Move over Bobby Thomson, you’ve got company. Meet Evan Longoria.
Go crazy folks! Go crazy!
Those were the words late announcer Jack Buck used to describe an implausible game-winning home run by shortstop Ozzie Smith in the 1985 National League playoffs.
Crazy sums up the final night of the baseball season, when the Tampa Bay Rays and St. Louis Cardinals overcame improbably long odds and huge September deficits to waltz into the post-season as wild cards.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Colossal Collapse I
The Boston Red Sox became the first team in history to lose a nine-game September lead and fail to make the playoffs. Boston led Tampa Bay by nine games on September 3, but won just seven of 27 in September and allowed the Rays to win the wild card on the final day of the season.
Colossal Collapse II
While the Red Sox were melting down in the American League, the Braves were doing virtually the same in the National League wild-card race. The Braves were 9-18 in September. St. Louis trailed the Braves by 10 1/2 in late August, 8 1/2 on September 6, and by three with five games to play.
Until now, the Phillies were the poster boys for September ineptitude. In 1964, Philadelphia lost a 8 1/2 game lead in September. That year the foldin’ Phils led the Cards and Reds by 6 1/2 games with just 12 to go, then lost 10 in a row and ended up one game back in a tie for second with the Reds, despite winning their last two games. St. Louis went on to win the World Series.
Oh So Close
The Red Sox were one strike away from beating the Orioles and at least earning a tie and forcing a one-game playoff for the wild card before falling to the Orioles. Boston had been 77-0 this year when leading after eight innings.
The Rays, who overcame a seven-run deficit, were one strike away from falling to the Yankees before Dan Johnson’s home run tied the game in the ninth. Tampa won in the 12th inning on Evan Longoria’s second home run of the game. The Yankees had not blown a seven-run lead in the eighth inning or later since 1953.
And the Braves lost a one-run lead to the Phillies with two outs in the ninth before eventually losing in 13 innings.
The Shot Heard Round the World
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Longoria’s homer marked only the second time in history a walk-off home run in the final regular season game propelled a team into the playoffs. The other was Bobby Thomson’s famous home run that gave the New York Giants a win over the Brooklyn Dodgers in a playoff for the 1951 National League pennant.
Boston, You’re My Home
The Braves once called Boston home before moving to Milwaukee in 1953. Imagine that.