erik lundegaard

The 20 Greatest Games: The Final Four

I thought I was going to write about each of the final four of the 20 Greatest Games of the last 50 years, as per the MLB Network and its fans, but life has gotten in the way. I've been watching, though.

At the end of my last post on the subject, about No. 5 on the list, Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS, I wrote, “Four more to go. Fisk, Buckner, Twins/Braves ... Reggie?” The first three were no-brainers. But what was the fourth? I assumed Reggie because the promos always touted Reggie. But No. 4 on the list turned out to be ... the Sid Bream game, Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS between the Pirates and Braves. Or should this be the Francisco Cabrera game? It should, shouldn't it? But Bream's slow-motion run to the plate stands out. His slide just before the throw from Barry Bonds in left. Touching the plate just before the Pirates catcher tagged him. Bob Costas, co-host of the show with Tom Verducci, says that if they filmed it in Hollywood, it would've taken umpteen takes to get it as exciting as reality made it. He's right. I was happy it was no. 4—particularly over Reggie oblitering the Dodgers with three homeruns. That's a great achievement but it's not a great game. The Braves thing had never happened before, remember. The final game of a championship series had never ended in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs, and the visiting team ahead by a run, and then with one swing of the bat the home team wins. Never before, never since.

The Bream game being no. 4 also meant the top 3 were now known quantities. It was only a matter of their order. And though no 1 hasn't aired yet (they're doing it Sunday), we know what it is:

3. 1986 World Series, Game 6
2. 1991 World Series, Game 7
1. 1975 World Series, Game 6

Buckner, Morris, Fisk.

The MLB Network has also managed to get the three players identified with these three games to show up and talk about them. Expected, perhaps, with Fisk and Morris, both heroes, but getting Buckner must have been something of a coup. It actually made no. 3 tough to watch. I put it off for weeks. It was like making someone revisit the worst moment of their life—then showing them video of it and filming their reaction to it. It was an Albert Brooks moment.

And Buckner's reaction?

Buckner: That really happened, huh?
Mookie: It really happened.

Mookie. That's the best you got? That's the most solace you can give? After 25 years?

We've gotten that throughout the series, though, haven't we? Mitch Williams in no. 14, watching his younger self being interviewed after giving up the Series-ending homer to Joe Carter; Dave Henderson in no. 8, the hero of the game, having to talk about the subsequent suicide of Donnie Moore, the pitcher who gave up his ninth-inning homerun; Andy Van Slyke, in no. 4, talking about the heartache of it all.

But this was different. This was Fred Merkle or Fred Snodgrass; this was a very good Major League player, with more than 2,700 career hits and a batting title, who would forever be known for the quintessential Little League mistake, the ball between the legs, that would help prevent a team that hadn't won the World Series in 70 years from not winning it again. Baseball can be a cruel game. I like one of the lines Costas quotes, I believe, in no. 2: losing hurts more than winning feels good. That's true. Unless it's the Yankees losing.

At least players like Buckner have the solace of having their game on this list. That's something, I suppose.

Bob Costas, Tom Verducci, Bill Bucker, Mookie Wilson and Bob Ojeda on Game 6 of the 1986 World Series

Returning to the scene of the crime: Bob Costas, Tom Verducci, Bill Bucker, Mookie Wilson and Bob Ojeda on Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

Bill Buckner today

Bill Buckner today: more brave than me; more gray than you.

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Posted at 06:14 AM on Thu. May 19, 2011 in category Baseball  

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