Did you ever notice how one player can completely take over a game? Bet you’ve seen it a thousand times with pitchers. Occasionally a hitter can do it too, but it’s not as frequent as with pitchers. The World Series has produced a handful of games in which one player simply steps up and decides “this game is mine and we will not lose.” Take a look at both Sandy Koufax in game seven of 1965 or Bob Gibson in game seven of 1967. Those are two pitchers that did just that, take over a game and refuse to lose. I’ve got a game six position player who did the same thing.
I’ve said before that 1991 is simply the greatest World Series I ever saw. Game six is one reason. It was played 26 October in the Metrodome. The visitors sent Steve Avery in to pitch what could be a close out victory for Atlanta. The home team Twins sent Scott Erickson to the mound. His job was to keep Minnesota alive for Jack Morris and game seven. Fortunately for him and the team, Kirby Puckett was playing center field.
Erickson got through the first inning, then Puckett took over. With one on and one out he laced a triple that scored the first run (keep track with me–1 RBI). Then he scored the second run (1 run) on a Shane Mack hit. So far, Puckett 2, Braves zip.
In the third inning with a runner on first, Ron Gant hit a long fly to deep left center field. Puckett was playing Gant in right center. Puckett dashed across center, raced to the fence, leaped and caught the ball against the fence for out two. The Braves didn’t score. You’ve all seen Willie Mays’ 1954 catch. Some of you remember Ron Swoboda’s 1969 World Series catch. I’ll bet you can name a handful of Ken Griffey or Jim Edmonds or Andruw Jones or Torii Hunter catches in the regular season. Puckett’s catch ranks right at the top with any of them. Remember he’s in right center, he’s got short legs and a jelly donut filled backside (I’m trying not to say he was pudgy), and he caught the damned thing. It was arguably the greatest catch I ever saw and if not, it’s certainly in the top five.
So now we’re Puckett 2, plus a great catch, Braves still zip. Of course that wasn’t going to last. The Braves tied it up in the top of the fifth. Want to guess who was going to bat in the bottom of the fifth? Dan Gladden singled, stole second, and went to third on a bunt. Up came (you guessed it) Kirby Puckett who launched a long sacrifice fly that put the Twins back on top (1 run, 2 RBIs). So now we’re Puckett 3-Braves 2.
The Braves tied the game in the top of the sixth and Puckett wasn’t due up in the bottom, so the game remained tied through the ninth (although Puckett singled in the eighth). Neither team scored in the tenth. In the eleventh the Braves got a man on, had him thrown out stealing, and then went in order, bringing up the bottom of the eleventh and bringing up Puckett one last time. He immediately hit the ball over the fence and ended the game (Puckett 4, Braves-3). The next night the Twins won it all in ten innings.
Here are a couple of lines from the game: Braves-3 runs, 3 RBIs, and 9 hits. Puckett–2 runs, 3 RBI’s, three hits (in four at bats), and a superior catch. Puckett had a hand in all four Twins runs, either scoring or knocking in each. It was a dominating performance. I can’t recall seeing a better one among position players in a World Series game (feel free to nominate your own candidate if you have one). Unlike SportsPhD, I’m not a particular Twins fan, but what a treat to see such a great performance.