In Kansas City, Game 7 of the World Series conjures up memories of Bret Saberhagen’s brilliance, a St. Louis meltdown and the only Royals championship in 1985.
The flashbacks in San Francisco aren’t nearly as sweet. There was Willie McCovey’s game-ending lineout that was oh-so-close to being a Series-winning hit in 1962 and another loss 40 years later by Barry Bonds & Co. to the Angels.
Be it Babe Ruth, Jack Morris or Mariano Rivera, the moments created in an all-or-nothing game resonate through baseball history.
Who knows what’s on deck Wednesday night when Giants visit the Royals in the 37th winner-take-all game in Series history?
“Game 7s don’t come around very often. We’re all hoping for them,” Morris said at Kauffman Stadium, two hours before the first pitch.
Morris produced a performance for the ages in 1991 when he threw a 10-inning shutout to lead Minnesota over Atlanta 1-0 at the Metrodome.
“I knew what it meant, and I was ready to pitch,” he said. “I wasn’t nervous. I was confident.”
“That’s how it should be. Every fielder should want the ball. Every hitter should want to be at the plate,” he said.
No surprise, Giants outfielder Hunter Pence sounded prepared.
“A Game 7 in the World Series is a gift for everyone,” Pence said. “It’s pretty special. It’s like incredibly entertaining for fans, incredibly entertaining for the world and the game of baseball.”
It can also be heartbreaking. Just ask McCovey.
He came up with runners on second and third and two outs in the bottom of the ninth with the Giants trailing Ralph Terry and the Yankees 1-0 in 1962. McCovey hit a screaming liner that went right to second baseman Bobby Richardson to give the Yankees the Series. Had the ball been a foot or two in either direction, San Francisco would have won it all.
“I think about the line drive, yes,” McCovey said during the 2012 Series. “Can’t get away from it.”
That dramatic ending came two years after Terry lost Game 7 on a game-ending homer by Pittsburgh’s Bill Mazeroski.
“I was looking at this as a chance to redeem myself,” Terry said. “Otherwise, I might have been remembered as one of the great losers of all time.”
San Francisco’s other Game 7 of the World Series was much more anticlimactic. The Giants had a 5-0 lead in Game 6 that year against the Angels, just eight outs away from a title. But Anaheim scored three in the seventh and three in the eighth to win it.
John Lackey then shut down Bonds and the Giants in a 4-1 victory in Game 7.
The Royals’ only Game 7 followed a similar pattern, but with a much happier result for them. Kansas City rallied to win Game 6 against St. Louis with two runs in the bottom of the ninth with help from a missed call at first base by umpire Don Denkinger.
The Cardinals never recovered and lost 11-0 in Game 7 behind a five-hitter by Saberhagen.
A look at some of the other memorable seventh games of the World Series:
The strangest ending might have been in 1926. Babe Ruth drew a two-out walk in the ninth off fellow future Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander with the Yankees trailing the Cardinals 3-2. With Bob Meusel at the plate, Ruth broke for second, but the great slugger was thrown out by Bob O’Farrell. It’s the only time the final out in a Series came on a caught stealing.
HE WHO HESITATES
The long World Series drought for the Red Sox would have been much shorter than 86 years if not for three Game 7 losses along the way. The first of those came in 1946 against the Cardinals when the game was tied at 3 in the bottom of the eighth. Enos Slaughter was on first with two outs when Harry Walker hit a line drive to center. Leon Culberson threw the ball to shortstop Johnny Pesky, who hesitated for a second as Slaughter dashed home with the deciding run.
The Tigers won a laugher in Game 6 to force a seventh game against St. Louis in 1968, but had to get through October ace Bob Gibson to win it all. Gold Glove center fielder Curt Flood slipped chasing a fly ball in the seventh and the two-out misplay broke a scoreless tie. A five-hitter by Mickey Lolich on two days’ rest did the rest in the Tigers’ 4-1 win.
A MORRIS MASTERPIECE
The 1991 Series was tense all the way through with three extra-inning games and five one-run contests between Atlanta and Minnesota. The Twins forced the seventh game on Kirby Puckett’s game-ending homer in the 11th inning of Game 6 and the tension didn’t let up one bit the next night. John Smoltz and Jack Morris were locked in a classic duel as the game was scoreless despite each team loading the bases with one out in the eighth. Smoltz left in the eighth but Morris kept going through the 10th and ended up the winner when Gene Larkin hit a bases-loaded single with one out in the bottom half.
Morris said he doesn’t watch video of that game.
“I don’t. I remember it. I’m constantly reminded of it,” Morris said.
Just like this year’s Series, a Game 6 rout by the home team forced a decisive seventh game and it turned into a classic as the Yankees tried to beat Arizona for a fourth straight title in 2001. Roger Clemens, Mariano Rivera, Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson all took the mound that night in the desert. Rivera had a 2-1 lead going into the ninth but got in trouble after his throwing error on a bunt attempt. Tony Womack tied the game with a double. That set the stage for Luis Gonzalez’s broken-bat RBI single over a drawn-in infield that ended the Yankees’ dynasty.