Was last night’s Game 6 the greatest World Series game ever? Tough to say. After all, the World Series has been played 107 times now.
I wasn’t alive for the 1960 World Series, but that Game 7 was pretty wild. I remember staying up late and seeing the Carlton Fisk home run in 1975. I watched Reggie hit his three home runs in a row in 1977. The Kirk Gibson home run was magnificent, but it wasn’t in an elimination game; we all knew there would be a Game 2. The 2001 World Series was littered with great moments and unlikely heroes with a dramatic Game 7.
But 20 years ago last night, the 1991 World Series ended in epic fashion. I maintain that the 1991 Series was the best I saw. Game 7 was tense from the first pitch through the 10th inning. It was winner-take-all, no tomorrow. It certainly didn’t hurt that the 1991 affair was preceded by four one-run games, three won on walk-offs that enhanced the drama.
John Smoltz pitched brilliantly for 7.1 innings, Jack Morris for 10. Morris retired the Braves in order in both the ninth and 10th innings to give the Twins a chance. Dan Gladden led off the tenth with a double off Alejandro Pena, which was the difference-making at-bat.
That game, 20 years ago, was a well-played game on both sides, with one baserunning lapse by Lonnie Smith that could have made the difference.
But last night’s game?
Last night’s game was like putting Bill Buckner’s error, Joe Carter’s home run, Carlton Fisk’s home run, Luis Gonzalez’s blooper off the fist, Tony Fernandez’s misplay, Curt Flood’s misstep, Babe Ruth getting thrown out stealing second and Edgar Renteria’s hit all in one game. There were three Series-ending home runs — or at least thought to be at the time — hit by Texas. Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz and certainly Josh Hamilton all had potential game-winning home runs. It just so happened that none of them held up. The Cardinals made three errors that should have cost them the game. The Rangers returned the favor with a couple of their own.
There’s no doubt last night’s game cannot be matched for sheer drama and suspense. But until the eighth inning, it wasn’t a well-played game and left both teams — well, the Texas Rangers — kicking themselves over missed opportunities.
Pitchers were at the plate with the game on the line. Derek Holland got an out with the bases loaded to preserve a one-run lead to save the game in the sixth inning. At least 20 different players were involved in game-deciding plays. And that may have been just from the eighth inning on.
I was only a year old when the National League pennant wasn’t decided until the final day of the season in 1964, but I can’t imagine any more exciting baseball over 30 days than what we’ve witnessed since the final day of the regular season. Tonight will be the 38th of a possible 41 postseason games this year. That’s an incredible run for baseball.
The Braves and Red Sox were comfortably in as wild card teams until the Cardinals and Rays refused to die on their deathbeds. St. Louis upset the Phillies, winning an epic Game 5 in the NLDS, then defeated the best home team in the majors twice in their park to win the NLCS. And down to their last strike twice, the Cardinals managed to keep breathing while many of their fans may not have been.
I love Game 7s more than any other game in sports — more than the Super Bowl, more than the Final Four. But Game 7 tonight may not be able to live up to what we witnessed last night.
Incredible. And just for the record, I would have been disappointed if Joe Buck hadn’t honored his father with “We’ll see you tomorrow night.”