The 20 Greatest Games
One of the joys of my late winter, in this late winter that needs its joys, is the MLB Network's countdown of the 20 greatest games of the last 50 years. The 20 were chosen from these 50 games by fans who bothered to vote. I didn't bother to vote but I'm intrigued by the countdown. I tend to dismiss countdowns but ever since Kasey Casem I've been drawn to them. They reveal something anyway, although not what necessarily what we want to reveal.
This is what we have so far:
20. May 17, 1979: Philies 23, Cubs 22. Went 10 because the Cubs tied it up, 22-22, with three runs in the bottom of the 8th. Here's the stat I like. After five innings, it was 21-16. After five!
19. Game 4 of the 2003 NLDS: Marlins 7, Giants 6. J.T. Snow thrown out at the plate by Jeff Conine. Pudge holds on, shakes ball to crowd. Marlins advance ... eventually all the way to the World Series championship.
18. Game 5 of the 1980 NLCS: Phillies 8, Astros 7. Phillies battle back with 5 runs in the top of the 8th against Nolan Ryan, but Astros battle back with 2 in the bottom of the 8th against Tug McGraw, and extra innings. (For the fourth time in the 5-game series.) Phils win it in the 10th and go on to win the World Series, the Tug McGraw series, against the Royals.
17. Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS: Red Sox 6, Yankees 4. This is the Dave-Roberts-stolen-base-in-the-9th-inning game. The beginning of the greatest comeback of all time. Any Yankee loss is a great loss, and this is the beginning of the greatest string of losses of them all.
16. Game 163 of the 2009 season: Twins 6, Tigers 5. The back-and-forth that sends the Twins to the ALDS when Carlos Gomez scores from second on a single by Alexi Casilla in the bottom of the 12th in the last MLB game played at the Metrodome.
15. Game 5 of the 1995 ALDS: Mariners 6, Yankees 5. The one I was at. Should it be higher? I know, I know, it's the one I was at. Of course I think this. But look at the lead changes. M's up, 1-0 (Cora homer). Yanks go up 2-1 on a Paul O'Neill homer. M's tie in bottom of 4. Yanks get 2 in the 6th on a Mattingly double. 4-2 in the bottom of the 8th and Junior hits a homerun. 4-3. M's load the bases and Doug Strange gets the bases-loaded walk. 4-4. Yanks go up, 5-4 in the 11th off Randy, but then Joey bunts, Junior singles, Edgar doubles. Game over. Basically eight lead changes/ties. Impressive. Kudos to Cone, btw, for sitting for this. Class act.
14. Game 6 of the 1993 World Series: Blue Jays 8, Phillies 6. The Joe Carter homerun. Should it be further back on the list, since you just knew the BJs would win it, or should it be further up, since it was only the second time a WS was won on a homer? (I'm of the former mind.) Kudos to Mitch Williams, btw, for sitting for this.
13. Game 7 of the 1997 World Series: Marlins 3, Indians 2. Mesa blows it, the series goes to extra innings in Game 7 (ah, I remember Game 7s), and Renteria wins it on a single up the middle with two outs in the bottom of the 11th. Not bad. For a team with a shoddy history, a lot of Marlins in this countdown. I'd forgotten about the Tony Fernandez error.
12. Game 4 of the 2001 World Series: Yankees 4, Diamondbacks 3. The Derek Jeter “Mr. November” homerun. 'Nuff said. Seriously, enough said. It just set the stage for a greater, much greater, much more humiliating Yankees loss. Nice going, Jeter. Poor Tino's tying homer in the 9th, btw, so overshadowed by Captain Underpants.
11. Game 163 of the 1978 season: Yankees 5, Red Sox 4. The Bucky Dent game. It was actually fun reliving this one. Lou? In the 9th? That stab? You are one lucky bastard.
10. Game 1 of the 1988 World Series: Dodgers 5, A's 4. The Kirk Gibson homerun. I'd just returned from a year in Taipei, Taiwan, was watching the game sitting on the floor in the living room of my father's house. When Gibson hobbled to the plate, I think I actually said aloud, “What do they think this is? The Natural?” It was. After Gibson shocks Eckersley, Dodgers go on to shock A's, and, as they say, the world.
