Postseasons to remember
October's top-10 most thrilling playoff performances since '69
Life is full of questions, which come big and little. How do we tell them apart? Easy: Those whose answers don't even register are little, while those whose answers can incite fiery debates are big."How are you?" and "How 'bout them Hogs?" are wee, throwaway questions. Conversely, here are three big questions: "What is the meaning of life?" "What's in a hot dog, anyway?" "Which are your favorite baseball postseasons?" We don't have time to get into the first one, and we have no clue about the second, but we have ideas about No. 3. So does everyone else. Opinions bounce off chat-room walls everywhere. There is now even a Web site -- actober.com -- dedicated to recreating postseason moments. Yet, somewhere in the great continuum of fans, at that point where memories and facts intersect, there has to be a general consensus on the "10 Best Postseasons," entries that make everyone's list. Here is a Cliff's Notes version, with one caveat: Postseason life as we know it began in 1969. While there was a rich history of indelible October moments prior to that -- Willie Mays' catch, Don Larsen's perfection, Bill Mazeroski's float-off home run -- they were all World Series moments. With 1969's expansion, we had divisions, we had multi-tiered playoffs ... we had second-seasons' worth of thrills. The best, chronologically: 1969
What better place to start than where it all began? Talk about ushering in a new era. The New York Mets, undeniable National League doormats who never had come even close to a winning record while averaging 105 losses their first seven seasons, won 100 while running away with the new East Division and then kept gunning it. They swept Atlanta in the inaugural NL Championship Series, then, after being slowed with a World Series-opening 4-1 loss, swept through four straight wins over Baltimore. The Mets' 5-0 win in Game 3, the first World Series game played at Shea Stadium, was saved with 2 1/3 one-hit innings by Nolan Ryan -- who won 312 more games in 24 more seasons, but never again appeared in a World Series. 1971
Enhanced by the passage of time, but isn't that what memories are all about? Roberto Clemente emerged from his career shadow to hit .414 in the World Series -- including a home run in the Pirates' 2-1 Game 7 clincher in Baltimore -- after hitting .333 in the NLCS against the Giants. Everyone was pleased that "The Great One" had found the satisfaction and recognition he had long sought. Two years later, after he had died a heroic death, everyone realized just how much he had deserved it. 1973
Destiny meets dynasty. As precursors of the 2006 Cardinals, the Mets barely limped into the postseason with an 82-79 record, then sideswiped Cincinnati's haughty "Big Red Machine" in the NLCS to come face-to-face with the reigning World Series champs. Charlie O. Finley's Oakland band of mustachioed renegades turned the Mets into the middle of their three straight victims, although it took seven games, but that's not what we most remember. Rather, it's that No. 24 in the Mets outfield. Mays ended his career exactly the way it had begun 22 years earlier, patrolling center for a New York team in the World Series. 1975
Carlton Fisk supplied one of the most indelible images in baseball history, but by waving his 12th-inning Game 6 home run fair he not only kept the Red Sox alive against the Big Red Machine, he brought all of baseball back to life. The game had been slipping into irrelevance. Prime-time World Series games were still a novelty. And Fisk's tour, New England's best midnight ride since Paul Revere took one, jolted the nation to attention. The rest of the Series wasn't bad, either, five of the seven games being one-run cliffhangers. 1984
George Orwell. The Macintosh. And Tigers perfection makes three -- generational cornerstones, that is. Sparky Anderson's Bengals truly became national phenomenons, opening the season 35-5 -- that's .875 ball -- including winning their first 17 road games. That raised the sort of daunting expectations impossible to fulfill. But the Tigers roared to the American League East pennant by 15 games, to a three-game sweep of Kansas City in the American League Championship Series and a five-game World Series win over San Diego, for a 7-1 postseason -- that's .875 ball. They went out the way they'd come in, and it never ceased being brilliant. 1986
From Mike Scott's disappearing sinker to Mookie Wilson's croquet shot through Bill Buckner's legs, there are infinite ways to break down and analyze the most scintillating October ever. But it all boils down to this: The Mets' NLCS 16-inning Game 6 knockout of the Astros is considered by many to be the best playoff game ever -- a rank held for the previous three days by ALCS Game 5, when Bobby Grich homered off Dave Henderson's glove to break Hindu's heart, and three innings later Hendu broke all of Orange County's heart. 1992-93
Baby steps on the road to globalization. And the only tandem on the list, for the back-to-back titles captured by the Blue Jays in the first World Series games on foreign soil, becoming the first repeaters since the 1977-78 Yankees made an impression. Completing the parlay on Joe Carter's Game 6 three-run walk-off -- the only score-reversing Series-clinching home run -- made a permanent mental keepsake. The mind's eye will forever see Carter hopping around the bases. 2001
Baseball as salve, as it has always been. In the national rubble of the World Trade Center towers, we all needed comfort, reassurance, a symbolic hug. Only a few miles from hell, Yankee Stadium delivered the heavenly escape. When President Bush jogged to the mound and delivered the perfect first pitch, all of our souls hitched a ride on that 60-foot, six-inch flight. Game-tying ninth-inning homers by Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius taught us to stare despair in the face and not blink. The last dance belonged to Luis Gonzalez and the Diamondbacks, but we all felt a little lighter on our feet. 2002
When baseball became fun again. A 12-inch monkey exerted more power than Barry Bonds. The Angels' seven-game World Series win over the Giants and Bonds (.471, with four homers) had as much symbolism as substance. The Los Angeles-California-Anaheim Angels were the oldest franchise without as much as a Fall Classic appearance, and their triumph signaled a new, democratic era in Major League Baseball. In the pantheon of seminal clutch home runs, Scott Spiezio's three-run shot in the seventh inning of Game 6 -- taking the first bites out of a 5-0 Giants lead -- ranks high. 2004
An 86-year-old curse takes a back seat to the Four-Day Miracle. Unlike the previous October, when they waited until Aaron Boone's walk-off homer in the 11th inning of ALCS Game 7 to put the Red Sox out of their misery, the Yankees appeared to have found compassion. They were making quick work of their rivals. Through three games and eight innings of a fourth, the Bombers had outscored them 36-19. And then Dave Roberts stole a base, and the tide turned as never before. It was quick, and it may never be repeated. Boston's comeback from the 0-3 hole was so compelling, its four-game sweep of St. Louis for its first World Series title since 1918 was virtually overshadowed.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.