The 2007 New York Mets And More: The Top 10 Pennant Race Collapses Of All-Time
The baseball season is a lengthy one, and can often be a roller coaster ride for players, coaches, and fan bases alike.
Things can go from good to bad, and bad to worse in the blink of an eye, and there have been a number of huge collapses through the years leading up to the pennant race.
However, for the following 10 teams, their collapses took things to an epic level, as they all but had a playoff appearance in the bag before, for one reason or another, the wheels fell off and the teams spent their October watching from home.
No. 10: 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers
An argument can be made that the 1951 Dodgers don't belong on this list, as their missing out on the playoffs was more of a case of another team getting hot than the Dodgers struggling. However, the race ended in one of the most memorable moments in baseball history, so they make the list.
The Dodgers had one of the most stacked lineups in all of baseball, featuring the likes of Hodges, Snider, Campanella, Robinson, and Reese among others. The team jumped out to a huge lead, and held a 13.5 game lead on August 11th, as they seemed headed for the pennant.
They went 26-22 to close out the season, which most times would be more than enough to hold onto a lead that big. However, the Giants had other ideas, as they went on an amazing run, going 37-7 to close out the season and pull into a tie with the Dodgers, forcing a three game playoff.
After the team's split the first two games, the Giants won in the most dramatic of fashions with Bobby Thompson launching a walk-off home run that would go down as the "Shot Heard Round The World" and send the Giants to the NL pennant.
No. 9: 1938 Pittsburgh Pirates
On a team loaded with future Hall of Famers, including Arky Vaughn and the Waner brothers Lloyd and Paul among a cast of other great players, the Pirates stormed through the middle of the season, going 40-14 during June and July.
The team was not without its weaknesses however, the most glaring of which was the lack of a solid starting pitcher, as their team leader in wins was reliever Mace Brown who went 15-9. Despite that, they were still a commanding seven games out in front on September 1st.
They held a two game lead with seven games to play on September 27th when they met up with the second place Cubs, and everything fell apart, as the Cubs swept the series with the marquee moment coming in game two, when Gabby Hartnett hit his "Homer in the Gloamin," a walk-off shot despite awful visibility because of the weather.
The Pirates then went onto to lose three of four against the Reds to close out the season, finishing two games out of first place and missing the playoffs.
No. 8: 1962 Los Angeles Dodgers
When your rotation is topped by two future Hall of Famers in Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, your team is always going to be in the playoff race. In 1962, the Dodgers had the offensive punch to match their pitching tandem as well.
Left fielder Tommy Davis had a career year, hitting .346 BA, 27 HR, 153 RBI, leading the NL in BA, RBI, and hits. Frank Howard led the team with 31 HR and added 119 RBI. However, it was speedy shortstop Maury Wills who stole the show, as he stole an eye-popping 104 bases en route the the NL MVP.
With such a stellar team on paper, the Dodgers seemed to have things well in hand as they held a four game lead over the Giants with seven games to play. That was not the case though, as they dropped six of seven to finish the season, slipping into a tie with the Giants.
The Giants won the ensuing three game playoff series, and sent the Dodgers cast of stars home for the season, and capping a 4-12 finish to the season.
No. 7: 2009 Detroit Tigers
In what was an admittedly weak AL Central division, the Tigers held the reins nearly the entire season, as they spent a total 146 games in first place. With a three-game lead and four games to play, they seemed to have things well in hand, and they had a chance to clinch the division in their next game against the second place Twins.
However, they lost that game, and followed that up with a three game sweep at the hands of the White Sox. The pesky Twins on the other hand, won their final four games, to finish the season on an impressive 10-3 run, and force a one-game playoff with the Tigers.
The playoff game was a thriller, as the Twins pulled out a 6-5 win in 12 innings, with the Tigers blowing a 10th-inning lead to seal their collapse and send them home for the season.
No. 6: 1987 Toronto Blue Jays
With a dangerous lineup, led by the MVP season of George Bell, who put together a monster line of .308 BA, 47 HR, 134 RBI, and a pitching staff fronted by 17-game winner Jimmy Key and backed by elite closer Tom Henke, the Blue Jays seemed to have things well in hand as they held a 3.5 game lead over the Detroit Tigers with seven games to play.
However, the team hit a rough patch at the worst possible time, losing all of its remaining seven games, including a three game sweep at the hands of the Tigers that sealed their fate, as they finished two games out of first place in the division.
