By David Mullen
It is World Series time, as the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers meet for the first time since 1916. Well, sort of. The Dodgers were actually called the Robins and were located in Brooklyn. The Red Sox had a young pitcher named George Herman “Babe” Ruth, later to be traded to the New York Yankees.
The Dodgers return to the World Series for the second consecutive year. The Red Sox were a powerhouse team in 2018. Both teams play in iconic ballparks. But will their matchup make for one of the best World Series ever? Let’s take a moment and look at the top World Series of all-time.
The Detroit Tigers beat the St. Louis Cardinals 4-3 in 1968. Bob Gibson started nine World Series games in his career with the Cardinals. He completed eight of them, which is unheard of today. He set a major league record with a 1.12 ERA in 1968. As impressive, Tigers’ pitcher Denny McClain won 31 games, the last pitcher to win 30-plus games in one season. This series set up to be epic, and delivered.
Gibson won games one and four, allowing just one run total. The Cardinals led the series 3-1, before the Tigers turned ferocious. Mickey Lolich outdueled Gibson in game seven, Jim Northrup became an unlikely hero with a late game triple and Detroit became just the third team in World Series history to overcome a 3-1 series deficit to win.
The New York Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers 4-3 in 1956. New York teams dominated the World Series in the 1950s. In 1956, it was the fifth time that New York teams faced each other in six years. Of course, there were no teams in the Mountain or Pacific Time zones.
The Dodgers won the first two games, then the Yankees won the next two. Game five may be the most famous World Series game in history. Right-hander Don Larsen was on the mound for the Yankees, facing the strong Dodgers lineup that featured Gil Hodges, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella and Carl Furillo.
Larsen did the unthinkable by pitching the first and only perfect game in World Series history. The Yankees won in seven games, but it is the photograph of Larsen with catcher Yogi Berra in his arms after completing the perfecto that will live on forever in the memory of baseball fans.
The Pittsburgh Pirates beat New York Yankees 4-3 in 1960. The Bucs were not given a chance of beating the Yankees, especially a team that had Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford and Berra.
Despite a series full of Yankees blowouts, it was light-hitting Pittsburgh second baseman Bill Mazeroski that would have the final say. The Pirates took a 9-7 lead with five runs in the eighth inning. The Yankees tied it in the ninth, and then Mazeroski led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a long shot over the left field wall at Forbes Field. It was the first time a walk-off home run ended a World Series.
The Cincinnati Reds beat Boston Red Sox 4-3 in 1975. While the series went seven games, it is game six that everyone remembers. In the top of the 12th inning, Boston catcher Carlton Fisk launched a long fly to left that snuck past the foul pole for a game-winning and series-tying home run. Running down the first base line, Fisk waved his arms to will the ball fair. The Red Sox actually had a 3-0 lead in game seven, only to lose to the Big Red Machine.
The Oakland Athletics beat the Cincinnati Reds in 1972. Despite being without slugger Reggie Jackson due to injury and the Reds having the home field advantage, the A’s won in seven games. Gene Tenace became an unlikely hero with four home runs. Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Vida Blue, Ken Holtzman and Rollie Fingers outpitched the Reds, as six of the seven games were decided by one run.
The Minnesota Twins beat Atlanta Braves 4-3 in 1991. The Twins’ Kirby Puckett hit an 11th inning, game six home run to send the series to a seventh game. Then pitcher Jack Morris pitched 10 shutout innings in the finale as the Twins won 1-0 on a Gene Larkin single.
The St. Louis Cardinals (pictured above, right) beat Texas Rangers 4-3 in 2011. Ouch. The Rangers had it won in game six until David Freese hit a catchable ball to right fielder Nelson Cruz. He didn’t catch it. Freese would later win the game with an 11th inning home run. The Rangers have never been the same since.
Chicago Cubs beat Cleveland Indians 4-3 in 2016. Imagine a seven-game series where both teams scored the same amount of runs. And the Cubs ended a 108 year World Championship drought with a nail-biting 8-7 win in the 10th inning of game seven. This year’s World Series may not become part of baseball lore, but there are plenty others from the past to dwell on.