Winner Takes All: Which Was the Best World Series Game Seven*?

Mike Montgomery closed out what might be the greatest Game Seven in World Series history. (via Arturo Pardavila III)

Mike Montgomery closed out what might be the greatest Game Seven in World Series history. (via Arturo Pardavila III)

Last November, I offered an unpopular opinion. (It’s nothing to do with the election. Get back here.) The World Series had ended the previous week, and numerous commentators were declaring its concluding game to have been the greatest baseball game ever played. In my recap of the postseason, I said that, while it was a great game, it was not the best ever, or even the best Game Seven of a World Series.

I supplemented my personal opinion with numbers from my co-invented WPS Index. It showed six winner-takes-all* games of the World Series reaching the threshold of a “great” game. Those games were in 1912, 1924, 1960, 1991, 1997, and 2016.

*The reason I say “winner-takes-all games” instead of “Game Sevens” here is that the final game in 1912 was Game Eight of that series, despite it being best four out of seven. One game was rained out and declared a tie.

The theoretically objective WPS numbers do pick one of those games as the best, but that certainly isn’t definitive. Now that the initial glow of the recent Series has dimmed, I thought I’d like to see what fans, or the subset of fans who read The Hardball Times, think of the question. So I’m posing it here: Which great all-the-marbles game was the greatest?

We cannot re-watch all six candidate games in the same detail, mainly because we cannot watch the earliest two at all. (Well, not all of them, anyway. Four minutes of the 1924 game were recently unearthed.) To put them on a level playing field, I will give summaries below of each of the games. I held myself to an exact total of 800 words apiece (or something very close to it), so I wouldn’t bias you by inadvertently writing longer about a game I found more compelling. (This is about your opinions, not mine.) I’ve concentrated on the actual gameplay, but I do note some other narratives that affect how the games would have been seen by contemporary fans.

After I’m done, you get to vote. (Theoretically, you’ll vote based on the summaries, not on recency bias or nostalgia or such.) After you vote, you get to comment. If the comments section ends up more compelling than my game summaries, that’s fine. The vote total should be interesting, but the debate really ought be.

With no further ado, here are the candidate statements.

October 16, 1912 – New York Giants vs. Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park

John McGraw’s Giants, winning their second straight pennant, met the World Series newcomer Red Sox. Boston had graced the inaugural season of Fenway Park with a runaway flag-winning performance, highlighted by pitcher Smoky Joe Wood’s epochal 34-5 season.

A Game Two tie stretched the best-of-seven series to an eighth game, amazingly played before a half-empty house. Trouble had erupted the previous day when the Royal Rooters, a famous Red Sox cheering troop, had been denied their usual section at Fenway. Their protest of their treatment held up the game, and afterward they declared a boycott of Game Eight. They were backed by an honorary member: Boston mayor John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald (grandfather of John Fitzgerald Kennedy). The boycott produced 18,000 empty seats–and perhaps 18,000 regrets for missing this classic.

Wood had started and lost Game Seven, so Hugh Bedient pitched for Boston. He faced Christy Mathewson, who had pitched the 11-inning tie in Game Two and took a 2-1 defeat in Game Five. Mathewson was still a great pitcher and fan favorite, but his three-shutout masterpiece in the 1905 Series was starting to seem like a long time ago.

The game belonged to the pitchers early, though not easily. Bedient had to pitch around errors on two-out steal attempts in each of his first two innings, but kept New York off the board. Mathewson also had Red Sox in scoring position in his first two frames and worked free both times.

Josh Devore walked to open the visitors’ third, advanced twice on ground-outs, then scored on Red Murray’s double. Having gotten his run, Mathewson bore down and faced the minimum for his next three innings. (Larry Gardner did smack a double in the fifth, but he erased himself going for three.) Bedient gave up a booming shot to Larry Doyle in the fifth, but right fielder Harry Hooper reached the short wall, dove, caught the ball, and grabbed the rail of the fence to save himself from falling into the stands. The score remained 1-0 at the stretch.

In the seventh, Mathewson yielded a one-out single to Boston’s player-manager Jake Stahl and a walk to Heinie Wagner, but Hick Cady popped out, and Big Six seemed back in control. With Bedient due up, Stahl called for pinch-hitter Olaf Henriksen. The move paid off with a run-scoring double, though Wagner had to hold at third, and Hooper couldn’t knock him home.

With the game 1-1, Stahl called for Smoky Joe. Wood had been lifted after just one inning the day before, so he presumably had gas in the tank. Thus, the best pitchers on their respective teams now were facing off in the last game of the year for all the marbles. They got through the eighth and ninth unscathed, though Matty had a scare with Stahl’s one-out double in the home ninth. The duel went into extras.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

Fred Snodgrass opened the 10th with a groundout, but Murray’s double put New York in business. Up next was Fred Merkle. He singled home Murray and took second on Tris Speaker’s center field misplay. He advanced no farther, but it was enough. Fred Merkle–Bonehead Merkle–whose turn away from second base four years earlier had made his name synonymous with “goat,” was three outs from being the World Series hero.

Well, he and Mathewson, if Matty could get those last three outs. It began promisingly as Clyde Engle, batting for Wood, lofted a long lazy fly that center fielder Fred Snodgrass settled under—and dropped. Engle made second on Snodgrass’s muff.

Boston tried to pounce. drove one into the left-center gap. Snodgrass, who had been playing shallow to help hold Engle on second, ran back and made a stunning catch to save extra bases. His throw into second was a little late to double off Engle, so his redemption wasn’t total.

Mathewson, perhaps flagging, walked Steve Yerkes to bring up Speaker. Spoke swung at the first pitch, lofting a foul near first.

Recollections vary. Hooper said Mathewson called for catcher Chief Meyers to take it, even though it was much closer to first baseman Merkle or even himself. Meyers recalled Red Sox on the nearby bench calling his and Matty’s names. The upshot was, Merkle didn’t go for the ball. Meyers did, and he barely missed it.

“Well, you just called for the wrong man,” Speaker cracked. “It’s gonna cost you this ball game.”

It did. Speaker’s second-chance hit plated Engle and put Sox on second and third. Mathewson walked Duffy Lewis intentionally to get the force at every base, but it didn’t matter. Gardner’s deep sacrifice fly scored Yerkes with the championship run. Wood, with three wins in the Series, was a hero. Merkle was still a goat, and in teammate Snodgrass he now had company.

October 10, 1924 – New York Giants vs. Washington Senators at Griffith Stadium

It was New York manager McGraw’s ninth World Series and fourth in a row. It was Washington’s first ever. They were sentimental favorites, thanks to their outstanding and beloved pitcher Walter Johnson getting his first chance at a world’s championship. So far, Johnson had fumbled the chance, taking the losses in Games One and Five, but his Senators hung in to force Game Seven.

