These are the biggest upsets in baseball history

National pastime has no shortage of incredible underdogs

April 25th, 2020

Villanova over Georgetown. Joe Namath's Jets over the Colts. The Miracle on Ice.

These all rank among sport's most iconic upsets, but baseball can conjure plenty of underdogs to go alongside them. Every hardcore fan surely has their favorite, but below are some candidates (from earliest to most recent) for baseball's "biggest" upsets.

White Sox def. Cubs, 1906 World Series
The Cubs' roster doubled as a roll call of early Hall of Famers, led by player-manager Frank Chance while also featuring the iconic double-play combo of Johnny Evers and Joe Tinker and ace Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown. The North Siders had won a National League-record 116 games, while the South Siders were nicknamed "The Hitless Wonders" thanks to their .228 team batting average. But it was the White Sox's offense who came alive, knocking out Brown in the second inning of Game 6 to seal one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Fall Classic.

Boston Braves def. Philadelphia A's, 1914 World Series
They weren't called "The Miracle Braves" for nothing. The club had finished 31 1/2 games out of first place in 1913, found itself 11 1/2 games behind the Giants on the morning of July 17, 1914. Then, suddenly, the Braves couldn't stop winning. George Stallings' club went 61-16 the rest of the way and then swept Connie Mack's A's -- a club coming off its fourth AL pennant in five years -- in four games.

Giants def. Indians, 1954 World Series
Cleveland was coming off a 111-win campaign (an AL record at the time) and featured a host of in-prime Hall of Famers including Larry Doby, Early Wynn and Bob Lemon. Vic Wertz was already 3-for-3 in Game 1 when he launched a drive to the deepest reaches of the cavernous Polo Grounds. Wertz' drive seemed sure to break a 2-2 tie with at least one run -- if not more -- but Willie Mays' legendary over-the-shoulder catch spoiled the rally. Mays' iconic grab was the series' early turning point, as the Giants ran away with an upset sweep.

Pirates def. Yankees, 1960 World Series
New York outscored Pittsburgh, 55-27. Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson (World Series record 12 RBIs) was awarded the Series MVP. But it was the Pirates who finally prevailed in one of the wildest, high-scoring Fall Classics ever. The Pintstripes held a 7-4 lead in in the eighth inning of Game 7, but the Bucs roared back as Bill Mazeroski lifted one of the most iconic walk-off homers in baseball history.

Orioles def. Dodgers, 1966 World Series
Few gave the Orioles a chance in their first World Series after moving to Baltimore, considering the Dodgers had Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax atop their rotation. But Frank Robinson's first-inning homer off Drysdale in Game 1 sent a message: The O's were no slouches. Moe Drabowsky's 11 strikeouts in relief in Game 1 and 20-year old Jim Palmer's four-hit shutout in Game 2 sent Baltimore on its way, as Oriole pitchers held Dodger hitters to a record-low .142 average and two total runs over a four-game sweep.

Mets def. Orioles, 1969 World Series
The Orioles (109 wins) were considered a powerhouse three years later, while the Mets had been baseball's lovable losers over their first seven years of existence. It took a late-season run (and a fortuitous black cat) for New York to even capture the pennant, but brilliant pitching from Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry, Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver -- along with some timely hitting -- helped the "Miracle Mets" topple the mighty O's and become the first expansion club to win it all.

Mets def. Reds, 1973 NLCS
The Amazin's weren't done surprising people in 1973, when they matched up against Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine" after a middling 82-79 season. This series is remembered most for a bench-clearing brawl started by Cincinnati's Pete Rose and New York's Bud Harrelson in Game 3, but it was Seaver's clutch performance in the decisive Game 5 (two runs over 8 1/3 innings) that sent Shea Stadium into a fervor. The '73 Mets still hold the record for the lowest win percentage of any pennant winner in history, personifying reliever Tug McGraw's catchphrase, "Ya Gotta Believe!"

Twins def. Tigers, 1987 ALCS
The Twins' opponents outscored them by 20 runs during the regular season, and their 85-77 record made them severe underdogs against the Tigers -- baseball's winningest team at 98-64. But Minnesota hitters Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky and Greg Gagne got hot at the right time, powering the Twins to 34 runs over five games while aces Bert Blyleven and Frank Viola held the Tigers at bay. The Twins went on to stun the Cardinals over a seven-game World Series to deliver The North Star State its first world championship.

