The World Series is like nothing else in sports.
After a marathon of a baseball season, two teams face off for their place in immortality as one of the all-time champions. The Fall Classic creates heroes, villains, goats, and legends out of players.
What happens in the World Series can reverberate for years for player and teams alike. A strong series can help bolster a Hall of Fame candidacy, while a slump can forever change the perception of a player in the eyes of baseball fans.
Dreams are made and shattered in the World Series, and there is nothing more exciting than watching teams try and cap off the season with a championship.
Here’s a list that features 11 of the best World Series games ever played:
1. Game 7, 2016 World Series – Cubs 8, Indians 7 – Extra Innings
It’s not really hyperbole to call this the greatest World Series game ever played—a winner-take-all matchup for the championship with two teams looking to break decades-long curses. The game featured a number of questionable manager moves, a stunning late-inning home run, a random rain delay, extra innings, and an impromptu team meeting in a tiny weight room—yeah, this game had it all.
After forcing Game 7 with a dominating win led by shortstop Addison Russell’s grand slam, the Chicago Cubs jumped out to an early lead behind Dexter Fowler’s leadoff home run and went up 5-1 after scoring two runs in the top of the fourth and fifth innings, including a homer from Javier Baez.
Starter Kyle Hendricks was dealing from the mound, pitching with stone-faced efficiency when the first major move of the game went down—Cubs manager Joe Maddon pulled his starter and went to Jon Lester. Although Lester has proven to be one of the best playoff pitchers in baseball, he stumbled in this inning, allowing two runs to score before getting out of the inning.
Catcher David Ross hit a home run in the top of the sixth off lights-out reliever Andrew Miller to give the Cubs a 6-3 lead—and he’d have no idea how important that run would become. The Cubs used Lester into the eighth inning to get the first two outs before Jose Ramirez got on base, then Maddon decided to bring in closer Aroldis Chapman and his 100 mph fastball.
But Maddon had used Chapman in Game 6 for an eight-out save the previous night—would he be able to hit triple digits and pitch the Cubs to a championship despite that heavy workload? Well….not exactly. Chapman looked gassed and was barely able to crack the 100 mph mark, allowing a double to Brandon Guyer before Rajai Davis decided to add some major excitement to the proceedings, blasting a game-tying, two-run home run off the superstar closer.
Game 7. Tied 6-6. Heading into the ninth inning. Hard to script it any better than that.
The Cubs tried to scratch across a run in the top of the ninth inning when Baez attempted a squeeze bunt with Jason Heyward on third base, but instead he stuck out, giving the Indians the chance to win with a walk-off. Maddon put Chapman back out on the mound and he delivered, getting three outs and pushing the game into extra innings.
Then the rain came. The Cubs had been waiting over 100 years to win a championship, the Indians hadn’t won one since 1948—now they both would have to wait a bit longer. The rain delay was not a long one, but at the time, unknown to everyone watching at home, Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward decided to get all his teammates together in the small weight room next to the visitors dugout at Progressive Field to give them a pep talk:
“I told them I love them. I told them I’m proud of the way they overcame everything together,” Heyward said to MLB.com after the game. “I told them everyone has to look in the mirror, and know everyone contributed to this season and to where we are at this point. I said, ‘I don’t know how it’s going to happen, how we’re going to do it, but let’s go out and try to get a W.'”
Well, it worked. The Cubs came out aggressive in the top of the 10th, scoring two runs to take back the lead and then they finished off the Indians—who scratched back one run to make it 8-7—to win their first championship in 108 years. That’s quite the memorable Game 7.
2. Game 5, 1956 World Series – Don Larsen Perfect Game – Yankees 2, Dodgers 0)
To this day, there has only been one perfect game tossed in World Series history, by the Yankees’ Don Larsen in Game 5 of their 1956 Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Larsen battled back from a rough Game 2 outing, in which he did his part to blow an early 6-0 lead in a game the Yanks eventually lost 13-8.
