Sunday, May 29, 2011

Baseball's Greatest Games, Unsung, Unknown Heroes

It's been a while since I've posted on my blog, but I wanted to comment about a great series I just finished watching on MLB Network, the 20 Greatest Games. I had some issues with the order of these choices, but overall they did an amazing job picking the best games from the last 50 years in baseball. These games brought back memories good and bad for me. These were games that remind you of where you were while you were watching that game. As we all know the Red Sox have always had a flair for the dramatic, good and bad. Because of that, the Red Sox were featured in 5 of the top 11 games on this list, including the #1 game as voted by MLB Network writers. Yup Game 6 of the 1975 World Series Reds vs. Red Sox was number 1. Game 6 of the 1986 World Series Mets vs. Red Sox was #3, Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS Red Sox vs. Angels was #8, Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS vs. the Yankees was #6, and the 1978 AL East Playoff vs. Yankees was #11. Not bad for one franchise. Of course none of these years featured a championship for the Sox which shows how much agony we endured until 2004.

 The thing I liked hearing about the most was the stories from players who played in these games. The best story was from the Pirates' Andy Van Slyke who mentioned that with pennant on the line and the winning run on second base in Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Series, he told Barry Bonds to move in and to the left so he would have a chance to throw out the slow footed Sid Bream and prevent the winning run from scoring on a base hit. Bonds responded by giving Van Slyke the digit, class guy that he is. Low and behold, the ball was hit right where Van Slyke said it would be, Bonds was late getting to it, and his throw was late allowing Bream to score and send the Braves to the World Series. On a side note, that was the Pirates last winning season 1992. They had lost three straight times in NLCS, and Bonds took his size 7.5 in head to San Francisco in 1993 where his cranium reached triple that size. Ten years later in the 2002 World Series, Bonds bobbled the ball in left field on a Troy Glaus double, and allowed the winning run to score in Game 6. The Angels came back from 5 runs down in the 7th inning of Game 6, staved off elimination, and won the next night to secure their first World Championship. BTW, isn't it interesting that the Giants won their first championship in SF last year, 3 years AFTER Bonds left.

The best thing other than reliving what a loser Bonds is, is seeing what a loser Clemens is. He started of 3 of the top 10 games on the list, lost 2 of them, and in the other he lasted 3 whole innings. Alright enough about the guys with small testes.

The best thing to see is the players who aren't household names pull off the biggest, pressure packed plays. Guys like Bernie Carbo, Francisco Cabrera, Gene Larkin, Tony Womack made the most of their oportunities for fame. None had overly distinguished careers, but they were standing at the plate with their teams' seasons on the line and delivered HUGE!!!!! Incredible stories. That's the beauty of baseball. No matter what the situation is, whoever is on the lineup card to come up next has to hit. Whoever is on the mound, or remaining in your bullpen has to pitch. No exceptions. Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen can't insist on taking the winning shot in baseball. That's why you see guys like Todd Pratt of the Mets hitting a home run to end a playoff series.  That's why you see Bernie Carbo hitting a three run homer in the eighth inning of an elimination game for the Red Sox to tie the score at 6 and send it to extra innings and set the stage for the Fisk foul pole home run. Tony Womack won 2001 ALDS for the Diamondbacks vs. St. Louis on a Game 5 walkoff RBI single. Then in the World Series, he hits a game tying 9th inning RBI double off of Mariano Rivera who had pitched 30 consecutive scoreless postseason innings. This set up Luis Gonzalez' memorable series winning hit. I have to say this is one of my favorite games. The crowd was crazy loud in Arizona that night. Gene Larkin came up in 0-0 game in the 10th inning of Game 7 of the greatest World Series of all time in 1991. A seriesd winning single for the man who had 267 RBI over 7 seasons in the majors to go with 32 career home runs. Finally Francisco Cabrera, who could end the 1992 NLCS for the Braves with an out and a loss, or win the pennant with a well placed single. He gets the game winning single thanks to some terrible calls on balls and strikes from the umpire, an idiotic position in the outfield by Barry Bonds, and some gumption to make the most of his 15 minutes of fame that will be remembered forever in baseball lore. His numbers? 17 HR 62 RBI over a 5 year career. Incredible. Highly recommend this series.

photo courtesy of  Gene Larkin.jpg photo courtesy of