The 1 Playoff Moment Still Haunting Every MLB Franchise

Joel ReuterOctober 22, 2022

The 1 Playoff Moment Still Haunting Every MLB Franchise

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    Baseball: ALCS Playoffs. Boston Red Sox Dave Roberts (31) in action, stealing second base as New York Yankees Derek Jeter (2) layes down the tag during 9th inning of game at Fenway Park. Game 4. 
Boston, MA 10/17/2004
CREDIT: Chuck Solomon (Photo by Chuck Solomon /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)
(Set Number: X72074 TK4 )
    Set Number: X72074 TK4

    The heartbreaking moments are often just as memorable as the successful ones for sports fans, and that's especially true during the MLB postseason.

    For every playoff hero, there's a goat on the other side of the field, and in a matter of seconds, what looked like a sure victory can be snatched away and end in crushing defeat.

    Ahead we've highlighted one playoff moment that still haunts each MLB franchise, focusing mostly on recent history, but digging further back for a few all-time brutal moments that have stood the test of time.

    Take solace in knowing that every fanbase has at least one of these moments.

American League East

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    Baseball: ALCS Playoffs: Baltimore Orioles Tony Tarasco (1) in action, tracking ball as fan Jeffrey Maier reaches from stands and catches home run ball hit by Derek Jeter at Yankee Stadium. Game 1. 
Bronx, NY 10/9/1996
CREDIT: Al Tielemans (Photo by Al Tielemans /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)
(Set Number: X51515 TK1 R2 F8 )
    Baltimore Orioles outfielder Tony Tarasco and fan Jeffrey Maier (Set Number: X51515 TK1 R2 F8)

    Baltimore Orioles: Jeffrey Maier's Interference

    In Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS, a young Derek Jeter hit a ball that 12-year-old fan Jeffrey Maier deflected into the stands. It should have been called fan interference but was instead ruled a home run in the days before instant replay was available. That tied things up at 4-4, and the Yankees went on to win the game and the series.

    Boston Red Sox: Bill Buckner's Error

    Bill Buckner had 2,715 career hits in 22 big league seasons, which should tell you just how impactful his error in the 1986 World Series was that it's his enduring legacy. The Red Sox led the series 3-2 and were one out away from sending Game 6 to the 11th inning when Buckner let a ground ball trickle between his legs. Ray Knight scored from second on the play, giving the Mets a walk-off win, and they went on to win Game 7 and the title.

    New York Yankees: The Dave Roberts Steal

    The play that sparked the greatest comeback in postseason history. Trailing 4-3 and facing elimination heading into the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, Kevin Millar drew a lead-off walk, and speedy Dave Roberts entered the game as a pinch runner. He stole second off Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, Bill Mueller drove him in to tie the game, and David Ortiz hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th inning. That set in motion the first-ever comeback from down 3-0 in a playoff series.

    Tampa Bay Rays: 2010 ALDS Game 5

    The Rays won 96 games and the AL East title in 2010, but they were unable to survive the Texas Rangers in the ALDS. AL Cy Young runner-up David Price took the loss in Game 1 and Game 5, and the end of their playoff run also spelled the end of an era as Carl Crawford, Carlos Peña and bullpen standouts Rafael Soriano, Joaquín Benoit and Grant Balfour all departed in free agency.

    Toronto Blue Jays: 1985 ALCS Collapse

    The Blue Jays reached the postseason for the first time in 1985 in their ninth season as a franchise. A team led by Jesse Barfield, George Bell, Dave Stieb, Jimmy Key and Doyle Alexander won 99 games during the regular season, and they jumped out to an early 3-1 series lead over the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS. However, they failed in three attempts to close out the series, and a four-run sixth inning by the Royals in Game 7 completed their collapse.

American League Central

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    Baseball: World Series: View of grounds crew members rolling out tarp during rain delay after bottom of 9th inning during Chicago Cubs vs Cleveland Indians Game 7 at Progressive Field.
Cleveland, OH 11/2/2016
CREDIT: David E. Klutho (Photo by David E. Klutho /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)
(Set Number: SI598 TK7 )
    2016 World Series rain delay (Set Number: SI598 TK7)

    Chicago White Sox: Black Sox Scandal

    It's been more than a century since the White Sox conspired with a gambling syndicate to throw the 1919 World Series, but it still stands as one of the darkest moments in the history of the sport. Eight players received lifetime bans for their involvement in the scandal, including all-time great "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, who hit .375 in the series and is believed by many to be innocent of any wrongdoing.

