The 50 Biggest Chokers in MLB History
There may be no greater thrill for a major-league ballplayer than to be handed the ball or bat with a chance to give their team a title. Whether it be a Game 7 in a playoff series, or an opportunity at the plate with runners in scoring position, players as a group will tell you that’s exactly what they play for: the chance to give their team a sweet victory.
The pressure is compounded even further by a tight pennant race or a game in which your team is counting upon you to deliver a key hit or a thrilling performance off the mound.
Alas, there are bodies littered everywhere in terms of players and teams who have wilted under that great pressure. Wow, did I just use the word alas? Who even does that anymore?
However, I digress. Many players and teams felt the unmistakable tightening in their neck muscles during the most crucial of times, and we will take a look at some of these moments in time.
Keep in mind that the choke jobs mentioned, especially for players, is certainly not indicative of their overall careers, or other performances in the playoffs. We are specifically looking at singular choke jobs only, so to speak.
Here are the 50 worst choke jobs in MLB history.
For continuing coverage of Major League Baseball, follow Doug on Twitter @Sports_A_Holic.
50. Stan Belinda: Pittsburgh Pirates, 1992 NLCS
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The Pittsburgh Pirates were playing in their third consecutive National League Championship Series in 1992, and their second in a row against the Atlanta Braves.
With the series tied at three games apiece, Braves’ pitcher John Smoltz and Pirates’ pitcher Doug Drabek, who had already lost two games during the series, were locked in a pitcher’s duel. The Pirates had pushed across single runs in both the first and sixth innings, and were ahead 2-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth.
Drabek had pitched beautifully up to that point, throwing shutout ball and had given up only five hits. However, in the top of the ninth, Braves’ third baseman Terry Pendleton laced a double down the right field line, and David Justice followed with a ground ball that Pirates’ second baseman Jose Lind booted for an error, putting runners at first and third.
Drabek then walked Sid Bream, loading the bases. Drabek’s night was done, and reliever Stan Belinda came in to try to nail down the win.
The first hitter Belinda faced, Ron Gant, hit sacrifice fly to left, scoring Pendleton and trimming the Pirates lead to one. Catcher Damon Berryhill then walked, loading the bases once again. Brian Hunter, pinch-hitting for Rafael Belliard, then popped out to short, keeping the runners from advancing.
Manager Bobby Cox once again went to his bench, calling on Francisco Cabrera to pinch hit for reliever Jeff Reardon. With the count at 2-1, Cabrera hit a line drive over the head of shortstop Jay Bell. Justice scored the tying run, and Braves’ third base coach Jimy Williams waved the slow-footed Bream home. Left fielder Barry Bonds’ throw home was just a shade late, giving the Braves an improbable 3-2 win and a return trip to the World Series.
While Belinda’s stat line may show a 0.00 ERA, it was one of the biggest blown saves in the history of the Pirates’ organization.
49. 2008 St. Louis Cardinals Bullpen
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When one does a perfunctory check of the 2008 St. Louis Cardinals season, they will see that the team placed fourth in the National League Central with a record of 86-76. When looking a little closer, one can see that the Cardinals bullpen registered 42 saves on the season, which seems like a pretty decent number, right?
However, when digging a little deeper, that same bullpen also blew an incredible 31 saves as well. Think about it in these terms. If the Cardinals bullpen had only blown half that number of saves, they would have won the National League Central with a 101-61 record.
That would qualify as a collective choke job.
48. Jack Bentley: 1924 New York Giants
In 1924, the New York Giants were back in the World Series for the fourth consecutive season, and were facing the Washington Senators, which were there for the very first time.
Jack Bentley, a pitcher for the Giants, went the distance in Game 2 for the Giants, and after the Giants scratched out two runs in the top of the ninth, the game was knotted at 3-3. Bentley stayed in the game to pitch in the bottom of the ninth, and gave up a walk, a sacrifice bunt, and a double to Roger Peckinpaugh that scored the winning run, giving the Senators a 4-3 victory, knotting the Series at one game apiece.
Fast forward to Game 7. The game was tied at 3-3 after nine innings, and Bentley came on in relief in the bottom of the 11th. After an uneventful 11th, Bentley came back out for the 12th. After getting the first two outs, Bentley gave up a double to Senators’ catcher Muddy Ruel. After Walter Johnson reached on an error by the shortstop, runners were on first and second with two out.
Bentley then faced Earl McNeely, who had been 0-for-5 up to that point. McNeely laced a double to left field, scoring Ruel with the World Series-winning run and giving the Senators their first-ever World Series championship.
Bentley became the first pitcher ever to give up two walk-off hits in a postseason series.
