It’s that time of year, the juncture of the baseball season that raises the game to its highest and most dramatic level. The World Series began last night with the Los Angeles Dodgers defeating the Houston Astros by the score of 3-1. Game 2 gets underway around 8:30 tonight at Dodger Stadium.
To me there is something special about the World Series that goes above the likes of the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup Finals, and the NBA Finals. The Fall Classic has been part of American lore since 1903, longer than both the Super Bowl (1967) and the NBA itself (1946). The Stanley Cup has been around since 1893, however, the National Hockey League didn’t take sole ownership of the trophy until 1926. NHL didn’t even have a franchise in the United States until 1924.
Tonight I will begin a series of some of the most memorable moments in World Series history. I begin tonight with three games that I personally hold dear.
Florida Marlins’ Craig Counsell scores the winning run of the 1997 World Series.
In 1997 the World Series took on a new dimension. As part of the Major League Baseball realignment in 1994 the Wild Card was born. The Florida Marlins qualified for the post-season by winning the National League Wild Card. Florida finished in second place in the Eastern Division behind the Atlanta Braves. The Marlins defeated the Braves in the National League Championship Series to become the first Wild Card winner to make it to the World Series.
The series went back and forth, Florida won games 1,3, and 5 while the American League Champion Cleveland Indians won games 2,4, and 6. This set up a Game 7 for the ages at Pro Player Stadium in Miami.
The Indians scored 2 runs in the top of the third inning. This lead held up until a Bobby Bonilla solo home run put the Fish on the board in the bottom of the 7th. The Marlins would tie the game in the home half of the ninth to stay alive. In the bottom of the eleventh inning Edgar Renteria’s single that ricocheted off of the second base bag scored Craig Counsell with the game winning, and championship winning run! Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the Marlins walk-off World Series championship.
Mookie Wilson’s ground ball up the first base line goes between Red Sox’ Bill Buckner’s legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. The Red Sox were one out away from winning the series.
Today is the 32nd anniversary of the night that still stings throughout New England. On October 25, 1986 at New York’s Shea Stadium, the Boston Red Sox lead the New York Mets 2-0 until the bottom of the 5th inning. The Mets tied the game in that frame with 2 runs. Boston would plate a run in the seventh, the Mets countered with the tying run in the eighth. This set up one of the most memorable and bizarre endings in World Series history.
In the top of the 10th inning Dave Henderson led off with a solo home run. Later in the inning Marty Barrett singled home Wade Boggs to give the Red Sox a 5-3 lead. What would follow in the bottom of the 10th still amazes this childhood Mets fan.
Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez were retired in succession to begin the Mets half of the 10th. You could hear a pin drop throughout New York City. The most dominant year in New York Mets history seemed destined to end in defeat. Or was it???
Gary Carter extended the game with a single, Kevin Mitchell followed with another single. Ray Knight would single on an 0-2 pitch (yes Boston was one strike away) that would score Carter and move Mitchell to third. Following a pitching change that brought in Bob Stanley to replace Red Sox’ closer (and ex-Met) Calvin Schiraldi, Mookie Wilson had an at bat that will forever be at the forefront of World Series lore. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, the ball got away from catcher Rich Gedman! Mitchell scampered home to tie the game at 5! What followed next still boggles my mind to this day. Wilson would hit a routine ground ball up the first base line. It seemed certain that the celebration would be on throughout New England, and then it happened. The ball went under first baseman Bill Buckner’s glove and between his legs! Knight came home with the game winner and kept the Mets alive! Following a rainout the following day, the Mets won Game 7 by the score of 8-5!
Toronto Blue Jays’ Joe Carter hits a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 9th in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series.
The next story is extra special to me. I really had no rooting interest in the 1993 World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Toronto Blue Jays. It became memorable to me when my wife went into labor with our son following Game 6. Justin was born the next day.
Toronto came to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning down a run to the Phillies. Philadelphia had climbed back from a four run deficit by scoring five runs in the seventh inning. Joe Carter came to bat in the bottom of the ninth with 2 runners on base. Carter took Phillies closer Mitch Williams deep with a walk-off World Championship winning three run home run!
About an hour later my wife woke up with labor pains. Justin was born the following evening.
There is way too much to cover in just one article. I’ll be back on Sunday with three more stories. In the meantime, enjoy the 2017 Series. There are more memories to be made.