The game began with stratagems and intrigue. Washington player-manager Bucky Harris sent journeyman Curly Ogden to the mound as his starter—and after a strikeout and a walk, hooked him. Harris had started the righty Ogden to maneuver McGraw into starting his left-handed rookie first baseman Bill Terry. Harris replaced Ogden with southpaw George Mogridge, and so began the game of chicken. Would McGraw pinch-hit for the platoon-challenged Terry, leaving his righty replacement stuck facing Harris’s right-handed relievers in the critical late innings?

The trick worked early. Terry grounded out to lead off the top of the second and struck out to open the visitors’ fourth. Mogridge held the rest of the Giants off the board through those four innings. In the home fourth, Harris switched from mad scientist manager to hitting hero. His home run, the first ball off Giants starter Virgil Barnes to leave the infield, gave Washington the 1-0 lead.

New York counter-punched in the sixth. Ross Youngs worked a leadoff walk, and George “Highpockets” Kelly singled him to third. The Giants had two on, none out, and prospects for a big inning. They also had Terry coming up next.

McGraw blinked. He sent right-handed Irish Meusel up to pinch-hit. Harris promptly took out Mogridge in favor of Fred “Firpo” Marberry. The righty was a project of Harris’, converted earlier that season into a late-inning relief specialist, one of the earliest in the game’s history.

Harris’ move promptly blew up. Meusel scored Youngs on a sacrifice fly to tie the game, and Hack Wilson singled to send Kelly to third. Then two straight infield errors–a bobble by Joe Judge at first and a ball through the wickets of Ossie Bluege at short–brought a run apiece across the plate. Marberry stopped the bleeding there, but it was 3-1 Giants after five and a half.

The pitchers held it there until the last of the eighth. Nemo Leibold (one of the Clean Sox of 1919) laced a one-out double down the left-field line, and Muddy Ruel singled behind him. Hitting for Marberry, Bennie Tate walked to load the bases, but Earl McNeely’s short fly couldn’t move the runners. Harris’s grounder toward third seemed destined for Freddie Lindstrom’s glove and the third out—before it struck a pebble on the infield dirt and bounded over Lindstrom’s head. Two runs scored, and the teams went to the ninth knotted at three.

With Marberry gone, Harris called for Johnson, two days after the Big Train had pitched eight innings in defeat. Senators fans gave him tremendous cheers that almost turned to tears. With one out, Frankie Frisch tripled to deep center. Johnson walked Youngs intentionally to set up a twin killing then struck out Kelly on three pitches. Youngs swiped second, but Johnson got Meusel (Terry’s replacement) to ground out and snuff the threat.

Washington posed its own ninth-inning threat. Judge’s one-out single preceded a Bluege grounder that looked like a double play before shortstop Travis Jackson dropped the feed to put runners at the corners. Reliever Hugh McQuillan came in, got Ralph Miller to hit another DP ball, and this time they converted to save the game and take it to extras.

Both pitchers faced the minimum in the 10th. Pinch-hitter Heinie Groh led off the 11th with a single, and Lindstrom bunted him over. Johnson stomped out the brushfire with two strikeouts. Jack Bentley, replacing McQuillan, yielded a two-out double, but Washington couldn’t convert. Meusel finally found success by leading off the 12th with a single, but Johnson kept the go-ahead run from reaching second in finishing up his fourth inning of relief.

Bentley got the first Senator out in the home 12th then coaxed a foul pop by Ruel. Giants catcher Hank Gowdy threw aside his mask—then stepped on it, staggered, and dropped the pop-up. Reprieved, Ruel lashed a double.

Up came Johnson to bat: Harris was riding him all the way. Johnson’s grounder to short was fumbled by Jackson. The Big Train was safe, though Ruel held at second with the play in front of him. McNeely grounded one toward Lindstrom at third. Again the ball hit a pebble, conceivably the very same one, and again bounded over Lindstrom’s head. Ruel came around with the winning run.

Johnson got the win and his title. It’s the only championship a Washington MLB team ever has won.

October 13, 1960 – New York Yankees vs. Pittsburgh Pirates at Forbes Field

Timing is everything. Pittsburgh had been outscored 46-17 by New York in the first six games of the World Series, but they were still alive. They lost three blowouts but won the three close games despite being out-homered eight to one.

Pittsburgh pitched Cy Young winner Vern Law in Game Seven, while Casey Stengel countered with Bob Turley. Casey had held ace Whitey Ford out of the first two games, apparently concerned that Forbes Field’s hard infield and Ford’s groundball tendencies were a bad mix. The move brewed controversy, especially after Ford pitched shutouts in Games Three and Six (the latter at Pittsburgh). It wouldn’t be Stengel’s last questionable pitching move.

Turley wobbled early. After two quick outs, Bob Skinner walked and Rocky Bridges pulled one into the right-field stands for a 2-0 lead. When Smoky Burgess singled to open Pittsburgh’s second, Casey yanked Turley for rookie Bill Stafford, who had been warming in the bullpen, alongside Bobby Shantz, since the start of the game. When Stafford walked Ralph Houk on four straight, Ralph Terry joined Shantz in the pen. Mazeroski’s sacrifice bunt turned into a base-hit beauty, but Law bounced into a 1-2-3 double play that gave Stafford a chance to escape unhurt. Bill Virdon undid that with a single (plus a fielding error by Roger Maris) that scored two and made it 4-0 after two.

Stafford departed for a pinch hitter (who got the Yankees’ first hit), and Shantz took over on the mound. He was just what New York needed, facing the minimum 15 batters from the third through the seventh, as the walk and single he yielded were erased on double plays.

With Shantz holding the line, the Yankees offense finally got moving. Bill Skowron’s leadoff homer in the fifth broke the goose egg. Two straight baserunners opening the sixth chased Law in favor of Elroy Face, who had saved all three Pirates wins in the Series. One out later, Mickey Mantle singled in a run. Right after that, Yogi Berra pulled one out, so close to the pole that announcer Mel Allen originally mistook it for a foul ball, and the Yankees led, 5-4.

After a quiet seventh, New York resumed the attack. Face got Maris and Mantle out, but Berra walked and Skowron’s chopper to third was slow enough for Berra to beat Houk’s throw to second. Johnny Blanchard singled in Berra, and Clete Boyer doubled in Skowron. This brought up the pitcher’s spot with runners on second and third, two gone. A pinch-hitter could salt away the game, but with Elston Howard getting his finger broken by a pitch in Game Six, Casey’s bench was thin. He stuck with Shantz, who battled Face well but finally flied out.

Down 7-4, Pittsburgh started their eighth with a pinch single by Gino Cimoli. Virdon then hit a grounder toward shortstop that had “double play” written all over it. The pebble it struck had “Surprise!” written on it, and the ricocheting ball struck Tony Kubek in the throat. All hands were safe except Kubek, bound for the hospital. Dick Groat’s RBI single chased Shantz, whom Stengel replaced with Jim Coates—who had been warming up since the fifth inning.

