2011 World Series: Ranking Top 25 MVP Performances in Fall Classic History
The World Series is an event full of improbabilities.
Who would have thought that Bill Mazeroski, a defensive-minded second baseman, would be the one player to ever hit a Game 7 walk-off home run?
Who would guess that Don Larsen, a pitcher who won 81 regular-season games in his career, would pitch the only perfect game in World Series history?
The World Series MVP is a distinction bestowed upon the most outstanding players of their respective series. Some of these men are Hall of Famers, household names. Some are simply legends who are remembered solely for their October magic.
Since the World Series MVP was first given in 1955, there have been some incredible performances.
Here are the top 25.
Author's note: The actual order here is rather arbitrary—it's hard to rank one as better than another. The point is that these are the 25 best performances.
No. 25: Rick Dempsey in 1983
One thing about the World Series is that it is a tough time for catchers. Think about it—you've been in your crouch the entire season and the entire postseason. But with tired legs, some catchers rose to the occasion, and Rick Dempsey might be one of the finest examples. Baltimore's catcher gave a great effort in 1983.
During the series, which the Orioles won 4-1 over the Phillies, Dempsey hit .385 with a home run, four doubles, and two RBI. He was clutch and provided great moments, including a backbreaking home run in Game 5.
No. 24: Derek Jeter in 2000
Derek Jeter has done a lot of great things during his illustrious MLB career, but if you ask him, he'd probably say that his greatest personal achievement was winning the 2000 World Series MVP. The Yankees shortstop hit .409 in the series, a 4-1 victory over the New York Mets, while hitting two home runs.
His first home run was on the first pitch of Game 4, while his second came in the sixth inning of Game 5, tying the game at two. His clutch hitting, stellar defense, and big home runs all were factors in awarding Jeter the World Series MVP.
No. 23: Orel Hershiser in 1988
Though everyone will undoubtedly remember the biggest moment of the 1988 World Series as Kirk Gibson's dramatic game-winning home run in Game 1, the hero that everyone forgets is Orel Hershiser. The 30-year-old righty pitched two tremendous games, giving the Dodgers some excellent October pitching against Oakland.
In Game 2, Hershiser pitched a terrific three-hit shutout (all three hits were singles by Dave Parker). He followed that up with seven solid innings in the clinching Game 5, allowing two runs. The Bulldog struck out 14 batters in his 16 innings, going 2-0 and earning MVP honors.
No. 22: Troy Glaus in 2002
It is really sad that Troy Glaus' career was hurt so badly by injuries, because had he remained healthy, he would definitely be considered one of the most productive hitters of the 2000s. Glaus was the Anaheim Angels' slugger going into the 2002 World Series, and the third baseman hit three big home runs in a 4-3 series win over the Giants.
He hit .385 in the series, adding eight RBI to his three home runs. It was an awesome display of power, especially his two home runs in Game 1. That set the tone for the series, and Glaus played well enough the rest of the way to make sure his team brought home the Commissioners' Trophy.
No. 21: Edgar Renteria in 2010
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In 1997, Edgar Renteria had the World Series-winning single as a member of the Florida Marlins. Thirteen years later, Renteria again found himself as a hero in late October as he played a pivotal role in a World Series win for the San Francisco Giants. The 35-year-old shortstop hit .412 with two home runs and six RBI in the series.
His first home run opened the scoring in a Giants win in Game 2. His second, however, was the real killer. With playoff ace Cliff Lee on the mound, Renteria hit an earth-shattering three-run home run, giving the Giants a 3-0 lead in Game 5, the decisive game of the series.
No. 20: Scott Brosius in 1998
The 1998 World Series was about as big of a mismatch as has ever occurred in the Fall Classic. The seemingly unstoppable New York Yankees swept away the upstart San Diego Padres in four games. The Yankees had a plethora of great players, but ultimately, the MVP award went to third baseman Scott Brosius.
The lovable Brosius hit .471, going 8-for-17 with six RBI in the series while smacking two home runs in Game 3. That game was a tremendous one for Brosius, who hit a seventh-inning solo home run to cut the lead to 3-1. He then followed with a three-run blast to give the Yankees a 5-3 lead.
No. 19: Brooks Robinson in 1970
It is very fitting that most people's memory of Brooks Robinson in the 1970 World Series is a defensive play, but his hitting should not be forgotten, either. The Orioles, led by Robinson, were able to defeat the Big Red Machine four games to one.
The defining moment of that series was Robinson's spectacular play in Game 3, where he fantastically picked Tony Perez's sharply-hit ball, stepped on third base, and fired to first for a pivotal double play. Beyond that, Robinson hit .429 with nine hits and six RBI in the series.
No. 18: Alan Trammell in 1984
One of the most beloved and productive Tigers of all time, Alan Trammell made sure his only trip to the World Series counted. The Tigers defeated the San Diego Padres four games to one, and Trammell was one of the biggest reasons.
