All 30 MLB Teams' Most Heartbreaking Postseason Moment
Every MLB team knows the frustration of putting maximum effort into a postseason game, only to suffer a heartbreaking defeat.
Sometimes, the opposition was simply superior, and occasionally, umpires interpreted the action incorrectly. But in all the following cases, the final result was tough to swallow.
Never has one slideshow been stuffed with so much devastation.
*All "Relive the heartbreak" links courtesy of MLB.com.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Nyjer Morgan 'Tickles It' to the Outfield (2011 NLDS)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
There was no sense of panic inside the Arizona Diamondbacks dugout when Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS continued past regulation. Closer J.J. Putz entered the evening on a two-month scoreless streak, and the team felt confident about advancing.
Though on the other side, Nyjer Morgan was coming off a career year (.304/.357/.421). Plus, his career splits against right-handers had always been impressive.
One of the greatest calls you'll ever hear from broadcaster Bob Uecker. And that's saying something.
Relive the heartbreak: Nyjer Morgan "Tickles It" to the Outfield
Atlanta Braves: Twins Break Through with Metrodome Magic in Game 7 (1991 WS)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Atlanta Braves fans would become all too familiar with postseason pain. The team went on clinch 15 consecutive NL East division titles and have just one championship to show for its consistent greatness.
At this point, however, expectations were not tempered. The World Series was such a new and surprising achievement for the Braves, who believed they could seal the deal, even in a hostile Metrodome environment.
Wasted opportunities to pull ahead earlier in Game 7—e.g. Lonnie Smith's baserunning blunder—made Gene Larkin's extra-inning walk-off even tougher to cope with.
Relive the heartbreak: Twins Break Through with Metrodome Magic in Game 7
Baltimore Orioles: Jeffrey Maier Catches Controversial Home Run (1996 ALCS)
Getty Images/Getty Images
Jeffrey Maier became a playoff hero—or from this perspective, a heartbreaking villain—at the tender age of 12. He irreparably changed the fates of two franchises during Game 1 of the 1996 American League Championship Series.
The over-anxious preteen reached out his glove from the stands and scooped a fly ball into the front row. Baltimore Orioles right fielder Tony Tarasco was on the warning track and seemingly settled beneath it. Nonetheless, because this transpired before the implementation of instant replay, Derek Jeter was awarded a go-ahead home run.
The O's would lose this ALCS and begin a 14-year streak of sub-.500 campaigns in 1998. Meanwhile, the New York Yankees went on to win four of the next five MLB championships.
Relive the heartbreak: Jeffrey Maier Catches Controversial Home Run
Boston Red Sox: Grounder Gets Through Bill Buckner (1986)
AP Photo/Cliff Corcoran
Sometimes in professional sports, one miserable moment invalidates an otherwise upstanding career. And incites hate mail, death threats, blacklisting, etc.
Exhibit A: Bill Buckner.
Baseball fans hardly remember his All-Star selection, batting title or total of 2,715 hits. They forget that he received NL MVP consideration in 1981 and 1982.
Rather, he's associated with a dribbler down the first-base line. It somehow rolled between his legs, scoring a run and ultimately costing the Boston Red Sox the 1986 World Series.
Relive the heartbreak: Grounder Gets Through Bill Buckner
Chicago Cubs: The Steve Bartman Incident (2003 NLCS)
In reality, the Chicago Cubs coughed up a three-run lead in Game 6 because of poor execution, not Steve Bartman.
Of course, their inexcusable series of miscues began after the fan interfered.
It was as if the air had been let out of Wrigley Field. We can attribute Chicago's lack of concentration to the abrupt silence in the stands.
The club's curse lives on.
Relive the heartbreak: The Steve Bartman Incident
Chicago White Sox: Chick Gandil Recruits Teammates to Fix World Series (1919 WS)
Nobody had a front-row seat to see Arnold "Chick" Gandil and his Chicago White Sox teammates conspire to throw the 1919 World Series. Still, during that late September/early October discussion, the sport's reputation was soiled by a few foul individuals seeking to embarrass owner Charles Comiskey.