Skinner’s sacrifice moved the runners to second and third, but Nelson’s flyout to Maris pinned them there. Roberto Clemente hit a high chopper to Skowron, but Coates was slow covering first base and it became an RBI instead of the third out. Shantz, an eight-time Gold Glove winner who was a blur covering first, surely would have made the play. One could argue Stengel had pulled him both too late and too soon.

Up came Hal Smith, Pittsburgh’s backup catcher, playing because manager Danny Murtaugh had run for Burgess in the seventh. It looked like the frame would end 7-6 Yankees—until Smith crushed one way out to left. 9-7, Pittsburgh. It was, by the Championships Added metric, the most consequential play in baseball history.

But it decided nothing. Two singles opening the visiting ninth chased reliever Bob Friend. One out later, Mantle drove one man home and the other to third. Yogi then hit a sharp grounder to first. Nelson gloved it, tagged the bag, then stared at Mickey, hung up two steps off first and no longer forced. Mantle dove for first. Nelson dove for Mantle. Mickey made it first, as the tying run came across. Mantle could have been the goat, but he wasn’t. Smith had been the hero, but he wasn’t any more.

The Bucs’ ninth began with Bill Mazeroski facing Terry—whom Stengel had had warming up on and off since the second inning. He was already gassed, and it took two pitches for Mazeroski to prove it. His home run over the ivied wall in left won Pittsburgh the Series, and won Maz—not Hal Smith—immortality. Timing is everything.

October 27, 1991 – Atlanta Braves vs. Minnesota Twins at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome

In 1990, Atlanta and Minnesota finished dead last in their respective divisions. In 1991, not only did both teams leap from worst to first, they won their respective league playoffs and faced each other in the World Series. The home teams won the first six contests, setting up the deciding game at the building nicknamed the Thunderdome for its loud, enthusiastic fans.

The starting pitchers were a contrast. Minnesota’s Jack Morris was an aging warhorse notable for toughness and endurance. Atlanta’s John Smoltz was a young piece of a great young rotation who was still finding his feet, having recovered from a nightmare 2-11 start to the year to finish above .500. Morris and Smoltz had squared off in Game Four, both pitching well but neither receiving a decision.

They picked up their duel where they’d left it off, both pitching perfect first innings. It didn’t remain that easy, but they kept stranding baserunners. Both men faced a somewhat tight zone from home plate umpire Don Denkinger and succeeded despite it.

The first big threat was by Atlanta in the fifth. Mark Lemke’s single led off, and Rafael Belliard sacrificed him over. Lonnie Smith bunted toward third, and Mike Pagliarulo’s bounced throw pulled first baseman Kent Hrbek off the bag, putting runners on the corners with one out. Morris worked free, popping out Terry Pendleton and striking out Ron Gant looking.

After this flurry, no serious threats arose until the top of the eighth. Smith’s half-swing punch single to right opened that inning. Pendleton, after just staying alive on a 1-2 foul tip, drove Morris’s 100th pitch of the night into the left-center gap, one-hopping the wall. Smith would have scored—had he not stopped cold just past second base.

The reason why is still debated. Second baseman Chuck Knoblauch (that season’s AL Rookie of the Year) pantomimed fielding the ball and feeding it to shortstop Greg Gagne. Smith always denied he fell for this deke: “If [I bought it], why didn’t I slide?” he reasonably asked. Deked or not, he held up past second, trying to pick up the flying baseball. Perhaps it was lost in the sea of waving Homer Hankies in the stands. Only after it landed did he run again, and he had to hold at third.

The peril was still dire for Morris, but manager Tom Kelly, despite having two relievers warming, left him in. His confidence paid off. Gant’s groundout to first held the runners, and after Justice was intentionally passed, Sid Bream grounded another to first. Hrbek went home, got back to first to receive the return throw, and in celebration of the inning-ending twin-killing, spiked the baseball as he ran off the field.

Randy Bush singled for Gagne to start the home eighth. Dan Gladden couldn’t get a bunt down and flied out. Then, on a hit-and-run, Knoblauch singled the other way, sending pinch-runner Al Newman to third. Bobby Cox pulled Smoltz for southpaw Mike Stanton, who would, after intentionally walking Kirby Puckett, face slumping lefty Hrbek. Hrbek managed a liner, but second baseman Lemke snatched it from the air and ran in stride to second, doubling off Knoblauch.

Morris set the Braves down on eight pitches. Back in the dugout, Kelly told him they’d be bringing in Twins closer Rick Aguilera. Morris replied, “I’m not coming out of this game.” Kelly mentioned how many pitches he’d thrown (116) on three days’ rest. Morris reiterated, “There’s no way I’m coming out of this game.” Kelly thought, huddled with his pitching coach, and answered “Okay, big guy, go get ‘em.”

Morris nearly didn’t have to. Chili Davis singled to open the home ninth (and departed for a pinch-runner), and Brian Hunter’s bunt found a seam to become a hit. Reliever Stanton hurt himself chasing the bunt, bringing Alejandro Peña to the mound. He got Mack to ground into a double play then walked Pagliarulo intentionally. That forced Kelly to bat Paul Sorrento for substitute shortstop Newman, and Sorrento struck out swinging.

Morris got his 10th inning. Again, it took him only eight pitches to retire the side. No pitcher had thrown more than nine innings in a World Series game since Tom Seaver in 1969. No one has done it since, and very likely we will never see it done again. Every indication was that he’d pitch the 11th.

He didn’t have to. Gladden doubled off Peña’s first pitch, and Knoblauch bunted him over. Passes to Puckett and Hrbek brought up the DH spot evacuated by Davis. Kelly sent up Gene Larkin, hobbled by a swollen left knee that made him a serious risk to get doubled up and kill the rally. Instead, Larkin lofted a fly over the drawn-in outfield, bringing Gladden home with the lone, and winning, run.

October 26, 1997 – Cleveland Indians vs. Florida Marlins at Pro Player Stadium

The Florida Marlins already had made history. The National League Wild Card team had toppled the Giants and Braves in the playoffs to become the first second-place team ever to reach the World Series. They faced a Cleveland squad that had missed an opportunity with its 100-44 team in 1995 but had a second chance to make its mark on history.

The starters were Cleveland rookie Jaret Wright and Florida vet Al Leiter. Wright had been called up mid-year to a rotation suffering from injuries and struggling. He did well enough to get the call for Game Seven on only three days’ rest. Leiter had had three rough starts that postseason but took his turn for Florida’s biggest game ever.

Leiter’s wobbly control brought a leadoff walk by Jim Thome in the top of the third. Marquis Grissom followed with a single, and pitcher Wright sacrificed them over. Leiter got a pop-out from Omar Vizquel, but Tony Fernandez smacked one up the middle for a two-run single. Leiter walked Manny Ramírez on four pitches but got David Justice swinging to stop the bleeding.

Wright had his own control issues. He yielded four walks in his first six innings, two of them to fellow hurler Leiter. Despite that, he got through six innings with a one-hit shutout. That almost changed in the home sixth, when Ramírez misplayed a sliding attempt at a liner off Darren Daulton’s bat. What could have been scored a triple was instead a three-base error on Manny, but Wright got Moises Alou out on his next pitch to preserve his zero.

