I make the caveat in the headline because you may be of a certain age and you may have, say, been at the Bill Mazeroski game in 1960, at Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1956 or at Game 6 of the 1975 World Series when Carlton Fisk hit his famous homer. If that’s the case, hey, you may have a different idea of what the best World Series game you ever saw happened to be.
For those of us with no real living memory of baseball before the 1980s, however — the 40ish and under crowd — Game 7 2016 may very well be the best we’ve ever seen. I’ll give it a day or so to sink in before I etch this list in stone — and I’ll explain why I think it was the best when I get down to the number one slot — but in the meantime, here’s my take on the ten best World Series games I’ve ever seen:
10. Game 6, 1995
All of these are subjective to some extent, but I’m gonna sneak a super fan-centric objective won in here at number 10. Sorry, it was my team doin’ it here, so it was elevated for me. Tom Glavine’s eight innings of one-hit, shutout ball and David Justice’s homer, mere days after idiot Braves fans questioned his worth and nerve. A year prior we endured (hopefully) the only October of our lifetime without a World Series. This October I was treated to my team winning the only title it has so far won in my lifetime. You’d put your own team’s win in at number 10 if you were making this list, right?
9. Game 7, 1997
Given that you know last night’s game is coming later, you know that the Indians get three losses on this list. Sorry, guys. Not your fault. Jose Mesa’s blown save and Tony Fernandez’s key error sent it to extra innings and Edgar Renteria’s single with the bases loaded gave the Marlins an improbable World Series win.
8. Game 6, 2011
This might have been higher for a lot of people, but personal circumstances that I may or may not write about one day made it a surreal experience of sorts that made it something of an out-of-body experience that is best left for another time. And no, it did not feature alcohol or chemicals of any kind. It was just weird. Anyway, the game itself was not a crisp one — five errors, a boat load of walks, lots of lead changes and that infamous Nelson Cruz misplay of the David Freese ball — but it was definitely an exercise in high drama.
7. Game 7, 2014
This was the Madison Bumgarner game. It was the best one I saw in person, as I was covering it in Kansas City. It may not have had moment-by-moment competitive drama like some of these other entries, but it was the best individual performance I’ve ever seen in a World Series Game, with Bumgarner coming in for a five-inning save only a couple of days after dominating the Royals with a compete game shutout.
6. Game 1, 1988
The Kirk Gibson home run. It’s been 28 years and I still cannot believe what I just saw. It was so improbable a year for the Dodgers and then, against the heavily-favored A’s, the impossible happened. Feel free to use those phrases if you want. No need to credit me.
5. Game 6, 1993
Everyone remembers “Touch ’em all, Joe!” but what is forgotten is that the Phillies had every reason to pack it in, down 5-1 entering the seventh inning, when they rallied for five runs and the lead. That, and not just the fact of the homer, helped make Joe Carter’s game-winning blast all the more memorable. What is also forgotten is that these two teams played a whale of a Game 4 too, with the Jays beating the Phillies 15-14. A game in which the Phillies led 14-9 entering the top of the eighth. Mitch Williams blew that one too. May have been worse, frankly.
4. Game 6, 1986
The Buckner game. Or the Schiraldi game if you want to think about it more deeply. Either way, Mookie Wilson’s grounder, Bill Buckner’s blunder and Ray Knight scoring to tie the series at 3 made everyone who was watching it stand up and wonder what in the hell just happened. If this was a series-deciding game it may be a couple of slots higher, but as it was, it was probably the best non-definitive World Series game I’ve seen.
3. Game 7, 2001
Down go the three-time defending champion Yankees to an expansion team in its fourth season. And it was no cheapie, as Luis Gonzalez and the Diamondbacks had to get through Mariano Rivera at the height of his powers to do it. A great series overall, of course, with Derek Jeter’s “Mr. November” moment in Game 4 and the backdrop of September 11th looming over it all. Baseball, however, does not give a team extra points for allegedly momentum-shifting homers, even from its biggest stars, and it does not hew to dramatic scripts with a basis in the real world. It just does its own crazy thing.
2. Game 7, 1991
Jack Morris vs. John Smoltz, of course. For as hard as it was for me as a Braves fan to endure the defeat, there was no mistaking the greatness of this game. Even then, in a pre-Internet age when immediately hyping everything to the nth degree was not yet the order of the day, everyone watching this one knew it was instant history. For weird reasons I’ve explained before, I actually had to listen to this game on the radio rather than watch it, and in some way that made it even more timeless and significant than if I had watched it unfold. I watched a taped version of it later. Knowing what was coming only diminished is slightly.
1. Game 7, Last night
I never thought something would knock the Jack Morris game off the top spot for me, but this one did. Not because anyone did anything comparable to what Morris did in that game. Far from it. But it included a dozen different dramas and great moments, not just one great performance, and because it was simply the most entertaining World Series game I can remember.
It was a see-saw battle. Six runs scored off the two best pitchers of the postseason, yet that still not deciding the game somehow. Extra innings. An old man in his last game hitting a homer off of the man who had been the most dominant reliever going. A slightly younger man no one expected to provide heroics hitting a dramatic homer off of the hardest thrower in baseball. That hardest thrower not throwing as hard as he normally does because he was on fumes and then, when he was done, breaking down in tears. A young star making two bad errors and botching a squeeze play yet also hitting a big home run. A rain delay that allowed everyone to breathe followed by a lightning rally that took everyone’s breath away again. An attempted comeback by the home team that fell just short. A title to a team that hasn’t seen one in 108 years.
Was it the best-played game of all time? Oh, gosh no. It was imperfect in a hundred ways with many people making mistakes — managers included — but almost everyone given a chance to atone for those mistakes. Some did, some didn’t, but they had their chances and it made for a most human of World Series drama. It was a game not decided by super heroes, like a 1991 Jack Morris or a 2014 Madison Bumgarner, as much as it was decided by men, all of whom were no doubt exhausted by the time it was over, having given everything they had in the process. It was everything we want sports to be in terms of drama. Human drama. There were no goats, just some men who were outplayed or simply out of gas. There were many heroes.
People want different things from baseball. Game 7 of the 2016 World Series gave me everything I want and far, far more than I could’ve ever hoped for. It was the greatest World Series game I’ve ever seen.