Determined to make up for it, Larsen pitched the best, most memorable game of his life, throwing a mere 97 pitches to finish off all 27 Dodger players who came to the plate. Larsen only had to worry about one three-ball count all day, striking out Pee Wee Reese on a full count in the first inning.
From there, it was smooth sailing, with the Yanks scoring on a solo homer by Mickey Mantle in the fourth and a one-out RBI single in the sixth. Heading into the ninth, those two runs proved to be more than enough support for Larsen, who induced a fly ball out and a groundout before getting pinch hitter Dale Mitchell to strike out looking to finish the game.
The win gave the Yanks a 3-2 lead in the series, and they went on to win it in seven games.
3. Game 7, 1960 – Pirates 10, Yankees 9
The 1960 World Series may have featured the best, craziest seventh game ever seen. It was a seesaw battle pitting the upstart Pittsburgh Pirates against the powerhouse Yankees, who were coming off another dominant decade and were hungry for another title. Pittsburgh surprised everyone by playing well enough in a few early Series games to get into a Game 7 situation (they did, however, lose three games by scores of 10-0, 16-3 and 12-0). The Pirates came out swinging, jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the first two innings thanks to the timely hitting of Rocky Nelson and Bill Virdon.
Pittsburgh hung onto a 4-1 lead into the sixth inning, when the Yanks quickly grabbed control thanks to a run-scoring single by Mickey Mantle and a three-run shot by Yogi Berra. A two-out rally in the Yankee eighth plated another couple runs, and it was looking like an insurmountable 7-4 edge. However, the Pirates woke up in the bottom half of the inning, with Roberto Clemente and Hal Smith coming up with big two-out hits, the second of which went out of the park to put Pittsburgh in front by a score of 9-7.
New York tied it back up in the top of the ninth, with Mantle knocking in one run and getting another to score thanks to a great base-running maneuver. Still, this only prolonged the inevitable, as the Pirates’ Bill Mazeroski led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk-off slam, finishing off the heavily favored Yanks 10-9.
4. Game 6, 1975 – Red Sox 7, Reds 6 – 12 innings
Widely thought to be the greatest game in Red Sox history, even if it didn’t win them a title, Game 6 of the 1975 World Series turned out to be one of the most dramatic and iconic games in baseball history. Things started off well for Boston, with Fred Lynn teeing off for a three-run homer in the first inning, but it went downhill starting in the fifth.
There, the Reds’ Ken Griffey drove a pitch to deep center with a couple men on, and despite Lynn’s best efforts out in center field, he crashed into the wall and came up empty-handed. The hit went for a two-run triple and Griffey was knocked in by Johnny Bench two batters later, tying the score at three.
Cincinnati added three runs in the seventh and eighth innings, putting Boston’s backs against the wall for the last of the eighth. Eventually, with two on and two out, the Sox sent in pinch hitter Bernie Carbo, who heroically tied the game with a three-run blast to straightaway center. Despite a couple great scoring opportunities for each team, it remained 6-6 when Carlton Fisk led off for Boston in the bottom of the twelfth. Lining the second pitch high down the left field line, Fisk wildly waved his arms, willing the ball to stay fair.
The crazy gestures worked, as the ball smashed off the foul pole over the Green Monster for a home run, giving the Red Sox a 7-6 win to force a Game 7. Still, it wasn’t enough to shift the course of the Series, as the Reds came back from a 3-0 deficit in the next game for a 4-3 series-ending win.
5. Game 6, 1986 World Series – Mets 6, Red Sox 5 – 10 innings
More World Series heartbreak came to the Red Sox in 1986, when they came just about as close as any team to taking the championship before letting it slip through their fingers.
The game may not have ever reached extra frames had it not been for Roger Clemens being replaced with a pinch hitter in the top of the eighth (he allowed one earned run through the first seven innings), as the Sox manager looked to add to a 3-2 lead with a man on. The move failed, as pinch hitter Mike Greenwell struck out and Boston reliever Calvin Schiraldi allowed the Mets to tie it up in the bottom half of the inning.
