and deposited it over the right-field fence, giving the Indians a 1-0 lead. Indians closer Jose Mesa would make the lead stand up, sending the Orioles home without a pennant for the second consecutive season.
12. Jim Edmonds: St. Louis Cardinals, 2004 NLCS, Game 6- Hero
The St. Louis Cardinals were facing elimination in Game 6 of the 2004 NLCS against the Houston Astros.
However, a regulation game wasn't enough to decide things as the Cardinals and Astros battled to a 4-4 tie.
Neither team would give an inch as each team's bullpen worked fiercely to preserve the tie.
In the bottom of the 12th, Astros reliever Dan Miceli came on in relief of Brad Lidge and promptly walked first baseman Albert Pujols. After Scott Rolen popped out behind the plate, center fielder Jim Edmonds strode to the plate.
Edmonds took a high fastball from Miceli and launched it into the seats in right-center field for a walk-off two-run homer, lifting the Cardinals to a 6-4 victory and on to a seventh and deciding game.
11. Steve Avery/John Smoltz: Atlanta Braves, 1991 NLCS, Games 6 & 7- Heroes
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
In 1991, the Atlanta Braves were back in the NLCS for the first time in nine seasons, facing the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Pirates took a 3-2 series lead back to Pittsburgh, needing only one win in the last two games to reach the World Series.
Steve Avery and John Smoltz weren't about to let that happen.
Avery outdueled Doug Drabek in Game 6, allowing just three hits with eight strikeouts in eight innings. Greg Olson's run-scoring double in the top of the ninth gave Avery and the Braves a hard-earned 1-0 victory, sending the NLCS to a seventh and deciding game.
In Game 7, Braves starter John Smoltz was brilliant, throwing a six-hit shutout to send the Braves to their first World Series since 1958.
10. Dave Roberts: Boston Red Sox, 2004 ALCS, Game 4
In 2004, speedy outfielder Dave Roberts was traded from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Boston Red Sox at the trade deadline.
The trade turned out to be a steal, in more ways than one.
In the ninth inning of Game 4 of the ALCS against the New York Yankees, the Red Sox were trailing 4-3 and looking at a possible sweep.
First baseman Kevin Millar started the inning by drawing a walk off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. Manager Terry Francona took Millar out of the game, installing Roberts as a pinch-runner.
Roberts nearly got himself picked off with Rivera making a quick throw to first baseman Tony Clark. Roberts made it back just in time.
On the next pitch, Roberts was off. Catcher Jorge Posada's throw was to the shortstop side of the bag, and Derek Jeter's swipe tag was late, giving Roberts the steal.
Red Sox hitter Bill Mueller capitalized, stroking a single to center field and bringing Roberts around from third with the tying run.
Without question one of the biggest stolen bases in postseason history.
9. Bob Moose: Pittsburgh Pirates, 1972 NLCS, Game 5- Goat
Photo courtesy goldenrankings.com
In 1972, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds split the first four games of the NLCS and were battling fiercely in the fifth and deciding game as well.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, the Pirates held a slim 3-2 lead. Pirates reliever Dave Guisti came on in relief. Reds catcher Johnny Bench greeted Giusti rudely, blasting a solo home run to tie the game at 3-3.
Giusti then allowed two straight singles to Tony Perez and Dennis Menke. Pirates manager Bill Virdon replaced Giusti with Bob Moose.
Moose gave up a fly ball to Cesar Geronimo, moving pinch-runner George Foster to third base. Moose got the crucial second out, getting Darrel Chaney to pop up to shortstop Gene Alley, keeping runners at first and third.
Pinch-hitter Hal McRae then stepped in against Moose, hoping to deliver magic for the Reds.
McRae didn't need to do anything. Moose uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Foster to score the winning run and sending the Reds to the World Series.
8. Donnie Moore: California Angels, 1986 ALCS, Game 5- Goat
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
So much has been said about this particular game and the fact that Dave Henderson hit the two-run homer off California Angels' closer Donnie Moore that temporarily put the Red Sox in the lead, 6-5.
However, the Angels came back in the bottom of the ninth to tie it on a Rob Wilfong single. Moore would continue pitching for the Angels, and was into his third inning of work in the 11th, when Dave Henderson again torched Moore with a sacrifice fly that ultimately won the game.
It may have also been the trigger that sent Moore on a downward spiral leading to his death just three years later.
7. Yadier Molina: St. Louis Cardinals, 2006 NLCS, Game 7- Hero
Al Bello/Getty Images
We discussed this game earlier in our presentation, listing New York Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran as a goat for striking out in the bottom of the ninth inning.
However, the game had a hero as well.
In the top of the ninth inning with the score tied at 1-1, the St. Louis Cardinals were facing Aaron Heilman, out for his second inning in relief.
