World Series: 10 Most Incredible Defensive Plays in Fall Classic History

Joe AcampadoCorrespondent INovember 7, 2011

World Series: 10 Most Incredible Defensive Plays in Fall Classic History

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    The history of baseball is filled with memorable World Series and this past one was no different.

    The World Series wouldn't be the World Series without an amazing, game-saving catch or play.  Every World Series has a dive, leap, or chase that saved the game either giving the team the chance to win or to hold onto a lead.

    Everyone has their favorite World Series moment whether it be a catch, a dive, or a home run.

    The Fall Classic brings out the best in players, but too often people get caught up on the offensive side of the game.  These plays will show people that defense can be just as exciting and important in the Fall Classic.

Al Gionfriddo, Brooklyn Dodgers vs. New York Yankees, 1947 Game 6

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    Al Gionfriddo is known solely for this catch.

    It was Game 6 and the Brooklyn Dodgers needed a win to keep their hopes alive and force a Game 7.

    Up to the point right before the catch, the Dodgers had the lead and put in Gionfriddo as a defensive replacement.  DiMaggio came up to bat with two on and two outs with the chance to tie the game.  He nearly did.

    Gionfriddo made the catch right by the 415 marker by the bullpen gate.  Had that ball not been caught, the game would've been tied and there might've not been a Game 7.

    Of course, the Dodgers didn't end up winning the World Series, but it was a great catch nonetheless.

    Image courtesy of fanbase.com

Dwight Evans, Boston Red Sox vs. Cincinnati Reds, 1975 Game 6

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    Here's another spectacular catch to keep the other team from possibly winning.

    This one happened in the 11th inning with the score tied at six.  The Red Sox tied the game with a three run homer in the back eighth and obviously didn't want to give up any runs, especially since they were playing the "Big Red Machine."

    Joe Morgan was up to bat for the Cincinnati Reds and Ken Griffey was on first.  Morgan hit the ball out to right field and Dwight Evans made a leaping catch to rob Morgan.

    Evans wasn't done as he threw the ball in and was able to double up Griffey off first.

    This play was one of the most memorable in one of the best World Series ever.  Too bad the Red Sox didn't end up winning.

Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies vs. Tampa Bay Rays, 2008 Game 5

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    This World Series was memorable for being the first World Series played underwater.

    Despite that, Chase Utley was able to make a play that probably saved the series for the Philadelphia Phillies by keeping the game tied.

    Utley didn't have a play at first, but Jason Bartlett was still at second.  Had Utley thrown to first, he wouldn't have gotten the out and Bartlett would have scored.

    Instead, Utley faked a throw to first so Bartlett would think that Utley didn't have the ball.  Then he threw to home getting Bartlett for the third out.  

    The play stopped any momentum the Tampa Bay Rays had and led the Phillies to getting the first championship for Philadelphia in 25 years.

Kirby Puckett, Minnesota Twins vs. Atlanta Braves, 1991 Game 6

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    Not only was this one of the most memorable catches in World Series history, but Kirby Puckett had one of the best overall performances ever in this game.

    Rob Gant smashed a ball, but Puckett defied gravity and caught the ball in left field in front of the Plexiglas wall.

    The catch came in the third inning, but it certainly set the tone for the rest of the game.  The Minnesota Twins needed a win to stay alive and they got it.  They even went on win the World Series.

    There's no telling what would've happened if Puckett didn't make that catch, but the Twins definitely needed Puckett to carry them that game which he did.

Mickey Mantle, New York Yankees vs. Brooklyn Dodgers, 1956 Game 5

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    People remember this game as the one where Don Larsen pitched a pretty good game.

    That pretty good pitching performance wouldn't have been so without Mickey Mantle's catch in the fifth inning.

    Gil Hodges of the Brooklyn Dodgers hit a line-drive into Yankee Stadium's "Death Valley."  Mantle was there to make an amazing running one-handed catch.

