UMBC beat Virginia, so let's relive the biggest upsets in MLB history
The University of Maryland, Baltimore County did the impossible on Friday night, knocking off Virginia to become the first 16-seed to beat a 1-seed in the history of the NCAA Tournament. But while March has developed a reputation for Cinderella runs, it's not the only one -- and so, in honor of the Retrievers, we present the most shocking postseason upsets in Major League history.
The 1966 Orioles
It's only fitting that we kick things off with a team from Baltimore. No one gave the O's much of a chance in the '66 Fall Classic: They'd never reached the World Series before, and prior to moving to Charm City in 1955, the franchise had been known as the historically hapless St. Louis Browns. What's more, they were up against the Dodgers -- the team of the decade, winners of four titles in a 10-year span, with a rotation anchored by future Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.
Of course, as everyone would soon realize, Baltimore had some pretty good pitching, too:
The numbers still boggle the mind. Game 1 starter Dave McNally gave up two runs in 2 1/3 innings, and from that point on, the Dodgers didn't score another run -- in the entire series. Jim Palmer threw a shutout in Game 2, Wally Bunker did the same in Game 3 and McNally redeemed himself by outdueling Drysdale in Game 4.
In hindsight, this was a paradigm shift: The Dodgers wouldn't win the World Series again until 1981, while the O's won the AL three times over the next five years.
The 1969 Mets
One of those years was 1969, when Baltimore rode that pitching staff -- and some guy named Frank Robinson -- to a league-best 109-53 record in the regular season. Their opponent in the Fall Classic? The Mets, a team that had lost fewer than 100 games exactly twice in its first seven seasons of existence. (New York had finished 73-89 in 1968, the best result in franchise history -- by a full seven wins.)
Things stuck to the script in Game 1, as Mike Cuellar went the distance in a 4-1 O's win. From there, though, the Mets rallied: Jerry Koosman's pitching and Al Weis' two-out, ninth-inning single stole Game 2, Tom Seaver tossed a 10-inning gem in Game 4 and New York rallied from a three-run deficit to close out the series in five.
The 2004 Red Sox
On paper, this doesn't look like much of an upset: The Yankees had gone 101-61 to take the AL East crown, but the Red Sox weren't far behind with 98 wins -- and the two teams had just played a seven-game classic the year before.
Then New York stormed to a 3-0 series lead, highlighted by a 19-8 shellacking at Fenway in Game 3, and what looked like a tight series had turned into a laugher. All hope seemed lost, the Curse of the Bambino would continue apace. Surely, the team with the best record in baseball wouldn't lose four in a row ... right?
The 1954 Giants
The Giants were no slouch, armed with 23-year-old NL MVP Willie Mays and 21-game winner Johnny Antonelli. The Indians, though, were on another level entirely: Larry Doby led the league in homers and RBIs, four starters posted an ERA+ of at least 120 and Cleveland finished the regular season at a jaw-dropping 111-43 -- at the time an American League record.
The Indians looked primed to take Game 1 at the Polo Grounds, putting men on first and second with no one out in the top of the eighth with the score tied at 2. First baseman Vic Wertz scalded one to center field -- some 420 feet away, a home run if fixed scheduling hadn't given New York home-field advantage -- that looked sure to bring home at least one run.
Mays' iconic catch swung the whole series: Rather than a two-run deficit, the score remained tied, and the Giants would eventually win the game in 10. Antonelli silenced the Indians' fearsome bats in Game 2, and two more shocking wins back in Cleveland gave New York the sweep.
The 1988 Dodgers
Oakland cruised to a 104-58 record, the first of three consecutive seasons with at least 99 wins; the Dodgers, a 73-win team in each of the last two years, surprised everyone to finish at 94-67. L.A. had three regulars with an OBP under .300; Oakland's lowest was .323. Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco combined for 74 homers in 1988; two Dodgers players hit more than 10, and one of them took just one at-bat in the World Series.
It was a pretty big at-bat, though:
Gibson's Game 1 walk-off sent shockwaves throughout the baseball world, and Orel Hershiser's brilliance carried the Dodgers to a win in five games.