Leiter stiffened after his rough third. Vizquel pressed him in the fifth by swiping second and third after his looper single, but another strikeout of Justice stranded him. Leiter’s control trouble ran his pitch count to 119 after six, though, and that’s when he exited, looking like a hard-luck loser.

Then Florida’s Bobby Bonilla had a talk with a fan in the front row, someone he’d chatted with before each of his at-bats. The fan was Joe Black, the 1950s Dodgers pitcher who knew what it was like to hold center stage in a World Series Game Seven. Black told Bonilla he was crowding the plate too much. Bonilla listened: He set up a step back, timed Wright’s first-pitch changeup, and belted it into the stands to open the bottom of the seventh. Wright didn’t last much longer, and though the Marlins did no further damage, they’d still closed the gap to 2-1.

Cleveland hoped for insurance in the top of the ninth, as a walk, forceout, and long single gave them runners at the corners with one down. Grissom grounded to shortstop Edgar Rentería, who threw home to cut down Sandy Alomar Jr. at the dish. Florida escaped the inning but still had just three outs to live.

Moises Alou gave them extra life with a leadoff hit. Bonilla went down swinging, but catcher Charles Johnson singled to send Alou to third. Gregg Zaun, Florida’s backup backstop, ran for Johnson as the championship run. Rookie Craig Counsell hit a long liner that Ramírez ran down, and Florida was one out from elimination—for about four seconds, until Alou scored on the sacrifice fly.

The game went to the 10th. Florida reliever Robb Nen negated Fernandez’s single with three swinging strikeouts, while Cleveland closer José Mesa gave up two singles and left with two gone. In his place came Charles Nagy, the starter manager Mike Hargrove had held out in favor of Wright. He got the Alou flyout to send matters to the 11th.

Jay Powell, the new Marlins pitcher, mooted a leadoff walk with a bunt force-out and a double play. To open the home frame, Bonilla (after another word with Black) singled up the middle off Nagy. Zaun’s attempts to bunt led to a pop-out to Nagy, and Bonilla dove painfully back into first to avoid being doubled off. Counsell then grounded to the right side. Bonilla ran slowly as the ball bounded near him, hoping to screen second baseman Fernandez.

It worked. Fernandez missed the ball, and Bonilla accelerated, making third with the championship run. Jim Eisenreich was walked to set up the force at home. They got it, as Devon White’s grounder to Fernandez got thrown home in time to erase Bonilla. Fernandez, the man who drove in both Cleveland tallies, had momentarily saved his team and was one out from escaping goat’s horns.

Florida’s hopes fell to Rentería. On an 0-1 pitch, he hit a chopper that just cleared Nagy’s raised glove and squeezed into center field. Counsell, who had kept the Marlins alive in the ninth, came home with the winning run. Florida had its first title, while Cleveland had its 49th straight season without one.

November 2, 2016 – Chicago Cubs vs. Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field

Cleveland’s stretch without a World Series title was now 68 years. For the Cubs, it was 108. Something had to give.

Cleveland starter Corey Kluber had pitched and won Games One and Four. With Cleveland’s rotation decimated by late-season injuries, he got the call again on three days’ rest. His night began badly with a leadoff home run by Dexter Fowler. Kyle Schwarber, who lost virtually all the regular season to torn knee ligaments, legged out an infield single and later swiped second, taking five strides before Kluber’s first motion. Kluber still ended the inning without further damage.

Chicago starter Kyle Hendricks avoided damage until the third. Coco Crisp opened it with a double, reached third on Roberto Pérez’s bunt, and scored on Carlos Santana’s single. A Jason Kipnis grounder should have been two, but Javier Báez muffed the feed from Addison Russell. Hendricks tottered but retired the next two to keep it tied.

The Cubs responded fast. National League MVP-to-be Kris Bryant singled, Anthony Rizzo wore a pitch, and a force-out from Ben Zobrist put runners at the corners. Bryant tagged on Russell’s short fly to center and just beat the throw. Zobrist took second on the play, letting him score easily when Willson Contreras doubled. Kluber closed the fourth trailing 3-1, and after Báez homered on his first pitch in the fifth, he was gone.

Reliever Andrew Miller, whom Cleveland manager Terry Francona had used aggressively all postseason, got two quick outs on a double play. Bryant kept the fifth alive with a single, then recreated Enos Slaughter’s Mad Dash Home, scoring from first on Rizzo’s hit-and-run single. Ahead 5-1, Chicago had Cleveland on the ropes.

When Hendricks gave Santana a two-out walk, though, Cubs manager Joe Maddon got aggressive. He hooked Hendricks and, mistrusting most of his bullpen, inserted Jon Lester, who’d thrown 91 pitches three days before. Also entering was veteran catcher David Ross, whose strong arm could counteract Lester’s throwing yips and control the running game.

The moves soured quickly. Ross threw away a Kipnis tapper (ruled a hit plus error), putting runners on second and third. A Lester wild pitch then bounced off Ross’s mask and deposited him on his seat. Before the dust settled both runners had scored. The lead was halved.

Ross, a beloved clubhouse leader for Chicago, atoned the best way he could: a solo home run in the sixth. His lead built back to 6-3, Lester pitched a clean sixth and seventh, plus two outs to start the eighth. When José Ramírez singled off him, however, Maddon summoned Aroldis Chapman.

Maddon had used the controversial Cuban fireballer with a five-run lead in Game Six, throwing 20 pitches that night and 42 two days before that. Some commentators had foreseen trouble brewing from the low-leverage assignment.

They were right. Chapman wasn’t at full strength. Brandon Guyer doubled, scoring Ramírez, then Rajai Davis hit a shrieking liner off a television camera beyond the left-field fence, tying the game. Chapman gave up another hit to Crisp before finally fanning backup catcher Yan Gomes for his first out, and the inning’s third.

As rain began falling, Ross drew a leadoff walk from Cody Allen and departed what was his final game. Heyward’s grounder forced the pinch-runner. On a 3-1 pitch to Báez, Heyward swiped second and took third on Gomes’s bad throw. Francona sent Michael Martínez into the outfield so his strong arm could foil a potential sacrifice fly. Maddon had other ideas: On the full count, he called a squeeze play. Báez’s bunt went foul for strike three, and the Cubs didn’t score.

Chapman went back out for the ninth. His fastball sputtering, he switched mostly to sliders and somehow notched a perfect inning. Then the tarp came out, as a line of showers forced a short rain delay. Nobody in attendance got to see the inspirational speech Jason Heyward gave his Cubs teammates as they waited. They only saw the results.

Schwarber opened the tenth with a single, and pinch-runner Albert Almora shrewdly took second on Bryant’s long flyout. Francona had Rizzo walked to get to Zobrist, which blew up when Zo doubled. Another intentional pass, another hit, as third-string catcher Miguel Montero knocked in an insurance run. Chicago got no more, but it seemed enough when reliever Carl Edwards set down two Indians to put them one out away.

