20 Greatest Baseball Games

Jack Morris, 1991

Don’t know if anyone but me has been following MLB Network’s 20 Greatest Games series. It’s a series that let fans vote and experts decide on the 20 best baseball games of the last 50 years. It begins with Richardson’s catch to end the 1962 World series and goes through last year’s no-hitter in the playoffs. They had about 50 games you could vote on and then they’ve been doing a two-hour special with Bob Costas and a couple of the players left from the game. They show the game (or at least most of it) and talk to the players about what happened, how it felt, what they thought, what perspective they’ve gained over the years, etc. All in all, it’s a pretty good series. It shows at 7pm Eastern time on Sundays and if you’ve missed the ones they’ve already done, I’m sure they’ll reshow it. The list is pretty standard, the focus is on playoff and World series games, and there aren’t a lot of surprises in it. And because it’s limited to 50 years, the film is pretty good (and Don Larsen is left out).

Last night they walked us through the second greatest game of the last 50 years. It was game 7 of the 1991 World Series. For you who don’t know, that’s the 1-0 10 inning Twins over Braves thriller that capped the greatest World Series I ever saw. They had Jack Morris and John Smoltz, the two starting pitchers, as guests and both were a lot better than I thought they’d be, especially Smoltz. Next week they’re doing the greatest game of the last 50 years. The hints make it obvious that it’s game 6 of the 1975 World Series, Fisk’s “body english” home run.

I think they have the two games reversed. I saw both and 1991 was better in a couple of ways. First the score in 1975 was 7-6 with 24 total hits,  nine walks, and an error. That’s too much offense for a truly great game. Frankly, if offense makes great games, people should love game four of the 1993 Series. The final was 15-14 with 32 hits and 14 walks; runners all over the place. I don’t know anyone who thinks it was a particularly great game (unless, I guess, you’re a Toronto fan–they won). I also remember the 1975 game was not particularly crisply played and ultimately became famous because one cameraman kept his camera focused on Fisk so fans could see him “push” the ball fair. If I had to pick a game I saw involving Boston that I thought was the greatest of the last 50 years, I’d go with either the Buckner wickets game (which is a top five for this show) or the “Bucky bleepin’ Dent” game which also made the list.

But compare the 1991 game. Both teams went ten innings, scored one run, there were 17 hits, no errors, 7 walks (three intentional). There were base running blunders (Hello, Lonnie Smith), a couple of great double plays (Lemke unassisted and a 3-2-3 that was utterly special). There was great pitching, good strategy, some wonderful catches (including a superb one-handed job by Terry Pendleton). All in all I simply consider it a superior game to the one in 1975. And not least because Jack Buck’s “The Twins are going to win the World Series” is one of the great calls of all time. I’ll also never forget Twins manager Tom Kelly hugging Braves outfielder Ron Gant. Pure class and great acknowledgement of how great a game and Series Kelly had just witnessed.

Anyway, feel free to disagree. But don’t fail to watch next week. Hopefully you can find the rest of the set sometime soon.


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11 Responses to “20 Greatest Baseball Games”

  1. Bill Miller Says:

    I have to confess that I didn’t get to witness the Fisk home run World Series game in ’75. I probably wasn’t allowed to stay up that late, being in 5th grade. But I certainly remember the Morris-Smoltz WS game in ’91. It was truly a great game.
    For my money, though, and I don’t know if this game was included on the list, Game 6 of the 1986 Mets-Astros N.L. Championship Series was the one game in my life where I literally had goosebumps from the drama and excitement. The game just kept going back and forth with one surprise after another. It was something else to watch.
    I’m getting full, expanded cable in three weeks; if they re-run the episodes, I’ll be sure to watch.

  2. verdun2 Says:

    The ’86 Mets-astros game made the list (bottom half). Remember the series as a special series, not just the single game.
    thanks for the comment.

  3. Tim Erwin Says:

    Nice article. I too am enjoying the 20 greatest games. Being a die hard Braves fan, I got to relive Sid chugging around 3rd to beat Bonds’ throw to the plate, which was a “high”, then to go through the greatest game, and I’d say greatest World Series ever, as the Twins and Braves played an epic battle of worsts to firsts. I didn’t see the Fisk game live, but it MUST have been something to trump that Braves/Twins thriller.

  4. keithosaunders Says:

    I was 15 when the Fisk game was played, but for some reason I didn’t become a rabid baseball fan for another two years, so I missed the game. I remember the excitement around it, however, and I did get to see the Big Red machine play several times at Dodger Stadium.

    The Twins/Braves game is one of the greatest games I’ve ever watched. It was a classic pitching duel in a deciding game. For me, game 6 of 1986 Series is the best game I’ve ever seen, but this is coming from a Mets fan. It was certainly the most improbable Series game I’ve ever seen. Gun to my head, Twins/Braves was better.

    Another thing that made the Braves/Twins game great is that baseball had been in a post-season slump since 1987, the last year the Twins were in it. The Series had been mostly one-sided affairs, so the fact that there was a game 7, let alone a great one, made it that much more satisfying.

