The Nine Greatest Upsets in American Baseball History

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The Nine Greatest Upsets in American Baseball History

The Dutch were clutch in the WBC, sending the DR straight to the ER! 

Okay, that was a poor attempt to sound "hip." However, let not anyone underestimate the profoundly stunning result that 2-1 victory by the Netherlands over the Dominican Republic was. 

The Dominican Republic was a team loaded with MLB all-stars (Miguel Tejada, David Ortiz, Jose Reyes, and Pedro Martinez...to name a few); however, the Dutch had not a single player on its roster who is currently signed with an MLB team. 

The closest player on the Dutch team with MLB experience was starting pitcher Sidney Ponson, whose career was marked with so many off-the-field and in-the-clubhouse disciplinary incidents that even the volatile Milton Bradley found him frightening!!!

Nonetheless, the result got me to brainstorm about American baseball upsets, whether in international competition or in professional baseball.  Since it takes 9 innings to complete a baseball game, I gathered a list of the nine greatest upsets in American baseball.  I start with No. 9 and work my way to No. 1. 

Feel free to comment or to add suggestions at where you agreed or disagreed with my list:

 

9) 2004 Quarterfinal game at the Olympic Baseball Qualification Tournament: Mexico defeats USA (2-1)

This game eliminated Team USA from competing at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games held in Athens in the event of baseball.  Former Team USA manager Tommy Lasorda remarked that the episode was an embarrassment that the nation who invented the game cannot even qualify for the Olympic event.

After cruising through the preliminaries in this qualification tournament undefeated, USA faced a harmless team from Mexico that only advanced out of the preliminaries because another team who actually advanced did not have a complete roster to continue due to injuries. 

In this historical game, Team USA's offense was non-existent, collecting its only run on a solo home run.  Mexico's bullpen held off a final rally by Team USA in the ninth to finish a stunning upset and eliminating the Americans from Olympic competition.

 

8) 1924 World Series: Washington Senators defeat New York Giants (four games to three)

The Washington Senators had clinched its first pennant in 1924.  The New York Giants, on the other hand, were markedly more experienced having won several World Series titles in the previous 20 years of Major League Baseball.  In fact, in 1924, the Giants had clinched its fourth consecutive National League pennant.  The Giants were going for their third World Series title in the past four years!

In this historic World Series, the Giants clobbered the "Big Train" himself, Walter Johnson, in two starts.  The Senators had lost both those games he started; however, the Senators won three of the other four games he did not start!  This forced a magnificent Game Seven which went into extra innings. 

Walter Johnson redeemed himself by coming out of the bullpen to pitch a stellar long relief performance as the game went into the 12th inning.  In the bottom of the 12th, the Senators scored the game-winning run when a groundball to third hit a pebble and took a bad hop over the Giants' thirdbaseman Fred Lindstrom.  The bad hop allowed Senators catcher Muddy Ruel to score from second base, thus ending the game and the World Series.

 

7) 2000 Summer Olympics Gold Medal Game: USA defeats Cuba (4-0)

Talk about David versus Goliath!  With regard to international baseball, Cuba was the Goliath!  When baseball became an Olympic medal sport in 1992 for the Barcelona Games, Cuba cruised to a gold medal finish, whereas Team USA failed to win a medal. 

In 1996 in Atlanta, Cuba repeated this feat scoring a second straight gold medal, whereas Team USA settled for the bronze.  Team USA had never beaten Cuba in the Olympics.  Going into the Gold Medal Game at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, it appeared that that fact was not going to change.

In the preliminary round, Team USA lost to Cuba 5-1.  However, in the Gold Medal Game, Manager Tommy Lasorda sent fireball hurler Ben Sheets to the mound to start the game.  Sheets was spectacular completing a three-hit shutout over a Cuban national team as red-hot as their communist politics.

For that one game, Team USA was on top of international baseball.

 

6) 1973 NLCS: New York Mets defeat Cincinnati Reds (three games to two)

The Mets in 1973 won the National League East with a pathetic 82-79 record, the worst record for any division winning team until the 2005 San Diego Padres.  The faced a Cincinnati Reds team who had won its third division title in the past four years and who were defending National League champions.

