October is no doubt one of best months of the year for sports fans. Football is in full swing, hockey and basketball have just started back up, and most importantly for yours truly, the MLB World Series is played. It was great in ’15/’16 when the city of Toronto would have a Blue Jays playoff game as well as the Raptors, Leafs, and Toronto FC all playing on the same night. It’s the perfect storm.
We didn’t get that this October, but so far this World Series between the Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves has had its fair share of action. And pitching changes. There’s no guarantee that this fall classic will go down as one of the greats, but it’s a good opportunity to countdown the biggest moments in World Series history. Nothing beats coming up clutch under the brightest of lights. As a sports fan, it’s so great to watch a player deliver in a huge moment. And there’s no bigger moment in baseball than the World Series. It’s where legends are born.
Just a little disclaimer before you continue reading, this list only includes recent Fall Classic moments. Every baseball fan can agree that Bill Mazeroski walking off Game 7 of the 1960 World Series is one of the top moments in baseball history, but that was sixty years ago. Plus, I wanted to find footage with quality better than a Blackberry. I’ve limited this countdown to the last 30 years, which is a timeframe most of you shouldn’t complain about given the moment that holds the top spot.
#5: Edgar Renteria wins the marlins their 1st championship in ’97
Does it get any better than an extra-inning, two-out, bases loaded walkoff hit in Game 7 to clinch your franchise’s first-ever World Series championship? Edgar Renteria must’ve felt on the top of the world after his clutch single up the middle won it all for the Florida Marlins in ’97. It had been nearly a half-century since Cleveland’s last WS victory, but instead the Marlins claimed their first in the franchise’s fifth year of existence in front of a packed home crowd. North of 67,000 fans got to see this moment. What a rush that would’ve been.
I knew who Renteria was as a ballplayer before looking this up, but I had no idea that he was responsible for such a big moment. Crazy enough, his World Series magic stayed with him 13 years later when he hit a go-ahead three-run bomb in the 7th inning of a series-clinching Game 5 in 2010 for the San Francisco Giants. Turns out Renteria’s one of the biggest postseason performers in baseball history.
#4: Gonzo takes down Mariana Rivera and the Yankees in ’01
If we were living in a movie, the New York Yankees would have won the 2001 World Series. The Bronx Bombers were one win away from their fourth consecutive ‘chip, bringing their city a trophy a month and a half after 9/11. Derek Jeter hit one of the biggest home runs in Yankee history to walkoff Game 5 in extras just minutes after the calendar flipped to November and berthed a new nickname. It would have been such a moving, “this is why we love sports” moment that I’m sure MLB would force feed us as often as possible.
But then Luis Gonzalez decided to become every Yankees, Lakers, and Cowboys fan’s biggest villain.
Not only did Gonzo bring home the first World Series title for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who like the Marlins did it only a handful of years after they came to life, but he did it by walking it off against Mariano Rivera. The Yankees’ closer is considered the GOAT, and he was lights out in ’01 when he had 50 regular season saves and garnered some MVP votes. But Gonzo got the best of him in this at-bat and the rest is history.
#3: Madison Bumgarner closes out game 7 with a five-inning shutout in ’14
Watching the Giants in the 2014 postseason was a thing of beauty. This team was a wagon on their way to their third even-year title in a row. Brandon Belt won them a game on a yabo in the 18th inning and had one of the cleanest bat drops you’ll ever see. Travis Ishikawa sent them to the World Series with a walk-off homer in the NLCS. And then Madison Bumgarner went beast mode.
MadBum’s ’14 postseason numbers are straight out of a video game. He had a 1.03 ERA across six starts, two of which were complete game shuttys, and a save that saw him record the final out to win it all for San Fran. Bumgarner got called upon to protect a 3-2 lead in the fifth, and allowed just two batters to reach across five innings on TWO DAYS’ REST. Insane. Aside from Jack Morris there has never been a bigger World Series performance from a pitcher. And there was this incredible double play that all started with a Joe Panik glove flip.
#2: David Freese becomes the hometown hero in ’11
Ten years ago today: the greatest game in MLB history.
— Gateway Grinders (@gatewaygrinders) October 27, 2021
I bet David Freese has never had to buy a beer in the city of St. Louis since this instant classic. The Cardinals had their backs to the wall heading home trailing 3-2 to the Texas Rangers, and were down to their last strike with Freese up to the plate in Game 6. Texas was one out away from winning their first championship, but then Freese did a proverbial Dikembe Mutombo finger wag hitting a game-tying double to keep his team alive. After Lance Berkman brought the Cards back from a two-run deficit in the 10th, Freese stepped up to the plate again an inning later and delivered a walkoff blast for the ages. I’m nowhere near a Cards fan, but I couldn’t help but go bonkers when Freese hit that homer.
The Cardinals won the World Series the next night, fueled by a two-run double from Freese in the first inning that broke the postseason RBI record. Freese had an otherwise pedestrian career, but he will always be etched in baseball lore and a legend in his hometown for his role in winning them this title. This is also the series my despise for the Rangers first ignited.
#1: Joe Carter Touches ’em all at the SkyDome and walks it off in ’93
You had to know this was gonna be #1 on this countdown. If there was any game in history I could go back in time to watch in person, this might just be my pick. I wasn’t even a thought when this game happened, but I’m sure for most of you this moment holds a special place in your fan identity.
I’ve watched the full game several times, and it’s awesome. I get goosebumps watching Carter as he knows he just won the game and brought the Blue Jays their second World Series trophy in as many years. This Jays team was so loaded, and their uniforms were elite.
Here’s a really cool 13 minute breakdown of the biggest home run in Canadian history. Not only is that Youtube video great but so are the photos from that night. I can’t wait until the Jays are back in the World Series.