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The Greatest Baseball Games Ever Played

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Baseball is often referred to as “America’s Pastime,” a name given for its immense popularity, especially throughout most of the twentieth century. To this day, Major League Baseball is one of the most attended leagues of all major professional sports and has the highest-paid athletes as well. While there is more competition in the sports and entertainment sectors than ever before, there’s just nothing quite like a high-stakes baseball game played at the highest level.

With a history that reaches back to the nineteenth century and the most extended season in professional sports, there are lots to choose from when picking baseball’s greatest games. Regardless, we tried compiling eight of the best games ever played for you here. These games are not all World Series games, although they do all take place in the playoffs.

Some of these games are the happiest moments in their franchise’s history, such as the Cubs beating the Indians to break a 108-year-old curse and championship drought. And while that moment will surely warm Cubs fans’ hearts, their Steve Bartman game from 2003 will cause an equal amount of anguish. All of these contests elated one group of supporters while crushing another in a way that only the very best sporting events can.

The Chicago Cubs Versus the Cleveland Indians (2016)

  • Date: November 2, 2016
  • Stadium: Progressive Field (Cleveland)
  • Final Score: Cubs 8; Indians 7
  • Stakes: World Series Game 7
  • What Happened:

Game 7 of the 2016 World Series is one of the craziest baseball games to have ever been played in the history of the sport. The game went on to last four hours and forty-five minutes long over the course of ten innings and a rain delay. Hanging in the balance was the Cubs’ 108-year-old championship drought. By the time the World Series was decided the next morning, at 12:47 am, the Curse of the Billy Goat had finally been lifted, and arguably the most notable game 7 ever played was in the books.

After the first four games of the series, the Indians were up 3 -1 on the Cubs, headed into Wrigley field for game 5. The Cubs would rally back in the next two games, winning 3-2 and 9-3 in games five and six respectively. With Chicago suddenly enjoying all of the momentum, game 7 would be played at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

This could have undoubtedly turned into another painful memory for Cubs fans, like some of the other games on this list became, and it nearly did. At the top of the fifth inning, Chicago was up 5-1 and looking poised to win their first title in over a century. However, by the ninth inning, things were all knotted up at six apiece and looking to head into extra innings.

Then came the rain, which delayed the start of the tenth for seventeen minutes. The Cubs scored two in the top of the tenth thanks to RBI singles from Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero. The Indians responded with a run of their own when Rajai Davis knocked home Brandon Guyer, who had reached base on a walk. Mike Montgomery then came on for the Cubs in relief and closed the show, completing Chicago’s dream run after 108 years.

The Houston Astros Versus the Los Angeles Dodgers (2017)

  • Date: October 29, 2017
  • Stadium: Minute Maid Park (Houston)
  • Final Score: Astros 13; Dodgers 12
  • Stakes: World Series Game 5
  • What Happened:

Just one season removed from what many called the “greatest game 7 in World Series history” came a game 5 matchup between the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers that some would call the best game in World Series history. With the series tied at two games each, it would take Houston ten innings to finally dispatch their National League foe. With a final score of 13-12, it was an outrageous offensive performance from both clubs.

The Dodgers lit up the Astros’ ace Dallas Keuchel in the first innings, mounting a three-run lead right away. They’d score another in the top of the fourth before Houston put up a single run. But the Astros would erase the deficit in the bottom of the fourth after Clayton Kershaw gave up an RBI double and a three-run homer. The pattern continued to repeat itself with the Dodgers pulling away 7-4 and 8-7, and the Astros catching up each time.

By the top of the ninth, Houston had rallied to take a 12-9 lead. This time, the Dodgers would come back thanks to a Yasiel Puig two-run homer and a Chris Taylor RBI. All tied up at 12, Houston could not score, and the game would continue on into extra innings. Finally, in the bottom of the tenth, stellar third-baseman Alex Bregman hit the walk-off home run to end the game. At five hours and seventeen minutes, it was the second-longest game in World Series history.

The Cincinnati Reds Versus the Boston Red Sox (1975)

  • Date: October 21, 1975
  • Stadium: Fenway Park (Boston)
  • Final Score: Red Sox 7; Reds 6
  • Stakes: World Series Game 6
  • What Happened:

In 1975, the Red Sox were up against the Big Red Machine, down three games to two. After three straight days of rain, they were headed into Fenway Park for game 6. Boston went up three in the very first inning after Fred Lynn’s three-run homer off Gary Nolan.

The Reds went scoreless until the top of the fifth, when they scored three runs of their own, tying the game up at three apiece. In the seventh, the Reds went up two after a George Foster two-run double. They extended the lead to three in the top of the eighth, before Boston scored three in the bottom of the same inning after Bernie Carbo came on to pinch hit and hit a three-run dinger.