    Cleveland Guardians: 2016 World Series Game 7 Rain Delay

    Never has the weather turned the tides quite like Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. After Cleveland scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning off Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman to tie the game at 6-6, both teams were held scoreless in the ninth. But before extra innings could start, the skies opened up and a 17-minute rain delay ensued. The Cubs came out the other side rejuvenated, scoring two runs in the top of the 10th en route to a long-awaited title.

    Detroit Tigers: Pablo Sandoval's 3-HR Game in 2012 World Series Game 1

    After sweeping the New York Yankees in the ALCS, the Tigers were heavy favorites against the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. However, a three-homer game by Pablo Sandoval in Game 1 set the tone for what would be a four-game sweep, with Barry Zito outdueling Justin Verlander to swing the pitching advantage to the Giants.

    Kansas City Royals: Chris Chambliss' Walk-Off Pennant Clincher in 1976

    The Yankees and Royals traded wins through the first four games of the 1976 ALCS, and after the Yankees jumped out to a 6-3 lead in Game 5, the Royals battled back to tie things up with three runs in the eighth inning. After the Royals failed to plate a run in the top of the ninth inning, reliever Mark Littell served up a walk-off home run to Chris Chambliss on the first pitch he threw in the bottom of the ninth.

    Minnesota Twins: An 18-Game Postseason Losing Streak

    The Twins are currently riding a record 18-game losing streak in the postseason, dating back to the 2004 ALDS, when they won Game 1 against the New York Yankees before dropping three straight, including blown leads in Game 2 and Game 4. Since then, they've been swept in the 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2019 ALDS, along with losses in the 2017 and 2020 Wild Card Games. It's impossible to pick just one moment in a record-setting run of October futility.

American League West

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    Texas Rangers' Nelson Cruz can't come up with a triple off the bat of St. Louis Cardinals' David Freese during the ninth inning of Game 6 of baseball's World Series Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
    Nelson Cruz (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

    Houston Astros: Howie Kendrick's 2-Run HR in 2019 World Series Game 7

    The towering shot that Albert Pujols hit off Brad Lidge in Game 5 of the 2005 NLCS stands out as an enduring negative memory for Astros fans, but Houston went on to win that series. Instead, we'll go with Howie Kendrick's two-run blast in Game 7 of the 2019 World Series that erased a 2-1 Astros lead and put the Nationals on top for good.

    Los Angeles Angels: Donnie Moore's Blown Save in 1986 ALCS Game 5

    The Angels built a 3-1 series lead against the Boston Red Sox in the 1986 ALCS, and they were on the doorstep of the World Series with a 5-2 lead heading into the ninth inning in Game 5. The Red Sox trimmed the deficit to 5-4 with a home run from Don Baylor, and Angels closer Donnie Moore was called on with a runner on first and two out to try to slam the door. Instead, he blew the save and served up a go-ahead home run to Dave Henderson. The Red Sox held on to win that game and rode that momentum to Game 6 and Game 7 victories to pull off the unlikely comeback.

    Oakland Athletics: Kirk Gibson's Walk-Off HR off Dennis Eckersley

    The Jeremy Giambi non-slide on Derek Jeter's flip play in the 2001 ALDS is a strong contender here, but there's no overlooking Kirk Gibson's legendary home run off Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. The hobbled slugger's walk-off blast off the All-Star reliever set the tone for the entire series, and the Dodgers wrapped things up in five games against an Athletics team that won an MLB-best 104 games during the regular season.

    Seattle Mariners: The 2001 ALCS Disappointment

    The Mariners tied an MLB record with 116 wins during the 2001 season, with rookie standout Ichiro Suzuki and veterans Edgar Martinez, Bret Boone, John Olerud and Jamie Moyer leading the way. It took them five games to knock off Cleveland in the ALDS, and that was a sign of things to come. They lost to the New York Yankees in five games in the ALCS, falling miles short of expectations in the process.

