The Craziest World Series Moments That You Don’t Remember

  • The most valuable game ever

    “How can you even measure this,” you may be thinking. “And even if you can, you’ve already said that Carter and Gibson aren’t going to come up here, and who could top that?”

    Here’s how: Win Probability Added, an advanced stat that measures how much each player (and individual play) contributed to a team winning (or losing) a game. It takes into account the game situation, because it’s easy to understand that a solo homer in the ninth inning of a tie game is more important to a win than a three-run homer in the ninth inning of a 12-2 blowout. For example, 2014’s best WPA hitting game belongs to Nelson Cruz on Sept. 18, because not only did he get on base five times, including two homers and a triple, his 11th-inning two-run blast broke a 5-5 tie and sent Baltimore to victory.

    We can do the same thing in the postseason, too, and in more than a century of playoff baseball, the most valuable game ever came just three years ago: David Freese’ Game 6 in the 2011 World Series. With Texas up 3-2 in the Series and up 7-5 in the game, the Rangers entered the ninth needing only three outs to win their first title. By the time Freese got up, there were two outs and men on first and second, and Neftali Feliz quickly got to a 1-2 count, putting the Rangers a strike away.

    Freese would have none of it, slashing a triple to right to score both runners and tie the game. In the 10th, Josh Hamilton put the Rangers back up by two with a homer, but the Cardinals would tie it in the bottom of the frame. After Texas failed to score in the top of the 11th, Freese led off the bottom of the 11th. Mark Lowe’s sixth pitch ended up in deep center field. St. Louis would win the World Series the next night–largely thanks to Freese’s heroics.

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  • Babe Ruth
    The worst possible way to lose a World Series

    Most of the famous World Series moments haven’t actually ended the Series. Gibson’s homer was in Game 1, for example, and the Red Sox still had a Game 7 to deal with after both Buckner’s famous error and Carlton Fisk’s 1975 homer. Carter’s 1993 walk-off, along with Bill Mazeroski’s in 1960, did end the Series, but for as awful as the pitchers must have felt, that’s just baseball–sometimes, a good hitter beats a good pitcher.

    But then there’s what happened in 1926, when the Yankees lost to the Cardinals. Down 3-2 both in the Series and the game, the first two Yankees grounded out in the ninth inning against St. Louis righty Pete Alexander. Babe Ruth drew a walk, Alexander certainly preferring not to give anything good to hit to the man who was already the best slugger in baseball history.

    You probably don’t know the name Bob Meusel, who followed Ruth, but that’s only because he was overshadowed by the rest of the “Murderer’s Row” Yankees of the time. Meusel had hit 33 homers in 1925, and had hit .315/.373/.470 in 1926. Lou Gehrig, himself one of baseball’s all-time greats, was on deck. Clearly, Alexander had found himself in a spot.

    Or, that is, he would have, if he’d had to worry about facing dangerous hitters with a one-run lead and a man on. On either the first or second pitch–sources from the time disagree–Ruth took off for second. He was thrown out, ending the game and the Series. It’s the only time a World Series has ever ended on a player caught stealing. Imagine if Twitter existed in 1926?

    image via Cliff/Flickr Creative Commons

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  • The weirdest way to lose a World Series game

    There’s more than one contender here. In 1941, the Yankees struck out with two outs in the ninth inning, then still scored four more runs. (Dodger catcher Mickey Owen dropped the third strike and couldn’t throw out Tommy Henrich, keeping the game alive.) But even that famous play didn’t end the game, it just extended it.

    Instead, we’ll go with something more recent, and more weird. Last year, the Red Sox and Cardinals had split the first two games of the World Series, and were tied 4-4 in the ninth inning of a pivotal Game 3. With two on and one out, Jon Jay grounded to second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who threw home to force out Yadier Molina. Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia immediately threw to third in an attempt to get Allen Craig, but a poor throw sailed into left field. Outfielder Daniel Nava came up throwing to nail Craig at the plate, and it looked for all the world like he’d managed to do so. The game would remain tied, and we’d go to extra innings.

    Except… wait, is that the home plate umpire signaling safe? IT IS. Pandemonium!

    The umpires immediately ruled Craig safe, not because he’d beaten the throw, but because Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who had fallen in an attempt to get the wild throw from Saltalamacchia, had gotten in Craig’s way, slowing him down and obstructing his path. It was the right call, but a critically important one, though Boston would still win the World Series.

