The craziest finishes in World Series history

October 25th, 2020

World Series games are already great, but some are just on another level in terms of excitement and crazy endings. One of the incredible things about the sport is that there are almost an uncountable number of ways that a game could end -- something that distinguishes it from most other sports. And when an unlikely finish coincides with a World Series game, on the biggest stage, with a championship on the line? That’s baseball.

There have been five World Series games to end on a walk-off involving an error. There have been just three World Series games where a team won on a walk-off when trailing and down to its final out. World Series Game 4 in 2020 added to both of those lists at once.

It was just the latest installment of crazy finishes in World Series history. Here’s a look at 21 of those games.

Brett Phillips plates one, gaffes plate another
Game 4, 2020
Final score: Rays 8, Dodgers 7

The Rays trailed, 7-6, headed to the bottom of the ninth, on the verge of trailing 3-1 in the series to the Dodgers and seeing particularly steep odds to a series victory. Yoshi Tsutsugo struck out to start the inning, and after a Kevin Kiermaier single, Joey Wendle lined out for the second out. That brought this postseason’s breakout star, Randy Arozarena, to the plate. He worked a walk, bringing a player with a quite different postseason resume to the plate, in Brett Phillips. Phillips hadn’t recorded a hit in any game since Sept. 25, back in the regular season.

But this is the postseason, where seemingly anything is possible. And that’s exactly what happened in his at-bat against Jansen. In a 1-2 count, Phillips laced a single to right field, and that’s where it got wacky. Chris Taylor went to field the ball and it went off his glove for an error, as Kiermaier scored. He then went to throw it with Arozarena rounding the bases from first. Arozarena tumbled between third and home, but recovered and kept running -- scoring safely with the ball getting away from Will Smith for a missed-catch error.

It’s the most recent of five World Series games to end on a walk-off involving an error, and of just three walk-off wins in the World Series where a team was down to its final out and trailing.

Astros outlast Dodgers
Game 5, 2017
Final score: Astros 13, Dodgers 12 (10)

This game took 5 hours and 17 minutes to decide, as these teams bludgeoned each other back and forth, trying to gain control in a series that was tied 2-2. The Astros took a three-run lead into the top of the ninth, but Yasiel Puig’s two-run homer and Chris Taylor’s two-out RBI singled tied the score. It remained that way until the bottom of the 10th, when Kenley Jansen retired the first two batters before hitting Brian McCann and walking George Springer. That brought up Alex Bregman, who lined a single to left-center, sending home pinch-runner Derek Fisher, who narrowly beat the throw to send Minute Maid Park into an exhausted frenzy.

Cubs finally end their drought
Game 7, 2016
Final score: Cubs 8, Indians 7 (10)

With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, it looked like the Cubs were going to cruise in clinching their first championship since 1908. Not so fast. With two outs and nobody on, the Indians rallied for three runs, the last two on Rajai Davis’ game-tying two-run shot off Aroldis Chapman. A brief rain delay prior to extra innings allowed the Cubs to collect themselves -- with an assist from Jason Heyward’s rousing speech -- and they scored twice in the top of the 10th, on hits by Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero. But Cleveland still would not go down quietly, rallying with two outs and nobody on against Carl Edwards Jr. Davis’ RBI single made it a one-run game again, but Mike Montgomery came in and retired little-used bench player Michael Martinez for the final out.

KC comes up 90 feet short
Game 7, 2014
Final score: Giants 3, Royals 2

Veteran starters Tim Hudson (Giants) and Jeremy Guthrie (Royals) both exited early, and San Francisco grabbed a 3-2 advantage on Mike Morse’s RBI single off Kelvin Herrera in the top of the fourth. In the bottom of the fifth, who strode out of the Giants’ bullpen? It was none other than Madison Bumgarner, just three days after the lefty threw a shutout in Game 5. Bumgarner shut the Royals down, but the Giants could not find any insurance, keeping it a one-run game in the bottom of the ninth. With two outs, Alex Gordon’s single to center got past Gregor Blanco and to the wall, and for a moment, it seemed as though Gordon might come all the way around to tie the game. But the Royals held him at third, and Bumgarner retired Salvador Perez to strand him 90 feet away and seal the Giants’ third championship in five years.

Middlebrooks in the middle of a wild walk-off

Game 3, 2013

Final Score: Cardinals 5, Red Sox 4

The Cardinals and Red Sox were tied at 4 in the bottom of the ninth inning at Busch Stadium, when Yadier Molina blooped a single into right-center field with one out. Allen Craig followed with a double to get the winning run to third. With Boston’s infield in, Dustin Pedroia made a diving snag of Jon Jay’s ground ball, and threw home to get Molina.

Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia then quickly threw to third to try and get Craig, who was headed there from second. But the throw was wide and went into foul territory. Craig got up to head home but was tripped up by third baseman Will Middlebrooks. The throw into the plate was in time to get Craig, but he was ruled safe due to obstruction by Middlebrooks, and St. Louis won, 5-4.

Freese cements his hometown legend
Game 6, 2011
Final score: Cardinals 10, Rangers 9 (11)

In one of the greatest World Series games ever played, the Cardinals and Rangers went back and forth in a dramatic slugfest that featured two instances in which Texas was one strike away from winning the first World Series title in franchise history. In the bottom of the ninth, with St. Louis trailing, 7-5, David Freese -- who went to high school about 30 miles from Busch Stadium -- came to the plate with runners at first and second. On a 1-2 fastball from Rangers closer Neftali Feliz, Freese lined a game-tying triple off the right-field wall.

The Rangers re-took the lead in the top of the 10th on a Josh Hamilton two-run homer. But the Cardinals staged another comeback, capped off by a Lance Berkman game-tying single when St. Louis was again down to its final strike. In the bottom of the 11th, Freese delivered a solo home run to center field to force a Game 7, which St. Louis also won, 6-2.

Podsednik becomes an unlikely hero
Game 2, 2005
Final score: White Sox 7, Astros 6

Scott Podsednik hit exactly zero home runs in 507 regular-season at-bats for the White Sox in 2005. So when he came to the plate with one out in the bottom of the ninth of a 6-6 game against the Astros, no one was expecting he’d end the game by himself, especially against Houston’s closer, Brad Lidge, who saved 42 games in the regular season and yielded only five homers over 70 2/3 innings.

But Podsednik belted a 2-1 pitch from Lidge over the wall in right-center field to lift Chicago to a 7-6 win and a 2-0 World Series lead. The White Sox went on to sweep the Astros for the franchise’s first World Series title in 88 years.

The broken-bat single heard ’round the world
Game 7, 2001
Final score: D-backs 3, Yankees 2

Yankees legend Mariano Rivera, the all-time saves leader, was known for his cutter -- opposing batters knew it was coming and still couldn’t hit it, or if they did, it usually meant a broken bat. In the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, the D-backs and Yankees were tied, 2-2, and Arizona had the bases loaded and one out for Luis Gonzalez. Rivera’s cutter bore in on Gonzalez and resulted in a broken-bat pop-up. But with the infield drawn in, the ball landed in shallow center field and the D-backs were World Series champions.

Marlins walk off for a title
Game 7, 1997
Final score: Marlins 3, Indians 2 (11)

It would be hard to create more drama than this. The Marlins trailed Game 7 by a run entering the bottom of the ninth, but Craig Counsell’s sacrifice fly off Jose Mesa sent everyone to extra innings with a championship on the line. The Marlins stranded two runners in the 10th, but with the game still tied in the 11th, loaded the bases with one out on a single, an error and an intentional walk. Cleveland managed to get a forceout at home for the second out, leaving things in the hands of Edgar Rentería. The 21-year-old was up to the moment, sending a soft line drive just over the glove of pitcher Charles Nagy and into center field for the walk-off hit.

Carter’s iconic moment
Game 6, 1993
Final score: Blue Jays 8, Phillies 6

The Blue Jays, leading the series 3-2, led Game 6 by a 5-1 margin before things got hairy in the seventh. Lenny Dykstra’s three-run homer jumpstarted a five-run inning, and Philadelphia took a 6-5 lead into the bottom of the ninth, looking to force Game 7. In came Mitch Williams, who walked Rickey Henderson, and one out later, gave up a single to Paul Molitor. That brought up Joe Carter, who lined a walk-off three shot over the left-field wall at the ballpark then known as SkyDome. The World Series was over, as Carter took his jubilant tour around the bases.

Morris makes his mark
Game 7, 1991
Final score: Twins 1, Braves 0 (10)

In one of the greatest duels in baseball history, the Braves’ John Smoltz and the Twins’ Jack Morris matched zeroes at the Metrodome. Smoltz came out after 7 1/3 innings, but the veteran Morris just kept on going. Both teams escaped bases-loaded, one-out jams in the eighth via double plays, and the action proceeded into extras. Morris mowed down the Braves to complete his 10th inning of scoreless ball, and in the bottom of the frame, the Twins got the winning run to third with one out. Two intentional walks later, Gene Larkin got the job done with a deep drive to left field that dropped for a walk-off hit.

