These thrilling playoff rematches are possible 

October 15th, 2021

A great postseason matchup can take the form of two titans facing off. It can feature a heavy favorite versus an exciting underdog. It can be a contrast of styles. But any and all of those are also helped if there’s a little history involved.

Sure, players don’t remember or much care about what happened 20 or 30 or 50 years ago, but plenty of fans do. And if that wound still stings a little from that memorable matchup in your youth, it adds a little extra spice to this year’s go-round.

With that in mind, here are seven matchups of especially memorable past postseason series that we could see again this October. Apologies to one we know we’ll see, starting Thursday -- when the Cardinals and Braves reprise the crazy 2012 National League Wild Card Game as well as the 1996 NL Championship Series.

Dodgers-Yankees: Pick your World Series

These two titans of the sport have met 11 times, but remarkably not since 1981. They met three times in the 1940s, four times in the ‘50s, and then in 1963, ’77, ’78, and ’81. And plenty of those were plenty memorable. They’ve played seven games four times, including 1955, when the Dodgers won the whole thing for the first time. The ’56 Series, another seven-gamer, was highlighted by Don Larsen’s perfect game.

And yet, even as they’ve both enjoyed a great deal of success in recent decades, they haven’t met in almost 40 years. They were two of the three best teams in baseball this year, they both have star-studded rosters, and the history would just be the cherry on top if we were finally to see baseball’s most frequent World Series clash one more time.

Cardinals-Yankees: 1964 World Series (and four others)

This is another of those legendary matchups, one that just feels right. St. Louis and New York have “only” met five times in the World Series, and none since 1964. But this one stands out as one of the great World Series in the history of the event -- and something of a passing of the torch. The '64 Cardinals had come back from a huge late deficit in the NL pennant race. It was the year they acquired Lou Brock, and the beginning of one of the franchise’s golden eras.

The 1964 Yankees meanwhile, represented the end of an era -- the franchise’s 14th Series appearance in 16 years, but its last for 12 years.

A 2019 rematch might not quite have the glamour of a Dodgers-Yankees battle, but it would pit two legendary franchises in two of the country’s great baseball cities.

Cardinals-Twins: 1987 World Series

At least this one would be played entirely outdoors. The ’87 World Series stands out not only for quality of play but for some weird side stories. There were claims that the ventilation system in the Metrodome was manipulated to favor the Twins during games.

Controversy or no, this was a fun series, with the home team winning every game and the 85-win Twins completing a miracle season. In case of a rematch, you can be sure there are fans of both teams old enough to remember 1987.

Dodgers-A’s: 1988 World Series

This was not, by objective standards, a classic World Series, exactly. But when you have a moment like we saw in Game 1, maybe you don’t need six more games.

The ’88 Series featured Kirk Gibson’s legendary home run off of Dennis Eckersley, the first win in what turned out to be a five-game upset win by the Dodgers over the mighty A’s. It was L.A.’s last World Series title, while Oakland returned to win the whole thing the following season.

A rematch this year would feature a reversal of fortunes: it would be the heavily-favored, rampaging Dodgers against the plucky, surprising Athletics.

Braves-Twins: 1991 World Series

It was simply one of the greatest World Series ever played, punctuated by certainly one of the greatest World Series games in history. Game 7 in 1991 became one of Jack Morris’ key planks in his Cooperstown platform, and his opposite number John Smoltz made a name for himself that night as well.

The ’91 Series was a worst-to-first battle, and while a 2019 Braves-Twins Series wouldn’t quite be that, it would be plenty surprising to see a refreshing pair of new faces in the late-October spotlight. And there’s a pretty good chance somebody would find a way to get Morris and Smoltz in the house at least once for a little reminiscence.

Cardinals-Astros: 2004 NLCS (and 2005)

This is the only non-World Series on this list, and there’s a reason for that. It was some of the greatest baseball you’ll ever see. While the eyes of the baseball world were on David Ortiz, Mariano Rivera, and Dave Roberts, the Cards and Astros were playing a series that for pure competitive quality was even better. It featured two walk-offs and three other games won in the sixth inning or later. It featured individual brilliance and spectacular plays. It was baseball at its best, between two rivals (they were in the same division at the time) in front of two ferocious sets of fans.

The 2005 NLCS wasn’t quite as epic, but it did feature Albert Pujols’ famous home run onto the train tracks as Houston won its first pennant in six games.

A 2019 World Series rematch would have a hard time topping ‘04, but it would feature plenty of subplots on its own, and you can bet the fans would remember the last two times these teams met in the postseason.

Dodgers-Astros: 2017 World Series

We didn’t forget this one. Just two years ago, two of baseball’s boldest, most aggressive franchises met in an absolute classic of a World Series. And while some faces have changed since then, plenty of current players on both sides remember that epic set of contests.

Could this year top it? Well, maybe. The Dodgers and the Astros were baseball’s two best teams, combining for a ridiculous 213 wins. That would be the highest combined win total of two teams in the World Series in history, and that seems like a pretty good start to what would be a memorable seven-game dogfight. It would be the Dodgers’ third straight trip, but with them not having won the thing in 31 years, it probably wouldn’t exactly feel stale. Doesn’t seem like many people would complain about seeing this one.