47. 2010 San Diego Padres: NL West Pennant Drive
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In 2010, the San Diego Padres were the surprise of the majors. Even though the Padres had started the season with the second-lowest payroll in all of baseball, they were leading the National League West division by 6.5 games on August, with a record of 76-49.
However, the Padres then went into a swoon that saw them post a 13-24 record, the worst record in baseball, from Aug. 25 on. Not only did the Padres lose the NL West title to the San Francisco Giants, they also lost out on a possible Wild-Card playoff slot to the Atlanta Braves.
46. Tony Perez: Cincinnati Reds, 1970 World Series
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In 1970, the Cincinnati Reds had just started to build on their Big Red Machine, with players such as Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez at the heart of the lineup that would later add Joe Morgan, George Foster, Ken Griffey and Cesar Geronimo.
In 1970, the Reds breezed through the regular season, winning the National League West title by 14.5 games over the Los Angeles Dodgers, and then dispatching the Pittsburgh Pirates in three-straight games to claim the NL pennant.
The Reds were led by the tandem of Bench and Perez, Bench hitting 45 home runs with 148 runs batted in, and Perez adding 40 homers and 129 RBI.
However, in the World Series against the Baltimore Orioles, Perez, who was playing in his first-ever Series, must have been suffering from stage fright on the big stage. Perez tallied exactly one hit in 18 at-bats for a .056 average, as the Orioles pitching staff dominated the Reds, winning the Series in five games.
Perez would finish his postseason career with a .238 average, and .242 in five World Series appearances, well below his career batting average of .279.
45. Eddie Murray: Baltimore Orioles, 1979 World Series
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There is absolutely no question that Eddie Murray is one of the best switch hitters in the history of baseball, and his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003 was well-deserved.
However, if his HOF induction had been based on his statistics in World Series play, Murray wouldn’t even receive a sniff.
In 1979, the Baltimore Orioles, at 102-57, easily dispatched the California Angels in the ALCS to reach the World Series against the We Are Family team of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
While it was a thrilling seven-game series that was eventually won by the Pirates, Murray’s performance was anything but thrilling. Murray was 4-for-26 with a .154 average during the Series, and in three World Series performances combined, Murray was a woeful .169.
44. Mike Schmidt: Philadelphia Phillies, 1983 World Series
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Like Eddie Murray before him, Mike Schmidt is more than worthy of his Hall of Fame induction, with 548 home runs, three MVPs, 10 Gold Gloves and 12 All-Star appearances.
However, in the 1983 World Series pitting the Philadelphia Phillies against the Baltimore Orioles, Schmidt was even worse than Murray was four years previously. Schmidt collected exactly one hit in 20 at-bats as his Phillies hit a collective .195 in losing to the Orioles in five games.
Schmidt would not have a chance to redeem himself, as that was his last appearance during the postseason.
43. Johnny Pesky: Boston Red Sox, 1946 World Series
Shortstop Johnny Pesky was exactly what his name described. He was a pesky hitter who had a career batting average of .307. However, it was a fielding play during the 1946 World Series that will forever be linked to Pesky’s name.
In 1946, the Boston Red Sox were playing in the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. It was the first appearance in the Series for the Sox since 1918, and the 1946 season represented a season in which Pesky, Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio and Bobby Doerr had all returned from World War II duty to lead the Sox into the Series.
The Series was tied at three games apiece, and Game 7 was tied 3-3 going into the bottom of the eighth inning. Bob Klinger was on the mound for the Red Sox, and Enos Slaughter was at the plate for the Cardinals. Slaughter led off the inning with a single to center field.
With Slaughter standing on first, Klinger retired the next two batters, and he was facing Harry Walker to try to close out the inning and strand Slaughter at first.
However, with Slaughter running on the pitch, Walker looped a ball into left-center field. Leon Culberson, a reserve outfielder who had replaced DiMaggio earlier in the game, was shaded straightaway on the play. Slaughter saw the ball drop and kept on running.
Culberson got to the ball and relayed to shortstop Pesky. Pesky hesitated for a split-second before throwing home, but the ball arrived late, as Slaughter had already crossed the plate with what would prove to be the winning run.
While other accounts suggest that Pesky would not have been able to nail the speedy Slaughter at home regardless, he is still associated with “freezing” at the wrong moment in time.
42. Jason Kubel: Minnesota Twins, 2009-2010 ALDS
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At 29 years of age, outfielder Jason Kubel of the Minnesota Twins is still a young man, and will probably have the opportunity to play in the postseason on more than one occasion during the rest of his career. However, his first three postseason appearances were certainly less than memorable.
The New York Yankees have had the Minnesota Twins’ number during the postseason in recent times, winning three-straight divisional playoff series matchups, including a sweep in both 2009 and 2010.
