Tonight, Game 5 of the World Series will be played. In just a short while, a new champion will be crowned, and fans of that team will rejoice nationwide. The best part is that up until this point, the Series has featured two teams that have gone toe to toe through the first four games.
It's a World Series like this one that brings back memories of the Fall Classics of old. Baseball fans last year surely felt happy for that scrappy San Francisco Giants squad that beat a favored Texas Rangers lineup that featured some heavy bats, not to mention AL MVP Josh Hamilton.
That being said, let's dive right in and rank the last 25 World Series champions.
I'm not trying to take away from the Red Sox winning this particular year, but I'm going to be honest with you devoted readers. Their victory in the Fall Classic just flat out didn't impress me. They took on a Colorado Rockies team that made it to the World Series on heart and dumb luck, and it showed once the first pitch of Game 1 was tossed.
Long story short, the Sawx swept the Rockies in four games and outscored them 29-10 while outhitting them 47-29. It was a matchup of heart vs. experience, and in this case, the experienced division winner beat out the scrappy Wild Card winner.
I know I sound like a hater right now, but it's hard for me to respect the Florida Marlins taking home the trophy in 2003 as well. They were outscored by the New York Yankees 21-17 and more or less got lucky with the New York bats just falling asleep.
On top of that, the Marlins got lucky in Game 4 thanks to mismanagement from Joe Torre and a bad pitch from a player the team never should have traded for in the first place.
Oh, and there's that whole Steve Bartman fiasco too. If he didn't interfere with that play, this Series would have been Yankees vs. Cubs, and I wouldn't be ranting right now.
Let me start off by saying this: I LOVED THIS WORLD SERIES. It featured two talented teams in the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros, and despite the fact that Chicago swept the series, each game was close. At the close of the series, the White Sox had outscored Houston just 20-14.
While this Series was very entertaining to watch, it's still pretty low on the list not because of any dumb luck or lack of talent, but simply because it falls into the background compared to the other World Series winners of the past 25 years. Yet, despite that, there will always be a special place in my heart for the 2005 Chicago White Sox.
In 1985, the Kansas City Royals beat all odds and beat the favored St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. It was a great moment for both the franchise and the city, seeing as how it was a battle for state pride, but let's be honest about the outcome of this series. It was all luck.
Let's look at Game 6. The Cardinals were leading 1-0 and appeared to start off the inning with an out. Thanks to first base umpire Don Denkinger blowing the call, the Royals rallied for a 2-1 victory.
I know that this dumb luck would normally put the Royals lower on the list, but the fact that they game out in Game 7 and delivered an absolutely stunning 11-0 drubbing speaks volumes about the heart of this team.
This series was fun to watch in the sense that it featured a team that had been around for nearly a century against one that, at the time, had only been around for a decade. Who would win? The Philadelphia Phillies squad that had been playing together for a long time, or the scrappy Tampa Bay Rays team that was fueled by youth and heart?
As tends to happen in most World Series, experience won out. Despite a respectable effort by Tampa Bay, the Phillies took this one home in five games, and the fans rejoiced in the City of Brotherly Love.
Nothing against the Phillies, but I rank them so low here because there are simply too many other talented teams that deserve to be ahead. Teams like...
The 1995 World Series was a classic instance of heavy offense matched up against clutch pitching. Here were the Cleveland Indians, who had the league's best record in the strike-shortened 1995 season, playing against the Atlanta Braves, whose top core of young pitchers was considered to be the best in baseball.
Of the series' six games, five were decided by just one run. After the final out of Game 6, the Braves proved that pitching and heart will ultimately win out if the team is united.
On top of that, the team was just flat out likeable. I mean, come on. Take your pick. Would you rather support classy guys like Tom Glavine and John Smoltz or a psychopath like Albert Belle?
Putting aside the fact that both teams united during a devastating earthquake that delayed the start of Game 3 by 10 days, the 1989 World Series was just flat out fun to watch. You had the Oakland Athletics (playing in their second straight Fall Classic) against the San Francisco Giants in a battle for Bay Area Pride, and the winning team featured the Bash Brothers: Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco.
Despite having a decent pitching staff, Oakland won this one on pure offense. They outscored the Giants by a whopping 32-14, and the looks on their faces following the final out was just beautiful. Here was a team that, despite having a 2-0 advantage going into Game 3, united under the circumstances brought on by the earthquake. The looks on those faces were not just of victory, but of hope that the city could heal.
This World Series was special in the fact that it was the first time a team from Canada was represented in the Fall Classic. Despite being major underdogs going in, this young Toronto Blue Jays team went toe-to-toe with the equally talented Atlanta Braves and won the series in six games.
Even more astounding was the pitching in this game. Both teams were so evenly matched, and Atlanta outscored Toronto just 20-17 despite losing. Even more incredible, Toronto outhit Atlanta just 45-44.
This was a series won by clutch pitching and pure heart, and to be honest, it's sad how Toronto fans seem to forget about this World Series, as well as the Blue Jays' overall successes in the early part of the 1990s.
