Baseball’s postseason is truly unbelievable. For 162 games spanned over six months, we witness a marathon of pitching and hitting that sometimes puts us in a daze that makes us forget what exactly we are doing with ourselves. Then, with the flip of a calendar, the intensity of the game increases by about 10,000%, and the historical moments and great performances seem to never stop.
Each season, we see something different. Since the turn of the century alone, we’ve seen the San Francisco Giants win three World Series titles in just one decade without making back-to-back postseason appearances. We’ve seen starting pitchers and bullpens put teams on their backs and basically win a title without much help. Then there’s this season, when we had a NLCS mathcup that only seemed realistic as the punch line of a bad joke between the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs. For a sport that is called “boring” by many, the MLB’s postseason sure generates a lot of crazy things.
Seeing as baseball’s playoffs have produced so many memorable moments, we decided to rank the best of them, focusing solely on the League Championship Series for the purposes of the historical relevance of those series. In order from five to one, let’s have at it:
5. Fan interference, 2003, Cubs vs. Marlins
In the long World Series drought for the Chicago Cubs, no single play may weigh on their fans’ minds (at least in this generation) than what happened in 2003. Funny enough, this one wasn’t even by a player.
Steve Bartman was just a casual fan trying to root his Cubs on to victory in game six of the 2003 NLCS. Instead, he became famous for ruining Chicago’s championship hopes (yes, some say he is simply part of the curse). It was the eighth inning, and the Cubs were leading the Florida Marlins. Then Bartman interfered with a foul ball that was clearly playable by outfielder Moises Alou. That out would have given the Cubs their second out of the eighth and put them that much closer to winning the pennant. Instead, the Marlins scored eight times in the inning after that play and went on to beat Chicago in that game and in game seven. The Cubs still haven’t recovered, losing this year’s NLCS in less dramatic fashion.
4. Chris Chambliss, 1976, Yankees vs. Royals
What Chris Chambliss did in the 1976 ALCS was simply amazing. With one swing of the bat, he put the New York Yankees back in the World Series after a long drought (by their standards) by defeating the Kansas City Royals. After George Brett tied the game in the eighth inning of game five, Chambliss stepped up to the plate in the ninth and won the game on the first pitch he saw against Mark Littell. All that was great, but what made this play truly memorable is what the fans did.
Without even giving Chambliss a chance to round the bases, fans went crazy to say the least. They rushed the field like we have probably never seen in the game of baseball. Chambliss just kept running through them though, even as he was getting mobbed on his way to home plate. He never even got the chance to actually touch home, as fans took the plate in the midst of their frenzy. It was easily one of the most unbelievable sights in MLB history and is something we almost certainly will never see again.
3. The 16-inning game, 1986, Mets vs. Astros
Who doesn’t love extra-inning baseball? Well, the New York Mets and Houston Astros certainly played like they never wanted to stop in game six of the 1986 NLCS, going 16 innings before a winner was finally determined. This was more than a simple extra-inning game, however.
In what experts and fans alike call one of the greatest games ever played, this one was a back-and-forth affair. The Astros led 3-0 entering the ninth inning before the Mets found a way to tie it. Then New York scored in the 14th before the Astros tied it once again. Again, in the 16th, the Mets scored, taking a three-run lead to the bottom half of the frame. Houston wasn’t done though, putting two runners on with two outs. Jesse Orosco, the great Mets’ reliever, finally came through though, striking out Kevin Bass to end the game and to send the Mets to the World Series (where they won only their second title in team history).
2. Francisco Cabrera, 1992, Braves vs. Pirates
This was maybe the most clutch hit in the history of baseball when you consider the circumstances. Francisco Cabrera came into the postseason with just 10 at-bats in the 1992 campaign for the Atlanta Braves. He probably wasn’t even on the scouting report for the Pittsburgh Pirates coming into the NLCS that season. After what he did in game seven, Pirates fans are probably sickened by the sound of his name.
Cabrera stepped up to the plate in the ninth with the bases loaded and two outs in a pinch-hit situation. Despite so few at-bats, he looked extremely comfortable in lining a two run single that gave the Braves a 3-2 lead that propelled them to the World Series. The hit also sent the Pirates into decades of despair from which they have only recently recovered.
1. Johnny Damon, 2004, Red Sox vs. Yankees
Johnny Damon was having a terrible series against the New York Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. His numbers were awful entering game seven, after his Boston Red Sox had won three in row after falling behind in the series 0-3. One more win and Boston would complete the most improbable comeback in the history of the game. Damon was up to the task.
In a great bounce-back performance, Damon hit a grand slam in the second inning to propel the Red Sox to a 6-0 lead. If that wasn’t enough, the veteran knocked a 2-run homer later in the game to bring his RBI total to six on the evening. Boston won and went on to win the World Series for the first time in 86 years. Seeing the historical relevance of Damon’s game-seven performance, you have to note it as one of the most memorable moments in LCS history.
All game info courtesy of Baseball Reference.