David Freese celebrates his walk-off in the 11th
It's a best-of-seven series but, for some reason, the 'best' has traditionally taken place in the sixth game. The 2011 World Series had already created some classic moments before it entered Game Six on Thursday night in St. Louis:
The Rangers' had ninth inning rally to win Game 2 in St. Louis.
Albert Pujols' night for the ages in Game 3 on the road, crushing three home runs and driving in six runs.
Derek Holland nearly pitched a complete game shutout in game 4.
Mike Napoli powered Texas to a dramatic win in Game 5.
Then came game 6.
How good was it?
It was great. One of the all-time greats. Was it the greatest? Well it's very close but the competition is very tough as well.
Scott Spezio's seventh inning three run home run sparked a game six comeback for the Angels.
The Giants were winning the World Series 3-2 and leading Game 6 by a score of 5-0 entering the bottom of the seventh. All they needed to do was get nine outs without giving up five runs. Simple right?
Think again. Giants starting pitcher Russ Ortiz got the first out and then gave up back-to-back singles. That's when Giants manager Dusty Baker lifted Ortiz for Felix Rodriguez. Rodriguez entered the game leading 5-0 with one out and two men on. He had Scott Spezio at a 3-2 count when Spezio finally connected on a home run that barely cleared the right field wall. That cut the lead to 5-3 and that lead would evaporate in the eighth when the Angels took a 6-5 lead.
The Giants never recovered from blowing that lead and the Angels would go on to win the Series in seven games.
Perhaps the Cardinals had some game 6 luck heading their way? Back in 1985 the Cardinals were involved in an incredible game 6 but came out on the wrong side of it. Leading 3-2 in the series and 1-0 in Game 6, the Cardinals were poised to wrap up their second championship of the 1980's.
Leading off the ninth for Kansas City was Jorge Orta. Orta hit a routine ground ball to first base and was inexplicably called "safe" by first base umpire Don Denkinger.
From that point on the Cardinals seemed doomed. They would lose the game on a two run walkoff single and most of St. Louis will blame Denkinger for the lose.
Joe Carter rounding the bases following the home run that won both game 6 and the World Series for the Blue Jays in 1993
Hitting a walk-off to force a Game 7 is great. Hitting it to actually win not just the game but the entire World Series is even better.
The 1993 Blue Jays were making a run at repeating as World Champs. An upstart team from Philadelphia was standing in their way. The Blue Jays had jumped out to a formidable 3-1 series lead following a 15-14 game three slugfest.
Game 5 featured Curt Schilling, a young pitcher from who shut down the Jays and made it a 3-2 series, then came Game 6.
The Jays were coasting toward their repeat leading 5-1 entering the seventh inning but then Philly struck for five runs in the seventh and all of a sudden momentum had shifted and the Jays trailed 6-5. That lead held entering the ninth.
That's when Philadelphia closer Mitch Williams entered the game. Williams walked leadoff hitter Rickey Henderson, then got Devon White to fly out for the first out. Paul Molitor walked and then up stepped Joe Carter.
Carter nailed a 2-2 pitch deep into the left field stands and the Toronto home crowd erupted. Game over, World Series over, and Joe Carter was now a legend.
Ten innings, five lead changes, 21 hits and five errors. Even with those daunting numbers, this had to be seen to be believed. The Boston Red Sox were fighting to win their first World Series since 1918. The New York Mets were seeking their first since 1969. That title was called a "miracle". This one made 1969 look routine.
With Boston up 3-2 in the Series and leading Game 6 by a score of 3-2 entering the bottom of the eighth there was plenty of confidence in Boston. Then, a sacrifice fly in that inning tied the game up at three runs a piece. That tie would hold until the top of the tenth when Red Sox postseason hero David Henderson hoisted a leadoff home run to make it 4-3 to the Red Sox. Boston would tack on another run and entered the bottom of then tenth winning 5-3 and three outs away from a ring.
Boston reliever Calvin Schiraldi got the first two outs. 5-3 Red Sox with two outs in the bottom of the tenth, and then.....