The favored AL champions made intentional mistakes against the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for a prearranged pay-off.
The 1988 film Eight Men Out retells the story of the fix.
Cincinnati Reds: Bobby Tolan Dooms the Reds in Game 7 (1972 WS)
Bleacher Report colleague Eli Marger verifies my claim that the '72 World Series "ended in heartbreak" for the Big Red Machine.
To summarize, center fielder Bobby Tolan misplayed a fly ball in the first inning of Game 7 that led to an unearned run. The Cincinnati Reds couldn't accomplish much against Blue Moon Odom or Catfish Hunter, and the Oakland Athletics held a slim advantage heading into the later innings.
Cincy skipper Sparky Anderson proceeded to yank Tolan for a defensive replacement, but it didn't affect the result. Rollie Fingers secured the 3-2 A's victory.
Cleveland Indians: Edgar Renteria Lines One Past Charles Nagy (1997 WS)
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
The greatest strength of the 1997 Cleveland Indians was their productive offense. Power hitters like David Justice, Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome propelled them into the postseason.
But the big bats cooled off at a rather inauspicious time—Game 7 of the World Series.
They provided just two runs of cushion for the Tribe's pitchers. Predictably, the Florida Marlins scored in the seventh and ninth innings to force extra frames.
That's when 21-year-old shortstop Edgar Renteria played the role of Mr. Heartbreaker. With two outs and teammates in scoring position, his line drive deflected off Charles Nagy's glove and into center field.
Relive the heartbreak: Edgar Renteria Lines One Past Charles Nagy
Colorado Rockies: Seth Smith's Strikeout Completes Sweep (2007 WS)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
The Colorado Rockies eked out so many improbable victories at Coors Field just to reach the Fall Classic in 2007.
They certainly weren't intimidated by a 3-0 series deficit.
Seth Smith came up as the tying run in Game 4. As he whiffed against Jonathan Papelbon, reality sunk in—the Cinderella run was over.
Relive the heartbreak: Seth Smith's Strikeout Completes Sweep
Detroit Tigers: Fans Pelt 'Gashouse Gang' with Fruit and Garbage (1934 WS)
TNFOTO Baseball Photos
With a championship hanging in the balance, the Detroit Tigers treated their fans to a stinky performance. And many of the 40,000-plus in attendance reciprocated by throwing rotten fruit and garbage from the bleachers in the sixth inning.
The home team trailed 8-0 at that point and would eventually concede three more runs before Game 7 was through.
This was the fourth straight time that the Tigers had won the American League pennant, but fallen short in the World Series.
Houston Astros: Albert Pujols Stuns Brad Lidge (2005)
Champagne chilled on ice in the Houston Astros clubhouse. Brad Lidge, the National League's preeminent reliever, worked with a two-run lead.
Albert Pujols' game-winning moon shot humanized the right-hander. Though the Astros wrapped up the NLCS in six, they were swept by the Chicago White Sox, with Lidge suffering two more defeats.
Radio broadcaster Mike Shannon is the voice behind this epic call.
Relive the heartbreak: Albert Pujols Stuns Brad Lidge
Kansas City Royals: Chris Chambliss Propels Yanks to World Series (1976 ALCS)
The longest active playoff drought in Major League Baseball belongs to the Kansas City Royals. Nearly half of all current major leaguers have never seen them in a meaningful, late-season game!
But a generation ago, they almost broke through into the upper echelon. Only the New York Yankees blocked their path to the 1976 World Series.
A one-man army of Chris Chambliss spoiled Kansas City's fun. The first baseman amassed 11 hits in the ALCS, including a walk-off home run in Game 5.
Relive the heartbreak: Chris Chambliss Propels Yanks to World Series
Los Angeles Angels: Rod Carew Leaves Mr. October Stranded (1982 ALCS)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
The AL pennant painfully eluded the 1982 California Angels, who had needed just one win in Milwaukee to advance.
Multi-run rallies didn't help in Games 3 and 4, but more of the same would've made all the difference in the winner-take-all finale.