Regardless, the Red Sox built up an even better shot to win the Series in the tenth, scoring twice to take a 5-3 lead before retiring the first two New York hitters in the bottom half. Then, down to their last out, the Mets came back from the dead with consecutive singles by Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell and Ray Knight, cutting the Sox lead to 5-4, putting the tying and winning runs on base, and knocking Schiraldi out of the game.
Boston brought in Bob Stanley to face Mookie Wilson, who had an epic at-bat. Several pitches in, the pressure came off significantly as Stanley tossed a wild pitch, scoring Mitchell to tie the game and moving Knight up to second. From there, we all know what happened – Wilson hit a ground ball to Buckner, right through the legs for the win. The next day, the Mets finished off the Sox with an 8-5 win in Game 7.
6. Game 1, 1988 – Kirk Gibson Game – Dodgers 5, A’s 4
Kirk Gibson hit the most improbable home run of World Series history in 1988. Coming off an MVP season, Gibson led the Dodgers through a tough NLCS match-up with the Mets, but he wasn’t able to start in the World Series against Oakland, having injured both legs in the previous series while also suffering from a stomach virus. He watched helplessly from the bench until the end of the game.
A 2-0 first inning lead for the Dodgers was erased almost immediately by a grand slam by Jose Canseco in the top of the second. That was it for scoring until the Dodgers’ last licks, minus a string of sixth inning singles that cut the Athletics lead to 4-3. Gibson was sent up as a pinch hitter with a man on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Facing the fierce closer Dennis Eckersley, Gibson appeared to be in pain during every swing.
At one point, a grounder that rolled just foul showed how much Gibson was hurting, as he limped towards first base before realizing it was out of play. Then, after working the count to 3-2, he launched the next offering into the right field seats, winning the game for the Dodgers, 5-4. His triumphant hobble around the bases has become well known to baseball fans everywhere – a surreal moment that was stranger than fiction. Gibson wasn’t able to play in the rest of the series, but the Dodgers went on to take it in five games.
7. Game 7, 1991 – Twins 1, Braves 0 – 10 innings
This game was highlighted by one of the most brilliant pitching performances in World Series history by Twins starter Jack Morris, who had also pitched masterfully in Games 1 and 4 of the Series. Morris was lights out and fought with his manager to stay in the game all the way through the tenth inning, and for good reason. He shut down Atlanta all night, even recording a 1-2-3 inning in the tenth.
There were various scoring threats throughout the game, but the closest came in the top of the eighth, when Lonnie Smith reached first with none out for the Braves. Next up, Terry Pendleton hit a double to left-center with a hit and run play on, but Smith stopped on the way to second, apparently losing track of the ball. As a result, he only made it to third when he should have scored easily. Even with no outs, he never made it to the plate.
The Twins broke the defensive stalemate in the bottom of the tenth, when Tom Kelly called on the obscure Gene Larkin to pinch hit with the bases loaded and one out. Larkin delivered, driving a pitch to left field for the game-winning hit, making for an amazing ending to what is widely thought to be greatest World Series of all time.
8. Game 6, 1993 World Series – Blue Jays 8, Phillies 6
The Phillies fought tooth and nail with the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1993 World Series, attempting to prevent them from winning their second straight title.
The Phils staved off elimination in Game 5 with a 2-0 win, sending the series back to Canada for the sixth game. The Jays looked poised for an easy home win to finish things off, knocking pitcher Terry Mulholland around the park in the first inning for three runs. Mulholland remained in the game, but would end up leaving his team with a 5-1 deficit after five innings.