Kubel has been particularly snake-bitten, however. In those two particular postseason appearances, Kubel is a collective 1-for-22, a positively awful .045 batting average.
Maybe if the Twins can play someone not dressed in pinstripes…
41. Trevor Hoffman: San Diego Padres, 1998 World Series
In 1998, the San Diego Padres were in the World Series for only the second time in their history, having lost in five games to the Detroit Tigers in 1984.
The Padres were facing the New York Yankees, which had just completed one of the most remarkable regular seasons in history, with a 114-48 record, before dispatching both the Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians.
The Padres lost the first two games in New York, and in Game 3 back in San Diego, they were clinging to a 3-2 lead in the top of the eighth inning. Reliever Randy Myers gave up a walk to Paul O’Neill to start the inning, and closer Trevor Hoffman, making the first World Series appearance of his career, then entered the game.
Hoffman got Bernie Williams on a flyout to deep right field, then issued a walk to first baseman Tino Martinez. With runners on first and second and one out, Scott Brosius stepped to the plate for the Yankees. With the count 2-2, Hoffman grooved a fastball that Brosius promptly deposited over the center field fence for a three-run homer.
It would be the only World Series appearance ever for the man who went on to collect over 600 saves in his otherwise spectacular career.
40. Jose Mesa: Cleveland Indians, 1997 World Series
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The Cleveland Indians had not won the World Series since 1948, and in 1997 against the Florida Marlins, they were on the verge of breaking through for the first time in 49 seasons.
With a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth, Indians manager Mike Hargrove called on closer Jose Mesa to deliver.
Mesa had saved 101 games for the Indians in three seasons, and he was runner-up for the Cy Young award in 1995, so he clearly had the pedigree to get the job done.
However, on this day in Pro Player Stadium, the Florida Marlins were not quite ready to go quietly into the dark. Marlins left fielder Moises Alou led off the inning with a single to center field. After Bobby Bonilla struck out, catcher Charles Johnson singled to right field, sending Alou to third. Craig Counsell then delivered a sacrifice fly to deep right field, easily scoring Alou with the tying run.
The Marlins would end up winning the World Series just two innings later, when shortstop Edgar Renteria singled up the middle to score Counsell with the winning run.
However, Mesa, when counted on, failed to close it out and end the long World Series drought for the Cleveland Indians.
39. Armando Benitez: Baltimore Orioles, 1997 ALCS
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In 1997, the Baltimore Orioles were in the American League Championship Series for the second consecutive year, this time facing the Cleveland Indians.
The Orioles were looking at elimination in Game 6, however. Mike Mussina, the staff ace, had pitched a brilliant game, going eight innings and allowing just one hit. But Charles Nagy, despite giving up nine hits and pitching out of trouble on several occasions, had kept the Orioles off the scoreboard as well.
The game went into extra innings. Randy Myers did his job for the Orioles in relief of Mussina, pitching another two scoreless innings. However, Indians' relievers backed up Nagy with scoreless relief as well.
The Orioles put Armando Benitez on the mound to start the 11th inning. Benitez had already had a rough go of it in the ALCS, giving up a three-run homer to Marquis Grissom in the eighth inning of Game 2 to give the Indians a come-from-behind 5-4 victory.
Benitez got the first two outs of the 11th, and Tony Fernandez stepped to the plate. Fernandez took Benitez' first pitch and deposited it over the right-field fence, giving the Indians a 1-0 lead. Jose Mesa, mentioned earlier in this slideshow for his choke job later in the '97 postseason, nailed down the victory for the Indians, sending them to the World Series for the second time in three seasons.
Not a banner series for Benitez.
38. Vladimir Guerrero and Josh Hamilton: Texas Rangers, 2010 World Series
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After 15 seasons and a pretty stellar career, Texas Rangers designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero finally made it to the World Series. Ditto for AL MVP Josh Hamilton, however, his journey only took four seasons.
No matter, both of them obviously couldn't get used to being on the largest stage in baseball.
The two stars of the Rangers combined went 3-for-34 for an .088 batting average as the San Francisco Giants easily handled the vaunted Rangers' offense in five games.
37. Alfonso Soriano: Chicago Cubs, 2007-2008 NLDS
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In November 2006, the Chicago Cubs paid a boatload of money (eight years, $136 million) for the services of Alfonso Soriano. Soriano was coming off a year in which he hit 46 home runs for the Washington Nationals.
While Soriano performed well during the regular season in both 2007 and 2008, he was positively terrible in both divisional series for the Cubs. Soriano hit a combined .107 in his two postseason performances for the Cubs, and he has since been the butt of jokes, criticism and whatever else Chicago Cubs fans can hurl at him.
