The World Series, which begins Tuesday, is a show-off. Since the first in 1903, when the older, established National League called off its cold war with the upstart American League, the World Series probably has been the source of more dramatic moments in sports than any other event.
Perhaps more than any sport, baseball tends to live off its tradition, its history, its legends.
There have been many outstanding World Series games, about as many as the combined number of home runs by Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron.
Here are a few--this writer's five greatest games in World Series history.
1. Oct. 21, 1975; Game 6, Cincinnati Reds vs. Boston Red Sox
This game always will be remembered for Carlton Fisk's dramatic 12th-inning home run, but there was much more to it. The Reds led three games to two as the Series returned to Fenway Park, but rain postponed Game 6 for three days.
Behind mustachioed ace Luis Tiant, a cigar-chomping Cuban right-hander, the Red Sox took a 3-0 lead on Fred Lynn's three-run home run in the first inning. When the Reds tied the score in the fifth, Lynn was involved again. The center fielder was shaken up slightly while trying to catch Ken Griffey Sr.'s triple off the wall that scored two runs. In the seventh, the Reds went ahead, 5-3. When Cesar Geronimo led off the eighth with a home run, the Reds led, 6-3, and Tiant was smoking his cigar in the clubhouse.
The rest was magical. The first hero was Bernie Carbo. A former Red, Carbo had blasted Boston Manager Darrell Johnson for not playing him regularly. Pinch-hitting for Boston pitcher Roger Moret in the bottom of the eighth with two runners on base, Carbo fouled off a 3-2 pitch and then homered to tie the game at 6-6.
The next hero was Reds' left fielder George Foster. The Red Sox loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth and Lynn hit a fly ball to him. He caught it and then made a perfect throw to catcher Johnny Bench, who tagged out Denny Doyle at home for a double play.
In the 11th inning, Red Sox right fielder Dwight Evans became the hero. He made a one-handed catch of Joe Morgan's drive in front of the stands and then doubled up Griffey with a throw to first. Rick Wise, the game's 12th pitcher, blanked the Reds in the 12th and all that was left was for Fisk to become the game's last and greatest hero.
Fisk hit Pat Darcy's first pitch deep and high down the left-field line. Fisk jumped on the foul line, trying to coax the ball to land fair. It did, glancing off the foul pole. The Red Sox won, 7-6, but the Reds went on to win Game 7, 4-3, on Morgan's run-scoring bloop single in the ninth inning. 2. Oct. 1, 1932; Game 3, New York Yankees vs. Chicago Cubs.
Did he or didn't he? It is probably the most famous act of braggadocio in baseball history--the Yankees' Babe Ruth calling his shot. But first, some background.
A crowd of 49,986 jammed Wrigley Field to jeer the Yankees and cheer the Cubs. Manager Charlie Grimm's Cubs already had lost the first two games at Yankee Stadium, 12-6 and 5-2, and the locals were only too eager to vent their frustrations on the dreaded Bronx Bombers.
What's more, Yankee Manager Joe McCarthy had a little score to settle. It was McCarthy who managed the Cubs to a pennant in 1929 only to be fired when he finished second in 1930. Then there was Cub shortstop Mark Koenig, a one-time Yankee that the Cubs picked up in late August from Detroit. But when the Cubs voted to give Koenig only a half-share of the Cubs' pennant and World Series money, his former Yankee teammates were aghast. Ruth openly called the Cubs players "cheapskates," and the Chicago players responded with insults of their own.
Ruth's three-run homer deep into the right-center field bleachers gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead in the first inning off Cubs' pitcher Charlie Root, but Chicago fought back and tied the game, 4-4, in the fourth.
Then, Ruth stepped to the plate in the fifth inning.
Root was seething. There was one out. Ruth took a strike. Then he did something odd. Ruth pointed toward the outfield. Why did he do that? Root fired another pitch: strike two. Ruth only pointed again, unperturbed. Ahead two strikes, Root tried to fool Ruth with a change-up, but Ruth hit the ball over the screen in center field, near the base of the flagpole for his second homer of the game, his 15th in World Series play and the second-most important of his career. (His 60th home run in 1927 is tops.)
The Yankees went on to win, 7-5, and swept the Cubs in four games, but the question remains: Did Ruth call his shot? Reporters at the game wrote that he had. Grimm said Ruth was only pointing toward the mound to show Cubs pitcher Guy Bush, who had been heckling him, where he would be standing the next day. As for Ruth himself, he sometimes denied calling his shot and other times confirmed it. In any event, despite teammate Lou Gehrig's .529 average for that World Series, it belonged to Ruth. It was also his last. 3. Oct. 13, 1960; Game 7, New York Yankees vs. Pittsburgh Pirates.