In this historic NLCS matchup, the Reds and Mets split the first four games.  In Game Three, Pete Rose took out Mets shortstop Bud Harrelson to break up a double play.  But, Rose slid so far out of the basepath that Harrelson punched Rose in the stomach causing the worst bench-clearing brawl in postseason baseball history. 

In the critical Game Five of the series, the Mets crushed the Reds 7-2 collecting a total of 13 hits against the Big Red Machine.

 

5) 2003 World Series: Florida Marlins defeat New York Yankees (four games to two)

Despite having a payroll only a fraction of the New York Yankees, the Florida Marlins stunned the Bronx Bombers in six games, culminating in a two-hit complete game shutout in Yankee Stadium by Josh Beckett. 

The series featured fantastic pitching from Brad Penny, Carl Pavano, and Josh Beckett on the Florida side with mediocre offensive performances on the Yankee side. 

Even in Game Four when the Yankees came from behind in the ninth inning to tie the Marlins and force extra innings, it was the Marlins who ended up with the last laugh...thanks to an Alex Gonzales home run in the bottom of the 12th.

 

4) 2006 ALDS: Detroit Tigers defeat New York Yankees (three games to one)

The Tigers closed out the regular season on a losing streak which caused them to lose their lead on the AL Central division to the Minnesota Twins.  The Tigers still clinched a postseason berth...but only a wild card berth.

Many baseball analysts viewed the Yankees/Tigers ALDS to be a joke.  After Game One, they seemed to be right on the money.  The Yankees crushed the Tigers 8-4 with Derek Jeter going 5 for 5 at the plate with a home run!

However, Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers, and Jeremy Bonderman frustrated the Yankee hitters in the next three games in a row culminating in a shocking upset in recent years!

 

3) 1966 World Series: Baltimore Orioles defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers (four games to none)

Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale were the two most unhittable pitchers in baseball.  The defending World Series champions, Los Angeles Dodgers, looked to be in position to sweep the Baltimore Orioles in 1966.

The Orioles had just won their first ever American League pennant while the franchise had been located in Baltimore. 

However, it was the Orioles who earned the sweep, stunning the Dodgers in four games.  Crafty Baltimore pitchers Dave McNally and Jim Palmer had thoroughly outpitched the Dodger rotation.  The Dodgers only scored TWO RUNS in the ENTIRE series (both coming in the first three innings of Game One)!

 

2) 1969 World Series: New York Mets defeat Baltimore Orioles (four games to one)

With almost the exact same team as it had in 1966 when they last won the World Series, the 1969 Baltimore Orioles seemingly had a second championship in hand.  Winners of 109 games in the regular season and featuring the AL CY Young Award winner Don Cuellar, the Orioles were expected to crush the New York Mets. 

After taking Game One by a score of 4-1 against the ace of the Mets' pitching staff Tom Seaver, things looked good for the Orioles.  However, Mets pitcher Jerry Koosman took a no-hitter into the seventh inning in Game Two and the Mets ended up edging the Orioles 2-1 to even the series. 

When the series shifted to Shea Stadium, the Mets won all three home games, including a come-from-behind victory in Game Five when the Mets trailed the Orioles early by three runs.  In 1969, the New York Mets were Amazin'!

 

1) 1988 World Series: Los Angeles Dodgers defeat the Oakland Athletics (four games to none)

The greatest upset in American baseball history was the 1988 World Series.  The Oakland Athletics won 104 games and featured the AL MVP of the 1988 season Jose Canseco, the Rookie of the Year Walt Weiss, the best closer in baseball Dennis Eckersley, the fastest man in the game Rickey Henderson, and the best starting pitcher in the game Dave Stewart! 

On the other hand, the Los Angeles Dodgers had Orel Hershiser and Kirk Gibson.  However, Hershiser could not pitch Game One because he had been used for a lot of innings in the classic NLCS matchup against the Mets which lasted seven games.  And Kirk Gibson was injured...supposedly missing in action for the whole World Series. 

And yet, the Dodgers took Game One.  How?  An injured Kirk Gibson hobbled out of the clubhouse and slammed a game-winning two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth to give the Dodgers a 5-4 come-from-behind victory.

The demoralized Athletics dropped three of the next four games...two of them at the hands of Orel Hershiser who pitched 18 innings surrendering only two runs.

 

With this list, I submit to the readers for judgement and evaluation.

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