All tied up at six, the game entered extra innings. The tenth and eleventh innings were scoreless for both clubs. The Reds also failed to put any runs on the board in the top of the twelfth. Finally, Carlton Fisk came up to the plate against Pat Darcy. On the second pitch, Fisk drove the ball down the left field line, with the batter frantically trying to wave the ball fair. The ball hit the foul pole and went fair, ending the contest at 7-6 for the Red Sox.

The image of Fisk waving the home run fair would go down as the lasting image from this contest. Despite the iconic moment and great effort, the Reds would close out game 7, winning their second World Series title in as many years.

The New York Yankees Versus the Boston Red Sox (2004)

  • Date: October 17, 2004
  • Stadium: Fenway Park (Boston)
  • Final Score: Red Sox 6; Yankees 4
  • Stakes: American League Championship Series Game 4
  • What Happened:

The Red Sox were down three games to none heading into the fourth game of the 2004 American League Championship Series. To make matters worse, the Yankees had put up 19 runs in game 3, causing the loss to be even more demoralizing. Once again, in game 4, New York would get out to an early lead, going up 3-0 in the top of the third inning.

On the mound for New York was Orlando Hernandez, who gave up no runs through four innings and only one hit. However, he ran into some trouble in the fifth, and after walking the first two batters, Orlando Cabrera hit one RBI single. Manny Ramirez was walked, allowing David Ortiz to score two more runs with a single to center field. The game was now 3-2 Boston.

The Yankees answered in the sixth after Hideki Matsui hit a triple with only one out, setting up a Bernie Williams RBI. They’d score one more run in the inning but ultimately retired the inning with the bases loaded and a 4-3 lead. The next two innings were scoreless for both clubs.

Going into the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox would face the Yankee’s legendary closer Mariano Rivera for the second straight inning, with a one-run deficit. After walking the lead-off hitter Kevin Millar, Dave Roberts came on as a pinch-runner in his place. He promptly stole second.

Bill Mueller then hit a single that scored Roberts, tying up the game and giving Rivera the blown save. Tied at four, the game entered extra innings. For four straight innings, neither team could put a run on the board, with Boston’s season hanging in the balance.

Both teams threatened to end the game, but it wasn’t until the bottom of the fourteenth when the dam would break. Manny Ramirez would lead the inning off with a single. Next up, David Ortiz hit a two-run homer to right field, ending the game and saving the Red Sox season. Boston would never lose again this season, taking four straight from the Yankees before sweeping the Cardinals in the World Series.

The Arizona Diamondbacks Versus the New York Yankees (2001)

  • Date: November 4, 2001
  • Stadium: Bank One Ballpark (Arizona)
  • Final Score: Diamondbacks 3; Yankees 2
  • Stakes: World Series Game 7
  • What Happened:

The 2001 World Series was an all-time classic. Just months after the tragedy of 9/11 occurred, the New York Yankees were providing some much-needed catharsis to the city with their deep playoff run. Now they were only one game away from bringing home another title.

Game 7 would be a pitching showdown between 39-year-old Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling. The first five innings went scoreless. Then, in the sixth, Arizona put one run on the board, to which New York immediately responded with one of their own in the top of the seventh. Alfonso Soriano came up in the top of the eighth and hit a solo homer off Schilling, putting the Yankees up 2-1.

Arizona then sent Randy Johnson to the mound in relief, who had just thrown 104 pitches in a start the previous game. He got the Diamondbacks out of the inning without allowing any further damage. After Arizona was unable to score in the eighth, they entered the top of the ninth with Johnson still pitching. He retired the next three batters consecutively, sending the game to the bottom of the ninth, with his side down one.

The Diamondbacks got runners on first and second in the ninth inning. After a bunt attempt led to a failed double play, Arizona’s Womack hit a double that scored the tying run. Finally, facing Mariano Rivera with the bases loaded, Louis Gonzales hit a single on the 0-1 pitch, scoring Jay Bell and ending the game with a score of 3-2. The Series would go down as one of the most competitive back-and-forth contests ever played.

The Florida Marlins Versus the Chicago Cubs (2003)

  • Date: October 14, 2003
  • Stadium: Wrigley Field (Chicago)
  • Final Score: Marlins 8; Cubs 3
  • Stakes: National League Championship Series Game 6
  • What Happened:

Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series was one of the most devastating defeats in Chicago Cubs’ history. It was also substantial evidence that the franchise was actually cursed. Up three games to two in the series, Chicago only needed one more win there at Wrigley Field to advance to the World Series.

Mark Prior went scoreless the first seven innings, shutting Florida out. Meanwhile, the Cubs scored early in the first and followed that up with runs in the sixth and seventh innings as well. Heading into the top of the eighth, thousands of fans began to fill the streets outside the stadium, ready to celebrate their pennant victory.