Eleven down. Thus far: One regular season game, two one-game playoffs, four division playoffs (three of which ended the series), and four World Series games (two of which ended the Series). The Yankees are 2-2, the Phillies 2-1, the Marlins 2-0. My Twins and M's are 1-0 each. Twins have a shot to be 2-0 before the end.
As for the rest of the top 10? Any guesses? This is what's left, chronologically, of the original 50. The ones in bold are the ones I think should be included:
- 1962 World Series, Game 7. “If only McCovey had hit it two feet higher!”
- July 2, 1963: Marichal over Spahn in 16.
- 1963 World Series, Game 4: Dodgers sweep Yankees.
- September 9, 1965: Koufax perfect game.
- October 1, 1967: Red Sox, Yaz, beat Twins, win pennant.
- 1969 World Series: Miracle Mets
- 1972 ALCS: Tigers beat A's (but A's win LCS and Series)
- 1972 NLCS: Bench's homer beats Bucs.
- 1975 WS, Game 6: Fisk.
- 1976 ALCS: Chambliss.
- 1977 ALCS: Yanks over Royals. For a change.
- October 18, 1977: Reggie, Reggie.
- 1980 World Series: Tug.
- Oct. 3, 1982: Dodgers end Giants season.
- June 23, 1984: Cubs trail throughout but Ryan Sandberg hits two, one in the 9th and one in the 10th, and they win it.
- 1984 NLCS: Padres advance to World Series over Cubs on Ray Durham's error, etc.
- July 4, 1985: Braves, Mets play until 4 a.m.
- 1985 NLCS: Ozzie Smith's improbable 9th-inning HR puts the Cards on top of the Dodgers, 3 games to 2.
- 1985 World Series, Game 6: Denkinger.
- 1986 ALCS: the Hendu game.
- 1986 NLCS: Mets win in 16.
- 1986 World Series, Game 6: Buckner.
- 1988 NLCS, Game 4: Scioscia ties it in 9th, Gibson wins it in 12th, to tie Series at 4.
- 1991 World Series, Game 7: Braves and Twins, 0-0 in the 10th.
- 1992 NLCS: Sid Bream beats Bonds' throw, sends Braves to World Series.
- 1993 World Series, Game 4: 15-14, Blue Jays.
- 1996 World Series, Game 4: Yanks down 6-0, rally. Leyrtiz, etc.
- 1999 ALDS, Game 5: Indians score 3, 2 and 3 in the first three innings; then Pedro comes in and doesn't give up a hit for six innings.
- 1999 NLCS, Game 5: Ventura's grand-slam single sends it to Game 6.
- 2001 World Series, Game 7: Womack rips one, Rivera falters, America cheers.
- 2002 World Series, Game 6: Angels rally to win game, and, the next day, the Series.
- 2003 NLDS: The Bartman game.
- 2003 ALCS: Aaron Boone.
- 2005 NLDS, Game 4: Burke homers in 18th, sends Braves home.
- 2006 NLCS, Game 7: Endy Chavez's catch goes for naught as Cards advance to WS.
- October 1, 2007: Rockies win one-game playoff against Padres, cap remarkable comeback.
- 2008 World Series, Game 5: Phils win after rain delay.
- 2009 ALDS, Game 2: A-Rod busts Twins.
- 2010 NLDS, Game 1: Halladay no-hits Reds.
Too 1986 heavy? I'd be willing to trade a Hendu for a Chambliss. That one was pretty wild. I also know my preferences aren't general fan preferences. I tend to favor the all-or-nothing games, but fans, I'm sure, voted for the famous and infamous games. Reg-gie in '77 and Bart-man in 2003. Probably Boone, too. Yuck. Fans also have short memories, but, for me, recent = dull. Call me when we get another Game 7.
It's Jeter in the background that really makes the photo.