6 Best World Series Upsets Ever

Frank BerteltContributor IIIOctober 12, 2011

6 Best World Series Upsets Ever

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    The St. Louis Cardinals certainly could make this list if they can pull off their 11th World Series title, after trailing by as many as 8.5 games in September and claiming the National League Wild Card on the season's final day.

    The road to the World Series may have been a pipe dream six weeks ago, littered with so many obstacles, including their own rash of injuries.

    Luckily, the Cardinals got their guys back, and the September rush came with help from a number of different players, like Chris Carpenter, Jason Motte, Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina and Allen Craig.

    The St. Louis team was not simply happy to make the post-season, despite having to play the Philadelphia Phillies, who racked up the majors' best record with a franchise-best 102 wins. But the Cardinals did not back down, and Carpenter's deciding-game gem stunned the Philly crowd.

    The NLCS didn't present an easier path to the Fall Classic, as Milwaukee beat the Cardinals in the N.L. Central by six games en route to 96 wins. If St. Louis can find its way past the rival Brew Crew, it's on to the World Series to face either Detroit or Texas.

    The Cards will likely be underdogs in that series as well, but they've been a resilient bunch, so nothing seems to faze them, at least when they have all their horses healthy.

    They have a chance to pull off one of the best underdog stories in World Series history. Here are the five best upsets in World Series history.

6. 1914 Series: Braves over A's

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    The Boston Braves were in last place on July 4, then rolled off a 70-19 record to win the National League by 10.5 games.

    There they met the powerful Philadelphia Athletics, who racked up 99 wins under manager Connie Mack. The A's had won three of the previous four Series. But the Braves were not intimidated.

    Boston swept Philadelphia, outscoring the A's, 16-6. After the embarrassing defeat, Mack reacted by selling or trading a majority of his players. Hall of Fame second baseman Eddie Collins, who won the MVP that year, was one of them, getting sold to the White Sox.

    How could the Braves not win with players named Rabbit Maranville, Possum Whitted and Iron Davis?

5. 2006 Series: Cardinals over Tigers

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    The Cardinals were in about the opposite position in 2006 they found themselves in this year, as St. Louis held on to win the N.L. Central by 1.5 over Houston after owning a 7-game lead on Sept. 20.

    The Cards were swept in four games in Houston and sported a scant half-game advantage over the Astros heading into the final weekend of play. They took 2-of-3 from the Brewers to finish with a terrible 83-78 record, still better than the 82-80 'Stros.

    St. Louis beat the Padres in the Division Series, when won a thrilling 7-game NLCS over the Mets, who racked up a league-best 97-65 mark. Yadier Molina's two-run, ninth-inning homer in Game 7 broke open a 1-1 tie, and closer Adam Wainwright fanned Carlos Beltran looking for the final out. The Mets were heavy favorites to win it all.

    Detroit won 95 games that year and defeated the Yankees and A's to reach the Fall Classic. The Tigers sported seven players with at least 16 homers, led by Craig Monroe's 28. It was the Tigers' pitching that led the way, helped by rookie Justin Verlander (17-9) and veterans Kenny Rogers (17-8) and Jeremy Bonderman (14-8).

    But that pitching staff fell apart at the seams in the Series, committing five errors. Meanwhile, Series MVP David Eckstein (.364) was one of several unlikely heroes for St. Louis, which also got solid performances from pitchers Anthony Reyes and Jeff Weaver.

    The Cardinals' 83-78 regular-season record is the worst by a World Series champ.

4. 2003 Series: Marlins over Yankees

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    The 2003 World Series featured a team that knew all about winning, facing a team that felt it was a team of destiny.

    The Yankees had reached the World Series in six of the previous eight years and rolled into the Fall Classic to face a Marlins squad that survived elimination thanks to the Bartman game in Wrigley Field.

    Florida opened the season, struggling mightily and dismissed Jeff Torborg in favor of Jack McKeon in May. McKeon quickly turned the team around, as he guided the Fish to a 75-49 record the rest of the way, grabbing the Wild Card, 10 games behind Atlanta.

    The Bronx Bombers won 101 games, backed by its stellar staff of Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina and David Wells. They were coming off an emotional ALCS win, on Aaron Boone's series-winning home run against the hated Sox.