But mostly dead is slightly alive. Edwards walked Guyer, who took second on defensive indifference. Davis, hero of the eighth, singled Guyer home. Mike Montgomery replaced Edwards to face Martínez, the light-hitting defensive replacement—and Francona’s bench was empty.

Cleveland needed a small miracle…but didn’t get it. Martínez chopped one softly to third, Bryant made the play, and the longest championship drought in American professional sports was over.

Those are the games. Here is the poll.

[polldaddy poll=9653360]
May the best game win, and I will see you in the Comments section.

References & Resources


A writer for The Hardball Times, Shane has been writing about baseball and science fiction since 1997. His stories have been translated into French, Russian and Japanese, and he was nominated for the 2002 Hugo Award.
66 Comments
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Pirates Hurdles
5 years ago

Recency bias wins again, perhaps there is a better way to do this with wpa swings or something scientific.

Andrew
5 years ago

Good choices, but two that were left out:

1926 – Grover Cleveland Alexander comes in (hungover as the legend goes) to close out the game for the Cardinals, and the series ends when Babe Ruth is thrown out trying to steal second

2011 – Diamondbacks come back from down 1 in the bottom of the ninth to walk off over the Yankees

Wayne Jones
5 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

You meant 2001, right?

Marc Schneider
5 years ago

It’s almost impossible to vote for a game you didn’t see. I saw the game in 1991; I didn’t see the game in 1912.

JRizzo
5 years ago

To consider any other game other than Game 7 in 91′ is preposterous. Simply because it will most certainly never be done again. A zero zero tie through nine innings and one teams starter goes 10 shut out?! It’s unheard of.
P.S. Morrison should be in the HOF.

Joe Pancake
5 years ago
Reply to  JRizzo

He is. The Doors were inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

Lanidrac
5 years ago
Reply to  JRizzo

Probably not in the playoffs, but the feat has been matched since then by Mark Mulder of the Cardinals on April 23, 2005

bartleyrose
5 years ago
Reply to  JRizzo

Morrison? Jim or Van

Ken
5 years ago
Reply to  JRizzo

I’m pretty sure Jim Morrison is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Wayne Jones
5 years ago
Reply to  Ken

I think Van also is?

Jacob
5 years ago

The history of losing for the two teams, Schwarber coming back and actually being good (I still think this is underrated), and the back and forth nature of the game makes Cubs v Indians the #1 for me. Don’t forget the perfectly placed rain delay as if God was just messing with everyone. All these games are great and will be part of baseball immortality, but I think 2016’s game 7 will age well and be part of baseball lore for generations to come.

Sleepy
5 years ago
Reply to  Jacob

Also, don’t forget about Joe Maddon single-handedly trying to give Cleveland the game on roughly four separate occasions.

Carl
5 years ago

The best game 7 I ever saw (despite the wrong team winning) was game 7 of the 2001 World Series.

Close second was (again the wrong team won) was the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers win over the Yankees. Until his death Johnny Podres could have been elected Brookyn Borough President any time he wanted.

The 1991 World Series, played on artificial turf, poor tv announcers and the annoying chop cannot be ranked as anything other than pseudo baseball from a time that is thankfully in the past.

Great write up of the 2016 World Series. Perhaps if they started the games earlier and didn’t have 400 commercials every 1/2 inning more people on the East coast would have been able to actually see the game.

Rick Swanson
5 years ago

Great story. Only mistake I found was Bryant walked in the fifth he did not single, before his 8.7 second dash from first to home in the fifth inning.

Three of the four balls called in that at bat were strikes.

Shaun
5 years ago

I think the 2001 World Series Game 7 should be on this list. It featured Roger Clemens vs. Curt Schilling to start, and Mariano Rivera and Randy Johnson in relief. 2 Hall of Famers and 2 being kept out by controversy. As a Yankee fan, it was the most painful loss I can ever remember, but a great game that I’m thankful to have experienced as a baseball fan.

Sean
5 years ago
Reply to  Shaun

Agreed. I don’t understand how 2016 is on this list but not 2001.

BJ
5 years ago
Reply to  Shaun

Without question.

It’s easily the best option.

And unlike 2016, a team won that game.

CLE lost that series. Their defense in game 7 made the bad news bears look like the 2016 cubs.

Ben
5 years ago

1991 and 2016 are the only ones I was alive to see. Braves/Twins was a nail-biter (and I’ve seen it again in the last year or so, probably on MLB Network), but 2016 had so many swings. I don’t think it’s necessarily “recency bias” as the first commenters suggested – it could just very well be that it was the best of all time.

You can’t really judge games that can’t be re-watched. While the first couple read like great games, it’s not fair to them to summarize them in text. It’s not fair to any of these games. But we do the best we can.

I do like the WPA suggestion. Biggest swings in one direction or another is a good indicator of emotions, anyway.

Rainy Day Women 12x35
5 years ago

Ralph Houk’s playing days were long over by 1960. Johnny Blanchard was catching that day for the Yanks. Wondering, why wasn’t Elston Howard playing?

Rainy Day Women 12x35
5 years ago

Broken finger in game 6….duh

John Thorn
5 years ago

Game Two in the 1912 World Series was called for darkness; it was not rained out. http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1912/B10090BOS1912.htm

Shane Tourtellotte
5 years ago
Reply to  John Thorn

I believe the technical term is “Oops.” I knew it was called for darkness; I don’t know how I came to write differently. Thanks for the pick-up.

John Thorn
5 years ago

I make bigger mistakes every day.

Paul Moehringer
5 years ago

I appreciate the inclusion of the 1912 and 1924 World Series on this list, but the one thing that I don’t really get a good sense of just by reading a game account is the actual drama that surrounded it.

I know these games were both great and very important in the annals of baseball history, but not physically being able to see Fred Snodgrass drop that flyball prevents me from being able to look at it in the same light as Bill Mazeroski’s home run, or Jack Morris’ brilliant game seven performance.

When people talk about great moments they refer almost exclusively to the video era. I get the emotion behind Joe Medwick being forced to leave the field for his own safety by Kennesaw Mountain Landis because I can see the events that led up to it on film in a way that I wouldn’t if I just read about it.

I don’t have a problem understanding players like Cobb and Ruth and trying to put their greatness as players in perspective. But when it comes to topics like this which by nature are subjective, I find it to be extremely difficult if not impossible to put that pre-video era in proper context in terms of things like drama.

My guess is of all the games listed, the 1924 World Series is probably going to get the least amount of love relative to how great of a game it was. Pre-video era and the two teams that played don’t even exist anymore, but the storyline of that game is phenomenal.

John Thorn
5 years ago

Paul, these are good points about present-centrism and the video age. As partial correctives I offer:

https://ourgame.mlblogs.com/clark-griffith-remembers-a1725d5f6500#.jviwflb89

https://ourgame.mlblogs.com/tris-speaker-remembers-b116044bcb20#.fbtsduzen

Joe Pancake
5 years ago
Reply to  John Thorn

Cool links.

