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World Series 2001
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11/04/2001 03:22 PM ET
Game 7 doozies abound
By Tom Singer
MLB.com
The 1991 Twins celebrate after winning Game 7.
Game 7.

A magical phrase, the trigger of countless memories. The epitome of Armageddon in all sport, but none as much as in baseball, which created the cauldron of no-tomorrow pressure long before basketball or hockey thought of it.

But what the game has now given us qualifies as a rare gift, though that Game 6 mess surely didn't look like any fancy wrapping.

When the Yankees, hoping for short-term memory loss, and the Diamondbacks reconvene in Bank One Ballpark Sunday, it will be only the second World Series Game 7 of the last decade.

And the Yanks are really out of Game 7 practice. This will be New York's first ultimate game since 1964. The pinstripes haven't won a Game 7 since 1962.

Yet, the Yankees have a rich Game 7 history to which they will be adding when Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling meet in the first last-game showdown of 20-game winners since Kansas City's Bret Saberhagen dueled John Tudor of the Cardinals in 1985.

Saberhagen prevailed in that one, 11-0, but the Yankees don't want to hear any more about unsightly blowouts.

They're more interested in what has transpired after Game 6 massacres. We've got mixed news on that front: There have been six bona fide Game 6 blowouts in seven-game Series, and four times the blower has returned the next day to finish the deal over the blowee.

One of the two exceptions involved arguably the greatest Game 7 ever, in 1960, after the Yankees evened the Series at three-apiece with a 12-0 drubbing of the Pirates. There was nothing unusual about that score: New York's other wins had been 16-3 and 10-0 laughers, and the Bombers had out-hit Pittsburgh 52-24 in their wins.

But no one was laughing by the eighth inning on Oct. 13, as the Yankees clung to a 5-4 lead. Cletis Boyer's two-run double off Elroy Face widened the lead to 7-4 and let the Yankees think they may have finally subdued the pesky Pirates.

Think again. Gino Cimoli led off the bottom of the eighth with a pinch-single off left-handed reliever Bobby Shantz, then Bill Virdon slapped a double-play grounder at shortstop Tony Kubek that proved the fates don't always wear pinstripes.

The ball exploded off Forbes Field's rock pile infield into Kubek's throat for an infield single. Two runs scored on Dick Groat's single and Roberto Clemente's infield single before Hal Smith gave the Bucs a 9-7 lead with the most memorable forgettable three-run homer in history.

Smith's blow was rendered a footnote when the Yankees responded with a tying two-run rally in the top of the ninth allowing the immortal hero's mantle to cover Bill Mazeroski, who led off the bottom of the ninth by slapping Ralph Terry's 1-and-0 pitch over the left-field wall for the only Game 7 walk-off homer in World Series history.

The other turnaround came in 1972, when in Game 6 the Cincinnati Reds poured on five runs in the seventh for an 8-1 romp over the Oakland Athletics. That was an aberration in a taut Series in which every other game was a one-run nailbiter, including the A's 3-2 victory in Game 7.

Other Game 6 slaughters were merely setups for the clincher:

In 1987, the Twins downed the Cardinals, 11-5, to force a Game 7 in which they finished off St. Louis, 4-2.

In 1982, the Cardinals subdued the Milwaukee Brewers 13-1 in a miserable, rain-interrupted Game 6, then dried them off the next day, 6-3.

In 1968, the Tigers did the 13-1 number on the Cardinals; in Game 7, Mickey Lolich picked off the Cards, 4-1. Literally. In the sixth inning of a still-scoreless game, he picked both Lou Brock and Curt Flood off first, starting the Tigers' momentum toward victory.

And in 1926, after a 10-2 victory in Game 6, the Cardinals edged the Yankees 3-2 in a game immortalized by Grover Cleveland Alexander's relief appearance to whiff Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded in the seventh inning. The 39-year-old Alexander, you see, had gone the route in Game 6 the previous day.

Game 7s are full of memories such as that. The no-contests are relegated to stage-setting; the baseball muses would never allow the climactic game to be devoid of drama. Well, almost never -- the aforementioned Saberhagen-Tudor match resulted in an 11-0 Royals win that stands out as the exception.