36. Mariano Rivera: New York Yankees, 2001 World Series
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It's hard to criticize Mariano Rivera for anything, considering the unbelievable career he's had, including the postseason. However, even postseason heroes have moments of chokeholds, so to speak.
In the 2001 World Series, one of the more exciting in recent memory, the Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees went tooth and nail for six exciting games.
Game 7 was no different, as the Yankees put single runs on the board in the seventh and eighth innings to grab a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth.
Enter closer Rivera, who had been called upon for a two-inning save. After a Mark Grace single to open the ninth inning, Damian Miller attempted a sacrifice bunt. Rivera fielded the ball cleanly and attempted to throw out David Dellucci, running for Grace, at second base for the force. The throw pulled Derek Jeter off the bag, and everyone was safe.
The next batter, Jay Bell, also bunted, and this time Rivera forced Dellucci at third. Scott Brosius, however, elected to hold the ball rather than throw to first to complete the double play. With runners at first and second with one out, Tony Womack then doubled down the right field line, scoring Dellucci with the tying run and putting Bell at third with the winning run.
Rivera then hit Craig Counsell with a pitch, loading the bases for Luis Gonzalez.
I'm sure you all know the rest, I don't want to upset Yankees fans too much.
Rivera will go down as one of the greatest closers in the history of the game, but on this November night, Rivera spit the bit.
35. Leon Durham: Chicago Cubs, 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.
34. Mo Vaughn: Boston Red Sox, 1995 ALDS
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In 1995, the Boston Red Sox put together a season that would see their return to the postseason for the first time in five years, and they were led by slugging first baseman Mo Vaughn.
Vaughn had put together an incredible season, with a .300 batting average, 39 home runs, 126 runs batted in, and he would later be named the American League Most Valuable Player.
However, in the divisional series playoffs against the Cleveland Indians, Vaughn left his bat somewhere else. He put up a doughnut during the series. Vaughn was 0-for-14 during the series, and the Red Sox were swept by the Indians.
Vaughn's complete disaster of a playoff series caused him to be vilified by Boston fans throughout the following winter, despite his stellar regular season.
33. Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds: St. Louis Cardinals, 2004 World Series
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The St. Louis Cardinals had a pretty special team in 2004, winning 105 games on the strength of a terrific offense guided by Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen.
Heading into the World Series against the Boston Red Sox, which had just defeated the New York Yankees in the most incredible comeback in postseason history, Cardinals fans were upbeat, thinking that the Red Sox would suffer from an emotional letdown after their stunning ALCS victory.
However, it was the Cardinals fans themselves that were let down. The Red Sox smoked the Cardinals in four games, and two of the stars that got the Cards to the postseason, Edmonds and Rolen, were a combined 1-for-30 when the games mattered the most.
32. Evan Longoria: Tampa Bay Rays, 2008 World Series
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In 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays made two significant changes: They changed their name from the Devil Rays to the Rays, and they introduced their third baseman of the future in Evan Longoria.
Longoria responded by winning the American League Rookie of the Year award, and the Rays name change must have done wonders, because all of a sudden they became good.
For the first time in franchise history, the Rays put together a winning season, won the American League East division title, and made it all the way to the World Series, facing the Philadelphia Phillies.
However, that's where Longoria's heroic exploits came crashing to a grinding halt. Longoria totaled exactly one hit in the series in 20 at-bats, for an anemic .050 average, and the Rays were dispatched by the Phillies in five games.
31. Magglio Ordonez: Detroit Tigers, 2006 World Series
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In 2006, the Detroit Tigers were considered to be heavy favorites to win the World Series over the St. Louis Cardinals, which made it there despite a regular season record of 83-78, the second worst record for a team ever to appear in the World Series (1973 Mets, 83-79).
However, the Tigers were stymied by the Cardinals, hitting a collective .199. In particular, Magglio Ordonez, who had hit .298 in the regular season, and carries a lifetime average of .310, was 2-for-19 in his first World Series appearance, an average of just .105.
Ordonez would win the American League batting title a year later, with a .363 average.
30. Bob Lemon: Cleveland Indians, 1954 World Series
Bob Lemon played his entire 13-year career with the Cleveland Indians, and tasted World Series victory with them in 1948, winning two of the games.
However, in a return trip to the World Series in 1954 against the New York Giants, things didn't work out quite so well.
In Game 1, with the game tied at 2-2, Lemon, who had already pitched the entire game for the Indians, came back out to work the 10th. After striking out Don Mueller, Lemon walked Willie Mays, who promptly stole second. Lemon then walked Hank Thompson intentionally to set up a force at any base.
Dusty Rhodes came on to pinch hit for Monte Irvin, and Rhodes smacked a three-run homer, giving the Giants the 5-2 extra-inning victory and tough luck loss for Lemon.
