The 15 Greatest Moments for Losing World Series Teams
These are some of the most legendary moments in World Series history.
Iconic homers. Dominating pitching performances. Heart stopping comebacks. And in at least one case, mind-boggling heroics that helped uplift the country in the face of tragedy.
They all have one thing in common. Each of these teams that experienced these moments of euphoria walked off the field with their heads down. They all got the heroic moment but lost the series.
These are, in chronological order, the 15 best World Series moments for teams that ultimately came up short.
Casey Stengel's Game-Winning, Inside-the-Park Homer, Game 1, 1923 World Series
Casey Stengel became a World Series fixture as a Yankees manager. But as a player, he was a member of the New York Giants team that beat the Yankees in their first two October appearances (1921 and 1922). In 1923, the two teams met again.
With two outs and the game tied 4-4 in the top of the ninth, Stengel came to the plate against "Bullet" Joe Bush. He lined one to deep left center field and took advantage of the new Yankee Stadium's cavernous power alleys. He raced all the way home to give the Giants a 5-4 lead, which pitcher Rosy Ryan would hold down for the win.
It looked like business as usual as John McGraw's Giants hoped to beat the Yankees for the third straight season. But the Yankees would respond and win the Series in six games. The home run was the highlight of Stengel's playing career. He would have a lot more memorable moments in the Bronx later.
Sam Rice's Mysterious Catch, Game 3, 1925 World Series
The defending World Champion Washington Senators were in a tense fight with the Pittsburgh Pirates in Game 3 of the 1925 World Series. Earl Smith of the Pirates hit a drive to right field where Sam Rice, a future Hall of Famer, dove into the temporary stands of Griffith Stadium to make the catch.
It took at least 10 seconds for him to emerge from the crowd, where he had the ball in his glove. The umpire called Smith out, much to the protestations of the Pirates. A friendly Washington fan could very easily have stuffed the ball back in Rice's glove.
The call stood and the Senators won the game by a single run. Rice would never reveal if he had dropped the ball or not, simply repeating the fact that the umpire's call stood. An urban legend claims he wrote a letter that was read after his death, confirming the fact that he caught the ball.
The Pirates may not have liked the call, but they had the last laugh. They became the first team to come back from a 3-1 deficit and won the World Series in seven games.
Stan Hack Ties the Series in the 12th, Game 6, 1945 World Series
The Cubs and Tigers were battling it out in a rematch of their 1935 World Series. The Cubs looked like they were cruising to a 3-3 series tie, but they blew a 7-3 lead in the eighth. Hank Greenberg's game-tying homer was the dagger in the heart.
The game went into extra innings until the 12th. With two outs and a runner on first, Stan Hack got his fourth hit of the game, scoring Bill Schuster with the winning run.
It would be, as of this writing, the last World Series game ever won by the Cubs. They lost Game 7 and the Curse of the Billy Goat was cast.
Cookie Lavagetto Breaks Up Bill Bevens' No Hitter, Game 4, 1947 World Series
Bill Bevens only pitched four years in the major leagues and won a grand total of 40 games. But the Yankees' right hander got to within one out of World Series legend status.
In Game 4 of the 1947 World Series at Ebbets Field, Bevens held the mighty Dodgers hitless into the ninth inning. Walks and errors kept it from being a shutout, but only aging pinch hitter Cookie Lavagetto stood in between Bevens and the first World Series no hitter.
Lavagetto hit a double to right field, breaking up the no-no. Unfortunately for Bevens, there were still two runners on. Both came around to score and not only did Bevens not get the no hitter, but he got the loss as well. (One of the pinch runners was Al Gionfriddo. We'll hear from him again.)
Bevens appeared in Game 7 out of the bullpen. He got a no decision for the finale, which the Yankees won.
Al Gionfriddo Robs Joe DiMaggio, Game 6, 1947 World Series
This one single play included two iconic images and one classic radio call. In the sixth inning of Game 6, the Dodgers were clinging to an 8-5 lead and trying to force the series to a seventh game. Gionfriddo was inserted into left field for defensive purposes—and he certainly did his job.
With two on and two outs, Joe DiMaggio hit a drive that looked like it was heading to the left field bullpen to tie the game. But Gionfriddo leaped in the air and pulled back the home run with one hand to end the inning. He crashed into the bullpen gate, famously hanging onto the ball, which could be seen poking out of his glove.
Disgusted, DiMaggio kicked the ground as he rounded first. For the Yankee Clipper, who usually kept his emotions close to his chest, it was his most famous emotional display.
Dodgers announcer Red Barber also got into the moment. His "Oh Doctor!" call was one of his most memorable.
