by John Furgele
If you go back into the baseball annals, you will see lots of classic games, but for some reason, or at least in my mind, there have been more Game 6 classics than any other. Last night added yet another chapter to the Game 6 legend as the Cardinals, twice down two runs and twice down to their last strike, remarkably rallied and forced Game 7 tonight.
There has not been a Game 7 since 2002, when the then Anaheim Angels beat the San Francisco Giants 4-1 to win their only title. But, that series will be remembered more for Game 6, when somehow, Anaheim rallied from a 5-0 deficit to force the decisive game. While Game 7 has the ultimate urgency, Game 6 has a different urgency. The team that’s down obviously has to win, while the team that’s up wants to do everything in its power to not play a Game 7, and last night, you saw that. The Cardinals were so desperate that they used all their position players and had to rely on pitcher Kyle Lohse’s sacrifice bunt in the 10th to stage their second rally.
Texas was desperate, but certainly not as much as St. Louis. I was suprised that Ron Washington, didn’t let Neftali Feliz pitch a second inning. No offense to the crafty Darren Oliver, but is he the one you want out there to close? Now, the Rangers have to do something that is very hard: win Game 7 on the road.
The list of classic Game 6s is lengthy. Most over 40 remember Carlton Fisk’s foul pole home run that forced that series to a decider. There was Reggie Jackson’s three home run performance in the ’77 Fall Classic. In 1985, the Kansas City Royals rallied for two in the ninth to beat St. Louis to even that series, with yes, a little help from umpire Don Dekinger, and the next year, was perhaps the ultimate of ultimates when Mookie Wilson’s ground ball through Bill Buckner’s legs still gives me goosebumps every time I see it. I can still hear Vin Scully state, “If one picture is worth a thousand words, you have seen about a million words.” In 1993, it was Joe Carter, in 2003 it was Josh Beckett’s haunting, crowd silencing performance at Yankee Stadium.
Now, for Game 7, as said, the odds are never good for the road team. The last road team to win Game 7 occurred in 1979 when the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Orioles in Baltimore. For some reason, it is tough to do, in all sports, not just baseball. The Brewers couldn’t do it in 1982, the above mentioned Cardinals and Red Sox failed in 1985 and 1986 as did the. Cardinals in 1987. Like Texas, all four of those clubs brought 3-2 series leads into the Game 6, and lost both games. Other roadies to fail include the Braves in 1991 (Minnesota), Cleveland in 1997 (Florida), NY Yankees in 2001 (Arizona), and of course the Giants in 2002.
So, tonight, it is one for the vine, a defactos Super Bowl game for baseball. Deep down, the baseball execs are smiling. It’s Game 7, it’s Friday night and hopefully, millions of casual fans will tune in for this “one off” to decide the champion. While Friday is not a great TV night, the bad economy, and the fact that kids don’t have school tomorrow, and the fact that it is the last game, should help, not hurt the TV rating.
If Game 7 is half as good as Game 6, it should be a dandy.