After striking out Jim Edmonds for the first out, Heilman allowed a single to third baseman Scott Rolen.
Cather Yadier Molina then put his name in Cardinals' lore, launching a two-run home run off Heilman to give the Cardinals a 3-1 lead.
Closer Adam Wainwright's strikeout of Beltran sent the Cardinals to their second World Series in three years.
6. Rick Monday: Los Angeles Dodgers, 1981 NLCS, Game 5- Hero
Photo courtesy 1960sbaseballblog.blogspot.com
In 1981, the Montreal Expos were looking to make their first World Series appearance in franchise history. However, the Los Angeles Dodgers came up with some late-inning magic.
The Dodgers won Game 4 at Olympic Stadium to force a fifth and deciding game. In Game 5, Dodgers starter Fernando Valenzuela and Expos starter Ray Burris dueled to a 1-1 tie heading into the top of the ninth inning.
Expos manager Jim Fanning replaced Burris with Steve Rogers in the ninth. Rogers retired Steve Garvey and Ron Cey quickly. However, center fielder Rick Monday launched a solo home run, giving the Dodgers a 2-1 lead.
Valenzuela and Bob Welch would close it out in the ninth, sending the Dodgers to the World Series.
5. Leon Durham: Chicago Cubs, 1984 NLCS, Game 5- Goat
Photo courtesy chicagonow.com
In an article published last year, I touched upon the egregious error committed by Chicago Cubs first baseman Leon Durham in the 1984 NLCS.
In 1984, the Chicago Cubs were locked in a battle with the San Diego Padres for the right to get to their first World Series since 1945. Hope was abundant in Chicago, as the Cubs held a 3-2 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh inning.
Would the long-suffering Cubs fans finally experience joy?
The inning started innocently enough, with the Padres' Carmelo Martinez singling to open the inning. Shortstop Garry Templeton then sacrificed him to second.
Tim Flannery then stepped up to the plate and hit a routine grounder to first. However, Cubs first baseman Leon Durham let the ball trickle right through his legs for an error, scoring Martinez and tying the game.
Cubs starting pitcher Rick Sutcliffe, clearly rattled at that point, gave up three more hits, plating three more runs, and the Cubs' hopes of reaching their first World Series in 39 years were dashed.
Durham also contributed to his ignominy by hitting only .150 during the series as well.
4. Francisco Cabrera: Atlanta Braves, 1992 NLCS, Game 7- Hero
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
The 1991 NLCS saw a rematch between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Atlanta Braves, and the two battled fiercely, splitting the first six games.
Game 7 saw the Braves down 2-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth inning. It appeared that the Pirates would avenge the previous season's NLCS loss.
Pirates starter Doug Drabek was working a gem, but gave up a leadoff double to Terry Pendleton. David Justice followed with a ground ball that Pirates second baseman Jose Lind misplayed for an error, putting runners on first and third with no one out.
Drabek, clearly tiring, walked Sid Bream to load the bases. Manager Jim Leyland turned to reliever Stan Belinda to shut the door and send the Pirates to the World Series.
3. Magglio Ordonez: Detroit Tigers, 2006 ALCS, Game 4- Hero
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
In 2006, the Detroit Tigers were looking to pull off a four-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics in the ALCS.
The A's, however, battled fiercely in Game 4, and the game went into the bottom of the ninth inning tied at 3-3.
A's reliever Huston Street quickly got the first two outs in the ninth, but then gave up consecutive singles to Craig Monroe and Placido Polanco.
Tigers right fielder Magglio Ordonez then hit one of the biggest home runs in Tigers history. His three-run blast sent the Tigers back to the World Series for the first time since 1984.
2. Aaron Boone: New York Yankees, 2003 ALCS, Game 7- Hero
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
New York Yankees third baseman Aaron Boone wouldn't have been a hero in the 2003 ALCS if Boston Red Sox manager Grady Little hadn't first been a goat.
But I doubt Boone is complaining much about it.
Boone's home run in the bottom of the 11th inning off Red Sox reliever Tim Wakefield capped an improbable comeback, giving the Yankees a 6-5 win and the American League pennant.
1. Chris Chambliss: New York Yankees, 1976 ALCS, Game 5- Hero
The scene was as wild as any ever seen in postseason history.
Chris Chambliss was at the plate for the New York Yankees in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 5 of the 1976 ALCS. The Yankees and Kansas City Royals were tied at 6-6, and reliever Mark Littell was working into his third inning in relief.
Chambliss' solo shot over the right field fence sparked a celebration that saw hundreds of fans pour onto the field at Yankee Stadium. It's not even known if Chambliss ever even touched home plate.
It didn't matter. Chambliss' shot sent the Yankees back to the World Series for the first time in 12 years.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.