Jack Lemmon's character in Dad waxed poetically about Gionfriddo's moment in the sun, which would be his last game in the majors. The Dodgers won Game 6 but lost the series in seven.
Jackie Robinson's Last Hit, Game 6, 1956 World Series
The defending World Champion Dodgers limped back to Brooklyn for Game 6 of the 1956 World Series. The Yankees won all three games in the Bronx, including the perfect Don Larsen masterpiece in Game 5.
Clem Labine kept the Yankees from scoring after nine innings, but the Dodgers bats were still dead. The game went into extra innings, scoreless. Labine retired the Yankees 1-2-3 in the 10th. In the bottom of the 10th with two outs and a runner on second, Duke Snider was intentionally walked to face Jackie Robinson.
He singled to left off of Bob Turley, scoring Junior Gilliam and winning the game. It was the Dodgers' only run in their final 27-and-two-thirds innings of the World Series. It was also Robinson's final hit and final RBI.
The Yankees would win the 1956 World Series. By the end of the 1957 season, the Dodgers left for California.
Bobby Richardson's MVP Performance for a Losing Team, 1960 World Series
Bobby Richardson did everything he possibly could to lead the Yankees to the 1960 World Series title. He batted .367, collected 11 hits and drove in 12. He hit a triple that helped brake open Game 6. He moved up to the lead off spot in Game 7 and got two hits, scored twice and sparked a go ahead rally in the sixth.
He then singled and scored in the game tying rally in the ninth that saved the World Series for the Yankees.
But he couldn't do anything about his opposite number, Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski, from launching a 1-0 pitch over the fence to clinch the World Series.
Richardson was the first (and of this writing, the only) World Series MVP from a losing team. I hope winning rings the next two years helped salve that wound.
Mickey Mantle's Walk off Shot off of Barney Schultz, Game 3, 1964 World Series
Mickey Mantle hit 18 World Series homers over his 12 trips to the Fall Classic. But he never hit a walk off World Series shot until his final October.
The 1964 World Series was tied 1-1 when it shifted from St. Louis to the Bronx. Future best-selling author Jim Bouton held the Cardinals to a single unearned run over nine innings. But Cardinals pitcher Curt Simmons matched him for one run over eight (and he drove in St. Louis' lone run).
In the ninth, Barney Schultz relieved Simmons—and it was just what the Yankees needed. Mickey Mantle stepped up and hit a lead off homer deep into the right field stands.
The Yankees took a 2-1 series lead, but the Cardinals would have the last laugh. Mantle would hit his 18th (and final) World Series homer in Game 7. But Bob Gibson would throw a complete game victory to clinch it for St. Louis.
Bob Gibson's 17 Strikeout Masterpiece, Game 1, 1968 World Series
Bob Gibson has no shortage of highlights from his career. Two Cy Youngs, an MVP, twice clinching the World Series with a complete game and induction to the Hall of Fame is quite a resume.
But his most iconic and famous game was the opening game of the 1968 Series. Gibson simply dominated the Detroit Tigers right from the start. He had seven strikeouts after just three innings. As the game went on, he continued mowing down batters all the while walking a single batter.
He struck out Al Kaline, Norm Cash and Willie Horton in the ninth to finish the game. Seventeen strikeouts in all set a new World Series record. His five-hit shutout was one of the greatest performances in postseason history. But Mickey Lolich out-pitched Gibson in the finale and the Tigers won the title.
Bernie Carbo and Carlton Fisk Homer, Game 6, 1975 World Series
There are no shortage of great Game 6's in World Series history. But when you hear someone refer to "Game 6," you know which one comes to mind.
There are too many highlights to recap, but Bernie Carbo's game-tying three-run pinch hit shot and Carlton Fisk's drive he willed off of the foul pole were the iconic images.
What game has been talked about, written about and analyzed more than Game 6 of the 1975 World Series? From Ken Burns to Good Will Hunting, it has become one of the great milestones in baseball history.
But how could the Red Sox have such a memorable game and still not break the Curse for another 29 years? Well, as great as the Red Sox played, the Reds responded with an underrated come-from-behind finale.
The Red Sox won Game 6. It was Game 7 that gave them trouble.
Bob Welch Strikes out Reggie Jackson, Game 2, 1978 World Series
Reggie Jackson's last four swings of the 1977 World Series were home runs. Each home run was off of a different pitcher. Don Sutton, Burt Hooton, Elias Sosa and Charlie Hough were all dispatched, and the Yankees eliminated the Dodgers.
When the Dodgers and Yankees met again in 1978, it was business as usual. In Game 1, Reggie Jackson homered off of yet another veteran, Tommy John.