    But the big-money Yankees ($164 million payroll) found their match with the budget-conscious Marlins ($54 million payroll). New York outhit Florida in three of the Marlins' victories, but clutch pitching by Josh Beckett, Brad Penny and Carl Pavano proved to be the margin.

    Beckett's five-hit shutout in Game 6 sealed the victory.

3. 1960 Series: Pirates over Yankees

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    The mighty Yankees won their three games by a combined 38-3 score, but the Pirates won all the close games, including a see-saw Game 7.

    Pittsburgh led, 4-0, after two innings, led the Yankees took a 5-4 lead in the sixth. It was 7-4 when the Pirates scored five times in the bottom of the eighth to take a 9-7 advantage, on a three-run homer by Hal Smith. The Yanks countered with two in the ninth, then light-hitting second baseman Bill Mazeroski led off the ninth with a homer to win the Series for Pittsburgh.

    It was a rare disappointment for the Yankees. From 1947-64 (18 seasons) New York won 15 pennants and 10 world championships.

    This Yankees 97-win team featured Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Roger Maris, Moose Skowron, Elston Howard and Whitey Ford.

    The two best players the Pirates had were Roberto Clemente and Dick Groat, who led the National League that year with a .325 batting average. They led the league in runs scored and were third in ERA, led by Vern Law (20-9) and Bob Friend (18-12).

2. 1969 Series: Mets over Orioles

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    They're not called the Amazin's for nothing. The New York Mets hadn't had a winning record in their first seven years of existence. Heck, they had five last-place finishes and hadn't won more than 73 games prior to the 1969 season.

    Backed by a breakout season by Tom Seaver (25-7) and a great bullpen that had none other than Nolan Ryan in it, the Mets improved 27 games to 100-62 to win the N.L. East in the first year of divisional play.

    They swept the Braves in the NLCS, then had to face the 109-win Baltimore team featuring one of the best rotations in baseball history—Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally and Tom Phoebus.

    After losing Game 1, the Mets rolled off the next four, holding the Orioles to a combined five runs in the process. Donn Clendenon was the Series MVP, batting .257 with three homers, though it was more the Mets' pitching staff, which held the vaunted Orioles offense to a .146 batting average. Seaver and Jerry Koosman were the only pitchers to surrender a run.

    The Mets won in just their eighth year of existence after becoming an expansion franchise in 1962. That record was beaten by Florida, which won the 1997 title in just its fifth year, and later by Arizona, when it defeated the Yankees in 2001 in its fourth season.

1. 1988 Series: Dodgers over A's

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    This was one of the classic mismatches on paper, but certainly played out differently, thanks to a little Tommy Lasorda magic.

    Los Angeles finished with an 94-67 record but didn't rank in the top 5 in the N.L. in any significant batting category. It faced the Mets in the NLCS, two years after they won the 1986 World Series. David Cone was very confident heading in, thinking his team would handle the light-hitting Dodgers.

    But Lasorda used that as motivation. They knocked the 20-3 Cone out in the third inning of Game 2. Cy Young winner Orel Hershiser finished off the cocky Mets with a five-hit shutout in Game 7.

    Entering the Series, the Dodgers offense had received some bad news. Kirk Gibson was unlikely to play in the series due to knee and hamstring injuries

    With their only star hurting and facing the 104-win Athletics team featuring the Bash Brothers, the Dodgers were heavy underdogs.

    But it all changed in Game 1. Trailing 4-3 in the ninth inning and facing the unhittable Dennis Eckersley, Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda conjured up a little hocus-pocus after Mike Davis walked with two out. Lasorda called on a hobbled Gibson to pinch-hit and he delivered on a 3-2 count, smacking a homer into the right-field stands. A shocked baseball world watched as the always emotional Gibson limped around the bases, pumping his fist. It was Gibson's only at-bat in the series.

    It set the tone for the series, as the Dodgers won in five games, thanks to a pair of complete game victories by Series MVP Orel Hershiser. The high-octane A's lineup scored a total of 11 runs in the series, four on a Game 1, second-inning grand slam by Jose Canseco.