The Halos were down by one when Reggie Jackson drew a walk in the ninth. A sacrifice bunt moved him into scoring position and everybody was depending on Rod Carew to deliver in the clutch.
However, the future Hall of Famer solidified his reputation as a weak postseason player with a ground out to the left side.
Relive the heartbreak: Rod Carew Leaves Mr. October Stranded
Los Angeles Dodgers: Bobby Thomson's Home Run (1951 NL Playoff)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
In one of the most incredible comebacks in baseball history, the New York Giants caught the Brooklyn Dodgers on the final day of the regular season after trailing by as many as 13.5 games.
This forced an epic 3-game playoff to determine the National League pennant winner, and Game 3 was one for the ages.
The Giants trailed 4-1 entering the 9th inning, and the fairy tale story seemed about to end. A rally soon followed, and the stage was set for history.
With a young Willie Mays sitting on deck, the Giants' Bobby Thomson came to the plate to face Dodgers' pitcher Ralph Branca with two men on and down 4-2. Thomson turned on a high fastball and hit a line drive 3-run shot to shock Brooklyn and steal the pennant 5-4.
The video speaks for itself, but this is still to this day one of baseball's greatest calls.
Miami Marlins: Bullpen Betrays Mark Redman (2003 NLCS)
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
The Miami Marlins don't quite fit on this list. The franchise is a perfect six-for-six in MLB playoff series.
Nonetheless, the Fish had to shake off a pretty demoralizing defeat en route to the 2003 title.
Mark Redman entrusted his bullpen to record the final seven outs and put the home team ahead in the 2003 NLCS. But Chad Fox betrayed him immediately and surrendered a pair of runs in the eighth.
Though Ugueth Urbina kept the Chicago Cubs at bay with two perfect innings of relief, Michael Tejera and Braden Looper failed to follow his example.
Kenny Lofton reached base against the former and came around to score on Doug Glanville's game-winning triple.
Milwaukee Brewers: Golden Era Ends with World Series Loss (1982 WS)
After excelling in all phases of the game during the summer of 1982 (plus-164 run differential), the Milwaukee Brewers struggled to contain the St. Louis Cardinals offense. Keith Hernandez and Co. hammered the staff for 15 hits in Game 7.
AL home run champion Gorman Thomas was the Brew Crew's last hope against Bruce Sutter. The at-bat ended with a helpless swing, which was nothing new for him in that Fall Classic (3-26, 0 HR, .294 OPS, 7 SO).
Sadly, Milwaukee's window of contention closed later that offseason. Stud pitchers Rollie Fingers and Pete Vuckovich suffered severe arm injuries and would have little influence on the 1983 team.
The Brewers haven't competed in a World Series since.
Relive the heartbreak: Golden Era Ends with World Series Loss
Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer's 'Foul Ball' (2009 ALDS)
Ron Antonelli/New York Daily News
Another absurd umpiring decision is coming up, but this blatant error in Game 2 of the 2009 ALDS ruffled plenty of feathers, too.
The Minnesota Twins were looking to even the series with an extra-inning win in the Bronx. It appeared that Joe Mauer would reach second base as the go-ahead run after this opposite-field hit.
Phil Cuzzi—positioned about 20 feet from the landing spot—ruled it a foul ball.
As you might imagine, the baseball world was clamoring for expanded instant replay the next morning (especially in the Twin Cities).
Relive the heartbreak: Joe Mauer's 'Foul Ball'
New York Mets: Carlos Beltran Takes Strike Three (2006 NLCS)
Al Bello/Getty Images
Baseball-Reference.com does not lie—Carlos Beltran might be the best hitter in MLB postseason history.
But the lasting memory from his six-and-a-half year tenure with the New York Mets is this called third strike on an Adam Wainwright curveball.
While Beltran was the team's most valuable player leading up to that moment, he couldn't lift the bat off his shoulder when everything was on the line. Major letdown.
Relive the heartbreak: Carlos Beltran Takes Strike Three
New York Yankees: Bill Mazeroski's Series-Clinching Home Run (1960 WS)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
In 1960, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. New York Yankees was David vs. Goliath.