‘The impossible has happened’ -- Hobbled Gibson homers
Game 1, 1988
Final score: Dodgers 5, Athletics 4

There are a handful of home runs that stand out as the most famous in baseball history -- there’s Babe Ruth’s alleged “called shot” in the 1932 World Series, the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World’ by Bobby Thomson in 1951, and Carlton Fisk’s game-winner in the 1975 Series. But another homer on that short list is Kirk Gibson’s miraculous shot in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series that capped a stunning Dodgers victory over the heavily favored Athletics.

Gibson was the club’s best hitter and the driving force behind its Cinderella season. But he hurt both knees in the NLCS against the Mets, and wasn’t even announced on the field before Game 1 of the World Series at Dodger Stadium. By the ninth inning, Los Angeles was trailing, 4-3, and the best closer in the game, Dennis Eckersley, was intent on nailing down Game 1. With a runner on and two outs, Gibson surprisingly hobbled to the plate, clearly unable to use his legs to try and drive the ball against Eckersely. But Gibson launched a 3-2 slider over the wall in right field to lift the Dodgers to victory. Los Angeles went on to win the Series in five games.

The ball gets through Buckner
Game 6, 1986
Final score: Mets 6, Red Sox 5 (10)

When you think bizarre World Series endings, this one is at the top of the list. With the Red Sox one out away from winning their first title in 68 years, Mets catcher Gary Carter lined a single to left field in the bottom of the 10th inning at Shea Stadium to keep New York alive. That sparked a rally -- with the Mets trailing, 5-3, pinch-hitter Kevin Mitchell also singled, and that was followed by a Ray Knight single to drive in Carter and make it 5-4.

Boston reliever Calvin Schiraldi was then replaced by Bob Stanley. But Stanley uncorked a wild pitch with Mookie Wilson at the plate, enabling Mitchell to score the tying run. Then came one of the most infamous plays in Major League history -- Wilson hit a ground ball along the first-base line that went between the legs of Bill Buckner as Knight crossed home plate with the winning run. The Mets won Game 7 and the Series, extending Boston’s title drought. After losing in such heartbreaking fashion in the 68th year of their drought, the Red Sox finally won it all in 2004, which was year number 86.

Denkinger calls Orta safe at first
Game 6, 1985
Final score: Royals 2, Cardinals 1

Game 6 of the 1985 World Series between the Cardinals and Royals was a tremendous pitchers duel through seven innings, with Danny Cox and Charlie Leibrandt matching each other zero for zero on the scoreboard. In the eighth, St. Louis finally broke through on Brian Harper’s RBI single to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead with six outs remaining between them and a World Series championship.

Jorge Orta led off the bottom of the ninth for Kansas City against Cardinals reliever Todd Worrell. Orta hit a ground ball wide of first base, where first baseman Jack Clark fielded it and tossed to Worrell covering. Worrell beat Orta to the bag and received the throw, but first-base umpire Don Denkinger called Orta safe. A replay showed Worrell indeed got the out. But there was no replay review back then, and the call stood. Four batters later, Dane Iorg delivered a bases-loaded single to lift the Royals to a 2-1 walk-off victory to force Game 7. Game 7 was an 11-0 Kansas City rout for the title.

Fisk waves it fair
Game 6, 1975
Final score: Red Sox 7, Reds 6 (12)

The Red Sox, fighting to stay alive in the series, trailed 6-3 with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning when Bernie Carbo tied things up with a pinch-hit homer. It looked as though Boston was going to walk things off in the following frame, but a bases-loaded, no-out situation fizzled, with Reds left fielder George Foster throwing out the walk-off run at home on a fly ball down the line. The drama only built from there. In the top of the 12th, Boston’s Rick Wise wriggled out of trouble, setting the stage for Carlton Fisk to lead off with a deep drive down the left-field line, toward the Green Monster. With Fisk using some body language to urge the ball fair, it stayed inside the foul pole to send everyone home.

Martin’s walk-off bunt
Game 4, 1969
Final score: Mets 2, Orioles 1 (10)

With the Mets leading the series 2-1 entering Game 4, the team appeared to be in position for a 1-0 victory heading to the top of the ninth. Future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver took the mound, having kept Baltimore off the board so far, but after a flyout to start the inning, he allowed two straight singles. The next batter was Brooks Robinson, who hit a sacrifice fly to score Frank Robinson, who had hit the first of the singles. Seavor got Elrod Hendricks to line out for the third out, and the game headed to the bottom of the ninth, tied at 1. After the Mets failed to score, Seaver took the mound again for the 10th, and this time did not allow a run.

Jerry Grote led off the bottom of the 10th with a double, then the Orioles issued an intentional walk to Al Weis to bring Seaver’s spot in the order up. J.C. Martin stepped in as a pinch-hitter and bunted. New pitcher Pete Richert fielded it and threw to first, but the throw bounced off Martin and into right field, and Rod Gaspar, who had pinch-ran for Grote, scored. Richert was charged with an error, and the Mets took a 3-1 lead in the series, which they’d clinch in the following game.

