10/23/2003 11:58 PM ET
Game 5 winners are no WS cinch
Complete list of World Series comebacks
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
The Marlins have managed to do the impossible so far.
They went from 10 games under .500 to survive one of the toughest Wild Card races ever. They eliminated the defending National League champions after losing the first game on the road. They rallied from a 3-1 series deficit and beat Mark Prior and Kerry Wood to clinch at Wrigley Field. They won a Game 4 classic in this World Series on Alex Gonzalez's Fiskian walk-off homer and then beat David Wells.
There are no mountains in Florida, and perhaps that is why the Marlins see none to climb. But there is one more "impossible," one more McKeon Miracle to make in this spectacular 2003 Major League season. The only team in the last 22 years that has taken a 3-2 World Series lead onto the road and won a championship was Toronto in 1992 at Atlanta. This one goes through Andy Pettitte and maybe Mike Mussina at the home of the New York Yankees and their 26 World Series championships.
If you are having trouble remembering the last time the Yankees were in this situation, then there is a good reason. They have gone home with a 3-2 deficit only three times in their illustrious October history, and they have come up empty each time:
In 1981, the Yankees won Games 1 and 2 at home and then lost the next three at Dodger Stadium. Back in the Bronx for Game 6, Pedro Guerrero drove in five runs and the Dodgers, behind the pitching of Burt Hooton and Steve Howe, avenged 1977-78 losses to the Yankees in the World Series.
In 1957, Lew Burdette won the World Series MVP award for the Milwaukee Braves by pitching three complete games. That included a 1-0 shutout to beat Whitey Ford in Game 5 in Milwaukee. The series moved back to Yankee Stadium, and after New York evened it in Game 6, Burdette came right back and won a 5-0 Game 7 against '56 hero Don Larsen.
In 1955, Dem Bums finally found respect around Yankee Stadium. In a Subway Series that was a veritable rite of autumn, the Bronx Bombers won the first two at their home and the Brooklyn Dodgers won the next three games at Ebbets Field. Ford pitched a 5-1 victory in Game 6, and there were a World Series record 17 combined home runs already by then. The next day, on Oct. 4, Johnny Podres hurled a 2-0 shutout for his second complete game of the series and won the first-ever series MVP honor.
There have been 55 previous occasions when a best-of-seven World Series went to 3-2, and 37 (67 percent) of those leaders went on to win the championship. Of those 37 teams, 19 clinched on the road and 18 clinched at home. But that sounds more favorable than it is for Florida, according to recent history. After those Blue Jays, you have to go back to 1981, when the Yankees suffered that indignity against Los Angeles.
This is the third consecutive year that a team has taken a 3-2 series lead onto the road. Last year, the San Francisco Giants went to Anaheim and lost Games 6 and 7. In 2001, the Yankees followed the same script and lost the last two at Arizona. The home team has clinched the last five times a World Series went to 3-2, indicating that home-field advantage is perhaps bigger in this era than before.
Another 21-game streak?
After the way this season has gone so far, it might only seem appropriate for this World Series to go the distance. And if that happens, then it will mark only the fourth time in World Series history -- and the first time in 30 years -- it has happened in three consecutive years. Yes, we live in exciting times.
The last time fans enjoyed at least three consecutive seven-game World Series was from 1971-73. Pittsburgh started the streak by building a 3-2 lead and clinching at Baltimore. Oakland won the next two years, first holding onto a 3-2 series lead and clinching at home against Cincinnati, then winning the last two games of the 1973 series after a 3-2 deficit against the New York Mets.
The other seven-game streaks lasting at least three years were in 1924-26; 1945-47; and 1955-58. That last one was the longest such run at four years -- and the Yankees participated in each one of them. It was one of the most memorable patterns in Fall Classic history. The Bombers lost in 1955 to the Brooklyn Dodgers and beat them the next year, and they lost in 1957 to the Milwaukee Braves and beat them the next year. At the end of that streak, the Yankees had made it to the World Series eight of nine years running.
Taking a new path
This particular World Series won-lost pattern has occurred only twice in World Series history -- and amazingly it would include back-to-back years. Last fall, the Giants won Game 1 at Anaheim, the Angels won Game 2 at Anaheim, the Angels won Game 3 at San Francisco, the Giants won Games 4 and 5 at San Francisco, and the Angels won the final two games on their home field. The 2003 World Series is on the same pace.
Moreover, these back-to-back occurrences would mark the only times this pattern has been followed with the National League club taking Game 1 and the series going back to the American League park for the conclusion.
In 1982, the Brewers won Game 1 at St. Louis, the Cardinals won Game 2 at St. Louis, the Cardinals won Game 3 at Milwaukee, the Brewers won Games 4 and 5 at Milwaukee, and the Cardinals won the final two games on their home field.
Mark Newman is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.