Sunday, May 22, 2011

Baseball's 'Greatest Game' And Some Left Off the List

The Mets and Braves played an iconic game in 1985.
Major League Baseball has unveiled its choice for greatest game of the last 50 years: Game 6 of the 1975 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds. The game produced the indelible image of catcher Carlton Fisk frantically trying to wave his game-winning home run fair as it sailed over Fenway's Green Monster.

I remember watching this game on TV as it stretched on toward four hours, an almost unheard of length at the time, even for a 12-inning game. I was pulling for the Sox (I always thought the Big Red Machine was more hype than substance) and was trying to will Fisk's ball fair from my bedroom in a Milwaukee suburb.

I have no quibble with this choice or most of the others on MLB's list of the top 20 games. I wonder, though, if there weren't games from before 1975 that deserved inclusion. It's also interesting that all but one of the games on the list are from the postseason (the 50-year cutoff left Bill Mazeroski's walk-off home run to give the Pittsburgh Pirates the title over the New York Yankees in 1960 out in the cold).

There are two regular season games that stick out in my mind. One was the Fourth of July 1985 contest between the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets. Thanks to TBS, which at the time beamed nearly every one of the team's games to a national audience I was able to watch it till the wee hours.

This game had everything: It lasted 19 innings, Keith Hernandez hit for the cycle, pitcher Rick Camp hit the only home run of his career to tie the game in the 18th inning, and that same pitcher was at the plate as the tying run when the game ended.

I was neither a Braves nor a Mets fan, but these teams put on a show that deserves recognition on any list of greatest games.

Another game I'd put on the list was one pitched by Gaylord Perry. It was April 17, 1974 and Perry was pitching for the Indians in Milwaukee. My brother took me to the game and we sat behind home plate. A perfect view for what was to unfold.

Perry stayed on the mound for 15 innings for Cleveland. The Brewers scored two in the eighth and two more in the ninth to tie the game. Perry pitched on. When he finally departed after 15, the Brewers pushed across the winning run in the 16th to take a 5-4 victory. Amazingly, the teams combined to use only six pitchers and game was finished in less than 4 hours. It was truly a different era.

One personal note: I was keeping score as I always did back then. As the game wore on I realized I was running out of space for new innings. A nearby fan was nice enough to tear the scorecard portion out of her program so a teenager could complete the task. I might have to dig through some boxes to see if it survived several moves and purges over the years.

These games are burned in my memory. I am sure there are games you remember. Please leave a comment about them.


  1. It's typical of the attitude prevailing these days: "If I don't remember it, it didn't happen." Somewhere, Fred Merkle is saying, "Thanks a lot, pal." VH1 does the same thing with any show with the title "Ever" in it: Apparently, "Ever" means since MTV went on the air in 1981.

    It's easy to put 75WS6 at Number 1. A, It had several great moments, not just the last one. B, It had a great ending. C, It had that great visual; we don't have audio of Mickey Mantle telling Elston Howard, "Barney Schultz is throwing that knuckleball? You can go back into the dugout, Elston, this game's over" in 64WS3. And D, It appeases Red Sox fans, who, since 2004, have become sorer winners than they ever were as sore losers.

    And, as a Milwaukeean, you probably got gypped by the failure to go back far enough to include 57WS4, a walkoff homer in the 10th by Eddie Mathews, without which the city's only World Series would not have been won.

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Mike. It occurs to me that 1963 duel between Marichal and Spahn could have made the list. Someone even wrote a book about it. But maybe there is no film of that for a TV show.

  3. Perhaps not a game that will go down in history, but one I still remember - my Dad took me to Milwaukee County Stadium on July 24, 1967 to see the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox play an exhibition game. The attendance of over 51,000 was the largest ever for a baseball game in Milwaukee to that point. I remember that they roped off the warning track in the outfield and it was filled with fans standing from foul line to foul line in front of the outfield fence. At one point a ball was hit into that crowd and the Twins outfielder injured a kid going into the crowd to catch the ball. He carried the kid from the outfield into the dugout for first aid. It was hot and loud and a lot of fun to enjoy a game with my Dad at County Stadium.

  4. I went to one of the Sox games, too. Against the A's. I wrote about it earlier.

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