In Game 4, with the Giants leading the Series 3-0, Lemon was called upon once again. Lemon was unable to get out of the fifth inning, giving up six runs and seven hits, and took his second loss of the series, as the Giants went home with a four-game sweep.
Lemon would not make it back to the postseason, and the Indians didn't make it back to the postseason for another 41 years.
29. Gil Hodges: Brooklyn Dodgers, 1952 World Series
By the time the 1952 season came around, 28-year-old Gil Hodges had become firmly established himself as the first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and rightfully so. That season, Hodges was one of their offensive leaders, with 32 home runs and 102 runs batted in.
Hodges, along with Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Carl Furillo and the rest of the Dodgers won the National League pennant over the rival New York Giants, and would face the cross-town New York Yankees in the World Series.
The Yankees ended up beating the Dodgers in a grueling seven-game series, and Hodges had one of the worst performances in World Series history, putting up a doughnut over the seven-game stretch.
At 0-for-21, it was one of the worst performances by a position player ever in the history of the World Series.
28. 1969 Baltimore Orioles Hitters, 1969 World Series
In 1969, the Baltimore Orioles put together a remarkable regular season, winning 109 games and running away with the American League East division by a stunning 19 games.
By contrast, the New York Mets had roared back in the second half of the season and overtook the Chicago Cubs to win the National League East title in shocking fashion, and then defeated the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS to reach the World Series for the first time in team history.
The Orioles were heavily favored over the upstart Mets. However, the Mets pitching staff, led by Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, completely shut down the vaunted Orioles offense, holding them to a collective .146 average in the Series.
Considering the Orioles were first in the AL in most major offensive categories, this was a choke job of colossal proportions.
27. Dave Winfield: New York Yankees, 1981 World Series
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The 1981 season will always be remembered for the players' strike that broke the season up into two halves. The New York Yankees, by virtue of winning the first half with a 34-22 record, beat both the Milwaukee Brewers and Oakland Athletics to get to the Series.
The Los Angeles Dodgers also made the playoffs by virtue of their first half performance, and beat both the Houston Astros and Montreal Expos to punch their ticket to the Series.
This series would be the 11th time the storied franchises had met in the Fall Classic, and it was great for the game, especially after the frayed nerves and psyches caused by the strike.
The Yankees were led by outfielder Dave Winfield, who had hit .294 with 13 home runs and 68 runs batted in during the regular season. Winfield was playing in his very first World Series.
The Dodgers took the Series in six games, and Winfield was a complete bust, ending the series with an .045 average, collecting just one hit in 22 at-bats.
Winfield would not make it back to the World Series for another 11 years, and the Yankees for another 15.
26. Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire: Oakland Athletics, 1988 World Series
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In the late 1980s, the Oakland Athletics were led by the Bash Brothers, otherwise known as Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco. In 1988, the duo combined for 74 home runs and 223 runs batted, helping to lead the A's to a 104-58 record and the American League pennant.
The A's would be facing the Dodgers, who came into the Series with a 94-67 regular season record and were facing playing the series without one of the stars who got them there, Kirk Gibson.
Kirk Gibson worked his magic with a dramatic pinch-hit home run off closer Dennis Eckersley in Game 1, and the Dodgers would go on to defeat the A's in five games.
The Bash Brothers, McGwire and Canseco, became the Bust Brothers during the Series, hitting a combined .055, collecting just two hits in 36 at-bats.
25. Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire: Oakland Athletics, 1990 World Series
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The Bash Brothers, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, were back in the spotlight in the 1990 World Series, as the Oakland A's were back in the World Series for the third consecutive year, this time facing the Cincinnati Reds.
Once again, the Bash Brothers became the Bust Brothers, combining to swat a pathetic .154 on 4-for-26 hitting, as the A's were swept out of the series by the Reds.
McGwire and Canseco are long gone, no doubt facing their PED demons, and the A's have not been back to the World Series since.
24. 2009 Detroit Tigers: Pennant Chase
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The 2009 Detroit Tigers were staring victory smack in the face heading into the final weekend of the regular season. Up three games over the Minnesota Twins with four games to go, they were a virtual lock to make the postseason and win the American League Central division.
Four games later, the Tigers were faced with the shame of losing the lead, and then having to face the Twins in a one-game playoff to get to the postseason.
The Tigers choked that one away as well, losing in extra innings, 6-5.
No team in history had ever given/choked away a three-game lead with four to play.
23. 2007 New York Mets: Pennant Chase
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The 2007 New York Mets were built to win. Well, at least that's what general manager Omar Minaya said.
On Sept. 12, the Mets held a seven-game in the National League East division, and certainly seemed poised to cruise to an easy title.
