Much was made of the Cubs’ World Series Game 7 win, not only for breaking the Cubs’ drought, but for the game’s place in history. It was called an “instant classic.” Though that phrase can be a bit overused, it’s not unreasonable given that the game itself, never mind the circumstances, that no matter who won it, one team was going to end a long championship drought.
Al asked me to put together a ranking of the best Game 7s in history, so here it is, along with my thoughts about each.
Included in any discussion of the greatest games ever, World Series or not. Still the only Game 7 walkoff home run, and from one of the least likely sources. This has been the consensus best World Series Game 7 for many years, see comments next.
Perhaps this should be No. 1, but at this point I don't have the emotional, let alone the critical distance to judge. A lot will depend on how "legendary" the backstories of the two teams remain. I am confident that this and the previous one are the two best, but for sake of respect for my elders, I'll give 1960 pride of place for the moment.
The backstories and drama of one of the cities, and the preceding six games, cannot be matched. And the final base hit can be analyzed to death regarding the positioning of the defense. Even though it went against the storyline, Arizona's win remains one of the most cherished by baseball fans in general.
This was the best World Series game to its time, an extra-inning come-from-behind walkoff; actually Game 8, as there had been one tie. Full of game-saving plays, and the first of the great goats, "Snodgrass' Muff," although much happened between the muff and the finish. This was only the ninth modern World Series, and it did much to secure the institution into the national culture. Fred Snodgrass had a fine baseball career, and a long and productive life, even serving as mayor of his town, but, over 60 years after his most famous game, his New York Times obit was headed: "Fred Snodgrass, 86, Dead; Ball Player Muffed 1912 Fly."
A throwback, even for its time; 25 years ago, no starting pitchers did this. Jack Morris' performance was heroic in the mold of Madison Bumgarner’s. And, it concluded a Series that may have been overall the best ever. This game was so good it survived Jack Buck telling his audience every two minutes how good it was.
This game might be listed among the greatest ever regardless of circumstance, if not that it's overwhelmed by the reputation of the game before it. A game very similar to the Cubs' Game 7 of this year, only the team behind took the lead at the end and held it. Also a finale for possibly the greatest Series ever.
The longest Game 7, and one of the most sentimental, as Walter Johnson, loser in his two starts, earned the win in long relief to cap his brilliant but amazingly bad-luck career. This was the only World Series win for the franchise before it became the Twins.
Another sentimental favorite, Pete Alexander's game-saving relief appearance is one of the great baseball fables, and the backstory may even be true. It was the only World Series to end on a caught stealing. Babe Ruth was thrown out at second by Waukegan native Bob O'Farrell, Gabby Hartnett's predecessor as Cubs regular catcher.
Perhaps the greatest "what if" seventh game. Willie McCovey's final-out smash to end the game and the Giants' last-ditch rally is one of the great endings. Imagine Ben Zobrist or Miguel Montero lining into outs instead of having game-winning hits, and you have some sense of it. This provided the fodder for two of Charles Schulz's best "Peanuts" strips — this one and this one.
Perhaps the closest game before this year to capture the joy of ending a frustrating drought with a great victory. A complete-game shutout for Johnny Podres, a game-saving late-inning catch by Sandy Amoros, and the Yankees were finally vanquished by Brooklyn. As John Leonard wrote: "Montenegro had invaded the Soviet Union, burned down Moscow, and fried the Faberge eggs."
I think the Cubs last week might have fried some of the dinosaur eggs at the Field Museum.