The 162-game MLB regular season, the cross-country playoff flights, all lead to the World Series.
The incredible marathon that is the Major League Baseball season is all pointing towards a World Series appearance, it is the holy grail for all 30 teams. Rebuilds happen with the aim of a solitary chance to make the Fall Classic.
Once a team gets there, it’s not as simple as the better roster wins. Star power helps, of course, but there’s a unique mental challenge about postseason baseball that is amplified for the World Series.
October baseball is the chance to become a legend, doing something historic in the World Series keeps your name in the history books for the rest of time.
We looked forward in the 2019 Major League Baseball preview, this time we’re looking back at the greatest ever World Series performances.
Madison Bumgarner (2014)
“When I look at 2014 and I think of October, I think of Bumgarner today, and 100 years from now, everyone will still think about Madison Bumgarner in 2014.” That was Tom Verducci as Bumgarner’s 2014 postseason performance saw him named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year.
Bumgarner had excelled in the 2010 and 2012 postseason for the San Francisco Giants, but what he did in 2014 was another level. The left-hander put Bruce Bochy’s team on his back, carrying them to a third World Series title in five seasons.
Game One of the World Series saw Bumgarner pitch seven innings for one earned run (the only run he has given up in 36 World Series innings). Game Five was back in San Francisco – Bumgarner tossed a complete game shutout to put the Giants up 3-2.
In Game Seven, he was ready to come out of the bullpen. After a difficult start for Tim Hudson, Bochy got a few outs from Jeremy Affeldt, before turning to his ace in the fifth inning.
The plan wasn’t for Bumgarner to pitch the remaining five innings. Getting quick outs, keeping the Royals hitters off balance, he did just that. Bumgarner was named World Series MVP and earned his third ring with a thrilling Game Seven victory on the road.
Sandy Koufax (1965)
Dodgers ace Sandy Koufax missed the first game of the 1965 World Series because of Yom Kippur.
He started Game Two, but the defence let him down as the Twins took a 2-0 series lead. Los Angeles were in trouble, though they managed to tie the series before Koufax returned to the mound for Game Five.
Game Five saw a 10-strikeout complete game shutout. The Twins made it 3-3 in Game Six and Koufax was starting again in Game Seven on short rest with the World Series on the line.
And what happened? Yep, it was another 10-strikeout gem from the lefty, shutting down the Twins’ offence for another complete game.
The Dodgers offence wasn’t good in 1965. They battled their way to the postseason, and then Koufax – still with minimal run support – did the rest.
Jack Morris (1991)
The 1991 World Series is commonly considered one of the best of all-time. Jack Morris, Minnesota Twins’ ace at the time, is a recent Hall of Fame inductee and started three games in the ’91 World Series, giving up just three earned runs in 23 innings.
A stellar start in Game One led the Twins to an early advantage. Game Four was solid from Morris again, but the Braves pipped them in the ninth. It was Game Seven when the veteran right-hander shone.
Matched up with John Smoltz, as he was in Game Four, it was a tense game with baserunners hard to come by.
After nine innings, the score remained 0-0. Morris had thrown nine shutout frames and came out to pitch the 10th. He repeatedly refused to leave the game.
Stubborn and determined to lead his team to victory, Morris continued to retire Braves hitters. Fortunately for Minnesota’s coaching staff, their team were able to walk it off in the bottom of the 10th before they had to confront Morris again.
Christy Mathewson (1905)
Christy Mathewson had the benefit of playing in the dead-ball era. Even so, what he achieved was ridiculous.
After throwing well over 300 regular season innings for an ERA of just over one, Mathewson guided the New York Giants to a World Series win over the Philadelphia Athletics.
Mathewson, a two-time Triple Crown winner, pitched 27 scoreless innings in three starts over six days. He gave up just 13 hits and one walk, while striking out 18 Philly hitters.
While considering baseball legacy is challenging because of how the game has changed, Mathewson is one of the greatest ever MLB players. His 1905 World Series display goes down as one of the great October stories.
Reggie Jackson (1977)
Reggie Jackson’s nickname is ‘Mr October’. That made it pretty clear he was making this list.
Only three other players – Pablo Sandoval, Babe Ruth and Albert Pujols – have hit three homers in a World Series game. Jackson achieved the feat in Game Six of the 1977 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The five-time World Series winner has a more than solid postseason CV without the three-homer game. Add that to the mix, however, which helped him win a second World Series MVP, and Jackson has a playoff career unlike any other hitter in the history of the game.
Plenty of betting sites have the Yankees as one of the World Series favourites this season. Will we see one of the Bronx Bombers follow in Jackson’s footsteps this October?
Bob Gibson (1967)
Perhaps the greatest World Series pitcher ever, Bob Gibson was twice-named World Series MVP for the St Louis Cardinals. His 1967 effort was monstrous, as he tossed three complete game gems, earning him three victories for a WHIP marginally over 0.7.
He even started Game Seven on short rest, and again delivered for St Louis, punching out 10 Red Sox hitters on the way to an historic victory.
In that famous Game Seven, Gibson gave up two of the three runs he did in the entire 1967 World Series. A disappointment, of course, but the flamethrowing right-hander also contributed at the plate, hitting a two-run homer off Boston’s starter, Jim Lonborg.
Gibson’s Cardinals are competitive in 2019 and will be eyeing their 12th World Series title. Keep up to date with St Louis’ chances in 888sport’s MLB betting odds.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*