    For those who don't know, Yankee Stadium's "Death Valley" is called so because of the 490-foot distance from home plate to the centerfield wall.  So let's just say Mantle had to do a bit of running to catch the ball.

    Then there's also the fact that the catch preserved Don Larsen's perfect game which is still the only perfect game in postseason history to date.

     

    Image courtesy of wikipedia.org

Brooks Robinson, Baltimore Orioles vs. Cincinnati Reds, 1970 Game 1

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    No list of defensive plays would be complete without the great Brooks Robinson.

    In fact, he made so many incredible plays during the series, it was kind of hard to pick just one. So I'm going to go with the first one of the series, since it was a preview of great things to come.

    It was the sixth inning and the Cincinnati Reds' Lee May hit a hard grounder down the third base line.

    Robinson made an amazing backhanded grab and spun to throw May out at first on a one-bouncer without even stopping to plant his feet.

    He would go on to make other great plays, both offensively and defensively and ended up being the World Series MVP. 

     

    Image courtesy of baseballsociologist.files.wordpress.com.

Joe DiMaggio, New York Yankees vs. New York Giants, 1936 Game 2

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    Let's ignore the fact that the New York Yankees were up by 14 runs by the time this play happened.

    Joe DiMaggio still made an excellent catch in centerfield.

    The New York Giants' Hank Leiber hit a ball to dead center.  490 feet into dead center to be exact.

    DiMaggio made the catch while running up the steps of the clubhouse.  The thing about this catch is that it was about 40 feet farther than Willie Mays' "The Catch" in 1954.

    If the Yankees only weren't up by 14, this play probably would have been in the same tier as "The Catch".

     

    Image courtesy of wikipedia.org.

Devon White, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Atlanta Braves, 1992 Game 3

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    I'm surprised this catch doesn't get as much credit as it deserves considering that it was nearly a triple play.

    David Justice of the Atlanta Braves hit long fly ball and Devon White made an air-tacular catch landing in the wall.  He then threw the ball back into the infield.

    It nearly became a triple play because Atlanta baserunners Deion Sanders and Terry Pendleton got crossed up on the bases because of White's catch.  Pendleton passed Sanders and was an automatic out.

    Sanders was stuck between second and third.  After a bit of a chase, Sanders was called safe at second even though replays showed that he was out.

    Despite that missed call, White's catch itself was amazing.

     

    Image courtesy of thegrumpyowl.com.

Bill Wambsganss, Cleveland Indians vs. Brooklyn Dodgers, 1920 Game 5

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    Here's a play for all you baseball historians.

    It's the only unassisted triple play in the history of the Fall Classic.  Not to mention it's a play that doesn't get as much mention as a certain catch by a Mr. Willie Mays.

    Bill Wambsganss was playing at second base and caught a line drive.  He then stepped on the base to for the second out and tagged the runner coming in from first.

    The Indians were already on their way to win the game, so it's not like the play saved the game. However, there's no telling what would've happened had Wambsganss not caught that ball.

    The unassisted triple play is the hardest play in baseball, maybe in all of sports.  It's just a little surprising that you don't hear about this play too often.

     

    Image courtesy of baseball-almanac.com.

Willie Mays, New York Giants vs. Cleveland Indians, 1954 Game 1

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    This play is better known as "The Catch."  It's so famous it has its own wikipedia page.

    Heck, the catch is so famous I'm not even sure if I have to describe it, but I will anyway.

    Basically, some guy named Willie Mays caught a ball off Vic Wertz's bat on the warning track in center field, about 440 feet away from home plate.

    The catch was also over-the-shoulder and on-the-run.  However, the best part about the play is not really the catch itself, but that Mays was able to spin around and throw the ball in to keep the runner from scoring from second.

    The score was tied at the point and if Mays didn't make the catch or the throw, then the go-ahead run probably would have scored.

    If you want an iconic baseball play, you can't do much better than "The Catch."

     

    Image courtesy of wikipedia.org.