The score remained that way until Philly blew up for a five-run rally in the seventh. Lenny Dykstra cut into the lead with a three-run homer with no outs, then the rest of the lineup scratched out another couple runs to take a 6-5 lead. The Jays loaded up the bases in the eighth, but couldn’t score, leaving them in need of a ninth inning run if they wanted to avoid a Game 7. Mitch Williams was brought on to close the game, but Rickey Henderson and Paul Molitor each reached base safely, giving Joe Carter a great RBI opportunity with one out.
After working the count to 2-2, Carter smashed a three-run homer to end the series. Carter’s shot remains one of only two walk-off home runs to end a World Series – the other hit by the Pirates’ Bill Mazeroski.
9. Game 7, 1997 World Series – Marlins 3, Indians 2 – 11 innings
The Florida Marlins, a franchise no more than a few years old at the time, defied all logic by reaching the World Series against the stacked Cleveland Indians. The Marlins couldn’t have asked for anything more, getting a Game 7 opportunity at home to decide the championship.
Some top-notch pitching from Cleveland starter Jaret Wright kept the Marlins off the scoreboard through six innings, while the Indians took a 2-0 lead off a clutch single by Tony Fernandez in the third. A home run by the Marlins’ Bobby Bonilla to start the bottom of the seventh finally got them on the board and helped to chase Wright off the mound, but it was still 2-1 Indians heading into the bottom of the ninth.
There, Cleveland sent in their closer, Jose Mesa, to get the last three outs, but he wasn’t able to get the job done. Singles by Moises Alou and Charles Johnson put runners at first and third with one out, then a sac fly from Craig Counsell scored Alou to send the game to extra innings. Indians second baseman Fernandez joined Mesa as the second goat of the game, botching a potential inning-ending double play grounder off the bat of Counsell.
The error put Marlins at first and third with one out, paving the way for Edgar Renteria to win the game on a single up the middle with the bases loaded and two outs. It was the second World Series loss in three years for the Indians.
10. Games 4 and 5, 2001 (Yankees win both in the Bronx vs. Diamondbacks)
With the 9/11 attacks still fresh in the country’s memory, the New York Yankees’ 2001 playoff run meant more than their other recent World Series victories had. It was a means of recovery for the city, and even though the Arizona Diamondbacks eventually took the series in seven games, with an exciting final game, there was nothing that could match the electricity of the three Yankee victories in the Bronx.
Games 4 and 5 were particularly epic, and very similar in nature – both featured pitcher’s duels won by the Yanks in extra innings after Arizona’s Byung-Hyun Kim gave up game-tying two-run homers with two outs in the ninth. In Game 4, it was Tino Martinez sending the game to extras with a blast while Paul O’Neill stood at first base. In the tenth, Derek Jeter earned the ‘Mr. November’ title by driving a walk-off home run just over the right field fence after the clock struck midnight – marking the first playoff baseball ever played in November.
After that 4-3 victory, New York trailed Game 5, 2-0, when the clutch Scott Brosius came up and hit a two-out two-run shot to tie it up. This time, the game went all the way to the twelfth before Alfonso Soriano knocked home Chuck Knoblauch from second on a one-out single.
11. Game 6, 2011 World Series (Cardinals 10, Rangers 9 – 12 innings)
The Cardinals forced Game 7 in what may have been the craziest, most exciting World Series game of all time. It was riddled with errors, base-running mistakes and general sloppy play for the first six innings, after which the score was tied 4-4. Texas’ Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz led off the seventh with home runs, and the Rangers held a 7-4 lead heading into the eighth. It was still 7-5 Rangers when David Freese came up with two runners on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
Down to his last strike, Freese lined a triple off the right field wall to tie the game. After a two-run homer by Josh Hamilton in the tenth put the Cards back against the wall, lightning struck twice when Lance Berkman hit a two-out, two-strike RBI single to tie the score again at nine. Freese finally came back to the plate and finished the job with a home run in the eleventh, ending a game that would have made a fan’s jaw drop during the regular season.
The Cards went on to win the Series with a more methodical 6-2 win in Game 7, finishing a turbulent series filled with comebacks and high-pressure situations.
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