Clark Griffith got one thing wrong though: He said “McGraw put in Bob Meusel to pinch hit for Terry…” But of course Bob was on the Yankees; it was Bob’s brother Emil “Irish” Meusel who was on the Giants (as stated correctly in the article above).

John Thorn
5 years ago
Reply to  Joe Pancake

Yup. I will hector Griffith at our next seance.

Joe Pancake
5 years ago
Reply to  John Thorn

Random tangential question about Tris Speaker: Was his time in Boston the greatest “career” for a player who wasn’t on his” best” team? (Sorry, I don’t know how to word that any less awkwardly.)

Some other contenders: Barry Bonds with the Pirates, Pete Alexander with the Cubs, and Lefty Grove with the Red Sox.

Sploorp
5 years ago

The two teams from the 1924 series do, in fact, still exist. Both were moved the Giants to San Francisco (obvious) and the Nationals were moved to Minnesota and renamed the Twins.

Rainy Day Women 12x35
5 years ago

With the backdrop of the 2 teams involved, coupled with an amazing game of back and forth, I’ll go with 2016. Rajai Davis’ home run off Chapman was, at that moment, just epic. The Cubs punching through for the first time since 1908 after looking as though, once again, they would break their fans hearts……the drama!!! Recency bias be damned, my 2nd choice is 1960.

Roger Garvin
5 years ago

1960 Ralph Houk wasn’t playing 3rd for the Pirates it was Don Hoak and Rocky Bridges didn’t hit the first inning homer it was Rocky Nelson.

Joe Pancake
5 years ago

1960 had more swings in the score and it had a walk-off home run. It is clearly the best Game 7 in my opinion.

2016 was great (obviously) but the Indians never led and the ending wasn’t very dramatic. Once the Cubs scored twice in their half of the inning I felt like the Indians didn’t have a chance. Yeah, I know they had the winning run on base, but they also had one of the worst hitters in baseball history at the plate. If Martinez had somehow come through, or if Crisp had still been in the game, I might feel differently.

I appreciate the Cubs-Indians match-up, but in 1960 the Pirates hadn’t won in 35 years, and they were playing the mighty Yankees, whose stars (like Mantle and Berra) came to play. Also, the rain-delay in 2016 majorly detraction from my viewing enjoyment (it was already very late on the east coast), and I think it’s weird people use it as a point in its favor.

bucdaddy
5 years ago
Reply to  Joe Pancake

When the full broadcast of the 1960 game was rediscovered a few years ago (thanks, Bing Crosby!) and put on DVD, it was first shown in a theater in Homestead, about 10 miles east of Pittsburgh. I was 3 years old in 1960 and so had no first-hand recollection of the game, though as a Pirates fan I knew all the particulars. Anyway, I took my Dad to the theater to watch it, and it was remarkable how much tension watching that game generated, even knowing how it was going to turn out out.

As I never tire of noting, one thing that really stood out to me was how fast the game moved. Generally the players weren’t wearing batting gloves and they hadn’t yet learned to preen for the TV cameras, and so it was basically 1) for the batter, get in the box and stay there, and 2) for the pitcher, get a sign and throw. And so this remarkable game featuring 19 runs and (going from memory) 24 hits and something like nine pitchers took just around 2:37 to play. It’s a delight, and I’d recommend any baseball fan who hasn’t seen it get the DVD and enjoy.

The repercussions from that game are worth mentioning too. Stengel, who had guided the Yankees through a remarkable period of success, possibly the most dominant era any team in any major-league sport has ever seen, was fired for losing the series, which of course made him available to manage the Mets and quip his way through their historically bad first season, burnishing his legend.

I’d put 1912 second.

mando3b
5 years ago

What a great piece. As a Cubs fan, my personal favorite is gonna be 2016, of course; I can’t help but feel, however, that the game was artificially made memorable by Joe Maddon’s dubious pitching decisions. It is so great that you include 1912 and 1924: even without video, we can see that these were great games; as an historian, I fear that too much baseball commentary is indeed too “present-centric”. My vote, though, goes to 1960: Shakespearean drama combined with surrealism, and ending with one of baseball’s most iconic moments ever. This is the sort of game that that great pre-video bard Homer could’ve invented.

maumanns
5 years ago

No mention of 1968? Mickey Lolich, on two days rest, pitched the greatest game of his career against the previously unbeatable Bob Gibson in St. Louis. The game was scoreless until Jim Northrup’s two-out triple over Curt Flood’s head, giving Detroit an improbable comeback championship, down 3 games to 1 earlier in the Series.

KalineCountry
5 years ago
Reply to  maumanns

The team of my youth, and forever in my heart, from 1954 to 1968 and finally World Series Champions.
The one constant all those years was my hero Al Kaline. Good to near-great players came and went, Kuenn, Bunning, etc. but the ultimate team player still going strong at 33/34 years young.
The great Mickey Mantle said to me as he signed a ball saw my Tigers cap in 1985 at a card and autograph show and he said, “When I played from 1955 to my retirement, the best ‘all-around player’ in the American League was Al Kaline”.
I have always said waiting until I became 21 was worth the wait.
Dad never saw his Red Sox win the World Series as he passed away in 1991.

Dave
5 years ago

While I did choose 2016 as the best game 7 in the poll, I would have ranked 1960 as a very close second. I agree with many of the comments also about the “video era” as something that makes these games more visually memorable and therefore more visually dramatic rather than textually dramatic.

The reason I still believe that the Cubs v Indians tilt is the best is as follows:
1. The history of losing, and losing so painfully, particularly in the recent past, puts this game’s drama several notches above the others. I also liked Shane’s original post about WPS and thought it very fairly done and probably accurate–for what it was. However, just think about what is going through the athlete’s minds as they play in these games, whether they will be goats or heroes in either town, but especially in Chicago–where a fan (a FAN!) is blamed for the chance at a World Series championship. So WPS should include some sort of multiplier based on time between last championship, or some kind of added “spook” effect on a player. Yes, I understand the subjectiveness of this, I merely point it out…
2. This game 7 was probably watched and heard by more people in real time than at least the first few (1991 beat it by a lot in Nielsen ratings, don’t know about 1960 because there were no ratings). The fact that the World Series has become the type of international spectacle that it is should also serve as some sort of multiplier.
3. Pop-culturally, this game probably had the strongest rooting interest for any game in history, outside of the markets represented. Not exactly sure how to measure this, but if there were figures for cubs fans around the country that went to road games, it would probably show that the Cubs have at least as large of a national following as the Yankees. I live in NYC, and when my Wife and I went to see the Cubs play the Mets (in that horrible game that began the sweep), I had never seen so many Cubs jerseys, hats and Joe Madden t-shirts–not even when the Cubs played at Yankee Stadium (which had a lot). I think as mentioned in item 1, this level of national pressure on players must somehow be part of the story of what makes the game great.
4. The swing in “narrative” of the series should also be context. We don’t really get a feel for the narrative from the 800 word descriptions, however knowing 2016 started out as the “best team of 2016” Cubs should have the best chance to win before game 1 narrative turned into the “how will the cubs beat Cleveland when they will turn out Corey Kluber three times and Andrew Miller every day” to “Cubs back on track” after game 2, to “best team doesn’t always win, same old lovable loser Cubs” after game 4 to “only 5 teams have ever come back from a 3-1 deficit, and only 3 have done it with the last two games on the road”. Of course each game made the legend grow, and then finally, the game in question, winner take all, with the narrative changing at several points in the game, always with the chance that a new goat can happen.