Detroit's shortstop hit .450, going 9-for-20 in the series with six RBI and two resounding home runs in Game 4, paving the way for a series victory the next day. It was a terrifically Trammell-like performance—not flashy, just productive and valuable.
No. 17: Bucky Dent in 1978
It can be easy to forget that Bucky Dent's 1978 season was more than just his memorable home run against the Boston Red Sox. In fact, the Yankees infielder may have bested that performance with his excellent showing in the '78 World Series. The Fall Classic saw a rematch of the 1977 Series in which the Yankees defeated the Dodgers.
The same fate would befall the Dodgers, but it was more by the crafty hitting of Dent than by the big home runs of Reggie Jackson. Dent hit .417 with ten hits, driving in seven runs to lead the Yankees to the championship.
No. 16: Willie Stargell in 1979
This World Series was baseball at its finest. The 1979 Fall Classic saw the "We Are Family" Pittsburgh Pirates defeat the Baltimore Orioles, four games to three. It was a great series for many reasons, but the effort of 38-year-old Willie Stargell trumps everything.
Stargell hit .400 with 12 hits in the series, driving in seven runs and compiling a record 25 total bases. It was almost shocking for the man who called himself "Pops," but Stargell solidified his place in baseball lore with a great instance of leading by example.
No. 15: Curt Schilling in 2001
While Randy Johnson's MVP performance in the 2001 World Series may be considered more impressive, it can be argued that Schilling was more dominant. The big righty struck out 26 in just 21 innings, allowing only four runs and going 1-0 in the seven-game series.
Schilling pitched seven strong innings in Game 1, seven more in a Game 4 loss, and a final seven in a gutsy Game 7 outing that would result in the Diamondbacks' winning the series. No one game was stellar, but Schilling was consistently overpowering, and was a major player in the series.
No. 14: Paul Molitor in 1993
As is the case with Orel Hershiser in the 1988 World Series, Paul Molitor's MVP performance was overshadowed by one unforgettable moment. People will always remember Joe Carter's series-winning home run in Game 6, but few will remember the remarkable hitting of Molitor.
During the series, which the Blue Jays won 4-2 over the Phillies, Molitor hit .500 (12-24) with two home runs and eight RBI. It was a fantastic postseason accomplishment for the future Hall of Famer, one that deserves more recognition than it usually garners.
No. 13: Bobby Richardson in 1960
Here's one to stump your friends— who is the only player to win World Series MVP as a member of the losing team?
You guessed it! Bobby Richardson of the New York Yankees won MVP despite the Yanks losing the series 4-3 to the Pittsburgh Pirates. This series, of course, was made famous by Bill Mazeroski's series-winning home run in Game 7. But Richardson's performance was outstanding.
He hit .367, racking up 11 hits and an incredible 12 RBI, having a good month's worth of production in the seven-game series. Despite the loss, Richardson was honored for his play.
No. 12: Larry Sherry in 1959
Larry Sherry was a busy man in October of 1959. The Dodgers' reliever played a huge part in all four wins for the new team in Los Angeles. He notched a save in Games 2 and 3, and got the win in Games 4 and 6. It was a great performance by the 24-year-old, and he earned the MVP because of it.
In all, Sherry pitched 12.2 innings and gave up just one run, going 2-0 with two saves. Not bad for a reliever.
No. 11: Johnny Bench in 1976
Though this World Series wasn't very competitive, Johnny Bench played like every at bat would decide the outcome. The Reds would sweep the New York Yankees in four games in this one, continuing a dominant decade for the franchise. But Bench played out of his mind.
He hit .533, going 8-for-15 in the series with two home runs (both in Game 4), and six RBI. He was a pivotal part of the Big Red Machine, and that was never more evident than during the four-game demolition of the Yankees.
No. 10: Don Larsen in 1956
The reason behind this is pretty obvious— nine of Larsen's 10.2 innings in this series came on Monday, October 8. He pitched the only perfect game in postseason history, and the only no-hitter until Roy Halladay's last year. It was a pivotal win in Game 5 for the Yankees, who went on to win the series in seven games over the Dodgers.
It was by far Larsen's crowning achievement, and a well-deserved MVP award.
No. 9: Sandy Koufax in 1963
The year 1963 was a decent one for Sandy Koufax. Scratch that—it was unparalleled. The Dodgers lefty won the NL Cy Young, NL MVP, and put the icing on the cake by taking home the World Series MVP award. Koufax started Games 1 and 4 for the Dodgers, throwing complete games in both. He gave up three runs in 18 innings while striking out 23 batters.
Interestingly, Johnny Podres started Game 2 for the Dodgers. It was Koufax, though, that provided the heroics for the Dodgers this time around.