But hold on just one moment.
The Mets would go on to lose 12 of their next 17 games, losing the National League East title on the last day of the regular season with an embarrassing 8-1 loss to the Florida Marlins.
Watching manager Willie Randolph crying after the game was really not a pretty sight.
22. Scott Garrelts: San Francisco Giants, 1989 World Series
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Pitcher Scott Garrelts spent his entire 10-year career with the San Francisco Giants, and was a reliable go-to kind of guy. He had been a spot starter/long reliever for most of his career, however in 1989, Garrelts put together his finest season, with a 14-5 record and a league-leading 2.28 ERA in 29 starts.
In the 1989 World Series, Garrelts was handed the ball in Game 1. It was not a stellar performance, as Garrelts was unable to get out of the fifth inning, giving up five runs on seven hits, including solo home runs to Dave Parker and Walt Weiss.
Due to the Series being postponed for ten days by the Loma Prieta earthquake, a rested Scott Garrelts was again handed the ball for Game 3, and again, Garrelts struggled, not being able to get out of the fourth inning this time, allowing four runs on six hits, and again coughing up two gopher balls, this time to Tony Phillips and Dave Henderson.
Garrelts' overall numbers for the series: 0-2, a 9.82 ERA, four homers and a parting prize of Rice-a-Roni, that San Francisco treat...
21. Livan Hernandez: San Francisco Giants, 2002 World Series
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While pitcher Livan Hernandez was one of the heroes for the Florida Marlins during their 1997 World Series championship run, the same cannot be said about his performance in the 2002 World Series.
Hernandez was then pitching for the San Francisco Giants, who were facing the Anaheim Angels in the Series. Hernandez, who was 12-16 with a 4.38 ERA during the regular season, got shelled in Game 3, giving up six runs on five hits while walking five in 3 2/3 innings.
Manager Dusty Baker went back to Hernandez in Game 7, and again Hernandez couldn't harness his control, giving up four runs on four hits and four walks in just two plus innings.
Hernandez' line? 0-2, a 14.29 ERA, and nine walks in 5 2/3 innings. Hernandez did not receive a parting gift for his efforts.
20. Ted Williams: Boston Red Sox, 1946
In 1946, Hall of Fame slugger Ted Williams hit .342 with 38 home runs and 123 RBIs, and that was after he had served three full years in the military during World War II.
The Boston Red Sox easily won the American League pennant, and returned to the World Series for the first time in 28 seasons. In a tight matchup with the St. Louis Cardinals, the Sox lost in seven games, and Williams, in his only World Series appearance, hit a paltry .200 (five-for-25).
While this certainly looks like a classic choke, it comes with a caveat.
During an exhibition game in Fenway Park against an all-star team during early October before the start of the World Series, Williams was hit on the elbow by a curveball by Washington Senators pitcher Mickey Haefner. Williams was immediately taken out of the game, and his elbow was badly swollen.
In later years however, Williams refused to use that as an excuse. When asked if there was one thing in his career he would like to change, Williams said, "I'd have done better in the '46 World Series. God, I would."
Source: Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero by Leigh Montville
19. Jeff Reardon: Atlanta Braves, 1992 World Series
Closer Jeff Reardon joined the Atlanta Braves via a trade from the Boston Red Sox on Aug. 30, 1992, specifically to help the Braves down the stretch. Reardon certainly did his part, and helped the Braves get to their second consecutive World Series, this time facing the Toronto Blue Jays.
Reardon, however, did not shine in the spotlight. He gave up two runs in the top of the ninth to give the Blue Jays a come from behind win in Game 2, and in Game 3, with the game tied 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Reardon came on in relief of Mike Stanton and gave up a single to Candy Maldonado, plating Roberto Alomar with the winning run to give the Blue Jays a 2-1 Series lead.
Needless to say, Reardon was not used by the Braves for the rest of the series, and was gone during the offseason.
18. 2002 San Francisco Giants: Entire Bullpen, World Series, Game 6
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In 2002, the San Francisco Giants were just eight outs away from winning their first World Series in 48 seasons. A five run lead, and just eight outs away.
Then, disaster, and a choke hold, struck.
Manager Dusty Baker came out and pulled starter Russ Ortiz after he had given up consecutive singles to Tim Salmon and Garret Anderson. With Felix Rodriguez on the mound, Scott Spezio fouled off a bunch of pitches, and then connected on a three-run homer, cutting the Giants lead to 5-3.
Scott Eyre and Tim Worrell kept the Angels off the scoreboard for the rest of the inning.
Worrell came back out for the bottom of the eighth inning, and promptly served up a home run to Darin Erstad, cutting the Giants lead to one.