Both franchises had their traditions. The Bucs perennially finished in the second division, while the dynastic Yankees had just clinched their 10th pennant in 12 years.
Although the Bombers decisively outscored their NL opponent during the series, 55-27, they couldn't hold a lead in the winner-take-all finale. Defensive specialist Bill Mazeroski sent Forbes Field into pandemonium with a walk-off solo shot.
Relive the heartbreak: Bill Mazeroski's Series-Clinching Home Run
Oakland Athletics: Kirk Gibson's Home Run (1988 WS)
The Oakland Athletics felt confident that MLB saves leader Dennis Eckersley could preserve a 4-3 lead and close out Game 1.
Slugger Kirk Gibson came to the plate, but it didn't seem like a fair fight. The consensus was that he wouldn't play with a swollen right knee, much less transfer his body weight onto it in the act of swinging.
"Eck" tried to sneak a slider past him and Gibson hit one of the most famous—and demoralizing—home runs in baseball history to steal a 5-4 victory. The Dodgers went on to stun the A's and capture the title.
Philadelphia Phillies: Joe Carter Homers off Mitch Williams (1993 WS)
Not sure why Mitch Williams bothered getting up to watch that clear the fence.
Anyway, it was understandably the last pitch he ever threw for the Philadelphia Phillies. Bitterness across the organization's fan base forced a trade.
He never regained his old form and retired in 1997.
Relive the heartbreak: Joe Carter Homers to Win the World Series
Pittsburgh Pirates: Sid Bream Slides Home Safely (1992 NLCS)
Ronald C. Modra/SI
Pittsburgh Pirates fans were tortured over the course of the 2012 season. The team raised their expectations with four months of extraordinary baseball before scuffling down the stretch and finishing below .500. Again.
Prior to these past 20 insufferable summers (zero postseason berths), the city had the misfortune of contending. As the saying goes, "The longer they survive, the tougher it is to cope with elimination." Or something like that.
The Pirates came within one out of a World Series berth, and they would have gotten away with it, too...if it wasn't for meddling pinch-hitter Francisco Cabrera.
Relive the heartbreak: Sid Bream Slides Home Safely
San Diego Padres: Kirk Gibson Puts Game 5 out of Reach (1984 WS)
The 1984 San Diego Padres felt like a team of destiny.
They dedicated the season to late owner Ray Kroc, who passed away prior to Opening Day. Bearing his initials on their chests, Rich "Goose" Gossage and Tony Gwynn led them all the way to the National League pennant.
Alas, they couldn't close the deal against the Detroit Tigers.
**The Padres were within striking distance in Game 5, a ninth-inning rally away from forcing the series to move back to Southern California. But Kirk Gibson widened the deficit from one run to four with a home run off of Gossage.**
MLB.com's Barry M. Bloom chronicles the misfortune that has plagued the '84 Padres, which I find equally heartbreaking.
Relive the heartbreak: Kirk Gibson Puts Game 5 out of Reach
San Francisco Giants: Team Lets Championship Slip Through Its Grasp (1912 WS)
MLB Photos/Getty Images
Boston Red Sox outfielder Tris Speaker was quite the lucky ducky in this matchup. He scored the tying run in the extra innings of Game 2 on a New York Giants catching error. Umpires then ended the contest due to darkness.
That necessitated a winner-take-all eighth game one week later, in which "The Grey Eagle" was again the beneficiary of good fortune.
Christy Mathewson and Chief Meyers allowed a foul pop-up to fall between them. Speaker seized the opportunity, singled to right field and moved the series-clinching run into scoring position. Minutes later, the Sox were celebrating their second world title.
SI.com's Cliff Corcoran has this moment No. 1 on his list of "Memorable Postseason Miscues," and I can't disagree.
Sorry, no video clip for this one. Media coverage wasn't the same 100 years ago.
Seattle Mariners: Alfonso Soriano Puts 116-Win M's in 3-1 Hole (2001 ALCS)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
An MLB-record win total earned the Seattle Mariners a postseason rematch with the New York Yankees in October 2001. And this time, they had home-field advantage.
