14 of the Most Shocking September Collapses in Baseball History
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This is the time of the year when teams find out what they are really made of.
September can either delight fans or send them scurrying for a tranquilizer. Teams that look completely dominant and unstoppable can sometimes come unglued. Baseball is loaded with tales of otherwise strong teams just falling apart during the September-stretch run.
Let's take a peek at a few cases that have just driven fans mad.
2009 Detroit Tigers
Tiger skipper, Jim Leyland
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Jim Leyland's 2009 Tigers were about to capture their first division crown since 1987, up by seven games after the first week of September. They went 11-16 for the rest of the month and, to make matters worse, dropped a gut-wrenching 12-inning, one-game tie-breaker to the Twins.
Instead of a division title, the Tigers became the first team since 1901 to blow a three-game lead in their last four games.
2008 New York Mets
Willie Randolph is now an Orioles coach.
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The 2008 Mets, led by manager Willie Randolph, held a 3.5-game lead in the NL East, and with only 17 games to go, New York looked like a sure thing. However, the Metropolitans won just seven of the remaining contests to blow the division lead.
What's worse is the Mets had also choked the previous year (as we'll see in the next slide), becoming the first team ever to blow a 3.5-game lead in consecutive Septembers, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Tom Glavine gets set to fire for the Mets in a 2007 game.
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The 2007 Mets had a commanding seven-game lead with 17 to go. They proceeded to lose 12 of those games, including one in which Tom Glavine got shellacked and didn't complete the first inning.
The stunning collapse saw the Mets slog through a 1-6 homestand against the Nationals, Cardinals and Marlins.
1995 California Angels
Jim Edmonds began his career as a member of the Angels.
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The 1995 Angels were threatening to run away and hide by building an 11-game margin by August. They were led by center fielder Jim Edmonds, who hit .290, smashed 33 homers and drove in 107 runs.
However, the Angels reeled off nine straight loses in late August that carried into September and followed that up by losing nine straight again, beginning on the Sept. 13. They won their last five games to force a one-game playoff with Seattle.
They lost that, too, 9-1.
1987 Toronto Blue Jays
Sparkys Tigers shocked the 'Jays to win the AL East in 1995.
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The 1987 Toronto Blue Jays were down to their last seven games, holding a 3.5-game margin over the Detroit Tigers. However, Sparky Anderson's boys slipped right by the Jays as the Jays lost every remaining game, including a season-ending three-game series against the Tigers.
Detroit won each of the three games by a lone run margin.
1978 Boston Red sox
Reggie Jackson and the Yankees stunned the Red Sox in '78.
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The 1978 Boston Red Sox had the Yankees by 14 games in mid-July, but the 'Sox proceeded to drop two of three to both the A's and Orioles to open the month of September. They were then swept in a four-game series against the Yankees and, after winning the first game of the next series against Baltimore, the Red Sox wound up losing five straight that included two more losses to the Bronx Bombers.
The Red Sox reeled off eight straight wins to finish in a dead heat with New York, forcing a one-game playoff, which New York won 5-4 on a three-run homer from Bucky Dent and a solo blast from Reggie Jackson.
1969 Chicago Cubs
Ernie Banks and the Cubs couldn't stop the 1969 Mets.
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Leo Durocher's 1969 Cubs led the Mets by 9.5 games by mid-August, but Gil Hodges' team became known that year as "The Miracle Mets." The Cubs lost eight straight in early September, including a three-game sweep by the Pirates (who finished third that year) and a two-game sweep by both the Mets and Phillies.
The Cubs dropped 17 of their last 25 to allow the Mets to claim the division crown in the first year of divisional alignment.
1964 Philadelphia Phillies
Adolfo Phillips played on the 1969 Cubs and the 1964 Phillies, teams that both collapsed at the end.
The 1964 Phillies held a commanding 6.5-game lead over the Reds and Cards, both tied for second, and there were just 12 game left to play. The Phillies lost 10 straight of the remaining 12 to allow the Cardinals to slip past and win the NL crown by one game.
One oddity involving the Phillies, they had a rookie outfielder by the name of Adolfo Phillips, who would go on to be the regular center fielder with the 1969 Cubs (see previous slide).
1962 Los Angeles Dodgers
Don Drysdale logged 314 and a third innings for the '62 Dodgers.
Walter Alston's 1962 Dodgers, led by fireballer Don Drysdale's 25-9 record, dropped 10 of their final 13 (including the last four straight), losing a four-game lead over the Giants and forcing a three-game playoff against the Giants. The Giants won, led by Willie Mays who slammed 49 homers to pace the NL that year.
1951 Brooklyn Dodgers
Bobby Thomson sealed a Giants' pennant in 1951 with his famous home run.
The 1951 Dodgers lost another lead to the Giants. Both teams were in New York in those days. In mid-August, the Dodgers were up by 13.5 games. The Giants weren't to be denied, however, winning 16 straight before the month was out.
In September, the Giants reeled off another eight wins in a row. Brooklyn went 15-15 for the month, finishing tied with the Giants and forcing a three-game playoff. The Giants, behind Bobby Thomson's famous "shot heard 'round the world" off Ralph Branca, won the NL pennant.
1942 Brooklyn Dodgers
Pee Wee Reese stole 125 straight bases without getting caught!
The 1942 pennant race is shocking, but not for a collapse. Rather, it was the first time two teams in the same league finished with more than 100 wins, and only one of them went to the World Series. The only other time was in 1961, when the New York Yankees won 109 contests and the Detroit Tigers won 101 games.
In early August, the Dodgers led the Cardinals by 10 games. The Redbirds won 43 of their final 51 to finish with 106 wins, beating the Dodgers' mark of 104 wins.
1938 Pittsburgh Pirates
Gabby Hartnett hit his famous "homer in the gloamin" to sink the '38 Pirates.
In 1938, the Pittsburgh Pirates led the Cubs by seven games in early September. The Buccos went 13-16, including losing three of four to the Reds, surrendering the crown to Gabby Hartnett and the Cubs.
The Pirates also were swept by Chicago during the next-to-last series of the season. The last game of that series was a 10-1 rout by the Cubbies.
1934 New York Giants
Mel Ott (lower left) now graces a postage stamp.
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The 1934 New York Giants became the first team in MLB history to enter September with a seven-game lead and proceed to blow the pennant. They were paced by Mel Ott's 35 homers, but they couldn't stave off the Gashouse Gang Cardinals, who went 33-12 to wrap up the season, while the best the Giants could manage was .500 ball for the month.
1914 New York Giants
A fan snaps a shot of Christy Mathewson's Hall of Fame plaque.
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The 1914 New York Giants, led by Christie Mathewson's 24-13 record, were leading the Boston Braves by 10.5 games by July 21. The Giants played .500 ball in September and went 4-3 in October.
The Braves, however, earned the "Miracle" tag by going 34-10 to finish the season and overtake the Giants by 10.5 games.
Most shocking of all, the Braves began the year with a 10-24 mark.