Worrell then gave up two consecutive singles to Tim Salmon and Garret Anderson, and Baker was back out on the mound, this time bringing in Robb Nen to face Troy Glaus.
Glaus doubled, driving in both Chone Figgins, who had run for Salmon, and Anderson, putting the Angels on top, 6-5.
The Giants would not recover, losing Game 7 to John Lackey and giving the Angels their first-ever World Series championship.
It's a good thing the Giants fans won the Series last season, or we'd still be listening to Giants' fans grossing over that one.
17. Tim Wakefield: Boston Red Sox, 2003 ALCS
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The Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees rivalry is certainly special, and has been spiced up considerably with events that have happened in the postseason over the past decade or so. The 2003 American League Championship Series certainly helped with the spicing.
The Red Sox and Yankees were locked in a heated battle in Game 7 of the ALCS. After the infamous Grady Little/Pedro Martinez debacle in the eighth inning, the game was still tied going into the bottom of the 11th.
Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield had come on for the Sox in the bottom of the tenth with the score tied 5-5, and set the Yankees down in order. Coming back out for the 11th, Wakefield was facing Aaron Boone.
Boone wasn't about to wait on Wakefield. He took the first pitch he saw and launched it into the left field seats, giving the Yankees a 6-5 victory and sending them to the World Series.
Hard to call Wakefield a choker, considering what had happened three innings earlier, but he served up an absolute meatball for Boone, and by extension gave Boone a broadcasting career on ESPN.
16. Ron Perranoski: Minnesota Twins, 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.
15. Reggie Jackson: California Angels, 1982 ALCS
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The California Angels were on the verge of winning their first-ever American League pennant in 1982, with a 2-0 lead over the Milwaukee Brewers in the ALCS.
The series shifted back to Milwaukee, where the Brewers took the final three games of the series to thwart the Angels' ascent to the AL crown.
Reggie Jackson, in his first season with the Angels, led the American League with 39 home runs and hit .275 during the regular season. However, during the ALCS, Jackson did not live up to his Mr. October moniker, hitting just .111 (two-for-18).
If he had even hit his weight, the outcome could have been very different.
14. Ralph Branca: 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers: Pennant Chase
On August 11, 1951, the Brooklyn Dodgers were 70-35, and held a 13-game lead in the National League. By the end of the season, the Dodgers had relinquished the entire lead, and were locked in a tie atop the standings with the New York Giants, with a three-game playoff scheduled to determine the pennant winner.
The Dodgers lost the first game 3-1, and the losing pitcher that day was Ralph Branca. The Dodgers came back to take Game 2, so it all came down to one game, on Wednesday, Oct. 3.
Dodgers starting pitcher Don Newcombe took a 4-1 Dodgers lead into the ninth inning. However, Newcombe gave up two straight singles before retiring Monte Irvin on a foul pop-out to first. Newcombe then gave up a double to Whitey Lockman, scoring Alvin Dark and cutting the Dodgers' lead to 4-2.
On came Branca. Up came Bobby Thompson. Down went the Dodgers.
13. Alex Rodriguez: New York Yankees, 2006 ALDS
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In 2006, Alex Rodriguez hit 35 HR and 121 RBI in a typical A-Rod type season. The Yankees won the American League East title, and were facing the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS.
The Tigers made quick work of both the Yankees and Rodriguez, beating the Bronx Bombers in four games and holding Rodriguez to a .071 average (one-for-14).
The media and local fans were quick to pounce on A-Rod, aka A-Fraud.
12. 1964 Philadelphia Phillies: Pennant Chase
The 1964 Philadelphia Phillies enjoyed a 6 1/2 game lead in the National League, with just 12 games left to play to win their first pennant in 14 years, and a chance to win their first-ever World Series.
What happened, the infamous "Phold", was one of the biggest team choke jobs in professional sports history.
Don't think much more needs to be said.
11. 1978 Boston Red Sox: Pennant Chase
Ditto the Boston Red Sox. A nine game lead in the American League on Aug. 13, only to see it evaporate within a month after a four-game sweep by the New York Yankees in early September.
The Red Sox needed to win their last eight games of the regular season just to force the infamous playoff game.
Blame Bucky Bleepin' Dent all you want. The Sox choked this title away.
10. Fred Merkle: New York Giants, 1908
I know that I have personally written about Fred Merkle and his infamous "bonehead" play twice in the last couple of months alone, so I don't think the story needs to be rehashed.
However, how could Merkle not know to touch second base before walking off the field? That's like the most basic of rules in baseball. Touch the next base!
9. Byung-Hyun Kim: Arizona Diamondbacks, 2001 World Series
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It's really a good thing that the Arizona Diamondbacks came back and won the 2001 World Series, or else Byung-Hyun Kim's name in the southwest would be forever etched in the local Webster's Dictionaries with his photo next to the word "choke."
