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Tuesday, November 12, 2002

A Brief History of Game Seven

Digging into baseball’s all-or-nothing games.

There?s something about a World Series that goes seven games; it?s simply more satisfying to see two teams duke it out to a winner-take-all finale. Baseball fans get the maximum bang for the buck, and so do all of those who take their cut along the way. Even though one team has to lose, it?s otherwise a win-win proposition.


As baseball coverage spiked last week in the final days of the World Series (the second in a row to go the full distance), we saw a good bit of annotation on home teams winning the final two games in a full-length Fall Classic. The big buzz was over the factoid that the home team has now won eight consecutive Game Sevens, which is one of those items that the general public eats up (and statheads spit out).


Since we?ve had a total of 34 seventh games in World Series history, we?re clearly in Small Sample Size land here; nonetheless, it?s still interesting to chart the entire history of Game Seven with respect to such matters. (After all, the mainstream media isn?t going to do it, and the Sample Size Police won?t touch it even if they?re provided with protective gear.)


It?s just one of those interesting diversions that we can enjoy while we wait for the long winter to pass and for baseball to begin again next spring. We won?t learn anything profound or revolutionary herein, but when we?re done we?ll at least know the entire landscape of Game Seven (what the run scoring levels are like, what the home field advantage is, how many teams have won the final two games at home or on the road, and a few other related facts).


So?what follows is a capsule look at each of the thirty-four Game Sevens in World Series history. At the end of each entry, I?ve noted the "win sequence" for the entire Series?a home team victory is noted by having the team name appear in bold type.


After that, I?ve noted any managerial changes for teams appearing in the World Series. The percentage is not high (seven out of 68 managers), but that?s still a bit higher that one might expect. Three of the seven changes occurred on teams who?d just won the World Series.


1909: PIT 8, DET 0


The first Game Seven in World Series history was a yawner from the get-go. The Tigers, having been smoked by the Chicago Cubs in the previous two Fall Classics (winning only one game against the Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance crew), won the even-numbered games in the ?09 series, but Game 7 starter Wild Bill Donovan lived up to his name, walking in a run with the bases loaded in the second, and departing in the fourth inning after walking six. 29-game winner George Mullin, who?d won Game Six, was rushed in on one days? rest but had nothing, surrendering two runs in the fourth and three more in the sixth (the big blow was a triple by Honus Wagner).


This was the first of nine Game Seven shutouts in World Series history.




1924: WAS 4, NYG 3 (12)


Technically, the 1912 World Series had a "Game Seven," except it was actually the eighth game played due to a tie. I?ll be a stickler here, and leave it out due to that technicality. It?s one of the more legendary games, of course, due to the muffed fly ball by New York Giants? center fielder Fred Snodgrass.


Twelve years later, the Giants were on the short end of another deciding game thanks to a pebble. In the twelfth inning of Game Seven, a grounder hit by Senators? center fielder Earl McNeely kangarooed over the head of New York third baseman Freddie Lindstrom, permitting the winning run to score and giving Walter Johnson his first World Series win.


It remains the only World Series championship for the Washington Senators.



1925: PIT 9, WAS 7


Walter Johnson didn?t have it in this Game Seven, blowing leads of 4-0 and 6-3 as the Pirates clipped him for fifteen hits. Rey Kremer, one of five Pittsburgh hurlers to win 15 or more games that year, sealed things for the Bucs with four solid innings of relief.



1926: STL 3, NYY 2


Another memorable game?first and foremost for the bases-loaded strikeout of Tony Lazzeri by Grover Cleveland Alexander in the seventh, but also for the way the game ended. With two out in the bottom of the ninth, Babe Ruth drew his eleventh walk of the Series (sound familiar?). He promptly took off for second base and was caught stealing to end the Series.


Imagine what would happen if Barry Bonds had done something like that this year…


The first managerial change for a World Series team occurs over the 1926-7 post-season, when Branch Rickey sends irascible player-manager Rogers Hornsby off to the Giants for Frankie Frisch.




Managerial Changes: Rogers Hornsby (STL)


1931: STL 4, PHA 2


Often referred to as the Pepper Martin series, as the Cardinals? center fielder collected 12 hits to upset the two-time defending champion A?s. As important as Martin?s contribution was, Game Seven was won in large part thanks to the hitting of George Watkins, whose single in the first set up St. Louis? two-run rally and whose homer in the third gave them a 4-0 lead. Burleigh Grimes and Bill Hallahan each had two wins in the Series; Hallahan got the final out in the ninth for Grimes to seal the deal.