No. 8: Johnny Podres in 1955
When you think of October heroes, Johnny Podres probably isn't the first name to come to mind. More likely, it's Reggie Jackson or Derek Jeter. But the performance of the Brooklyn starter in the 1955 World Series is something that will never be forgotten by baseball.
In Game 3, on Podres' 23rd birthday, he pitched a complete game, allowing three runs on seven hits and leading the Dodgers to a 8-3 win, their first of the series. The following Tuesday, Podres had one of the most incredible Game 7 performances of all time. He shut out the Yankees, clinching the first and only World Series for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
No. 7: Reggie Jackson in 1977
Do you ever wonder why Reggie Jackson holds the nickname "Mr. October"? Well, friend, look no further. The slugger had his finest performance during the 1977 World Series, which saw the Yankees defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games. Jackson absolutely stole the show.
Forget the fact that he hit .450 with 10 runs and eight RBI. This man hit five home runs in six games, including a legendary three-bomb performance in the decisive Game 6. With fans chanting his name, Jackson obliterated a Charlie Hough pitch for his third home run of the night, helping to seal a World Series for the Bronx Bombers.
No. 6: Randy Johnson in 2001
With the New York Yankees going for their fourth consecutive World Series, the four-year-old Arizona Diamondbacks stood in their way. Led by aces Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, the snakes were able to topple the Evil Empire four games to three. Johnson and Schilling were named co-MVPs, but Johnson's performance was the one that really stood out.
The Big Unit pitched a three-hit shutout in Game 2, gave up two runs in seven innings in Game 6, and even pitched 1.1 innings of relief in Game 7. It was a dominant performance in which Johnson allowed 2 runs and struck out 19 Yankees. It was an MVP award well deserved.
No. 5: Mickey Lolich in 1968
If pictures are worth a thousand words, then this picture is 250 sentences that say, "It's time to party." Mickey Lolich had every right to party after his MVP performance in the 1968 World Series, in which the Detroit Tigers defeated the Bob Gibson-led St. Louis Cardinals. Although Detroit's best pitcher that year had been 31-game winner Denny McLain, it was Lolich who shined when it mattered most.
Bob Gibson defeated McLain in Game 1 and Game 4, but Lolich was there in Games 2 and 5 to throw complete games to give the Tigers much-needed wins. After McLain won Game 6 on two days' rest, Lolich got the ball for Game 7, and threw yet another complete game.
For the series, he threw 27 innings, gave up five runs, and struck out 21 to go with his 3-0 record.
No. 4: Lew Burdette in 1957
Lew Burdette was never a spectacular pitcher. He had a very nice career in which he won 203 games and was a two-time All Star. Never, however, was his stock higher than after the 1957 World Series. Pitching for the Milwaukee Braves against the New York Yankees, Burdette put on an absolute clinic during the series.
He started Game 2, Game 5, and Game 7, threw complete games in all three, and allowed only two runs over 27 innings, both of which were in Game 2. It was an absolutely phenomenal performance, and it can be argued that Burdette single-handedly won this series.
No. 3: Hideki Matsui in 2009
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Hideki Matsui's career with the New York Yankees was somewhat of a case of failed expectations. "Godzilla" was supposed to be a major cog in the Yankees' lineup, but he was never much more than an above-average run producer. However, all was forgiven in the 2009 World Series. Matsui led the Yankees to a six-game series win over the Philadelphia Phillies.
During the series, he hit .615—yes, you read that right— with three home runs and eight RBI. It was a startling performance in which no one could seem to get Matsui out. His six RBI in Game 6 tied a World Series record. It was a truly amazing performance, and one that Yankees fans are more likely to remember than his regular season under performance.
No. 2: Jack Morris in 1991
Do you remember when you were a kid, throwing against your fence in your backyard? Remember when it was Game 7 of the World Series, and you had to go the distance?
Well, Jack Morris knows all about that. The Twins ace had one of the greatest pitching performances in World Series history, but that's not all he did. The 1991 World Series saw the Twins matched up against the Atlanta Braves. Morris threw three games, pitching 23 innings. He threw seven solid innings in Game 1 and 6 innings in Game 4, allowing a combined three runs.
But in Game 7, Morris threw 10 shutout innings on 126 pitches, leading the Twins to a victory in the game and, consequently, the World Series.
No. 1: Bob Gibson in 1967
Much attention is given to Bob Gibson for his 1968 campaign in which he finished with a 1.12 ERA, but his unbelievable pitching (and hitting) during the previous year's World Series might be even more impressive. The 1967 World Series pitted Gibson's Cardinals against the "Impossible Dream" Red Sox. The Cards would need every ounce of Gibson's talent.
He delivered in a major way, pitching three complete games, all wins, and allowing just three runs the entire series. He struck out 26 Red Sox hitters, and even added a home run in Game 7. It was a legendary effort by one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history.