In Game 2, the Dodgers were clinging to a 4-3 lead. All three runs were driven in by Jackson, and he came up in the ninth with the tying and go-ahead run on base. But the pitcher was not a veteran this time. Tom Lasorda had brought in rookie Bob Welch to retire Thurman Munson and kept him in to face Jackson with two outs.
The count went full and Jackson fouled off pitch after pitch with Dodger Stadium in a frenzy for each. Six minutes and nine pitches later, Welch blew a fastball past Jackson, who spun almost completely around from his swing.
Welch got the save and the Dodgers took a 2-0 lead.
But Jackson got the last laugh against the Dodgers and Welch. The Yankees won the next four games. In the final Game 6, Jackson hit a two-run home run to put the game out of reach.
The pitcher he hit it off of? Bob Welch.
Robin Yount and Paul Molitor's Amazing Start, Game 1, 1982 World Series
Paul Molitor batted lead off and Robin Yount was the No. 2 hitter. Together they were unstoppable.
Molitor collected a World Series record five hits, driving in a pair. Yount smashed four hits including the two-run double to knock out starter Bob Forsch. It would be the first of two four-hit games for Yount in the series.
The two combined for nine hits in Game 1, three times the Cardinals' total collected as a team. The Brewers were in charge.
Unfortunately for Milwaukee, the Cardinals came from behind to win Game 2 and took the series in seven games.
Mark Lemke Drives Home David Justice in the 12th, Game 3, 1991 World Series
The 1991 World Series was a match up of teams that finished dead last the year before.
The Twins and Braves both pulled stunning turnarounds from their dreadful 1990 campaigns. The Twins took a 2-0 lead in the series and tied Game 3 when Chili Davis homered off of Alejandro Pena in the eighth.
The game stayed tied into extra innings as the Twins ran through all of their position players, using closer Rick Aguilera as a pinch hitter at one point.
With two outs in the bottom of the 12th, David Justice stole second to put himself in winning position. Two batters later Mark Lemke singled to left and Justice slid around catcher Brian Harper's tag to win the game.
The Braves were on the board and won the next game in heart stopping fashion with Lemke scoring on a walk off sacrifice fly by Jerry Willard.
But the Twins would win the series with extra inning wins in Games 6 and 7, pushing Lemke's heroics to the background.
Andruw Jones Starts the Series with Two Homers, Game 1, 1996 World Series
The defending World Champion Atlanta Braves went into the Bronx as heavy favorites in the 1996 World Series. The big star of Game 1 was not a veteran or established star. Instead it was a teenage rookie with an unusual spelling of his first name from Curaçao, a place most people couldn't find on a map.
He homered in the second inning off of Andy Pettitte, making him, at 19 years, 180 days, the youngest person ever to homer in a World Series game.
In the third inning, he homered again, this time off of reliever Brian Boehringer. He became the first player since Gene Tenace to homer in his first two World Series at bats.
The Braves blew out the Yankees 12-1, let by Jones' five runs batted in. The Braves won the next game and went back to Atlanta in control. The Yankees clearly were over matched.
Except, of course, the Yankees came back to win the next four games and the series. Jones, now a seasoned veteran with the Yankees, is still looking for his first World Series ring.
Tino, Jeter and Brosius Uplift New York, Games 4 and 5, 2001 World Series
In the wake of the September 11th attacks, the Yankees went on a remarkable run of heart-stopping dramatic baseball straight out of a Hollywood script.
After coming back to beat the A's (with help from Jeter's flip) and upsetting the 116 win Mariners (with help from a walk-off homer from Alfonso Soriano), the Yankees stormed into the World Series, giving weary New Yorkers a much needed escape.
In Game 4 played on Halloween, the Diamondbacks looked like they were going to take a commanding 3-1 lead when the Yankees were down to their final out. But Tino Martinez homered off of Byung-Hyun Kim to tie the game. In the 10th, Jeter hit an opposite field walk-off homer just after midnight to be dubbed "Mr. November," tying the series up.
Less than 24 hours later, the Diamondbacks were up 2-0 with two outs in the ninth when Scott Brosius faced Kim. Incredibly he too hit a game-tying home run, sending New York into a frenzy and restoring a sense of invincibility that was taken from them a month and a half earlier. In the 12th, Alfonso Soriano drove home Chuck Knoblauch for the win and a 3-2 series lead.
Two games later, the Yankees had the lead in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7 with Mariano Rivera at the mound. But it would be the Diamondbacks who had the final moment of drama, rallying off of the greatest closer in postseason history for the title.
New Yorkers had their inspiration and dramatic victories, but it was Arizona who won the title.