1934: STL 11, DET 0


The Cardinals have appeared in two 11-0 Series finales in their history; this was the one they?d prefer to remember, as St. Louis pounded out seventeen hits and survived a garbage-throwing incident involving Joe Medwick. A seven-run third pit the game out of reach in a hurry; winning pitcher Dizzy Dean had two hits?a double and a single?in that inning.




1940: CIN 2, DET 1


Detroit finally won a World Series in 1935 by avoiding a Game Seven, but they weren?t so fortunate in 1940. They took a 3-2 series lead with an 8-0 rout of the Reds in Game Five, but when they went back to St. Louis they found that their bats had gone MIA. They were shut out in Game Six, and couldn?t make a 1-0 lead in Game Seven stand up, as weak-hitting shortstop Billy Myers (who?d hit just .202 for the Reds that year) knocked in the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the seventh.



1945: DET 9, CHC 3


When was the last time a pitcher posted a 2-2 record in a single World Series? Take a wild guess and say 1945. Bingo! Cubs hurler Hank Borowy is the man who did it, winning Game 1, losing Game 5, winning Game 6 in relief, and then losing Game Seven, facing only three batters while pitching on one day?s rest. The Tigers wound up scoring five runs in the first, and finally won a Game Seven; they wouldn?t get another chance until 1968.




1946: STL 4, BOS 3


The Red Sox have never won a Game Seven, at least not in the World Series. (Remember what I said earlier about 1912.) They got close twice, and this was one of ?em. An eighth-inning rally that tied the game (Dom DiMaggio?s two-out, two-run double) ended when the Cardinals pitched to Ted Williams?and got him to pop out. A half-inning later, Enos Slaughter made his mad dash home, and the Sox were sunk, squandering a two-on, none-out ninth inning opportunity.



1947: NYY 5, BKN 3


Our second threepeat for Game Seven (the first one was 1924-25-26) saw the Dodgers come up short in Yankee Stadium. (Over the next ten seasons, they?d do that a lot, going only 5-14 in The House That Ruth Built.) An early 2-0 lead came undone as Vean Gregg faltered in the fourth; Joe Page came in for the Yanks in the fifth and shut out Brooklyn for the the next five innings to begin the "Wait till next phase" of the Dodgers? saga.


The Dodgers "change managers" after the landmark 1947 season, but it?s really just a return to the guy who would have been managing if he hadn?t been banned for a year, mostly for being Leo Durocher.



Managerial Changes: Burt Shotton (BKN)


1952: NYY 4, BKN 2


Same story, different year. And different park, too, as the Dodgers came home to Ebbets Field with a 3-2 lead and proceeded to lose the next two games. Mickey Mantle and Gene Woodling smacked homers to lead the Yankees to their fourth straight title.




1955: BKN 2, NYY 0


The Dodgers finally won a big game in the Bronx, thanks to Johnny Podres and Sandy Amoros. Oh yes: while Duke Snider didn?t hit much in Game Seven, he did sock four homers in the Series.


Without looking it up, see if you can figure out who the Yankees started against Podres in Game Seven.




1956: NYY 9, BKN 0


The middle game in a string of three consecutive Game Seven shutouts was a fizzler for the Dodgers, who managed just seven hits over the final three games of the Series. (Yes, one of those games was Don Larsen?s perfecto, but Brooklyn managed only four hits in Game Six and just three in Game Seven as Don Newcombe was victimized by two Yogi Berra home runs.)




1957: MIL 5, NYY 0

Lew Burdette, pitching on two days? rest, shut out the Yanks and brought Milwaukee its only World Series win. Bud Selig didn?t own that team, of course, which may have had something to do with it. Hank Aaron, by the way, played center field for the Braves during the ?57 Series, and hit three homers to boot. That may have had something to do with it, too.




1958: NYY 6, MIL 2


Burdette made it four straight Series wins in Game Two, but he was rocked in Game Five and weakened in the eighth inning of Game Seven as the Yanks scored four times to erase a 3-games-to-1 lead for the Braves. Bill Skowron?s three-run homer in the eighth was the coup de grace.


That?s four straight Game Sevens, which is the record for the most consecutive seven-game series.



1960: PIT 10, NYY 9


Everyone knows about Bill Mazeroski?s homer in the wildest, highest-scoring Game Seven ever. The question is: would Maz be in the Hall of Fame if someone else had done the deed?