In 1999, the New York Yankees were looking to defend their title and got their wish. Their opponent was the Atlanta Braves, who they had beaten in the 1996 World Series. This time, the Yankees knew what to expect.
The Bronx Bombers used clutch hitting and shutdown pitching to win the series in four games and make the reeling Braves look foolish. They outscored Atlanta 21-9 in those four games and continued their dominance well into next year when...
Being the lone Yankees fan in a family full of Mets fans, this World Series was very interesting, at least at my house. After coming so close the year before, the New York Mets finally won the NL Pennant and faced the Yankees in what was coined "The Subway Series."
As talented as both teams were, the Yankees' experience won out, and the series was over in five games. I will give the Mets credit, though. They were only outscored by three runs, 19-16.
Still, this Yankees team was just incredible in the playoffs despite slumping badly in the last month of the season, finishing with an average record of 87-74. The perfect combination of pitching and clutch hitting brought them their third straight championship and last under Joe Torre.
I remember that when this World Series was on, I was glued to it. You had a heavy hitting San Francisco Giants team up against the smallball-playing Anaheim Angels. Two contrasting styles faced off, and the question remained: Which would win out?
Well, in seven games, some of which included some absolute slugfests, the Angels proved that it takes a lot more than big bats to win a championship. In Game 6, the team chipped away at a 5-0 Giants lead, starting in the seventh inning. They won that round 6-5 and took the momentum all the way to a Game 7 victory.
I may have hated the Angels for beating the Yankees in the playoffs that year, but it's hard not to respect a team that rides momentum the way that Anaheim did that year.
The 1987 Minnesota Twins were not a good team on paper. The pitching staff's ERA was a whopping 4.67 and had led the team to a regular season record of 85-77. More importantly, this was a team that had finished with a road record of 29-52.
Still, they beat the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS and faced the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. In typical fashion, they lost all three road games and won all four at home to take the series in seven games. This can be argued as dumb luck, seeing as how St. Louis was without a top player in Jack Clark, but you still have to admire MInnesota's heart in this particular case.
The fact that they were outscored during the regular season and still won a championship is just astounding, not to mention admirable.
My family could go on and on about the 1986 World Series, but I'll keep it short because we have more slides to get through. The young and scrappy New York Mets took on the experienced Boston Red Sox, who were looking to get back to championship glory for the first time since 1918. It appeared that would happen in Game 6, but a crucial error by Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner forced a Game 7.
To add insult to injury, the Red Sox blew a 3-0 lead in that game as the Mets went on to win 8-5. Like the 2002 Angels, this is a team I just have to respect in the sense that they overcame all odds and rode momentum from one win all the way to a championship. On top of that, and nothing against the '86 Sox, but these guys were just a likeable team, save for the supposed drug controversies.
I remember this World Series getting a lot of press because it was a rematch of the 1968 World Series, when the Detroit Tigers beat the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. Sure enough, this time, St. Louis was out for revenge.
Naturally, the Cardinals did what they had to do on both offense and defense and took the trophy home in five games. Here was a team that did not look good on paper, having finished the season with a record of 83-78, but they still took advantage of an aging Tigers squad and used their youth to capitalize on every opportunity.
On top of that, the fact that a scrappy little guy like David Eckstein was named Series MVP is just flat out awesome.
This World Series might have been one of the biggest upset specials in baseball history. It pitted a young, light-hitting San Francisco Giants squad against the power-hitting Texas Rangers, so you knew a dogfight could be in order.
Instead, the Giants merely silenced Texas' bats and won the series in five games. Even more incredible, Texas was outscored 29-12. And here I am calling the Giants a light-hitting team.
On top of that, it's hard not to like a team that has someone as awesome as Brian Wilson on the team. Can't you imagine what he told his teammates before the series even started?
Probably something like, "OK...so they have Josh Hamilton and Cliff Lee? Are we supposed to be scared of those guys? I don't remember getting a memo...better call The Machine and see if he hijacked it..."
Either way, this is a team that deserves more respect than it tends to get. They were major underdogs and pulled off an epic victory that ended in an elated celebration.
The 1997 World Series was, to put it bluntly, inspiring. A young and inexperienced Florida Marlins squad that had barely been in the majors for five years went toe-to-toe with a heavily favored Cleveland Indians team, all the way to Game 7. Against all odds, they rallied to tie the game against a tough stopper in Jose Mesa and then won in the bottom of the 11th.
I'm sorry, but any team this young that slays a giant like a Cleveland Indians team of the 1990s deserves some recognition. They may have been outscored 44-37, but this is a pure instance of heart winning over statistics.
The sad part is that the success didn't last, as the team was basically dismantled via a fire sale that very offseason.
Here we have another instance of a team that rides momentum all the way to a victory. The Minnesota Twins were tied with the Atlanta Braves going into the bottom of the 11th inning in Game 6, and a walk-off homer by star outfielder Kirby Puckett forced Game 7. This is where the magic happened.
On the mound for the Twins that day was Jack Morris, who had already won a World Series with the Detroit Tigers back in 1984. He used his heart of a champion to turn in one of the greatest Fall Classic performances of all time. I'm talking about him throwing 10 shutout innings before reserve outfielder Gene Larkin singled home the winning run in the bottom half of the 10th.