The first out of the eighth came from the leadoff hitter, with Mike Mordecai popping out to left center field. With only five outs to go to close the game, Juan Pierre hit a double. After Pierre, Luis Castillo came to the plate. On his eighth pitch, Castillo fouled the ball down the left field line, with Moises Alou tracking down the catchable ball.

As Alou reached out to catch the ball, so too did Steve Bartman, a Cubs fan seated over the left field wall. Moises was enraged that the fan caused the ball to go foul when it could have been the second out of the inning. From that point on, the Cubs were cooked, and the Marlins put up eight straight in the inning. It was a complete meltdown in Chicago, and Bartman had to leave the city in fear of his life.

The Marlins would force the game 7, which they would subsequently win as well. The Cubbies had missed their shot, and Bartman would go down in club lore until they finally exorcised their demons in 2016.

The Oakland A’s Versus the Los Angeles Dodgers (1988)

  • Date: October 15, 1988
  • Stadium: Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles)
  • Final Score: Dodgers 5; A’s 4
  • Stakes: World Series Game 1
  • What Happened:

The Oakland A’s entered the 1988 World Series favored to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers. LA had rookie Tim Belcher pitching against Oakland’s Dave Stewart in an uneven matchup. The Dodgers got out to an early home runs lead in the first, but it wouldn’t last long. In the top of the second, Oakland loaded the bases, with Canseco due to bat next.

Jose Canseco blasted a 1-0 pitch to the center field wall, scoring the first Grand Slam of his career, and giving the A’s a two-run lead. It would be his only hit of the entire series. The next three innings would be scoreless for both sides until the bottom of the sixth. There, the Dodgers hit three consecutive singles, scoring one run and bringing the score to 4-3 in favor of Oakland.

Stewart stayed on the mound for the A’s, pitching through the eighth inning before being replaced by closer Dennis Eckersley. He retired the first two batters before walking the pinch-hitting Mike Davis. With Davis on base, Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda called David Anderson back from the on-deck circle in order to pinch-hit the injured Kirk Gibson instead.

Gibson, severely hobbled, was not expected to play in the game, and the crowd erupted as he took to the batter’s box. The batter fouled off multiple pitches, eventually finding himself in a 3-2 count with the game-winning run on third and two outs. Remembering that Eckersley threw backdoor sliders on 3-2 counts, Gibson sat on the slider and belted it over the right field wall. As he rounded third, he pumped his fist in what would become the enduring iconic image from the series.

The Boston Red Sox Versus the New York Mets (1986)

  • Date: October 25, 1986
  • Stadium: Shea Stadium (New York)
  • Final Score: Mets 6; Red Sox 5
  • Stakes: World Series Game 6
  • What Happened:

Boston entered game 6 of the 1986 World Series in New York with a 3-2 series lead over the Mets. Still trying to break the Curse of the Bambino, this game would be the Red Sox’s best chance in decades to end their World Series drought. Unfortunately, it would be the night of one of their most painful memories: the Bill Buckner Error.

The game entered extra innings tied at three runs each. Boston scored two in the top of the tenth, setting themselves up nicely to close the game out on top. During their at-bats, they left the injured Bill Buckner in the game, and he got on base after being hit by a pitch. While he did get on base, this decision not to sub in Dave Stapleton, who also played first, would ultimately cost them the game.

In the bottom of the tenth, the Sox’s relief pitcher Schiraldi retired the first two batters, leaving Boston one out away from ending their sixty-eight-year streak between World Series victories. Kevin Mitchell pinch hit for an RBI single. Next up was Mookie Wilson with the tying run on base. After a wild pitch, the tying run came home without a throw.

After a long duel with Boston’s relief pitcher, Wilson hit a grounder up the right baseline. As Bill Buckner moved into position to gather the routine ground ball, his glove missed, and the ball rolled between his legs towards the right field wall. The game-winning run crossed home, costing Boston their chance to close the series. The Mets would go on to win game 7, and it wouldn’t be until 2004 that the Red Sox finally broke the curse.

Wrapping Things Up

As you can see, all of these contests featured the sport of baseball played at its very best. From walk-off homeruns to complete game shut-outs, this game has provided memories that last generations. Before the Red Sox finally won it all, the Bill Buckner play haunted their fans for decades. The same can be said for the Chicago Cubs and their thirteen years between Bartman and World Series success.

The amazing thing about baseball is that, every season, this list may potentially change. We’ve already added a showdown from 2017 against the Astros and Dodgers that became an instant classic the night it was played. There’s just something about fall baseball that always finds a way to exceed your expectations and simultaneously create history.

That’s why, while you may not agree with these eight games being the greatest the sport has ever seen, it is undeniable that they were all phenomenal showings of athleticism and skill. When the stakes and anxiety are at their very highest, there’s no sport that can deliver the drama quite like baseball. And that’s why these eight games will always hold a special place in the history of this fantastic sport.