Yanks hold off Giants -- barely
Game 7, 1962
Final score: Yankees 1, Giants 0

The only run in this game scored on a double play in the fifth inning, but the Giants kept the heat on the Yankees and pitcher Ralph Terry. In the seventh, Willie McCovey tripled with two outs, but Terry struck out Orlando Cepeda to escape. In the ninth, Matty Alou’s leadoff bunt single gave San Francisco a shot. Terry struck out the next two batters, but Willie Mays cracked a double to right field that could have scored Alou, if not for Roger Maris getting the ball back in quickly. Alou held at third, and McCovey stepped up with the tying and walk-off runs in scoring position. The menacing left-handed batter ripped a line drive that could easily have won the World Series for the Giants -- but it went right to second baseman Bobby Richardson for the out.

Mazeroski’s blast wins it all for Pirates
Game 7, 1960
Final score: Pirates 10, Yankees 9

In a Series in which the powerhouse Yankees outscored the Pirates, 55-27, you’d think -- assuming you knew nothing about the outcome -- that New York won its ninth title in 14 years. But while the Pirates’ three losses were blowouts, their four wins were by a combined margin of seven runs. That included an epic Game 7 at Forbes Field, in which Bill Mazeroski connected for the first World Series-winning walk-off home run in baseball history in the bottom of the ninth off Yankees right-hander Ralph Terry. The only other time a World Series has ended on a home run was in 1993, when Blue Jays slugger Joe Carter homered to beat the Phillies in Game 6.

One out from a no-no, Yanks get beat
Game 4, 1947
Final score: Dodgers 3, Yankees 2

Bill Bevins was throwing one of the strangest no-hitters in baseball history, and it was in Game 4 of the 1947 World Series. The Yankees right-hander hadn’t yielded a hit through 8 2/3 innings, but he had walked 10 batters, walking a tightrope all game until he was one out from throwing the first no-no in Fall Classic history. With New York leading Brooklyn, 2-1, Blevins surrendered a walk-off two-run double to Cookie Lavagetto for the only Dodgers hit of the game. While Brooklyn won Game 4, the Yankees ultimately prevailed in seven games.

Ruth caught stealing to end Series
Game 7, 1926
Final score: Cardinals 3, Yankees 2

When you hear the name Babe Ruth and the words “World Series,” the immediate thoughts that come to mind probably involve majestic home runs -- maybe even a called shot. Not in 1926, when in Game 7, Ruth inexplicably tried to steal second base against the Cardinals after walking with two outs in the ninth inning. With New York trailing, 3-2, Ruth represented the tying run with Bob Meusel, who had driven in 134 runs the year before, at the plate. But Ruth took off, and St. Louis catcher Bob O’Farrell threw out the Sultan of Swat to end the Series.

Moran’s bunt, Bush’s error
Game 3, 1914
Final score: Braves 5, Athletics 4 (12)

The Boston Braves had a 2-0 series lead entering Game 3, and the game was tight throughout. The Braves tied it at 2 in the bottom of the fourth, and that score stood until the 10th -- when the Philadelphia A’s scored two in the top of the inning, but the Braves tied it back up again in the bottom. After a scoreless 11th inning and top of the 12th, Hank Gowdy led off the bottom of the inning with a double and was replaced by pinch-runner Les Mann. The A’s then intentionally walked Larry Gilbert to bring up Herbie Moran. Moran bunted to A’s pitcher Bullet Joe Bush, and threw the ball away in an attempt to throw to third, and Mann scored. The next day, the Braves completed the first sweep in World Series history.

Snodgrass' Game 8 gaffe opens the door
Game 8, 1912
Final score: Red Sox 3, Giants 2

The winner-take-all Game 8 of the 1912 Fall Classic was played at Fenway Park in its inaugural season. The game went to extra innings tied 1-1, with legend Christy Mathewson pitching a gem for the Giants. When Fred Merkle knocked a go-ahead single off Smoky Joe Wood in the top of the 10th, it looked like the Giants would clinch the first World Series championship in franchise history. But with Mathewson trying to close out the series, an error by center fielder Fred Snodgrass opened the door for a Red Sox comeback. Pinch-hitter Clyde Engle lifted a routine fly ball toward Snodgrass in center leading off the bottom of the 10th, only for Snodgrass to drop the ball and allow Engle to reach second. He nearly redeemed himself on the very next play with a sensational catch to rob Harry Hooper of a game-tying extra-base hit … only for Tris Speaker to come through with a game-tying single, and Larry Gardner to win it for the Sox with a World Series-ending walk-off sac fly.