And while I do agree a home run in the last at bat is pretty awesome, the sheer nail-biting nature of a one-run lead with a runner in scoring position and the last out not yet achieved makes for higher sustained drama. These things all led to my selection of 2016.

And yes, I am a Cubs fan, though one that is still not sure if it really happened…

Peter Eckart
5 years ago

I voted for 2016, but wouldn’t be able to really argue for it over the others (most of which I haven’t seen and certainly not twice already this winter, as I have with the Cubs-Indians game, on Bly-ray).

Let me also say, this is really great writing. Restricting yourself to a 800-word cap still resulted in a compelling set of game descriptions. I really enjoyed them. Thanks.

Paul G.
5 years ago

I went with 2016 because of the plethora of ridiculousness involved. It was like a rejected movie script spliced into another rejected movie script spliced into a Twilight Zone episode. It is arguable that it was not the best game as just a game, but with all the other things swirling around it it felt like it transcended baseball. It was an event. I was in the FanGraphs chat (eventually, as I missed the first half of the game), and the general mood was divided between “did that just happen” and the general expectation that it was going to get even weirder before it was over.

My second place vote goes to 1960. It was arguably the better game.

The 1912 and 1924 games are not only held back by the lack of video footage, but also because the key events were errors, mistakes, and flukes.

J Kohl
5 years ago

Can’t believe that 2001 didn’t make the cut. Lots of drama w/mighty dynasty (NYY) challenged by newcomer ( AZD) team.

Great pitching and interesting strategy, with Randy Johnson as the closer. (?)

nickolai
5 years ago

I have to also write in 2001 as the greatest WS Game 7 I’ve ever seen, for all the reasons listed above. It was great for NY (and the country) to see what the Yankees did in that series in the wake of 9/11. Super-tight game throughout and ultimately thrilling to see the powerhouse team fall to the expansion upstart D-backs, despite the magical powers of Mo Rivera. Really surprised it didn’t even make the cut, as it certainly far surpassed the drama of 1991, 1997 and 2016.

channelclemente
5 years ago

Just out of curiosity, how did the game 7, 2014 WS between the Royals and Giants miss the cut? You know a one run game, Bumgarner 5 innings in relief, and man on third 2 outs in the 9th inning.

BJ
5 years ago

Alex Gordon jogging around the bases ruined that one. Takes out of consideration for the top spot.

Phil Ellenbecker
5 years ago

I’d have to go for 24, for the momentousness and historic import and drama and emotion of Walter Johnson finally getting to and winning a World Series. And for its accompanying quarks, such as the two ground balls hitting pebbles that proved pivotal. I like both the 12 and 24 Series for that reason, the oddball moments that swung those games.
And by the way, if my enjoyment of baseball was derived from whether I actually saw the games involved in its history, I wouldn’t enjoy baseball that much.

John G.
5 years ago

Interestingly and perhaps overlooked, two years after Ralph Terry gave up Mazeroski’s legendary HR and took the Game 7 loss for the Yankees in 1960, Terry started the underrated Game 7 in 1962 for the Yankees, on the road against the Giants, which had the top-scoring offense in MLB that year.

All Terry did was throw a complete game four-hit (no walks) shutout for a 1-0 Game 7 win. He retired the first 17 batters. Two of SF’s four baserunners reached in the bottom of the 9th (a drag bunt by Matty Alou, and a double by Willie Mays, before McCovey lined out to end the game; in his previous at-bat, McCovey had tripled, but was stranded on third when Terry struck out Cepeda).

The game apparently didn’t have any iconic controversies, gaffes, or plot twists, and the only run was scored in an undramatic manner (in the 5th inning with no outs and the bases loaded, Kubek bounced into a 6-4-3 double play). I’m not arguing that the game should necessarily be ahead of the others mentioned, but some readers might be interested in knowing (or being reminded) that this forgotten gem happened.

Then again, perhaps if Terry had allowed, say, twice as many runners as the four he limited the Giants to (doubling SF’s output to eight runners would be closer to the nine hits+walks Morris allowed in 1991), would the WPS Index have given more credit to Terry and 1962 Game 7 for having more high-leverage situations? In other words, did Terry pitch “too well” in 1962 for the game to be remembered as “great” for this?

Marc Schneider
5 years ago
Reply to  John G.

If McCovery’s ball had been a foot to the other side, 1962 would probably go down on the list. As it was, there wasn’t a lot of drama seemingly until the 9th inning. It’s also interesting to me how close Ralph Terry came to being the “goat” in two WS if McCovey’s ball had found a hole. Even in the context of 1962, I could never understand how Ralph Houk left Terry in to face McCovey, who had tripled in the bat before.

John G.
5 years ago
Reply to  Marc Schneider

A different era, indeed. The Yankees trotted Terry out for the bottom of the 9th to hold a one-run Game 7 lead. And with first base open, not only was Terry left in the game, but he pitched to McCovey (who had also hit a HR against Terry in Game 2) instead of walking him to face Cepeda (0-3 vs. Terry with 2 Ks and a pop-out to 2B up to that point, after having been kept on the bench for Terry’s earlier two starts). If it had happened in the 1990s-2000s, Terry might be a legend.

As a bonus for Advanced Metrics fans, that one run that the Yankees scored in Game 7, on Kubek’s bases-loaded (no outs) ground ball double play? Terry was the batter before Kubek, and he walked to load the bases. In a general OBP/keep-the-line-moving way, and more specifically in that run-scoring inning, Terry also directly contributed to the only run his team scored!

Sarpanitum
5 years ago

I’m also surprised that 2001 was not included, particularly since in retrospect it was the end of the Yankee dynasty. Though a Twins fan who loved 1991, 1960 ending on a home run from a non-slugger has to be the best.

myjah
5 years ago

Call me when another starting pitcher pitches a 10-inning, complete-game shutout for his home team in front of his home town to win Game 7 of the World Series, after a dramatic Game 6 won almost single-handedly by the all-time franchise player.

I don’t care how long the Cubs lost, that’s the stuff dreams are made of.

Dennis Bedard
5 years ago

What about 1965? Koufax cements his legacy as a great WS pitcher. And ditto for 1967 with Gibson against the Impossible Dream Red Sox. In ’68, that triple over Flood’s head probably should have been caught. That miscue may have brought on his trade a year later to the Phillies and his entry into baseball litigation immortality.