Losing the Series to the Bucs was the end of the line for Casey Stengel?until he returned as the malapropist paterfamilias of the Mets a couple of years later.



Managerial Changes: Casey Stengel (NYY)

1962: NYY 1, SF 0


The Series with more rain delays than any other concluded on a blistering line drive by Willie McCovey that Bobby Richardson snagged to preserve Ralph Terry?s shutout. The Yanks won despite Mickey Mantle?s ongoing post-season swoon (3-for-25 in ?62, 2-for-15 the following year, just 6-for-46 from ?61-?63).




1964: STL 7, NYY 5


With Whitey Ford on the shelf due to an arm injury (one that pretty much ended his career), the Yanks were forced to go with rookie Mel Stottlemyre on two days? rest in Game Seven. After matching Bob Gibson for three innings, Mel gave up three in the fourth, and Al Downing was hit for three more in the fifth. The Yanks couldn?t quite catch up.


After the Series, the internal strife in each organization spilled over, and both managers found themselves employed elsewhere. Johnny Keane jumped to the Yankees, a move that proved to be disastrous; Yogi Berra settled in for a long run as a coach for the Mets.



Managerial Changes: Johnny Keane (STL), Yogi Berra (NYY)

1965: LA 2, MIN 0

Sandy Koufax, on two days? rest, fanned ten and allowed just three hits, escaping a jam in the fifth on a great play by Dodger third sacker Jim Gilliam. The Dodgers are still the only team to beat the Twins at home in a World Series game; Minnesota?s overall record at home in the Series is 11-1.




1967: STL 7, BOS 2

Bob Gibson had three days? rest, Jim Lonborg two; that?s another reason why the Red Sox? 1967 season remains known as "the Impossible Dream."




1968: DET 4, STL 1


The tables were turned on the Cards this time, as Mickey Lolich (two days? rest) beat Gibson (three days? rest), thanks in part to a fielding lapse by center fielder Curt Flood, who would become more famous for something else.




1971: PIT 2, BAL 1

Steve Blass before his mysterious meltdown, pitched the second of his two gems against the Orioles, aided by a homer from Roberto Clemente. The Bucs? final margin of victory, however, was ensured by a double by weak-hitting third baseman Jose Pagan; what?s noteworthy about this is that Willie Stargell scored all the way from first on that hit (with none out).


The managerial change here was more on the order of a retirement. Danny Murtaugh would come back one more time, in September 1973, when the Bucs were floundering after the death of Clemente; he?d wind up hanging around for three more seasons, winning two more division titles.




Managerial Changes: Danny Murtaugh (PIT)


1972: OAK 3, CIN 2


The first World Series without a complete game from any of its starting pitchers, and the first of three straight Series titles by the feisty A?s. Gene Tenace, who?d already hit four homers in the Series, drove in two runs and Rollie Fingers walked a tightrope in the eighth to stave off the Reds? rally to get it done.




1973: OAK 5, NYM 2


The upstart Mets rode their starting pitching to a 3-games-to-2 lead, but let it slip away in Oakland as the A?s won Game Six, 3-1, and knocked out Jon Matlack with four runs in the third en route to their second straight World Series crown. Homers from Bert Campaneris and Reggie Jackson were the big blows.


After the Series, Dick Williams gave A?s owner Charlie Finley a well-deserved finger and walked away from the ongoing Oakland psychodrama.



Managerial Changes: Dick Williams (OAK)


1975: CIN 4, BOS 3


Only after a Game Six like the one in this Series could a Game Seven like this one seem anti-climactic. The Sox had a 3-0 lead into the sixth inning, but Tony Perez hit a two-run homer, Pete Rose singled in the tying run in the seventh, and Joe Morgan?s bloop single in the ninth kept the whammy on Boston.




1979: PIT 4, BAL 1


The O?s took a 3-to-2 lead back to Baltimore, but left their bats in Pittsburgh. Omar Moreno, of all people, slapped out six hits over the final two games (three in each game) and Kent Tekulve redeemed his Game Four loss with two saves as the Bucs pulled it out of the fire. Phil Garner earned his "Scrap Iron" nickname by getting hot at the right time, hitting .500 for the Series. The O?s used four pitchers in the ninth inning of Game Seven, and the two named Martinez (Tippy and Dennis) hit batters.




1982: STL 6, MIL 3


An underrated Series, with a Game Seven that was a microcosm of what had come before, with the Cards taking an early lead, falling behind 3-1 in the sixth, and then rallying to win with three in the bottom of the sixth and two more in the eighth.