    One more thing about the Redsox game. If the Sox had won game 7, I think that would have elevated game 6, but since they could not overcome the Red’s greatness, I have to give the edge to that Twins game. Great post!

    • verdun2 Says:

      I have enough faith in my readers to believe they understgood that 1975 was game 6, not game 7, so I didn’t bother to mention how much that changes the dynamic for me.

      You do make a good point that if the BoSox had won game 7, then game 6 would have been greatly elevated; much as the Mets winning game 7 in 1986 makes game 6 of ’86 greater.

      BTW my favorite World Series (although certainly not the best) is 1963 and I think the best non-World Series playoff set is 1980 when Houston lost to Philly (yep, better than 2004 and that’s a stretch to most of you).

  5. BB Fan Says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. The “Fisk” game doesn’t even belong in the top 10. As you said it wasn’t special except for the camera isolation on Fisk. It didn’t end the Series just prolonged it with the Reds winning game 7.
    The Minnesota-Atlanta game 7 is hands down the greatest game of the last 50 years.

  6. Lex Says:

    Game 6 of the 1987 World Series was pretty special too. Braves leading 3 games to 2. Puckett jumps and saves an extra base hit. We go to the bottom of the ninth. Pucket hits a homerun and Jack Buck says, “We’ll see you tomorrow night!” I was actuallythinking that mightbe number one, but I can’t beleive it is not in the top 20!

    • verdun2 Says:

      Agree. I thought game 6 1991 was a better game than game 6 1975. Was stunned it didn’t make the list high up the chart. Welcome aboard.

  7. gtc Says:

    I saw both games as well and both were excellent games. And I can also speak for the mood of baseball and what was going on at the time when the 1975 World Series was played. So part of my answer to this takes that into account.
    First, I don’t agree with the description of the 1975 game. To this day, this is still probably the best game I have ever seen. This game had drama, so to fill others in on some of the things that went on in the game, let me go through this.
    First, to understand the game, one needs to understand what led to that game. This had already been exciting as a World Series. Cincinnati had the Big Red Machine, and the Red Sox had Yaz and Lynn (Rookie of the Year and MVP), Fisk, and Luis Tiant, who was one of the most charismatic pitchers of the time. There were many moments that had happened, from Tiant’s running antics in game 1 to Armbrister’s bunt in game 5, each game was exciting to watch.
    So in game 6, which had been delayed by rain, held some anticipation.
    The drama. Tiant was pitching, and he had pitched a 153 pitch complete game to win game 4 for the Red Sox. Imagine anyone even coming close to that today. So one wondered if he would have anything left in the tank. The Red Sox had taken a 3-0 lead into the middle innings, and then Fred Lynn crashes into the wall trying to catch a ball. He stood motionless for a long time and it was like the air was taken out of the stadium. Cincinnati then took a 6-3 lead going into the 8th. It was like a morgue in Fenway. Then, in the bottom of the 8th, Bernie Carbo comes up with two on and two out. He had been rookie of the year for Cincinnati earlier in his career. With 2 strikes on him, he takes an awful swing and barely fouls off a ball. The next pitch he launches into the center field bleachers and ties the game. The whole place came back to life. It was like someone turned on the switch.
    In the bottom of the 9th, The Red Sox load the bases with no one out. Then, Lynn hits a fly ball to shallow Left. Don Zimmer, the 3rd base coach, says No, No, No, to Denny Doyle at third, but Doyle thought he heard Go, Go, Go and he is out at home. The Sox fail to score.
    In I think the top of the 11th, I believe that Joe Morgan hits a ball to deep right with Rose on first. It looks like it is going to be a home run, and then Dwight Evans makes an incredible leaping catch in one of the most difficult if not the most difficult right fields in baseball. They get a double play out of it to end the inning.
    Then in the 12th, Fisk hits his home run. Icing on the cake. It was an incredible game of ups and downs that had more drama than some entire World Series have.
    An element not mentioned and maybe some of you are not aware, baseball had lost its popularity during that time. This World Series and game 6 brought fans back to baseball. Game 7 had the highest rating for a World Series game either in a long time or ever, I don’t recall for sure. It resurrected the gamel.
    I also remember watching the 1-0 game. That was an incredible game and I think that Jack Morris pitched his heart out. It was his last great harrah and one of those moments in time that is what makes baseball great. His character and refusal to lose was stuff of legend. It was great.
    I remember after seeing that game comparing it against the 1975 game. As much as I loved watching it, I don’t believe it reached the height of the other game. One thing to mention, while I liked the announcers in both games, Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek are hard to beat as analysts, and Dick Stockton was the announcer, who I have always liked a lot. Jack Buck is a great announcer, one of the best ever, but Tim McCarver is one of the most overrated, annoying color analysts in any sport I have ever heard. His voice is like nails on a chalkboard.
    To me, the combination of drama and what the game meant to baseball, I think the right one was number one. But both are ones to remember.

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