Written By Austin Hall (@ADWAustin)
When normal people think of fall, they think of crisp, cold air, Pumpkin Spice Latte’s, Halloween, Thanksgiving and football. When I think of fall, I think of one thing: postseason baseball. As we head into 2020, here are the top 20 postseason moments of the past 20 years.
20. Pedro Throws “The Gerbil”
New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox, Game 3, 2003 ALCS
In just the second postseason match-up of baseball’s biggest rivalry, it’s no surprise that they would come to blows early in the series. Sox ace Pedro Martinez beaned Karim Garcia in the back, leading to Garcia’s hard slide at second. A confrontation ensued with the Yankees’ dugout and Martinez, who pointed at them and either threatened to go head-hunting or told them to “use your head”. In any case, Yankees’ Roger Clemens threw a high fastball that got Sox left fielder Manny Ramirez hot and bothered, which led to 72-year-old bench coach Don Zimmer (nicknamed “the gerbil” by former Red Sox pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee) wildly run at Martinez, who grabbed his head and tossed him aside.
19. The Rays?!
Tampa Bay Rays, 2008 Postseason
Originally called the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, they were one of two new teams heading into the 1998 season (the Arizona Diamondbacks were the other one). Thanks to Manager Joe Maddon and a young, talented core of Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, and David Price, coupled with journeyman-turned star Carlos Pena, they made waves in an incredible 2008 that led to their first, and only, World Series berth. It also came with new branding by dropping the “Devil” from their nickname and going with a more polished navy blue and white color scheme. Though they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies, they staked their claim as a team to beat for the next few years.
18. The New Yankee Stadium
New York Yankees, 2009 World Series Champions
In the first season after playing in the original Yankee Stadium, also known as “House That Ruth Built”, the Yankees won their record-leading 27th championship, the first after their incredible three-peat run from 1998–2000.
17. The Curveball
St. Louis Cardinals at New York Mets, Game 7, 2006 NLCS
This was their year. The snake-bitten Mets, in the midst of a 20-year drought, had assembled a powerhouse team that included Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. Unfortunately, the Cardinals, the most unimpressive champ of the past 20 years, had Adam Wainwright, and his curveball, that left Beltran stunned. This led to a very boring World Series that no one wanted to watch, so really, everyone lost that day.
16. Roger Throws A Bat
New York Mets at New York Yankees, Game 2, 2000 World Series
The Subway Series was a battle for the crown of the best baseball team in not just New York, but the world. What made it extra bitter was the fact that Clemens had plunked Mike Piazza, the Mets catcher and superstar, earlier in the season. In a fit of what can only be described as unbridled rage, in the first inning, Piazza’s shard from his broken bat came right back to Clemens, who promptly threw it at Piazza. The benches cleared, Clemens regained his cool, and that was that.
15. Halladay No-Hitter
Cincinnati Red at Philadelphia Phillies, Game 1, NLDS, 2010
It’s hard to throw a no-hitter, a stat that means a pitcher or pitchers never allowed a hit en route to a victory. It’s much harder to throw one in the playoffs, but that’s exactly what Roy Halladay did. The Hall of Famer pitched an absolute gem in his first playoff start after years toiling away in Toronto as one of their few bright spots.
14. Black Sox No More
Chicago White Sox at Houston Astros, Game 4, 2005 World Series
For the second year in a row, a curse would be broken, though this time, it was more of a scandal. Dubbed the Black Sox Scandal, eight White Sox players were accused of intentionally throwing the 1919 World Series for money, and they hadn’t won since. (They had last won in 1917). In 2005, they beat the defending champion Red Sox, who had broken their curse a year before, and swept the Astros to make the scandal an afterthought.
13. 7th Inning
Texas Rangers at Toronto Blue Jays, Game 5, 2015 ALDS
It was all about the 7th inning, one that started with a fluky run in which Blue Jays’ catcher Russell Martin deflected a ball off of a bat that led to a run. In the bottom of the inning, three straight errors eventually led to the bat flip heard ‘round the world, or at least North America, when the Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista’s homer put the game out of reach as they advanced to the ALCS.
12. Freese’s Triple
Texas Rangers at St. Louis Cardinals, Game 6, 2011 World Series
The Rangers were a strike away from winning it all, and their closer, Neftali Perez, was on the mound. Unfortunately for them, homegrown kid David Freese was at the plate and delivered a bases-clearing triple that tied the game, then came back in extras and hit a walk-off home run. This, after the Rangers had actually gotten the lead back. By the way, the Rangers were a strike away TWICE from winning it all in that game. The Cards went on to win Game 7 and the championship.
11. Beltran Just Belts
Houston Astros, 2004 postseason
Carlos Beltran was highly touted all year as the missing piece to a championship for whoever could trade for him, considering the Kansas City Royals weren’t going to be able to re-sign him any time soon. The Astros became the lucky winners and nearly road his historically hot bat into the World Series. Beltran’s eight homers tied a postseason record that still stands today, but what makes it more impressive is the fact that he didn’t even make it to the World Series to do it.