    Texas Rangers: David Freese's Triple in 2011 World Series Game 6

    The Rangers were one strike away from hoisting the 2011 World Series trophy in Game 6 against the St. Louis Cardinals when David Freese hit a deep fly ball to right field. The ball narrowly evaded a leaping Nelson Cruz and rattled around the outfield wall, allowing Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman to score, tying things up at 7-7 and sending the game to extra innings. Freese came through again with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th, and the Cardinals wrapped things up with a 6-2 win in Game 7.

National League East

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    UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 23:  Baseball: World Series, New York Yankees Jim Leyritz in action and victorious after hitting home run during game vs Atlanta Braves, Atlanta, GA 10/23/1996  (Photo by V.J. Lovero/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)  (SetNumber: X51604)
    Jim Leyritz (SetNumber: X51604)

    Atlanta Braves: Jim Leyritz's HR in 1996 World Series Game 4

    The Braves won Game 1 and Game 2 of the 1996 World Series, and they looked poised to take a 3-1 series lead when they carried a 6-3 lead into the eighth inning of Game 4. Closer Mark Wohlers entered for a two-inning save, but he recorded just one out before allowing a three-run home run to backup catcher Jim Leyritz. The Yankees went on to win the game in extra innings, evening up the series and swinging the momentum as New York won the title in six games.

    Miami Marlins: 2020 NLDS

    Prior to the 2020 NLDS, the Marlins had never lost a postseason series, so the choices for a haunting postseason moment are fairly limited. Their only postseason series loss came against the Atlanta Braves when they reached the playoffs as part of an expanded field during the pandemic-shortened season, and they were completely overmatched, getting shut out in Game 2 and Game 3 en route to a sweep.

    New York Mets: Adam Wainwright Buckles Carlos Beltran in 2006 NLCS

    A young Adam Wainwright pitching in the closer's role freezing Carlos Beltran to end Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS is the lasting image of a disappointing finish for the Mets. The St. Louis Cardinals broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the ninth inning with a two-run homer from Yadier Molina, and Beltran went down looking with the bases loaded to end the game on a nasty curveball from Wainwright.

    Philadelphia Phillies: Joe Carter's Walk-Off In 1993 World Series Game 6

    The Phillies were on the doorstep of forcing Game 7 in the 1993 World Series when closer Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams was called on to protect a 6-5 lead. He earned his nickname when he issued a leadoff walk to Rickey Henderson, and after a one-out single from Paul Molitor, he allowed a walk-off home run to Joe Carter to bring the Fall Classic to a screeching halt.

    Washington Nationals: 1994 Postseason Cancellation

    The 1994 Montreal Expos had the best record in baseball (74-40) when the 1994 season abruptly ended with the players' strike, robbing them of an opportunity to make a run at a World Series title. If we're focusing solely on Washington Nationals history, the go-ahead, two-run single from Pete Kozma in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS stands out as a less-than-pleasant memory.

National League Central

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    ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 14:  The Atlanta Braves Sid Bream (R) slides across the plate to win the National League Championship Series as the Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Mike LaValliere (L)applies the late tag in the ninth inning 14 October, 1992 in Atlanta, GA. The Atlanta Braves won the game 3-2, and will meet the Toronto Blue Jays in the World Series.  (Photo credit should read ROBERT SULLIVAN/AFP via Getty Images)
    Sid Bream (ROBERT SULLIVAN/AFP via Getty Images)

    Chicago Cubs: The Steve Bartman Incident

    The blame for the Cubs' collapse in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS falls squarely on veteran Moises Alou's inability to keep his composure and a crucial error from sure-handed shortstop Alex Gonzalez, but fan Steve Bartman remains the scapegoat for interfering with a foul ball Alou could have caught. The Marlins plated eight runs in that fateful eighth inning for an 8-3 victory and went on to win Game 7 the following day.

    Cincinnati Reds: Roy Halladay's No-Hitter in 2010 NLDS Game 1

    Playing in their first postseason game in 15 years, the Reds quickly had the wind taken out of their sails when Roy Halladay twirled a no-hitter in Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS. A comeback win by the Phillies in Game 2 and a five-hit shutout from Cole Hamels in Game 3 quickly sent Cincinnati packing in a three-game sweep.

