We’ve looked at the biggest upsets in the NBA and the NHL. Now it’s time to look back at the ones that blew our minds in MLB history.
Baseball is always a tough sport to gauge for these kinds of things. Often, the teams with the top records or most talent find themselves on the losing end of a postseason series. Bats will go cold, pressure mounts, and it just happens. For a team sport, baseball is driven by individual performances and maybe that’s what causes these situations.
Either way, as difficult as it is to pick out upsets, we’ve found the five we feel are the greatest in the league’s history.
5. The Curse Is Reversed – 2004 ALCS
For more than eight decades, the Boston Red Sox were victims of the “Curse of the Bambino.” They would put together some of the most impressive teams and something always got in the way of that elusive championship. In 2003, it was a comeback in the deciding game of the American League Championship Series by their rival, the New York Yankees, and a walkoff home run by Aaron Boone.
The following year, the teams faced off again in the ALCS. They were evenly matched during the regular season with the Yankees winning 101 games and the Red Sox winning 98. However, New York jumped out to a commanding 3-0 lead in the best of seven series with a 19-8 beating in game three. All hope was lost. But Boston wouldn’t stay down. They won games four and five in extra innings before heading to New York to topple them twice more and win the series. It was the first time any team in MLB history came back from a 3-0 series deficit. Combine that with the history of the Red Sox and you’ll see why this was an upset. Boston went on to sweep the World Series and end the curse for good.
4. The Catch – 1954 World Series
Cleveland is a city known for heartbreaking sports moments. The Fumble. The Drive. The Shot. The Decision. Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. But, the original was The Catch.
It happened in the 1954 World Series. The Cleveland Indians were a 111 win juggernaut with names like Early Wynn, Bob Feller, Larry Doby, and Bob Lemon on the roster. They faced off against the New York Giants. That 97 win squad did feature great players, but were the underdogs. One thing they had that the Indians didn’t? MVP winner Willie Mays. The legend made his famous over the shoulder catch in center field to preserve a 2-2 tie in game one. They went on to win that game and the rest, completing a sweep to win the title.
3. Down Goes The Evil Empire – 2003 World Series
They’re the most loved team in sports. They’re also the most hated. The New York Yankees are the “Evil Empire” for a reason. The franchise has won more World Series than any other and were the favorites in 2003. After all, they won four titles from 1996 to 2000, lost in a wild World Series in 2001, and just beat their rivals in a historic ALCS. Put that 101 win team with guys like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte, and others against a 91 win Florida Marlins team and it seemed like a foregone conclusion.
After winning it all in 1997, Florida retooled and got rid of all their key players. And yet, here they were back in the World Series a few years later. This team wasn’t scared of the “Yankee aura.” They took game one at Yankee Stadium, but fell behind 2-1. In game four, they were in trouble as New York tied it in the 9th. However, Alex Gonazlez hit a walk-off home run to tie the series. Miami won game five, and then Josh Beckett dominated the Yankees in game six. That shutout gave Miami another unlikely championship. In fact, the franchise has only qualified for the Playoffs twice in history and they’ve won the whole thing on both occasions.
2. The Miracle Mets – 1969 World Series
When you’re known as “The Miracle Mets,” you must have done something magical. Though they were a 100 win team, nobody gave the 1969 Mets a shot against the 109 win Baltimore Orioles. The Mets were considered lucky to just be there. The expansion team was a group of lovable losers during their first seven years of existence, even if they stepped up big time for the final year of the 60s.
Another reason the Mets weren’t given much of a chance was the experience factor. Their oldest regular position player was a mere 26 years old. Then they lost game one and it was clear they were outmatched. Except they weren’t. Led by great pitching, these Mets won the next four games by giving up a total of five runs to win the championship. They made history as the first expansion team to do so.
1. The Impossible Has Happened – 1988 World Series
It’s probably the most iconic call in the career of Vin Scully. Kirk Gibson gets up to pinch-hit in game one of the 1988 World Series with his hobbled legs and the rest is history. The Los Angeles Dodgers looked like chumps next to the Oakland A’s in 1988. Gibson was one of only two players on the roster with a double-digit home run total. A guy near the top of the order hit .223 and another had just one homer all season long. Meanwhile, Oakland was loaded with Dennis Eckersley, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, and Dave Stewart.
Down 4-3 in game one thanks to a Canseco grand slam, the Dodgers were in deep trouble. That’s when the injured Gibson got up to pinch hit with a runner on. He connected on a two-run walk off home run to win the game. It was his only at-bat of the entire series. Their pitching did the rest for the series. Los Angeles held Oakland to 7 runs in the next four games and won the title. Canseco’s grand slam proved to be his only hit of the series. He and McGwire, the “Bash Brothers,” combined to go 2-36 (.055) in the five games.
Scully’s game one call was appropriate for the result of the whole thing. “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”