A classic World Series is usually defined by seven games, but that can’t be without a Game 6. One way or another, it ends after Game 7.
Gone is the sense of urgency, of desperation, of finality, by the team trailing entering Game 6. The feeling the game could turn on any play hangs like a cloud over the trailing team.
Many of baseball’s most dramatic moments were born in a Game 6.
I have put together a list of the most compelling Game Sixes in World Series history.
Note: For this list, a Series must go seven games, which excludes Toronto’s 1992 championship over Philadelphia, which, despite ending on Joe Carter’s walk-off homer, lasted six games.
These are only World Series games, and to make the list, I must have watched the game.
IF IT STAYS FAIR: One of baseball’s most enduring images, and perhaps its greatest game, came in the 1975 World Series on Fisk’s game-ending homer in the 12th inning as Boston beat Cincinnati, 7-6. Fisk’s homer was made possible by Bernie Carbo’s three-run, two-strike, pinch-hit game-tying homer in the eighth inning.
Fisk’s moment delayed what Red Sox fans would call the inevitable, as Boston lost Game 7 at Fenway Park.
THE CARDINALS STAY ALIVE: Pitch for pitch, this one compared to the Fisk game as the Cardinals twice were one strike away from elimination, but rallied to tie with a two-run ninth and two-run tenth to stun the Texas Rangers, 10-9, and force a Game 7, which they won.
The title iced a remarkable season in which the Cardinals overcame a 10 ½-game deficit to reach the playoffs.
Local boy, David Freese, tied it with a two-run triple in the ninth and won it with a homer in the 11thinning.
The game-turned-heavyweight fight featured five ties and six lead changes, and nobody complained that it lasted 4 hours, 33 minutes.
That’s one of the beauties of baseball. When it’s compelling and dramatic like the above Game Sixes, the games can last indefinitely and will leave you wanting more.
THE BALL GETS BY BUCKNER: Another moment etched in time is the ball that squirted through Bill Buckner’s legs in the 1986 World Series. Down to their last out, the Mets rallied for three runs to beat Boston, 6-5, with the game-winner coming on Mookie Wilson’s dribbler through Buckner’s legs.
The Mets went on to win Game 7, and overcame a three-run deficit to do it.
That game was made possible because the Mets prevailed against Houston over 16 innings in Game 6 of the NLCS. Keith Hernandez called it a crucial victory as it kept the Mets from facing Mike Scott, who beat them in Games 1 and 4.
MAYBE THE WORST CALL EVER: One of the game’s most infamous calls came in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the 1985 World Series that might have kept St. Louis from winning. Facing elimination and down 1-0 going into the ninth inning, umpire Don Denkinger ruled Kansas City’s Jorge Orta safe at first on a play in which he was clearly out.
The Royals went on to win that game, 2-1, then routed the Cardinals, 11-0, in Game 7.
WE’LL SEE YOU TOMORROW: That was Jack Buck’s great call after Minnesota’s Kirby Puckett homered in the 11th inning off Atlanta’s Charlie Leibrandt to keep the Series alive for the Twins with a 4-3 victory in the Metrodome.
Puckett’s drive set up Jack Morris’ ten-inning shutout, 1-0, in arguably, outside of Don Larsen’s perfect game, might have been the greatest Series game pitched.
HAIL, THE RALLY MONKEY: I loved the Angels’ rally monkey, which began with a famous movie clip where the monkey was interjected at the critical spot. My favorite was the Animal House screen where John Belushi was on the ladder and instead of the girl undressing you see the monkey.
Often forgotten, perhaps because the game wasn’t decided on a game-ending hit, Anaheim rallied from five runs down in the seventh inning to beat San Francisco, 6-5. The Angels scored three in the seventh and three in the eighth to win, then won Game 7.
ORIOLES STAY ALIVE: The Orioles faced elimination when they returned home for Game 6 of the 1971 World Series. The Pirates started reliever Bob Moose, who took a 2-0 lead into the sixth. The Orioles chipped away to send the game into extra innings.
The Pirates loaded the bases in the tenth inning, but Dave McNally came out of the bullpen to snuff the threat, and Brooks Robinson won it, 3-2, with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning.
This was Roberto Clemente’s World Series, which was noted for playing games at night for the first time.
Who knows what history will be written tonight?