    Milwaukee Brewers: Blown Lead in 1982 World Series Game 7

    The Brewers have been to the World Series just once in 54 years of existence, and they had a chance to hoist the trophy with a 3-1 lead heading into the sixth inning of Game 7 against the St. Louis Cardinals. AL Cy Young winner Pete Vuckovich put runners on second and third with one out in the sixth inning before he was lifted for reliever Bob McClure, and the Cardinals went on to score three runs in the inning to take the lead for good.

    Pittsburgh Pirates: Sid Bream's Slide in 1992 NLCS Game 7

    The Pirates reached the NLCS three straight years in 1990, 1991 and 1992, and that final trip was the most heartbreaking of the trio. The Pirates led 2-0 going into the ninth inning of Game 7 when tiring ace Doug Drabek allowed a double and a walk before he was given the hook. A sac fly from Ron Gant cut the deficit in half, and a two-out single from pinch hitter Francisco Cabrera plated two as Sid Bream raced around from second base and slid into home just ahead of the tag to clinch the NL pennant.

    St. Louis Cardinals: Don Denkinger's Missed Call in 1985 World Series Game 6

    With the Cardinals leading 1-0 and three outs away from a World Series title, rookie closer Todd Worrell took the ball looking to slam the door. Jorge Orta led off the inning with a slow roller to first base that Jack Clark fielded and flipped to Worrell covering for what appeared to be an easy first out, but instead first base umpire Don Denkinger missed the call and ruled him safe. Things unraveled quickly from there, and the Royals went on to win Game 6 on a walk-off single from Dane Iorg and Game 7 in an 11-0 blowout.

National League West

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    Anaheim Angels Scott Spiezio hits a three-run homerun as San Francisco Giants catcher Benito Santiago (R) and home plate umpire Tim McClelland (C) watch in the seventh inning of Game 6 of the World Series in Anaheim, CA, 26 October, 2002. The Giants are leading the best-of-seven series 3-2.  AFP PHOTO Lucy NICHOLSON (Photo by LUCY NICHOLSON / AFP) (Photo by LUCY NICHOLSON/AFP via Getty Images)
    Scott Spiezio (LUCY NICHOLSON/AFP via Getty Images)

    Arizona Diamondbacks: Todd Pratt's Walk-Off in 1999 NLDS Game 4

    The D-backs found success early, winning a World Series title in just their fourth year of existence, but they did experience some heartbreak first in the 1999 NLDS. Trying to even the series 2-2 against the New York Mets, reliever Matt Mantei surrendered a walk-off series-ending home run to backup catcher Todd Pratt.

    Colorado Rockies: Blowout in 2007 World Series Game 1

    The 2007 Rockies won 14 of their final 15 games during the regular season to punch their ticket to the postseason, then swept the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS and the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLCS. That streaking momentum was brought to a screeching halt when Dustin Pedroia homered to lead off the bottom of the first in Game 1 of the World Series. The Red Sox went on to win Game 1 by a lopsided 13-1 score en route to a four-game sweep.

    Los Angeles Dodgers: 2022 NLDS Upset

    The Dodgers endured plenty of heartbreak during the 31-year drought between World Series titles, and perhaps this is recency bias, but getting upset by the rival San Diego Padres in the NLDS after winning a franchise-record 111 games during the regular season was an absolute stunner. A busy offseason awaits for a team that can't simply rest on its laurels.

    San Diego Padres: Yankees 1998 World Series Win in San Diego

    The juggernaut 1998 New York Yankees absolutely steamrolled the Padres in the World Series, outscoring them 26-13 in a four-game sweep. Watching the Yankees celebrate their World Series win in San Diego was salt in the wounds of a memorable '98 campaign that simply ran into a buzz saw.

    San Francisco Giants: Scott Spiezio's HR in 2002 World Series Game 6

    Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants had a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series with a chance to close things out. A three-run home run from Scott Spiezio after starter Russ Ortiz was chased from the game trimmed that deficit to 5-3 and completely shifted the momentum of the series. The Angels took the lead with a three-run eighth inning and won Game 7 behind a terrific start from rookie John Lackey.

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.