Lanidrac
5 years ago

Next, do the best Game 6’s, such as 1985, 1986, 1991 (Again!), and 2011.

anan
5 years ago
Reply to  Lanidrac

Oh You forgot 1975

Philip Meneely
5 years ago

I was a 7 year-old Pirates fan in 1960 who rushed home from school, arriving right after Mazeroski hit his HR. I thought that this would happen every year. That game had everything you could ask for– star players like Berra late in their careers and young stars like Clemente emerging, bad-hop grounders that led to crucial runs, comebacks and blown leads by both teams, many questionable managerial moves, and a game-wining HR. And it was against the Yankees! Even now, when I watch the game on video and I know the outcome, I still get excited.

Shane Tourtellotte
5 years ago

For everyone who’s asking, a reminder: I chose the top six all-the-marbles games by WPS score, the six that the system terms “great” games. The next three games by that ranking were 1925, 2001, and 1946. No shock, because of its recency, that Game Seven in 2001 got so many “write-in” votes. 1925 was decided by errors in the field and a manager sticking with a hurt, sick, and fatigued Walter Johnson much too long, plus it was played in slop weather. Not even the winning Pirates would call that the greatest Game Seven. I’m a bit surprised that 1946 and the original Mad Dash Home got no comments.

Why not 1962? Because WPS doesn’t enjoy pitchers’ duels that much: not enough back-and-forth on Win Expectancy. Ralph Terry retired his first 17 batters, meaning no scoring threats. And why not 2014? A similar reason: after the early scoring, the relievers locked down the game too tight until the Royals were down to their final out.

TheCHISportsFan
5 years ago

If best is an adjective for emotional suspense of entertainment – there actually is a mathematical way to determine it.

Screenwriting craft has identified not only the structure of obstacles a protagonist must face, but the rhythm, frequency and placement of the overcoming effort that results in empathetic euphoria. For instance, a movie that opens with a great chase season where the character nearly dies in escalating danger and escapes just as we think his escape is impossible – won’t actually help the box office if the same tension isn’t created in multiple ways throughout the script – or if the final climax is less exciting than the first. Raiders of the Lost Ark works because instead of 3 “climaxes” in each act – there are actually 7 – thrilling the viewer with the best – most powerful conclusion at the end.

There are non-measurable elements (Cubs blowing possibilities for 108 years provides a deeper emotional positive and negative pull simply by who they are – and blowing the lead bringing in your Ace Lester is far more thrilling that being tied for the last 3 innings until a comeback in the 9th.)

I expect if one was to calculate the “greatest” game, a measure would have have to be given to the frequency of lead changes by how many runs, and in develop a vulnerability risk of the eventually winner on a play by play basis to encompass the subplots.

Schwarber’s heroic play means far less if it’s a bench player like Chris Coghlan doing the same thing. Rookie Albert Almora’s base running, has far more tension than if it was Billy Hamilton.

The fact that the Cubs victory was celebrated in person with the 7th largest public gathering in history, also adds a dynamic of how many people think it’s “great.” the Marlin’s were an interesting group, but the national interest wasn’t nearly the same.

For many of you it will be impossible to sort out these complexities. But trust me, 2016 will be the greatest World Series in history for at least another 108 years. 🙂

bart dunn
5 years ago

I don’t think multiple lead changes add to the drama or bestness (I know not a word) of a game, I am not doubting or questioning that 2016 was the best, I am merely saying that lead changes in a game do not always add to the drama. If I get that you are trying to quantify similar to Bill James’ game score for pitchers?
A

BJ
5 years ago

any vote for 2016 over 2001 or 1991 is simply recency bias.

It wasn’t a well played game at all.

Even Zobrist’s winning hit a a routine ground ball in the right spot with Ramirez getting a bad jump on it.

Sploorp
5 years ago

So, which seven took home the trophy?

Mark Pelesh
5 years ago

I’m probably biased in favor of the 1924 World Series (1) as a Washington baseball fan, and (2) having written about it for the Hardball Times (“Away Flies the Boy,” October 15, 2015). One curious aspect of the accounts of game seven in that Series is the ground ball (or balls) that supposedly hit a pebble and eluded Freddie Lindstrom in the 8th inning, 12th inning or both. Clark Griffith’s account claims it was in the 12th, not the 8th. This article, as do others, assert it happened twice — in the 8th and the 12th. When I did my article, I was able to interview Earl McNeely’s daughter, and she said that her father, a rather modest, down-to-earth man, always maintained that it was clean hit that scored Ruel in the 12th — no pebble. The Washington Post the next day didn’t refer to a pebble. It did quote McNeely as conceding his hit was “lucky,” but he also said “ain’t all hits lucky?” I’ve studied two bits a film of that moment. They are inconclusive owing to their limitations. In sum, I would say that there is something about the pebble story that seems a bit apochryphal. It’s likely something happened in one of the innings. (My guess is the 8th). And then the drama of the extra innings caused memory to play tricks on people who then passed on their possibly confused recollections by word of mouth so that we have varying accounts today that keep getting repeated.

haim katz
5 years ago

Some corrections to the 1960 World Series description. The third baseman for the Pirates was Don Hoak not Ralph Houk. Also the first baseman that game was Rocky Nelson, (it was mentioned Bridges once during the article). He would platoon with Dick ‘Dr. Strangeglove’ Stuart.

Roger
5 years ago

The 1991 game was the only one without an error. It was a classic dual pitching performance. How many 10-inning complete game shutouts are there much less ones where the score was 1-0 and the 7th game of a WS? If it weren’t for Smith’s baserunning gaffe, Morris might still be pitching today…….. 🙂

Lee O'Neill
5 years ago

Not to be too nitpick, but the Red Sox weren’t World Series newcomers. They were in the first World Series in 1903 against Pittsburg.

Bobr
5 years ago

There are quite a few other game 7s I would have chosen, all already mentioned such as 1962, 1965, 2001, 1968. To me, what makes a game great is that both teams play great ball or some player is very special, not that there are key errors or fluky occurrences like pebbles or bad decisions or failures by key players. So of the ones in the list, I pick 1991, but think that the excellence of key figures in games like Koufax in 1965 or Lolich in 1968 deserve mention before 2016 when Chapman was so shaky or 1960 when a pebble helped determine the outcome.

Darry
5 years ago

What about 2014 Giants over Royals in Game 7 when Gordan stops at 3rd with tying run in bottom of 9th. Bumgardner comes out of pen and goes 4 shutout innings.

Bobr
5 years ago
Reply to  Darry

Or the 1946 seventh game and Enos Slaughter’s mad dash to score the go ahead run in the bottom of the 8th, and then Brecheen giving up two hits to start the top of the 9th before shutting down the Red Sox, leaving the tying run on third.

Fake Yeezy Boost 350 V2
5 years ago

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