10. Ortiz Carries The Sox
Detroit Tigers at Boston Red Sox, Game 2, 2013 ALCS
The Tigers were looking for all the world like eventual champs until David Ortiz, the superhero designated hitter, stepped up and with one swing, tied the game at 5, catapulting the Sox into an epic World Series in which he hit .688 and won the MVP.
San Francisco Giants, 2010, 2012, 2014 World Champions
In a sport that hasn’t had a repeat champion since 2000, and certainly won’t this year (sigh), winning three titles in five years is as big a dynasty as we’re gonna get. The Giants, in a span of five years, won every other year, three in all.
8. Hosmer Comes Home
Kansas City Royals at New York Mets, Game 5, 2015 World Series
On a pretty routine play, Royals’ first baseman Eric Hosmer scampered home, and thanks to an errant throw by Lucas Duda, tied the game. They later opened up the floodgates in the extras and won their first title since 1985.
7. The Triple
San Francisco Giants at Kansas City Royals, Game 7, 2014 World Series
We’ll always wonder if the Royals’ Alex Gordon could have scored on an inside-the-park home run. It was the 9th inning, and they were an out away from losing the final game of the season, but hopefully that doesn’t overshadow Giants’ ace Madison Bumgarner’s epic performance. In any case, it was officially scored a single, E8, but we all know it was really a triple.
6. D-Backs, Game 7
New York Yankees at Arizona Diamondbacks, Game 7, 2001 World Series
The nation was stunned by the terrorist attacks on 9/11, and as a result, all American sports leagues took multiple days off to help, reflect, and regroup. When play finally resumed, everyone was a New York fan, whether it was watching Piazza go deep in the first home game in New York after the attacks, or when the Yankees advanced to the World Series. Unfortunately for them, the upstart Diamondbacks (D-backs for short), had amassed a two-headed monster of pitching aces Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. Four years after becoming a team, the D-backs wiped out the Yankees chance at a four-peat.
5. Five Outs Away
Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees, Game 7, 2003 ALCS
2003 was a good year for curses. After all of the prior shenanigans mentioned above, Game 7 gave the Red Sox, who hadn’t won a championship since 1918 thanks to the Curse of the Bambino, a chance to vanquish the hated Yankees and go to the World Series for the first time since 1986. Martinez was once again dealing on the mound, and with a 5–2 lead in the bottom of the 8th with one out, it certainly looked like it would happen. After giving up a hit to Derek Jeter, followed by an RBI single by Bernie Williams, it looked like it was time to call for relief and wrap this thing up. Grady Little, the Red Sox manager, decided to make the asinine decision to ask Martinez if he was okay to keep pitching, then left him out there when Martinez replied in the affirmative. The rest is gut-wrenching history, as the Yankees tied the game before Little finally yanked him. The Yankees won in extra innings, and Little lost his job soon after.
4. Cubs Downfall
Florida Marlins at Chicago Cubs, Game 6, 2003 NLCS
The Curse of the Billy Goat also had its day in the sun this year, and under eerily similar circumstances. The Cubs had their ace, Mark Prior, on the mound with five outs to go in their quest to reach the World Series, when a fan reached out and interfered with a fly ball that may or may not have been caught. Though the fan did what any true fan would have done, they became the scapegoat for a total Cubs collapse right after that moment. The Marlins took advantage and made it an 8–3 ballgame by the time the half-inning was over, and won Game 7 to advance.
3. The Steal
New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox, Game 4, 2004 ALCS
Without this steal, “the bloody sock” doesn’t happen. Ortiz’s heroics don’t happen. Game 7 doesn’t happen. “Curse Reversed” doesn’t happen. The Sox were trailing in the bottom of the ninth when a lead-off walk gave way to pinch-runner Dave Roberts, a midseason acquisition that saw fan favorite Nomar Garciaparra find his way to the Cubs as part of a four-team deal. With everyone knowing he was going to try and steal, he stole second, then scored on a base hit up the middle that tied the game.
Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston Astros, Game 5, 2017 World Series
The only reason this isn’t number one is because it wasn’t a deciding game, but it had everything else, from home runs aplenty, tons of lead changes, and a walk-off RBI. The game featured seven home runs in a five-hour affair that left everyone watching, including play-by-play announcer Joe Buck, in utter awe of the spectacle.
1. Billy Goat Goes Home
Chicago Cubs at Cleveland Indians, Game 7, 2016 World Series
No game in the history of baseball will ever have higher stakes than this one. Two teams dealing with a title-drought in the last game of the season to determine which one would suffer no longer. We all missed out on a similar opportunity back in 2003, but as you know, it was not meant to be. This game had everything: comebacks, extra innings, and even a rain delay, all culminating in the ending of the longest span between titles in baseball: 108 years. The Cubs, the Lovable Losers, just became lovable as Cleveland continued to suffer.