A pair of hard-fought losses didn't deter the M's. In fact, manager Lou Piniella guaranteed that the series would return to the Pacific Northwest, recalls Bob Sherwin of The Seattle Times.
Alfonso Soriano made a him a liar by homering off Kazuhiro Sasaki in Game 4. The closer had not allowed a run in seven previous playoff appearances.
The Mariners weren't eliminated right there, but their chances looked bleak the next night against Yankees All-Star Andy Pettitte.
Seattle's 116 regular-season victories were for naught when the Bombers clinched in a 12-3 laugher.
St. Louis Cardinals: Don Denkinger Calls Jorge Orta...Safe?! (1985 WS)
AP Photo/Patrick Sullivan
It's a shame when the "human element" alters the course of a ballgame, unadulterated tragedy when it decides a World Series.
There isn't a more infamous example than "The Call" made by Don Denkinger in Game 6 of the 1985 Fall Classic. Nearly 42,000 people in attendance saw Jorge Orta get thrown out on a grounder in the ninth inning, but not Denkinger. And unfortunately, his opinion was the only one that mattered.
With the umpire's assistance, the Kansas City Royals won in walk-off fashion. They comfortably blew out the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7, ironically with Denkinger behind the plate.
Relive the heartbreak: Don Denkinger Calls Jorge Orta...Safe?!
Tampa Bay Rays: Chase Utley Fakes Throw, Nails Jason Bartlett at Home (2008 WS)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Facing elimination in the franchise's first-ever World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays were understandably aggressive.
In this instance, Jason Bartlett attempted to score on a soft ground ball up the middle. Chase Utley fielded it cleanly, pump-faked to first base and preserved the tie with an accurate throw to the plate.
The Philadelphia Phillies subsequently took the lead and handed it to "perfect" closer Brad Lidge.
Relive the heartbreak: Chase Utley Fakes Throw, Nails Jason Bartlett at Home
Texas Rangers: David Freese's Game 6 Walk-off (2011 WS)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Recent history hasn't produced another team as resilient as the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals.
They delayed the Texas Rangers' champagne party with multi-run rallies in the ninth and 10th innings of Game 6. Their postseason run was down to the final strike in both instances.
David Freese's home run was the undoubtedly the highlight of his young career, as well as the lowlight for the American League champs.
Relive the heartbreak: David Freese's Game 6 Walk-off
Toronto Blue Jays: Light-Hitting Jim Sundberg Stuns Dave Stieb (1985 ALCS)
Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images
Dave Stieb was ace of the Toronto Blue Jays staff in 1985 and easily the best candidate to start in a win-or-go-home scenario.
It came as a major shock when underwhelming Jim Sundberg crushed an opposite-field, bases-clearing triple against him. Just like that, a 2-1 deficit swelled to 5-1 and Stieb was sent to the showers.
Thanks to strong relief work, the Kansas City Royals completed an improbable ALCS comeback after losing three of the first four games.
The Blue Jays had improved every season under Bobby Cox, but it would take seven more years and several managerial changes to bring a World Series title north of the border.
Relive the heartbreak: Light-Hitting Jim Sundberg Stuns Dave Stieb
Washington Nationals: Drew Storen Blows Two-Run Lead in Game 5 (2012 NLDS)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
The Washington Nationals had seemingly put the game out of reach in the early innings, at one point leading the St. Louis Cardinals by six runs.
Though the visitors gradually narrowed the deficit to 7-5, victory was all but assured in the ninth. Closer Drew Storen was on the mound, 46,000 fans in sold-out Nationals Park were on their feet, with advancement to the NLCS just one out away.
And then, everything imploded. Light-hitting infielders Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma—possibly the two least likely heroes in the Cardinals lineup—put the visitors ahead with back-to-back singles.
The city that has waited generations for a contender will need to grit its teeth for at least another year.
Relive the heartbreak: Drew Storen Blows Two-Run Lead in NLDS Game 5