1985: KC 11, STL 0


Fifty-one years later, the Cardinals found themselves on the other end of a lopsided rout, blowing a 3-to-1 Series lead with the assistance of a classic gaffe in Game Six by first base umpire Don Denkinger. St. Louis 20-game winner Joaquin Andujar makes such a fuss over the Cards? meltdown that he is traded away over the winter.



1986: NYM 8, BOS 5


That "phenomenon" I mentioned at the outset (the team leading 3-games-to-2 going back to the trailing team?s park and losing the next two games) is in full swing now, and the Red Sox do it in dramatic fashion, blowing leads in both games and keeping the Curse of the Bambino intact for another generation.


1987: MIN 4, STL 2


A loud yet somehow dull contest between pallid opponents is somehow left unenlivened by this seventh game, which features luminaries like Jim Lindeman (subbing for Jack Clark) and Steve Lombardozzi (who hits .412 in the Series. The Twins score 33 runs in four games at home, and 5 runs in three games on the road.



1991: MIN 1, ATL 0 (10)


Four years later, the Twins are a much more interesting team pitted against an opponent that would dominate the NL for the next dozen years. Game Seven features one of the best pitching duels in World Series history, as Jack Morris pitched ten shutout innings (a phrase that is all but extinct in post-modern baseball) to outlast (but not out-pitch) John Smoltz.



1997: FLA 3, CLE 2 (11)


This World Series was overshadowed by the fire sale that followed it, but Game Seven was another austere finale to what had been a pretty wild ride, including some high scoring in the low temperatures at Cleveland?s Jacobs Field. Jaret Wright still had an arm in the fall of 1997, and he left in the eighth with the Tribe on top, but Jose Mesa could not close out the Fish in the ninth and they eventually pushed over the winning run in the eleventh.



2001: ARZ 3, NYY 2


Another team hits the road ahead 3-games-to-2 and bites the dust. With the Diamondbacks? bloop rally in the bottom of the ninth, the streak of home teams winning Game Seven reaches seven.


2002: ANA 4, SF 1


As has been noted elsewhere, John Lackey is the first rookie in more than ninety years to win a Game Seven. Babe Adams of the Pirates, back where we began our little odyssey, was the only one to have done so. "Babe" Lackey? I don?t think so?that term has taken on a different meaning since Adams tamed the Tigers in 1909…

Dusty Baker becomes only the seventh World Series manager to leave his team in the same year that the team appeared in the Series.



Managerial changes: Dusty Baker (SF)


All right, a few numbers and then we?re outta here. First, the overall home field advantage in seven-game World Series (.601) is significantly higher than the home field WPCT in the seventh game (which has just reached .500 thanks to eight consecutive home team victories in Game Seven dating from 1982).


The winner of Game Seven looks like a textbook example of probability (as in "toss a coin"). The sequence has produced a 50-50 result, but with long strings of one result dominating (from 1947 to 1972, eleven out of thirteen road teams won Game Seven; as noted, eight straight home teams have won since 1982).


Next, twelve of the 34 winning teams have won the last two games at home to clinch the Series. Six teams have won the last two games on the road. Eight of those twelve "sweep the last two at home" occurrences have come since 1973. The last team to win the last two on the road: the Pittsburgh Pirates, in 1979.


As you might expect, the recent spate of seven-game Series where the home team wins all of its games (1987, 1991, 2001) has contributed to that higher-than-average home-field advantage. Over the last five seven-game Series, home teams have won 83% of the time.


And in terms of run scoring, the seventh game of a World Series is on track with the general trend of lower offense in the post season. The average number of runs scored in Game Seven by both teams is 7.14, or 3.57 per team.


Which league has won more Game Sevens? The National League, with 20 to the AL?s 14.


One final note: there have been nine shutouts in Game Seven. Of those, seven have been accomplished by road teams. Only the last two (1985 and 1991) are victories for the home team.

Don Malcolm Posted: November 12, 2002 at 05:00 AM | 7 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John Posted: November 12, 2002 at 01:02 AM (#607166)
Cool information- now how about a study on Series sweeps? I might be the only one, but I would enjoy that information, too......
   2. Mike Emeigh Posted: November 12, 2002 at 01:02 AM (#607167)
Walter Johnson didn?t have it in this Game Seven, blowing leads of 4-0 and 6-3 as the Pirates clipped him for fifteen hits.

