***UPDATED TO INCLUDE 2016 AND 2017***
On Tuesday, October 19, 1903, the great Honus Wagner lumbered to the plate. The game, and the season for the Pittsburg Pirates was riding on those tree-trunk like shoulders, as he stared down Bill Dinneen, the pitcher for the Boston Americans. Mr. Wagner was one of the greatest players to ever put on a glove and walk the diamond, but on this day, he was no match for Dinneen, and he struck out, giving the country’s first World Series title to the Americans after an eight game battle.
Fast Forward to November 1st, 2015, and Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer stood on third base, remembering a scouting report that said “If you get a chance to test Duda’s (The New York Mets first baseman, their opponent) arm, do it”. He did it, and the moment known as “the mad dash” was born, effectively derailing the Mets chance to stay alive and make a run at the 110th World Series, giving the title to the relentless Royals.
The World Series has given lovers of the game so many immortal memories that transcend time, and set the bar for every one that follows. Let’s face it, we’ve all be in our back yards, on our side streets, or in our open fields, pretending it was game 7, bottom of the 9th, and you being the only thing between your city and the coveted World Series trophy. It’s what makes the game timeless, whether we imagine ourselves as Ty Cobb, Whitey Ford, Ted Williams, or Mariano Rivera, it always comes down to us. Legends like Cobb, Stengel, Ruth, and Robinson gave way to the likes of Gibson, Jackson, Clemente, and Rose. In turn, those names as well gave way to the stars you read on this list; Rivera, Freese, Morris, and Jeter. 110 times the nation has watched the very finest it’s very own game has to offer, rise to the occasion and bring a title home to the city that claims them as their own, it’s own roots so deep, that many times entire generations will only see it once, or maybe even not at all, only heightening the joy when one day the last strike is thrown, out is made, or run is scored, and the infield becomes a pile of men in the jersey’s you have watched from your earliest years, celebrating the fact that at that moment, there is no one better.
Ranking the contests is obviously a subjective undertaking, and not one that should be taken lightly. There has to be some level of objectivity, while still capturing the romanticism associated with winning the coveted title of World Series Champion. Of course, a Yankees fan is not wanting when it comes to quantity of titles, and a Braves fan might bristle at the thought of a list of the last quarter century of contests (going 1-4 during that stretch), so what we will try to accomplish is to rank them by dramatic appeal, and historical uniqueness. One has to contextualize each series a bit to add to its allure, but in order to distinguish, one has to attempt to look at the series on its own as much as possible. For example, the 2004 Red Sox staged arguably the greatest postseason series ever played when they stormed back to beat the Yankees in 4 consecutive games in the ALCS, but then steamrolled past the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series for what felt more like an epilogue to that ALCS, than the climax of an epic tale in it of itself, so it’s ranking suffered.
The Contests were ranked on five categories, and given a point value for each category. 2 points was given to the highest entertainment value, 1 point was given to moderate entertainment value, and 0 points were given to the least. Of course there is always room for interpretation, argument, debate, and discussion. Feel free to do so in the comments section!
Number of games played
7 game series were given two points, 6 games one point, less than that none. This plays into the “drama” of a series
The result of the final play (or out)
A run scoring results in two points, a ball put in play one point, and a strikeout none. A ball put in play still gets a point even if it results in an out, because there’s always a chance of extending the game if its put in play.
The “Legacy Impact”, or a historically significant fact that makes that particular series unique.
For example, 1991 was the “Cinderella Series”, where both teams went from worst to first in one year. This feat has never been replicated ever, thus giving it a high “legacy impact”. A low legacy impact would be something like multiple titles in a short span (i.e. Yankees in ’98 and ’99, Red Sox in ’03 and ’07). They are impressive, but not necessarily historically unique.
Highest rated single game of that series based on TV ratings
Given the waining or waxing popularity of the sport, availability of TVs, etc.. this can fluctuate, but it is a good gauge of the level of public interest. Top third were given two points, middle one, and bottom zero.
Series MVP Performance
When contextualized and compared to other MVP performances, the top third were granted two points, the middle one point, and bottom 0 points.
So, without any further delay, on to the rankings!
No. 27: 2006, St. Louis Cardinals over Detroit Tigers, 0 points
MVP: David Eckstein (.254/1HR/6RBI)
Highest Rated Game: 18.2MM (Game 3)
Final Out: Strikeout Swinging
Legacy Impact: Third Rematch all time (1934, 1968), Cardinals took series to lead overall matchup.
In what (at the time) was one of the lowest rated World Series contests in the modern era, two teams that squandered sizable leads in their divisions limped their way through the postseason to a World Series that saw more runs scored on groundouts, errors, and wild pitches than ever thought possible in a 7 game series. Needless to say, neither team made the postseason the following year.
No. 26: 2010, San Francisco Giants over Texas Rangers, 2 points
MVP: Edgar Renteria (.286/2HR/6RBI)
Highest Rated Game: 15.5MM (Game 5)
Final Out: Strikeout Looking
Legacy Impact: First win for the Giants since moving to San Francisco from New York
The only truly exciting thing this series had going for it was that, in fact, it was the first series the Giants had taken since they jumped to the west coast with the Dodgers in 1958. It touts the lowest of our single game ratings on this countdown, and it’s MVP was about as lackluster as the interest on a national level (They even had to move the start time of the games to accommodate the NFL’s TV schedule). For a title drought of such historic proportions, this may have been a case of fatigue, as the Giants run through the NL postseason was far more dramatic than the series itself.
No. 25: 2015, Kansas City Royals over New York Mets, 2 points
MVP: Salvador Perez (.259/4HR/8RBI)
Highest Rated Game: 17.2MM (Game 5)
Final Out: Strikeout Looking
Legacy Impact: First title for Kansas City since 1985, “Keep the Line Moving” offense
Any time the first pitch of a World Series results in an inside-the-park home run, you would think that you’ve got something epic in the making. Not really the case here (although, I think this series was a bit underrated). This was another series that suffered from the fatigue of an extremely eventful postseason LEADING to the series, but a clear case of one team simply being outmatched by the other. I would, however argue that while this series comes up a dud on this countdown, one of the greatest fall classic moments (“The Mad Dash”) was performed.
No. 24: 2000, New York Yankees over New York Mets, 2 points
MVP: Derek Jeter (.317/4HR/9RBI)
Highest Rated Game: 19.1MM (Game 2)
Final Out: Pop Out
Legacy Impact: “Subway Series”, Yankees get 4th title in 5 years.
Talk about the makings of greatness, falling flat on its face. Two of the most recognizable teams in all of the sports world, meeting in a series separated only by a train, in a penultimate struggle for dominance. Instead, we got a flat, generally uninteresting series who’s defining moment was when Mike Piazza’s broken bat was hurled back at him by a roid-raging Roger Clemens. The proof was in the pudding (at the time), when it was the lowest rated World Series (also, at the time).
No. 23: 2013, Boston Red Sox over St. Louis Cardinals, 2 points
MVP: David Ortiz (.353/5HR/13RBI)
Highest Rated Game: 19.1MM (Game 6)
Final Out: Struck Out Swinging
Legacy Impact: Boston’s 3rd title since 2004
I guess we should be grateful the Cardinals put up a fight this time? The put together an impressive rout of the National League, winning 97 games that year, but were outscored 27-14 when they met the Red Sox. This was tangibly less exciting than the last two titles from the once beleaguered Red Sox, but cemented them as one of the most dominant teams of the decade. I would be remiss not to mention the “Boston Strong” element to this series, after the bombing of the Boston Marathon, but oddly enough, it still ended up with some of the lowest TV ratings on this list, hence it’s lower rank.
No. 22: 2007, Boston Red Sox over Colorado Rockies, 2 points
MVP: Mike Lowell (.353/2HR/15RBI)
Highest Rated Game: 21MM (Game 4)
Final Out: Struck Out Swinging
Legacy Impact: 2nd Title in 3 years for Boston
Sadly, the only appearance the Rockies make on this list is near the bottom, although one cannot discount the validity of winning two titles in that short a timespan, and decent ratings, this one could’ve used some work in the drama department, however it gets a little boost thanks to it being Colorado’s first appearance in the Fall Classic.
No. 21: 1998, New York Yankees over San Diego Padres, 2 points
MVP: Scott Brosius (.383/4HR/15RBI)
Highest Rated Game: 23.4MM (Game 4)
Final Out: Ground Out
Legacy Impact:2nd Title in 3 years for Yankees
There are many baseball scholars who believe the Yankees of 1998 and 1999 to be among the best teams ever assembled, and one would be hard pressed to dismiss that. The poor San Diego Padres came away with nothing from this series except the dubious honor of being the first expansion team in MLB history to lose a world series at home, and one of only two expansion teams to lose both world series they played in.
No. 20: 2012, San Francisco Giants over Detroit Tigers, 3 points
MVP: Pablo Sandoval (.364/6HR/13RBI)
Highest Rated Game: 15.5MM (Game 4)
Final Out: Struck Out Looking
Legacy Impact: 2nd Title in 3 years for Giants
I guess San Fran just gets bored of winning titles? This one ties the 2015 World Series for lowest rated single game on this countdown. Title fatigue, and a startling lack of offense (The final composite score was 16-6) led to this one being a bit of a stinker, but thanks to a heavy (pun intended) performance from Pablo Sandoval, this one peeks ahead of the other series mentioned above.
No. 19: 2008, Philadelphia Phillies over Tampa Bay Rays, 3 points
MVP: Cole Hamels (13IP/8SO/2.77ERA)
Highest Rated Game: 15.8MM (Game 6)
Final Out: Struck Out Swinging
Legacy Impact: First title since 1980 for Philadelphia
The late 2000’s Phillies teams were a whirlwind of dominance (5 straight division titles), only to disappear as quickly as they arrived. The lowest ranked series on our countdown to have a pitcher as the MVP, a two day suspension of Game 5 in the 6th inning (due to rain) was unfortunately the most memorable part of this series, as the Rays were overmatched, and Philly ended a 28 year title drought.
No. 18: 2005, Chicago White Sox over Houston Astros, 3 points
MVP: Jermaine Dye (.311/1HR/6RBI)
Highest Rated Game: 20MM (Game 4)
Final Out:Ground Out
Legacy Impact: First title in 88 years for Chicago White Sox
This had all the makings of a series of historical proportions. No matter the outcome, either one team would win it’s first EVER World Series (Houston Astros), or the other would end a title drought spanning almost 9 decades (Chicago White Sox)… and it was a fairly mundane affair. Chicago swept the series, despite every game coming down to two runs or less, including a 14 inning, almost 6 hour marathon in game three. The ratings for this clocked in fairly weak for the time period, but settle into the middle third thanks to weak ratings from the 2010’s. This is the biggest “almost” of the countdown, as I think if the ‘Stros had managed to eek out one or two of these games, this one would’ve been MUCH higher.
No. 17: 1999, New York Yankees over Atlanta Braves, 3 points
MVP: Mariano Rivera (4.2IP/0.00ERA/2SV)
Highest Rated Game: 25.8MM (Game 4)
Final Out:Pop Out
Legacy Impact: 2nd consecutive sweep for Yankees, also 3rd title in 4 years
The whole “repeat factor” on this countdown usually works against a series, but this one was just flat out ridiculous. In what many hoped to be a re-match of 1996’s well played and exciting series, the Yankees outclassed the Braves, outscoring them 21-9 for the series, and laying waste to what many thought was a solid Atlanta team. This, of course, capped off two consecutive sweeps of the Fall Classic, and cementing their legacy as truly the greatest team of this generation [shudders profusely].
No. 16: 2003, Florida Marlins over New York Yankees, 5 points
MVP: Josh Beckett (16.1IP/19SO/1.10ERA)
Highest Rated Game: 23.2MM (Game 6)
Final Out: Ground Out
Legacy Impact: 2nd Title for Marlins in just 10 years of existence
This series was more interesting than it probably should have been, with the Marlins never having home field advantage throughout the entirety of the postseason, and of course going against the infamous Yankees helped boost the prestige a bit. Yet alas, the mighty fish bested the Yanks mostly due to the seemingly invincible Josh Beckett, who hurled the first Series winning shout out since Jack Morris in 1991. It drew decent ratings and went 6 games, however was drug down a bit by each of their League Championship series, when the Red Sox and Cubs both collapsed and prolonged their “cursed” streaks. Otherwise, this one is top 5, or at minimum top 10.
No. 15: 2004, Boston Red Sox over St. Louis Cardinals, 5 points
MVP: Manny Ramirez (.350/4HR/13RBI)
Highest Rated Game: 28.9MM (Game 4)
Final Out: Ground Out
Legacy Impact: 1st title for Boston in 86 years, breaking of “The Curse of the Bambino”
It’s easy to get swept up in the adrenaline of what is probably the best postseason series in the history of the game, but one has to take a deep breath, turn off the Ken Burns, and remember that series was the ALCS, NOT the World Series that year. In fact, the Fall Classic that year is honestly buoyed by the sheer magnitude of the title drought that ended, and strong TV ratings, because the series itself was kind of a dud. The Sox outscored the Cards 24-12 in a 4 game sweep that awarded the MVP to Manny Ramirez, who put in a fine, if not average performance when compared to some of the higher ranked MVPs on this list.
No. 14: 1990, Cincinnati Reds over Oakland Athletics, 5 points
MVP: Jose Rijo (15.1IP/14K/0.59ERA)
Highest Rated Game: 32.9MM
Final Out: Pop Out
Legacy Impact: Cincinnati’s World Series win streak extends to 9 games.
This series was a final hurrah for two teams who had been dominant in the 70’s and 80’s, as neither team would make a world series appearance after a 4-0 sweep by the “Nasty Boys” over the heavily favored A’s (fresh off 3 consecutive pennants and a world title). Many expected a competitive contest, but in actuality the Reds dismantled the once mighty A’s 22-8 overall thanks to dominant pitching and timely hitting. This series lacked much competitiveness, but thanks to stellar TV ratings and a top tier performance from Jose Rijo, this one marks the “middle of the pack”.
No. 13: 2009, New York Yankees over Philadelphia Phillies, 6 points
MVP: Hideki Matsui (.349/4HR/13RBI)
Highest Rated Game: 22.7MM (Game 5)
Final Out: Ground Out
Legacy Impact: 5th title since 1996 under Joe Torre
The last hurrah for the team that emerged from nowhere, the Phillies came back to defend their title against the resurgent Yankees, however it was for naught. Godzilla came to Philly, and stomped their dreams to dust. To their credit, it was a hard fought series, and featured three silver sluggers, four gold glovers, and the first full time Japanese player as well as the first full time DH to win the series MVP. This series has a lot of hardware to go along with it, but sits just outside the top 10.
No. 12: 2016, Chicago Cubs over Cleveland Indians, 6 points
MVP: Ben Zobrist (.357/2RBI)
Highest Rated Game: 40MM (Game 7)
Final Out: Ground Out
Legacy Impact: First title for Chicago Cubs in 108 years, ending longest title drought in American sports history.
By most accounts, this series took a while to get going. A couple of one sided victories and generally uneventful pitchers duels were massively overshadowed by what many regard as the greatest Game 7 ever played. It took gutsy baserunning by Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis, timely hitting by veteran catcher David Ross, and an epic three run home run in the bottom of the ninth against one of the most intimidating pitchers of all time to send it into extra innings, the first such time a Game 7 had seen such a feat. After the game, however, Cubs players pointed to a pep talk given by right fielder Jason Heyward during a short rain delay that turned their fortunes. Either way, it was an epic game that bouyed an otherwise fairly boring series. The end result though, was the first celebration in Chicago since 1908, and that alone was worth it.
No. 11: 1996, New York Yankees over Atlanta Braves, 6 points
MVP: John Wetteland (4.1IP/6SO/4SV)
Highest Rated Game: 30.4MM (Game 6)
Final Out: Pop Out
Legacy Impact: First title for modern Yankees under Joe Torre
The first domino to fall in the Yankees run of dominance in the 90’s and 2000’s was also the most exciting one that they played in. This had all the symptoms of their 2009 victory; playing the defending champions, lots of hardware being handed out for both sides, and a hard fought series, but this edged ahead thanks to great TV ratings, and it being the first title the team earned under the manager that would bring them several more. It also marks the only series they would win without Mariano Rivera as the primary closer.
No. 10: 1992 Toronto Blue Jays over Atlanta Braves, 6 points
MVP: Pat Borders (.450/1HR/3RBI)
Highest Rated Game: 35MM (Game 6)
Final Out: Bunt out
Legacy Impact: First Canadian team and Black manager to win World Series
It wasn’t enough for the Jays to break down one wall, but to knock down two at the same time was truly impressive. First, this marked the first World Series title to go north of the border to Canada, and it also marked the first black manager to take home the trophy as well, an impressive feat no matter how you slice it. This was the first of back to back titles for the Blue Jays, and the 2nd consecutive appearance for the ascending Braves, and it did not disappoint. Atlanta actually outscored Toronto 20-17, but the Jays would hang tough, and take game 6 in 11 innings to win the series, and truly make the game of baseball international.
No. 9: 1997 Florida Marlins over Cleveland Indians, 6 points
MVP: Livan Hernandez (13.2IP/7SO/5.27ERA)
Highest Rated Game: 38MM (Game 7)
Final Play: Run Scoring Single
Legacy Impact: First title for Marlins, only 6 years of existence in MLB.
This one was all over the map. The good included a 7 game series, one of only 4 on our countdown that didn’t end in an out, and a team taking home their first title after only a half decade of even being a franchise. It also brought home very strong TV ratings even for the 90’s (when ratings were decidedly stronger than the decades that followed). The ugly is the performance of the series MVP, Livan Hernandez, who put up the weakest (by far) performance of any series MVP of the last 25 years. All’s well that ends well though, and the Marlins ended their first title drought before it ever began, in the process extending Cleveland’s dry spell to a laughable 77 years.
No. 8: 2014 San Francisco Giants over Kansas City Royals, 7 points
MVP: Madison Bumgarner (21IP/17SO/0.43ERA)
Highest Rated Game: 23.5MM
Final Play: Pop Out
Legacy Impact: Third title in 6 years for Giants, completed “Even Year Titles” (’10,’12’14)
The conclusion to the “Even Number Trilogy” was by far the best for the San Francisco Giants. A gritty, hard fought seven games were needed, capped off by one of the more dramatic game 7’s in modern series history. The culmination of power pitching versus contact hitting ended with Alex Gordon dashing around the bases with two outs in the bottom of the ninth after a bobbled line drive to center field, only to be held at third base, and as it turned out, 90 feet short of tying game 7 in the bottom of the ninth with two outs (there was much speculation after the game that Gordon could’ve reached home on the play). Instead, we remember one of the most dominant pitching performances in series history, when Madison Bumgarner retired 14 of the last 15 hitters he faced (Gordon being the only one to reach base), and that after he pitched a 4 hit shutout just two days earlier, a performance reminiscent of Randy Johnson in the 2001 World Series.
No. 7: 2011, St. Louis Cardinals over Texas Rangers, 7 points
MVP: David Freese (.397/5HR/21RBI)
Highest Rated Game: 25.4MM (Game 7)
Final Out: Fly Out
Legacy Impact: 2nd title in 5 years for St. Louis
In 2011, we watched a man go from a decent player, to October legend in 7 games. David Freese’s performance in the 2011 World Series stands out as the best in the last 25 years, always seeming to deliver for his team in the clutch, driving in more than half the runs the Cardinals scored for the entire series (21 of 38). This was honestly one of the more evenly matched contests that made the countdown, with both teams posting strong offensive performances, with both games 6 and 7 going into the 11th inning. Game 3 was the only real one-sided showing, with the Cardinals blowing out the Rangers 16-7. Texas was eventually done in thanks to walks (they set a series record by issuing 41 of them) and sloppy defensive play (8 errors and one fly ball to right that gave Nelson Cruz scapegoat duties for this year), but really it was a herculean effort by the Cardinals third baseman (Freese) that awarded St. Louis their most dramatic World Series title, their second in 5 years.
No. 6: 1993, Toronto Blue Jays over Philadelphia Phillies, 7 points
MVP: Paul Molitor (.500/2HR/8RBI)
Highest Rated Game: 29.1MM (Game 6)
Final Play: Walk Off Home Run by Joe Carter
Legacy Impact: First World Series ending home run since 1960, back to back titles for Toronto
Now things are heating up! There’sl much to brag about when it comes to drama in the 1993 series. This one is the only one that ended on a round-tripper, and the only series to end that way since the outmatched Pirates shocked the Yankees in the 1960 series. They faced off against the Phillies, making their first appearance since 1980 and taking a beating in the standings ever since. They banded together and threw up 97 wins that season, but unfortunately, came up one short of taking it all. Paul Molitor’s solid, if not uninspiring MVP performance was overshadowed by Joe Carter, who took a Mitch Williams offering over the left field wall in the bottom of the 9th, and ended the Series. Coincidentally, this marked the second consecutive year he made the last play of the World Series, since in 1992, he caught the last out at first base as Otis Nixon failed to beat out a bunt. This also brought on what might be the most classic World Series call of this quarter-century, as Carter circled the bases, Blue Jays radio announcer Tom Cheek shouted
“Touch ’em all, Joe, you’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life!”. He was right.
No. 5 : 2017, Houston Astros over Los Angeles Dodgers, 7 points
MVP: George Springer (.379/5HR/7RBI)
Final Out: Ground Out
Highest Rated Game: 28.2MM (Game 7)
Legacy Impact: First World Title in Astros history.
The June 2014 issue of Sports Illustrated turned a lot of heads and furrowed a lot of brows when they declared the Houston Astros (a team in the midst of a 70 win season, their best record in three years) the 2017 World Series Champions. Well, here we are, and they were dead on the money. In an epic 7 game series, the Astros inevitably won the home run derby over the Los Angeles Dodgers, in a series that was ultimately much closer than many thought (the composite box score was dead even, 34-34), and more exciting than anyone could’ve predicted. Two games went to extra innings, including fifth game that might just go down as one of the greatest single World Series games ever, when the game tied or changed leads no less than 5 times. The ratings were pretty strong for this one as well, and George Springers strong performance (after a pretty abysmal ALCS against the Yankees) shot this one pretty far up the rankings.
No. 4: 2001, Arizona Diamondbacks over New York Yankees, 8 points
MVP(s): Curt Schilling & Randy Johnson
Highest Rated Game: 23.5MM (Game 7)
Final Play: Run Scoring Single by Luis Gonzalez
Legacy Impact: First World Series after 9/11 attacks, Arizona first appearance and win.
You would be extremely hard pressed to find a more emotionally charged, dramatic World Series than 2001, just months after the World Trade Center was destroyed and the country was in need of a winning feeling again, and who better to provide that than the most recognizable sports team in the entire world, the symbol of excellence in the most quintessentially American thing EVER, than the New York Yankees, the team representing the very city that bore the brunt of the attacks. Baseball is beautiful and cruel that way. The Diamondbacks battled, scratched, clawed, and pitched their way to one of the most dramatic victories in recent memory, led by the two man wrecking crew of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. The Yankees had an answer for everything else the D-Backs could put up (including brutalizing Byung Yung Kim) except for the two hurlers that put a franchise on their shoulders and carried them across the finish line. The series ended on a bloop single over the head of Derek Jeter (who was playing in), and just like that, the game reminded us that while we may not always get what seems right, sometimes you have to reflect and enjoy the ride you just went on. In terms of single postseason games, Game 7 of this World Series would almost definitely be ranked number one. If it could’ve mustered slightly higher ratings (it clocked in at 13th), the entire series may have made the top of the list
No. 3: 1995, Atlanta Braves over Cleveland Indians, 8 points
MVP: Tom Glavine (14IP/11SO/1.29ERA)
Highest Rated Game: 31.7MM (Game 5)
Final Out: Fly Out
Legacy Impact: 1st and only World Series win for Atlanta, first series played after strike of 1994 ended season and cancelled World Series.
After the players strike of 1994 cancelled the first World Series in nearly 90 years, the game seemed in tatters. The season began late, with empty stadiums and millions of disenfranchised fans across the country, angry from listening to “millionaires vs. billionaires” argue about what to do with their (the ticket holder’s) money. The Braves were truly the “team of the 90’s”, for after going from a laughingstock to making their third appearance in the Fall Classic, they felt due for a win, and were hoping that by winning, they could do their part to re energize the fans. They faced off against the Cleveland Indians, who steamrolled the American League, powered by what many have thought to be one of the most formidable lineups ever assembled. That was, until they faced what the same people believed to be one of the greatest pitching staffs ever put together. What makes a matchup like that great is that the best each team has to offer is constantly up against each other, as opposed to one lineup watching another lineup from the dugout (although Cleveland’s pitching and Atlanta’s lineup were nothing to mess with either), and both teams delivered. A hard fought 6 game series ended in one of the better pitching performances in a deciding World Series game, 8 innings of 1 hit ball from Tom Glavine, and a single home run from David Justice gave Atlanta what would turn out to be their only title of this era, despite appearing 4 other times (’91, ’92, ’96, and ’99).
No. 2: 2002, Anaheim Angels over San Francisco Giants, 9 points
MVP: Troy Glaus (.344/7HR/13RBI)
Highest Rated Game: 30.8MM (Game 7)
Final Out: Fly Out
Legacy Impact: Only WS for Barry Bonds, Angels first win, epic collapse for Giants in Game 6
Barry Bonds has got to be the most divisive figure in all of professional sports. On one hand, he is possibly the greatest, most complete player to ever play the game. On the other, he is a lying, arrogant, cheater that disgraced the game by trampling on it’s most sacred records. Perhaps the outcome of the 2002 World Series is a perfect encapsulation of Bond’s career: So close to immortality, but simply couldn’t finish the right way. The Giants were a mere eight outs away from bringing home the first title to San Francisco since they moved from New York, and giving their marquee player, Barry Bonds, the one thing his career lacked, and the bottom fell out. Hit after hit, the Angels rallied to take the lead from the reeling Giants, and then Troy Percival slammed the door shut. This set up a somewhat anticlimactic game 7 (the only real thing that kept it from the top spot), where the Angels took the lead in the third inning and never looked back, ending what turned out to be Bonds’s only chance at experiencing a World Series win. Many compared the collapse in game 6 to the 1986 game 6 comeback by the New York Mets over the Boston Red Sox, but I would argue this one being even more painful, since really, no one on the Giants did anything wrong per se. Russ Ortiz was pitching a shut out before the wheels came off the wagon, Bonds did misplay a ball in the outfield that cost the Giants a base, but it was lost in the parade of inescapably good placement hitting by the Angels. I believe it’s an easier pill to swallow if you can point to a single play or error and say “there it is! There’s where it all went wrong!”, rather than having to sit and watch one team simply play outrageously better baseball for two innings. Truth be told, I was shocked this one ended up as high up as it did, but between the drama of going 7 games, a strong performance from Troy Glaus, strong ratings, and the greatest collapse on the list, it’s no wonder this series is one of the best this quarter-century has to offer.
No. 1: 1991, Minnesota Twins over Atlanta Braves, 10 points
MVP: Jack Morris (23IP/15SO/1.17ERA)
Highest Rated Game: 50.3MM (Game 7)
Final Play: RBI Single by Gene Larkin
Legacy Impact: Highest rated single game by 12MM, “The Cinderella Series”
The only series on the countdown to attain a perfect score, and deservedly so. This series was historically unique, as it was the first and only ever to feature two teams who went from last place in their respective leagues the year before, to winning them the very next year. The teams seemingly came out of nowhere, and were determined to make the most of their opportunity to play for it all. The home team won every game, and usually in dramatic fashion, tallying 69 innings in total, the longest World Series on record. In fact, five of the seven games were decided by a single run, four came down to the final at bat, and three games went to extra innings. There were many highlights, from Kent Hirbek tangling with Ron Gant at first base in game two, Lonnie Smith’s base running adventures in game three, Mark Lemke’s offensive explosion, or Kirby Puckett’s clutch home run in game 6. One performance, though became a thing of legend, when Jack Morris pitched 10 (yes, ten) shut out innings in game seven, holding out for Gene Larkin to put a fly ball deep enough to score the winning run of a 0-0 tie, and taking the World Series. The utterly freakish nature of having not one, but two last place teams rise from the ashes to fight for it all is epic enough, but throw in the style and competitiveness the series was played with, it’s no wonder this series captured the imaginations of baseball fans everywhere, (Game 7 out rated every other game on this list by over 12 million viewers) and gave a new life to America’s game.
Some fun facts:
Teams by number of appearances (W-L):
Yankees: 7 (5-2)
Braves: 5 (1-4)
Giants: 4 (3-1)
Cardinals: 4 (2-2)
Phillies: 3 (1-2)
Red Sox: 3 (3-0)
Mets: 2 (0-2)
Tigers: 2 (0-2)
Royals: 2 (1-1)
Indians: 2 (0-2)
Marlins: 2 (2-0)
Blue Jays: 2 (2-0)
Rangers: 2 (0-2)
Reds: 1 (1-0)
Diamondbacks: 1 (1-0)
White Sox: 1 (1-0)
Astros: 2 (1-1)
Twins: 1 (1-0)
Angels: 1 (1-0)
- Cubs: 1 (1-0)
Rockies: 1 (0-1)
A’s: 1 (0-1)
Rays: 1 (0-1)
Padres: 1 (0-1)
American League: 15 wins
National League: 12 wins
David Freese would be the MVP of MVP’s, notching an incredible 21 RBI over a 7 game series. No one else comes close.
4 of 27 series ended on an offensive play, 16 ended on defensive outs, 7 ended in strikeouts
All 4 of the offensive ended series finished in the top 8, while all 7 of the strikeout ended series finsihed in the bottom 9.
TV ratings dropped noticeably after the 1997 series, which brought in 38MM viewers. After that, only the 2002 series drew over 30MM.
San Francisco Giants titles in 2010 and 2012 were the two overall lowest rated.