But even counting a pair of other Game 7 mismatches (the Cardinals 11-0 over Detroit in 1934 and the Yankees' 9-0 hammering of Brooklyn in 1956), the average margin in history's first 32 Game 7s: three runs.

Can't wait to see how Sunday night's curtain call rivals the (other) Top 5 of Game 7s (the 1960 Yankees-Pirates theater is in its own class):

  • 1. 1991
    Minnesota 1, Atlanta 0 (10 innings)
    There's no such thing as a tough act to follow. Each game of this taut Series (five last-pitch decisions) surpassed what came before, and that plot was sustained right through the finish. Jack Morris, going all 10 innings for the win, repelled the Braves time and again -- such as in the eighth, when Atlanta placed men on second and third with none out but couldn't score. No one did, until Gene Larkin lofted a bases-loaded otherwise-routine fly over the drawn-in outfield with one out in the 10th.

    How great a Series was it? Before the first pitch of Game 7, Atlanta leadoff batter Lonnie Smith was compelled to extend his hand and shake that of Minnesota catcher Brian Harper.

    Been there: Current Yanks Chuck Knoblauch (who played on that 1991 Twins team), David Justice and Mike Stanton (Braves) have Game 7 experience.

  • 2. 1975
    Cincinnati 4, Boston 3
    Yeah, yeah. We know. Carlton Fisk hit that homer in the 12th inning of Game 6. But the last act wasn't bad, either.

    Still flying high with the wings Fisk gave them, the Red Sox nursed a 3-0 lead into the sixth, when Tony Perez struck a two-run homer off Bill Lee. Pete Rose's seventh-inning RBI single tied a 3-3 knot not undone until Joe Morgan's single scored Ken Griffey with two outs in the ninth. Twenty-three-year-old lefty Will McEnaney put the lead into the vault with a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth.

  • 3. 1962
    NY Yankees 1, San Francisco 0
    Redemption is always a good angle. And this October it belonged to Ralph Terry, two years after surrendering Mazeroski's walk-off homer.

    Terry pitched a no-hitter through 5 2/3 innings and nursed a two-hitter entering the ninth, when the Giants threatened to Candlestick it to him. Matty Alou led off with a bunt single and, two outs later, Willie Mays ripped a double to right, only Roger Maris' short-hop of the gapper keeping Alou on third.

    Willie McCovey up, Orlando Cepeda on deck. Making the kind of call he'd have to take to the grave, Yankees Manager Ralph Houk chose to have the right-handed Terry pitch to the menacing lefty-hitter McCovey, even with first base open and the righty Cepeda waiting. Houk came within inches of being wrong but McCovey's screaming line drive safely settled into second baseman Bobby Richardson's glove for the Series-ending out.

  • 4. 1924
    Washington 4, NY Giants 3 (12 innings)
    The Big Train could finally blow his whistle. Walter Johnson, 36 and at the end of his 18th big-league season, finally had a chance to appear in a World Series and make a difference. He came on in relief in the ninth and pitched out of a jam to preserve the 3-3 tie.

    Johnson pitched the rest of the way and earned a charmed victory when Earl McNeely's grounder to third kissed off a pebble over Fred Lindstrom's head to score Muddy Ruel from second with the winning run.

  • 5. 1997
    Florida 3, Cleveland 2 (11 innings)
    Even if a one-year flash is involved, it's hard to overlook any extra-inning Game 7. It's the ultimate in blissful torture, when there's no tomorrow but today enters overtime.

    The Marlins frustrated the Indians' World Series wish in a genuine classic. The same guy who drove in the tying run with a ninth-inning sacrifice fly scored the winning run two innings later on Edgar Renteria's single.

    That guy? Craig Counsell. But the Yankees don't have to believe that means anything.

    Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com.