    How rare is that? In the entire history of baseball, dating back well over a century, a walk-off obstruction call has happened twice, once in 1971, and once in 1995. (And neither happened in exactly the same way as this.) They say that you never know what you’re going to see at a baseball game, and a play like this would have been a unique one had it happened in a meaningless August game between two non-contenders. That it happened on the biggest stage, to decide a World Series game? You’ll never see that again. Ever.

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  • The coolest thing you can do in a World Series

    Yeah, we already used Babe Ruth. You know what? It’s Babe Ruth, and everything he did was the best thing, so we’re returning to that well.

    Six years after Ruth’s Series-ending blunder, the Yankees were facing the Cubs in the 1932 World Series. Even at 37, Ruth had put up a monster season, hitting .341/.489/.661 along with 41 homers. The Yankees had won the first two games of the Series in New York, then went to Chicago for Game 3.

    Ruth had hit a three-run homer in the first inning against Chicago’s Charlie Root, then after a third-inning flyout, stepped up again in the fifth inning, with one out and the game tied at 4. Ruth, as the legend goes, took strike one, then pointed to the outfield bleachers. He took strike two, then pointed again. The next pitch was crushed deep to center field, the final postseason homer of Ruth’s career. He’d called his shot, then backed it up.

    Now, in the decades since, there have been plenty of questions about whether Ruth actually intended to call his shot. There had been bad blood between the two teams prior to the game, and some believe that Ruth had merely been pointing at Root, in an “I’m coming for you” manner. Others say that Ruth had been holding up one finger to say that while Root had managed to get two strikes on him, he still had one left.

    The moment has been lost to history, and we’ll likely never know for sure. None of it matters. The legend is far more entertaining than the truth. Now, imagine if Yasiel Puig did that today?

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  • The worst way to end a career

    You probably don’t remember Mike Andrews, and that’s fine. Andrews was a decent second infielder for three teams between 1966-1973, and even made an All-Star team in 1969. In 1973, Andrews had struggled for the White Sox, who ended up releasing him in July. Two weeks later, the A’s signed him, where he played sparingly and ineffectively.

    Still, Andrews was on the active roster for the World Series, and in Game 2, with the A’s down 6-4, he entered as a pinch-hitter in the eighth. Andrews grounded out, but in the ninth, Oakland would tie it, and it would remain tied into the 12th inning. Rollie Fingers would allow the go-ahead run on a Willie Mays single — how about those names! — but when Paul Lindblad replaced Fingers, entering with the bases loaded, things went bad for Andrews. Playing second base, he would make errors on two consecutive plays, turning a one-run deficit into a four-run hole, one the A’s could not come back from.

    Oakland owner Charlie Finley was so angry with Andrews that he ordered the infielder to fake an injury so that the team could replace him on the roster. Andrews did, but his teammates were so upset that they protested, and commissioner Bowie Kuhn had to step in to reinstate him. When Andrews appeared as a pinch-hitter in Game 4 in New York, Mets fans gave him an ovation, though the A’s would go on to win the Series.

    Andrews would never play professional baseball again, his career over at 29. It all worked out for him in the end, though. For the last 30 years, he’s been the chairman of the Jimmy Fund, a charitable organization that works to combat childhood cancer.

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  • David Freese
  • Babe Ruth
  • Babe Ruth

We asked for a lot this postseason in baseball and thankfully, we got most of it. We wanted new blood. We wanted to see the best of the best face one another. And we wanted to see a little offense. Now with the World Series kicking off this week, we can hope it’ll be like none we’ve ever seen before. That’s partially due to the participants–the Royals and Giants have never met in October–and partially because we’ve never had a World Series with expanded instant replay, or the controversial “catcher blocking the plate” rule. Those items alone should be enough to make the 2014 Fall Classic a particularly unique one.

But will it be a good World Series, or a great one? Will anyone outside the two cities have particularly fond memories of this one? Five years from now, will you or I care? Will 2014 go down simply as the summer of Jeter…or will this final series be the icing on the cake? Think about World Series past–sure, you remember 1986, and 2001, and 2004, and so on. If you’re not a White Sox or Astros fan, do you recall much about 2005? Does 1982 do much for you if you weren’t following the Cardinals and Brewers?

What we really need are great moments, and here we’ll recall a few. But some of them are too famous. You probably came in here already thinking about Bill Buckner in 1986, Kirk Gibson in 1988, or Joe Carter in 1993. Those were great, but you also don’t need to read about them again. Let’s think about this in some different ways.

Here are The Craziest World Series Moments That You Don’t Remember.

Follow Mike on Twitter at @mike_petriello

image via Anthony De Rosa/Flickr Creative Commons