Perhaps the hardest part of the collapse for the team and its fans was the fact that during the seven-game losing streak, the team fell by one run four times, two runs twice, and three runs once, as they hit a stretch of tough luck at the worst possible time.
No. 5: 2007 New York Mets
With a seven-game lead and 17 games to play, the Mets seemed poised to repeat as NL East Champs after advancing all the way to Game 7 of the NLCS the previous season, before eventually falling to the Cardinals.
Things seemed to be looking up for the Mets as September rolled around, as they got ace Pedro Martinez back from a season-long injury to bolster an already strong staff that included Tom Glavine, as well as 15-game winners Oliver Perez and John Maine.
However, their pitching proved to be their downfall, as the Mets staggered to a 5-12 record to finish out the season, with five losses coming in games where the offense scored at least six runs.
Despite the struggles, they still had a chance to force a one game playoff on the season's final day with a win over the Marlins. Those hopes were quickly dashed, however, as Mets starter made it a whopping 1/3 innings, allowing seven runs and sealing the Mets fate.
No. 4: 1995 California Angels
With Tim Salmon and Jim Edmonds anchoring the middle of the lineup, Chuck Finley and Mark Langston presenting a formidable 1-2 punch atop the rotation, and veteran Lee Smith slamming the door in the ninth, the 1995 Angels were certainly a contender on paper, and they held what seemed like an insurmountable 10.5-game lead in the AL West on August 16th.
In their lead was so big, that despite a nine-game losing streak from August 25th-September 3, they still held a six game lead over the Seattle Mariners.
The slide continued on into September, however, as they experienced their second nine-game slide from September 13-September 23. They did managed to rebound in time to win their final five games and force a one game playoff with the Mariners.
That game would be all Randy Johnson though, as he held the Angels to one run on three hits, while striking out 12 in a complete game effort. The Mariners would go on to upset the Yankees in the ALDS for perhaps the biggest moment in team history, while the Angels simply headed home for the year.
No. 3: 1969 Chicago Cubs
The 1969 Cubs orchestrated perhaps the most talked about collapse in baseball history, and it was only fitting for a team that has been through so much in its storied history.
In what would be a 92-win season, the team spent a grand total of 155 days in first place and seemed destined to make a playoff run.
After Ken Holtzman threw a no-hitter on August 19th, the Cubs took their biggest division lead of the season, up 8.5 games on the Cardinals and 9.5 on the Mets. With all the momentum in the world on their side, they seemed well on their way to October.
However, they went on to lose 17 of their last 25 games and eventually finished a full eight games behind the "Miracle Mets," who won 38 of their last 49 games.
Blame it on the black cat the ran in front of Ron Santo, blame it on the Billy Goat's Curse, blame it on Leo Durocher's poor managing, blame it one what you will it goes down one of the biggest collapses in baseball history.
No. 2: 1978 Boston Red Sox
While this collapse was a slow and steady one, as opposed to a late season meltdown as many of the others were, the fact that the rival Yankees were the team that eventually overtook the Red Sox makes this collapse one of the worst ever.
Backed by an MVP season from Jim Rice, who led the AL with 46 HR, 139 RBI, the Red Sox held a lead of as many as 14 games in July before slowly giving way to the Yankees, who capped their comeback with a four-game sweep at Fenway Park to tie for the division.
The ensuing one game playoff was one for the ages, as the infamous Bucky "Bleeping" Dent hit the go ahead home run that sent the Yankees to a 5-4 win and a trip to the playoffs and closed out the Red Sox epic collapse.
No. 1: 1964 Philadelphia Phillies
After years and years of futility, the Phillies finally began to regain a level of respectability during the 1962 season, and by 1964 they seemed on their way to the World Series.
With an offense led by Rookie of the Year Dick Allen, who hit .318 BA, 29 HR, 81 RBI and right fielder Johnny Callison who led the team with 31 HR and 104 RBI, and a pitching staff topped by former Tigers ace Jim Bunning, who went 19-8, the Phillies had the makings of a championship caliber team.
With a 6.5-game lead over the Reds and Cardinals with 12 games to play, the pennant was all but wrapped up, but the Phillies proceeded to lose ten straight games, including a crucial three-game sweep by the Cardinals to cap off the slide and give the Cardinals the division title.
The collapse, which would go down to be known as the "Phold," goes down as one of the worst in sports history and tops this list of the biggest pennant race collapses.