    Date Winner Loser
    Oct. 10, 1924
    Oct. 15, 1925
    Oct. 10, 1926
    Oct. 10, 1931
    Oct. 9, 1934
    Oct. 8, 1940
    Oct. 10, 1945
    Oct. 15, 1946
    Oct. 6, 1947
    Oct. 7, 1952
    Oct. 4, 1955
    Oct. 10, 1956
    Oct. 10, 1957
    Oct. 9, 1958
    Oct. 13, 1960
    Oct. 16, 1962
    Oct. 15, 1964
    Oct. 14 , 1965
    Oct. 12, 1967
    Oct. 10, 1968
    Oct. 17, 1971
    Oct. 22, 1972
    Oct. 21, 1973
    Oct. 22, 1975
    Oct. 17, 1979
    Oct. 20, 1982
    Oct. 27, 1985
    Oct. 27, 1986
    Oct. 25, 1987
    Oct. 27, 1991
    Oct. 26, 1997
    WASHINGTON SENATORS 4 (Johnson)
    PITTSBURGH PIRATES 9 (Kremer)
    St. Louis Cardinals 3 (Haines)
    ST. LOUIS CARDINALS 4 (Grimes)
    St. Louis Cardinals 11 (J. Dean)
    CINCINNATI REDS 2 (Derringer)
    Detroit Tigers 9 (Newhouser)
    ST. LOUIS CARDINALS 4 (Brecheen)
    NEW YORK YANKEES 5 (Page)
    New York Yankees 4 (Reynolds)
    Brooklyn Dodgers 2 (Podres)
    New York Yankees 9 (Kucks)
    Milwaukee Braves 5 (Burdette)
    New York Yankees 6 (Turley)
    PITTSBURGH PIRATES 10 (Haddix)
    New York Yankees 1 (Terry)
    ST. LOUIS CARDINALS 7 (Gibson)
    Los Angeles 2 (Koufax)
    St. Louis Cardinals 7 (Gibson)
    Detroit Tigers 4 (Lolich)
    Pittsburgh Pirates 2 (Blass)
    Oakland Athletics 3 (Hunter)
    OAKLAND ATHLETICS 5 (Holtzman)
    Cincinnati Reds 4 (Carroll)
    Pittsburgh Pirates 4 (Jackson)
    ST. LOUIS CARDINALS 6 (Andujar)
    KANSAS CITY ROYALS 11 (Saberhagen)
    NEW YORK METS 8 (McDowell)
    MINNESOTA TWINS 4 (Viola)
    MINNESOTA TWINS 1 (Morris)
    FLORIDA MARLINS 3 (Powell)
    New York Giants 3 (Bentley)
    Washington Senators 7 (Johnson)
    NEW YORK YANKEES 2 (Hoyt)
    Philadelphia Athletics 2 (Earnshaw)
    DETROIT TIGERS 0 (Auker)
    Detroit Tigers 1 (Newsom)
    CHICAGO CUBS 3 (Borowy)
    Boston Red Sox 3 (Klinger)
    Brooklyn Dodgers 2 (Gregg)
    BROOKLYN DODGERS 2 (Black)
    NEW YORK YANKEES 0 (Byrne)
    BROOKLYN DODGERS 0 (Newcombe)
    NEW YORK YANKEES 0 (Larsen)
    MILWAUKEE BRAVES 2 (Burdette)
    New York Yankees 9 (Terry)
    SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS 0 (Sanford)
    New York Yankees 5 (Stottlemyre)
    MINNESOTA 0 (Kaat)
    BOSTON RED SOX 2 (Lonborg)
    ST. LOUIS CARDINALS 1 (Gibson)
    BALTIMORE ORIOLES 1 (Cueller)
    CINCINNATI REDS 2 (Borbon)
    New York Mets 2 (Matlack)
    BOSTON RED SOX 3 (Burton)
    BALTIMORE ORIOLES 1 (McGregor)
    Milwaukee Brewers 3 (McClure)
    St. Louis Cardinals 0 (Tudor)
    Boston Red Sox 5 (Schiraldi)
    St. Louis Cardinals 2 (Cox)
    Atlanta Braves 0 (Pena)
    Cleveland 2 (Nagy)

    31 Game 7s in World Series History
    The HOME TEAM is 15-16
    The last road team to win a Game 7 is the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates