Johnny Blanchard had wanted the ball down. After the first pitch from Ralph Terry had been high, the Yankees' backstop had called timeout to remind his teammate one more time.
Bill Mazeroski is a high ball hitter. Keep it down.
Terry didn't. And true to Blanchard's scouting report, the Pittsburgh Pirates' light-hitting second baseman creamed the second high offering from Terry to left-center field at Forbes Field. Back. Back. New York left fielder Yogi Berra turned his back to the infield to face the ivy-covered wall, hoping for a carom. But the ball kept sailing. It cleared the wall for the one and only walk-off home run in the history of Game 7 of the World Series. With this majestic home run on a warm autumn afternoon in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh, the working class Pirates had shocked Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Berra and the rest of the New York Yankees.
Mazeroski floated around the bases, arms flailing, smiling. Fans descended from the stands looking to join the celebration at home plate. And Yankees players quietly filed off the field. There is no stage in sports that allows for the sort of spontaneous exuberance and everlasting goodwill quite like Game 7 of the World Series.
Just ask Maz.
Although it may seem be hard to top the last-gasp drama of Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, each man in uniform for the Cardinals and Rangers will have a chance to join Mazeroski in World Series lore. Will marquee players like Albert Pujols or Josh Hamilton step up in the season's climactic moment? Or could it be a less heralded hero that etches his names among the game's greats?
From the first winner-take-all Game 7 in 1909 that featured Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner to Mazeroski's walk-off winner in 1960 to Luis Gonzalez's Series-clinching flare off Mariano Rivera in 2001, here are some of the most memorable moments from Game 7 of the World Series.
Of all the situations a team can be in during an close game, the '01 D-Backs found themselves in one of the most dire. They came to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning of a must-win game trailing by a run and facing Mariano Rivera. The Yankees' closer came into that game having converted 24 of 25 postseason save chances, with the lone blown save coming in 1997. Armed with his buzzsaw cutter, Mo was the best. Yet, the Diamondbacks managed to solve him. Thanks to a flurry of moves by skipper Bob Brenly and uncharacteristic fielding error and hit by pitch by Rivera, Arizona managed to tie the game. With the winning run at third base, Luis Gonzalez came to the plate. Rivera threw that cutter in on the hands of the left-handed Gonzo. Everyone at Bank One Ballpark knew that's where the pitch was going. Gonzalez, having choked up on the bat, pulled his hands through the zone. Contact. His flare dropped into shallow center and ignited a raucous celebration in the desert.
In one of the least-discussed "great" games in the history of the World Series was the shocking walk-off win by the up-start Florida Marlins over a powerhouse Indians side featuring Sandy Alomar, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez and David Justice. To the everlasting regret of long-suffering Tribe fans, the Fish scored a run in the bottom of the 9th off Cleveland's Jose Mesa to tie the game at two. In the bottom of the 11th, Edgar Renteria hit a game-winning single to center field, giving the Marlins their first ever World Series title.
Trailing, 3-1, going into the bottom of the 6th inning, the Cardinals tied up the game against the Brewers with a bases loaded single by Keith Hernandez. They would rally for three more runs to defeat the Brewers 6-3 and win their ninth World Series, second all time to only the Yankees. This wouldn't be the last stunning World Series comeback that Hernandez would be a part of...
Perhaps the most taut, well-pitched game in the history of the Fall Classic, Game 7 of the 1991 Fall Classic featured veteran Twins ace Jack Morris battling an up-and-coming Braves pitcher John Smoltz. Both pitchers kept putting zeroes up on the scoreboard. Smoltz tossed 7.1 scoreless frames but Morris pitched an astonishing 10 shutout innings. In the bottom of the 10th, Morris' Twins scratched out the game's only run.
While many place complete blame on Bill Buckner for the Red Sox losing the 1986 World Series, Boston still had a chance to win Game 7. The first baseman's egregious error finished the Sox' Game 6 collapse. There was a long way to go. And, things looked good for Boston early after they jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the second inning. But the Red Sox would surrender eight total runs in the 6th, 7th and 8th innings, eventually falling to the Mets 8-5. And the Curse lived on.
The first winner-take-all World Series Game 7 took place in 1909 and pitted the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Detroit Tigers. More importantly, it put Honus Wagner up against Ty Cobb. The top two talents in the pre-Ruth era of baseball, Wagner got the best of the younger Cobb over the duration of the Series and the final game was no different. The star of Game 7, though, was Pirates pitcher Babe Adams who tossed a complete-game shutout for his third win in those seven contests.
In 1960, the Pittsburgh Pirates authored perhaps the most compelling Game 7 story in all of sport. Despite suffering lopsided defeats in three of the first six games of the Series, the Bucs had managed to squeak out three close wins over a high-powered Yankees club that featured Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. Playing a back-and-forth decisive game at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, the Pirates walked off winners thanks to a game-ending home run in the home ninth by Bill Mazeroski. Respected for his sterling defense during his career, he is best remembered years later for this home run.