In Game 4, Kim gave up two runs in the night to tie the game, then gave up another run in the tenth to rob Curt Schilling of certain victory.
And in Game 5, after Miguel Batista had pitched brilliantly into the eighth inning, and Greg Swindell had retired Tino Martinez, Kim came on in the ninth and gave up the game-tying two-run home run to Scott Brosius.
Kim was not seen from again.
8. Mitch Williams: Philadelphia Phillies, 1993 World Series
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In 1993, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Mitch Williams was one of the preeminent closers in the majors, posting 43 saves. He could certainly be an adventure on the mound, as his "Wild Thing" moniker would tell you, however he got the job done.
And that's exactly what the Phillies were counting on when they sent Williams out to the mound in the ninth inning of the sixth game of the 1993 World Series, with the Phillies clinging to a 6-5 lead.
As can happen with Williams from time to time, he issued a walk to Rickey Henderson. After retiring Devon White on a popup, Williams surrendered a single to Paul Molitor, putting two runners on with one out.
Up steps Joe Carter. Five pitches later, Wild Thing is walking off the mound, looking all dejected and stuff.
7. Alex Gonzalez: Chicago Cubs, 2003 NLCS
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It's amazing to me that Steve Bartman is still being blamed for the demise of the Chicago Cubs in the 2003 National League Championship Series against the Florida Marlins.
I'm not saying the play didn't affect the game somewhat, but how about the play two batters later?
After Marlins' second baseman walked following the Barman interference call, Ivan Rodriguez singled to drive in Juan Pierre.
Now, there's one out, with runners on first and second. Miguel Cabrera hits a tailor-made ground ball to shortstop. Alex Gonzalez has fielded that same ground ball thousands of times in his sleep during batting practice. Yet, on this night, he boots it! Instead of an inning ending double play, the bases are now loaded, and the Cubs REALLY implode.
Still think Steve Bartman is the villain?
6. Grady Little: Manager, Boston Red Sox, 2003 ALCS
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I can still see the image in my head. Pedro Martinez, in the dugout after pitching seven strong innings, is being congratulated by his teammates for a job well done. Martinez' night appeared to be over. Even FOX was showing images of Martinez in the dugout, and commenting on the fact that Pedro was done.
He had gone seven innings, allowed just two runs on six hits, and had thrown over 100 pitches.
What was Grady thinking?
Pedro recently commented that he was OK to pitch the eighth inning, but judging from his body language, he certainly thought his night was over.
What was Grady thinking?
5. John McNamara: Boston Red Sox Manager, 1986 World Series
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I have pretty much the same school of thought with Boston Red Sox manager John McNamara, 17 years before the Grady Little incident.
What was he thinking, leaving Bill Buckner in the game?
McNamara had no issues using Dave Stapleton as a defensive replacement on several prior occasions to replace Buckner, why should Game 6 of the 1986 World Series be any different?
What was John McNamara thinking?
4. New York Yankees: 2004 ALCS
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When Boston Red Sox pinch runner Dave Roberts pulled off the steal of second base in Game 4 of the ALCS against the New York Yankees in the ninth inning, and Billy Mueller then drove him home to tie the game, they still had some work left to do.
When David Ortiz homered in the 12th inning off Paul Quantrill, there was still work to be done.
And work the Red Sox did. And choke the Yankees did.
3. Donnie Moore: California Angels, 1986 ALCS
So much has been said about this particular game, and the fact that Dave Henderson hit the two-run home 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 night 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.
Oh, and by the way? At the end of this game, McNamara had Dave Stapleton at first base as a defensive replacement for Bill Buckner.
I'm just sayin'...
2. Calvin Schiraldi: Boston Red Sox, 1986 World Series
The Boston Red Sox had just broken a 3-3 tie in the top of the 10th inning in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series with a home run by Dave Henderson and a run-scoring single by Marty Barrett.
The Red Sox were three outs away from winning their first World Series in 68 years.
With Calvin Schiraldi working his third inning of relief, he retired both Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez on fly balls.
The Red Sox were one out away from winning their first World Series in 68 years.
With Gary Carter at the plate, the scoreboard had already flashed that Sox pitcher Bruce Hurst was named the Series MVP. Champagne was already set up in the Sox clubhouse.
If only Schiraldi could have thrown one more freakin' strike...
1. Bill Buckner: Boston Red Sox, 1986 World Series
About the only thing left to say about this play is, "Billy, dude, I know you were hurting, but couldn't you have just bent your knees a little bit?"
I already blamed manager John McNamara for not replacing Buckner with Dave Stapleton, but c'mon dude, bend just a little!