Like I said, the fact that the then 36-year-old Morris was able to throw that many pitches over that many innings is just astounding, badass if you will. His team needed him, so he stepped up and did his job in the best way possible.
Rather than cave after nine innings, he rode the momentum from the night before and brought a championship back to Minnesota.
As much as I hated the outcome of this World Series, I need to give the 2004 Red Sox their due credit. The fact that they were down three games to none in the ALCS and came all the way back to win both that series and then subsequently sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series is just incredible. I know I've said a lot about certain teams winning on heart alone or through dumb luck, but this Red Sox team was just flat out good.
Be it through Manny being Manny or a monster shot by "Big Papi," this was definitely a Series for the ages, as a group of ragtag players went on to bring a team its first championship since 1918.
The 1988 World Series features what may be one of the biggest home runs in baseball history. The Dodgers were facing a tough Oakland Athletics team and were without star slugger Kirk Gibson, who was on the bench with injuries to both legs as well as a stomach virus.
Trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth in Game 1, Gibson went in to pinch-hit and launched a home run that set the tone for the rest of the series. The Dodgers rode the momentum, and their great pitching staff helped them win the series in five games.
Watch the video at the left, and I dare you to tell me you aren't inspired by Gibson hobbling around the bases.
Going into 2009, the Yankees were coming off a season that saw them miss the playoffs for the first time since 1995. Sure enough, they went all out during free agency and brought in some key players: CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira.
Sure enough, all three helped the Yankees towards the best record in baseball and a march to the World Series against the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies. In games that were absolute dogfights, the Yankees took the series to a sixth game at home, and in what can only be called Yankees mystique, they dominated from the start and won 7-3 to finally get that 27th championship.
Seriously, this series got so intense that I actually cried after the final out. To this day, I still get emotional listening to Joe Buck say "To the second baseman Cano...THE YANKEES ARE BACK ON TOP!!!"
More importantly, here was a star-studded team that many had written off as having too many egos that caused them to choke in the playoffs. Instead, the team silenced the critics and went on to win it all.
This year's World Series was one that just wowed me. The AL West-winning Texas Rangers represented the American League while the NL Wild Card-winning St. Louis Cardinals represented their league in what can only be called a Cinderella story.
To be honest, though I was rooting for St. Louis, I thought that the heavy-hitting Rangers would make short work of this scrappy team. Instead, both teams gave us a dogfight that will be remembered for years to come.
The Series' defining moment came in Game 6 when the Cardinals were down to their last strike not once, but twice. On a 2-2 pitch in the bottom of the 9th inning, with St. Louis trailing 7-5, Cardinals third baseman and St. Louis native David Freese hit a two-run triple to tie the game. One inning later, as the Cardinals trailed 9-8, outfielder Lance Berkman hit a game tying single also on a 2-2 pitch. In the bottom of the 11th, Freese worked his magic again and hit the game-winning home run.
Sure enough, the Cardinals carried the momentum into Game 7 and won 6-2, starting with a game-tying RBI double hit by Freese in the bottom of the first inning. In a move that was no surprise, he was named World Series MVP and the Cardinals' miracle run was complete.
Even though I may or may not have trashed my room in anger following the end of this World Series, the fact that the Arizona Diamondbacks did what they did is incredible. Here was a team that featured mostly aging veterans in both the lineup and the pitching staff, and they did the unthinkable in stopping a New York Yankees squad looking for its fourth straight championship.
This squad wore down the Bronx Bombers with both their bats and two fine pitching arms in World Series co-MVPs Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling to bring a trophy to Arizona. Even more amazing, the team was only in its fourth year of existence. Say what you want about this team, but love them or hate them, you have to respect that.
The 1993 World Series featured the Toronto Blue Jays looking to defend their title against a blue-collar Philadelphia Phillies team. Like all great Fall Classics, each of the six games played was an absolute dogfight. Yet, the most intense one occurred in Game 6.
The Blue Jays had controlled most of the game, but a rally by Philadelphia had the Phillies leading 6-5 going into the bottom of the ninth. Thanks to erratic pitching by Philadelphia closer Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams, the Blue Jays had two runners on with one out when star outfielder Joe Carter came up to bat.
The rest, as they say, is history. Fast forward to about 15:30 in the video to the left and watch one of the most inspiring moments in baseball history. I'm talking about the one thing we dreamed of doing as kids.
The 1996 Yankees team that won the World Series was special for multiple reasons. Not only did they have great chemistry, but they also did the unthinkable against an Atlanta Braves squad looking to repeat as champions.
The Yankees proceeded to lose the first two games at home, but then won the next three in Atlanta before coming back home to take the deciding sixth game. This team just had a never say die attitude that they rode throughout the series despite being outscored 16-1 over the first two games and 26-18 overall.
Yet, as good as this team was, they don't even hold a candle to another particular team...
125 wins on the season, from the first game up until the World Series clincher against the San Diego Padres. Enough said.