There were mitigating circumstances in this one. The game had originally been scheduled a day earlier, but it rained all day and into the next day. There was talking of postponing it again, but the Pirates wanted to get it in (perhaps concerned about the effect that another day of rest might have on Johnson) and Judge Landis ordered the game to start - and also ordered that the game would be finished "come hell or high water". The field was a quagmire, the mound was slippery (it affected Pittsburgh starter Vic Aldridge as well) and despite the best efforts of the umpires and the ground crew, there was no way to soak up all of the moisture.

-- MWE
   3. Bruce Markusen Posted: November 13, 2002 at 01:03 AM (#607175)
Nice article, Don.

In regards to the 1971 World Series and the game-winning run, Stargell enjoyed a bit of a head start because Murtaugh had called for a hit-and-run with Pagan at the plate. Orioles outfielder Merv Rettenmund fielded the ball in left-center field, but bobbled the ball twice, convincing Stargell (and presumably third base coach Frank Oceak) to make a run for home. As Stargell approached the plate, first baseman Boog Powell decided to cut the throw off in between home and the pitcher's mound. It was a questionable decision, because the Orioles might have had a play at the plate on the slow-footed Stargell; at the very least, it was certainly worth the risk of letting the ball go through, especially in a tight, low-scoring game. As it was, Stargell scored to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead. The Bucs held on for a 2-1 victory, as Steve Blass pitched a complete game victory.
   4. jmac Posted: November 13, 2002 at 01:03 AM (#607194)
Tommy Byrne started game 7 vs Podres in '56

Casey's starters in game 7's for the Yanks were Lopat , Kucks, Larsen (twice) & Turley

in no case was the pitcher the #1 starter during the season, or even close to it (I s'pose Kucks in '56 was as about as you could come, but it isn't very close)

Bill James pointed out several years ago that Whitey Ford never strated a game 7--kinda amazing

   5. Mike Emeigh Posted: November 13, 2002 at 01:03 AM (#607207)
Bill James pointed out several years ago that Whitey Ford never started a game 7--kinda amazing

Not only never started - never even pitched in one in relief.

There was only one time Ford was healthy and in rotation to start Game 7 (1956), and Stengel opted not to do so because the game was in Ebbets Field. That was the year Kucks started against Newcombe and pitched a shutout while Big Newk was bombed in his last WS appearance. Most of the time, Ford was unavailable because he'd pitched in either Game 5 or 6. Part of the reason for this is that Casey liked to use Ford in Yankee Stadium, and would hold him back to pitch there rather than use him on the road early so that he could possibly start a game 7.

-- MWE
   6. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: November 14, 2002 at 01:03 AM (#607213)
One interesting note about the World Series is that, prior to 1924, the 2-3-2 sequence which we take for granted wasn't used. Thus, for the 1909 Series, the reason that the last game was played in Detroit was that Frank Navin won a coin flip! This was also how they decided where the first game was to be played. This "system" went along its merry way until Charley Ebbets finally convinced enough people that making all those double hotel reservations wasn't necessarily necessary.

Since 1924, the only times the 2-3-2 sequence wasn't used was in the war years of 1942-1945. And the only time the leagues "switched" in determining the park sequence was in 1935, when the Cubs, due to the closeness of the NL race, passed up their home field advantage in order to better prepare Wrigley Field for the added crowds and press. I'm not sure what exactly the "closeness" of the race would have to do with park preperation, but this is how Fred Lieb explained it in his book on the World Series.
   7. jimd Posted: November 18, 2002 at 01:04 AM (#607293)
Andy's right; 1943 and 1945 did not follow the 2-3-2 format. Instead they used 3-4 (3-2 and done in 1943) due to wartime travel restrictions. 1942 doesn't seem to have been affected (2-3 and done), so it either predates the government edict, or else they got a waiver. 1944 was played between the landlord and tenant in Sportsman's Park, St. Louis; they used the 2-3-2 because travel wasn't a problem.

On the 1935 Cubs: I vaguely remember reading that the switch had something to do with the All-Star game so that each year one league would host that while the other hosted the Series. But, hey, I'm not gonna argue with Fred Lieb (especially with my memory :). BTW, the Cubs spent the last week playing 5 games at 2nd-place St. Louis after a 3-week home stand. (Which helps explain why they carried an 18 game winning streak into St. Louis.) Anyway, they either had LOTS of preparation which needed 9 days to do, or were being superstitious about doing any serious preparation until the pennant was clinched. (Would they really give up a Series home game because they were superstitious?)

1935 Cubs:

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