Gary Carter with a single, Kevin Mitchell with a pinch hit single,then Ray Knight with an RBI single and all of a sudden, it was 5-4. Schiraldi was removed at this point and in stepped Bob Stanley. Stanley would then uncork a wild pitch which plated Kevin Mitchell and tied the game. It also moved Ray Knight over to second base. That's when Mookie Wilson hit a little roller up the first base line.
Maybe it was an bad hop, or maybe it was just misplayed. It didn't matter. All that mattered was that the ball scooted under Red Sox first baseman' Bill Buckner's glove and with it went the Red Sox title hopes. Game six was a 6-5 Mets win and Game 7 became a mere formality.
It had been just over twenty years to the day since this classic game happened when Freese won Game 6 for the Cards. In what was already a classic World Series that had featured three one-run games and a 12 inning affair in Game 4, Game 6 would render the previous games of this series mere afterthoughts.
Unlike the game witnessed by millions just last night, this game featured some great fielding including a spectacular catch in center field by Minnesota's Kirby Puckett. The catch was great but it's not what Puckett would be remembered for.
That's because in the eleventh inning, knotted at a 3-3 score, Charlie Leibrandt into the game to face Puckett and with the count at 2-1, Puckett launched a dramatic game-winning home run to left center field. In a game and series that featured plenty of drama it was all nearly overshadowed by this, that is until Game 7.
The St. Louis Cardinals mob David Freese at home following his tenth inning walk off.
This one just happened and yet it feels as if it couldn't have really happened. Six lead changes, five home runs, the Cardinals season came down to their final strike, twice. In the end it was David Freese, who smashed a 428 foot home run to straight away center field in the bottom of the 11th inning, who would finally provide the proper ending to one of the greatest games ever played.
This game looked both as if no one wanted to win and no one wanted to lose. Poor fielding, questionable baserunning. highly questionable bullpen decisions. In the end, though, the story was the Cardinals. A team that quite simply would not be beat on this night.
Down 7-4 in the eighth inning they got a solo home run from Allen Craig. Then down 7-5 in the ninth with two on and two out David Freese hit an opposite field triple off of Rangers' closer Neftali Feliz. The triple which was misplayed by Rangers' outfielder Nelson Cruz, plated the tying run and off to extra innings we went.
The Rangers wasted no time in reclaiming both the lead and, with it, momentum when, in the top of the tenth, Josh Hamilton hit a two run homer to make the score 9-7. Now all the Rangers had to do was retire the Cardinals in the bottom of the tenth.
It didn't happen. The first two Cardinals would reach base and then one of the worst looking but still successful sacrifice bunts in baseball history was pulled off by Cardinals' pitcher Kyle Lohse. The Cardinals would get one run back on a ground out to make it 9-8 but now there were two outs and rather than tempt fate with Albert Pujols, Rangers' manager Ron Washington instead elected to pitch to Lance Berkman.
Berkman would come through with a two-out game-tying single and on to the eleventh we'd go. The first batter, Mark Lowe, would face would be David Freese. It would also be his last.
The Cincinnati Reds of 1975 were the "Big Red Machine". They won 108 regular season games. They had a star-studded roster featuring Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, George Foster, and Tony Perez. They entered Game 6 in Boston, winning the 1975 World Series 3-2. They had no idea what they were in store for in Game 6.
In a game that featured spectacular fielding from Fred Lynn and Dwight Evans, the Reds still managed to take a commanding 6-3 lead into the eighth inning. In the eighth with two outs and two on Bernie Carbo hit a pinch hit three run home run to tie the game at 6 even.
It would remain 6-6 until the bottom of the twelfth inning. That's when Carlton Fisk would provide not just a lasting memory for baseball fans but a lasting image as well. He drove Reds' pitcher Pat Darcy's 1-0 pitch deep down he left field line. As Fisk began to break toward first base he started to almost try and will the ball to stay fair. The picture above is an undisputed classic as was the game.
The final four games listed in this slide show were very tough to place in a definitive order. The one thing that placed the 1975 game above the others was the outstanding fielding in the game. Fred Lynn and Dwight Evans both made outstanding plays. The game played most recently featured some extremely subpar fielding. Other than that it was one of the most memorable baseball games I've ever seen.