Dodgers def. A's, 1988 World Series
Tony La Russa's Oakland club had it all, from Dave Stewart atop the rotation to Dennis Eckersley in the bullpen to "Bash Brothers" Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire in the heart of the lineup. The Dodgers ranked among the league's weakest offenses in 1988, and that was before MVP Kirk Gibson's legs were undercut with injuries.

Most baseball fans know the rest of the story. Gibson came off the bench to hit his iconic walk-off homer off Eckersley in Game 1, and the Dodgers never looked back, rolling to a huge World Series upset in five games. Dodgers ace Orel Hershiser capped a magical 1988 campaign by allowing just two runs in two complete-game victories.

Reds def A's, 1990 World Series
The A's entered as heavy favorites again, having rebounded from Gibson's blast in 1988 to capture the '89 Series and claim their third straight pennant in '90. But A's pitchers had no answer for Reds outfielder Billy Hatcher, who compiled a World Series-record .750 batting average (including a Series record seven hits in a row), and A's hitters couldn't figure out Series MVP Jose Rijo (one earned run over 15 1/3 innings) as the Reds rolled to a surprising four-game sweep.

Marlins def. Braves, 1997 NLCS
The 101-win Braves had a deep track record, claiming four of the previous five NL pennants and boasting their famous trio of Cy Young Award winners in Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz. The 92-win Marlins, meanwhile, had just logged their first winning season in a limited franchise history. Rookie Livan Hernandez started in place of ace Kevin Brown (stomach virus) in Game 5 and pitched the game of his life, striking out an LCS-record 15 Braves. Brown rebounded for a complete-game victory in Game 6, lifting the Marlins to their first pennant.

Team USA def. Cuba, 2000 Olympics
The U.S. flew to Sydney as decided underdogs, though they did have a Hall of Fame manager in Tommy Lasorda who refused to let his club be discouraged. The Americans featured a hodgepodge lineup of both young (20-year-old ) and old (40-year-old Tim Raines) and future stars like Roy Oswalt and Ben Sheets, but still few gave them a chance against a Cuban powerhouse that had gone a perfect 18-0 en route to gold medals in 1992 and '96. Cuba defeated Team USA, 6-1, in a contentious round-robin matchup, but the Americans would get the last laugh as Sheets shut out the Cubans on three hits in the final. The U.S. claimed its only gold medal in Olympic baseball competition.

"We came for the gold," Lasorda proclaimed after the final out, "and we got it."

Marlins def. Yankees, 2003 World Series
This was a David-vs.-Goliath matchup in more ways than one, as Florida's fire sale after their 1997 championship left them with a payroll ($54 million) that was less than one-third of the 101-win Yankees ($164 million). The Marlins fired manager Jeff Torborg after a 16-22 start and then rolled with baseball's oldest skipper, Jack McKeon, at the helm. A fortuitous foul ball helped the Marlins sneak past the Cubs in the NLCS, and Josh Beckett's Game 6 shutout at Yankee Stadium sealed Florida's second World Series title.

Cardinals def. Mets, 2006 NLCS
Hopes were high in Queens as a Mets club stacked with star power both in the lineup (Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, , ) and on the mound (Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez, Billy Wagner) ran away with the NL East title. The Cardinals, meanwhile, squeaked through to the NL Central title with just 83 wins.

The Mets' staff was handicapped with injuries to Martinez and Orlando Hernandez, and St. Louis matched them step-for-step to a 1-1 tie in the ninth inning of a thrilling Game 7. 's two-run homer in the top of the ninth put the Redbirds ahead, and ended the series with a called strikeout against Beltran. The Cardinals upset the Tigers in the following round, setting a record for the fewest wins of any World Series champ.

Israel def. South Korea, 2017 World Baseball Classic
It's hard to imagine a more dramatic opening to a WBC than Team Israel's stunner last year, as a team that had to win the qualifying tournament just to make the field toppled an international powerhouse. Israel and South Korea remained deadlocked at one until the top of the 10th, when Scott Burcham's infield grounder was able to plate the go-ahead run for the underdogs. Josh Zeid struck out Korean slugger Dae-Ho Lee for the final out, giving Israel a shocking win in its first-ever Classic game. Team Israel and their "Mensch on the Bench" kept on surprising, going undefeated in pool play (including another upset over Team Netherlands) before bowing out in the second round.