Sunday, April 15, 2012

1967 World Series: The Impossible Dream ends too early

The Teams:
National League: St. Louis Cardinals (101-60) - 12th World Series (won in 1926, 1931, 1934, 1942, 1944, 1946, 1964)
American League: Boston Red Sox (92-70) - Seventh World Series (won in 1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918)

What Happened
1967 was Boston's "Impossible Dream" season. After surviving a tense pennant race - and claiming the crown on the final day of the season - the Red Sox were back in the World Series for the first time since 1946.

There was nothing impossible about the Cardinals' pennant in 1967. After winning the World Series in 1964, the Cardinals ceded the National League to Los Angeles for a couple years before bouncing back in '67. With Bob Gibson ready to pitch three of the seven games and Lou Brock spearheading the offense, they seemed poised to return to the top of baseball.

Game 1 gave the Red Sox a good indication of what they were in for. Gibson struck out 10 in a complete game, and Brock went 4-for-4, scoring the go-ahead run in the seventh after a single and a stolen base. Boston's stars one-upped Gibson and Brock in Game 2. Triple crown winner Carl Yastrzemski hit two home runs and Jim Lonborg took a no-hitter into the eighth inning to help Boston tie the series.

The Cardinals took control of the series once it shifted back to St. Louis. A 5-2 win in Game 3 was followed by another complete game for Gibson in Game 4 to put them on the brink of the championship. But Game 5 was Lonborg's turn in the rotation, and his second complete-game victory of the series helped make sure the Cardinals would have to win the series in Boston.

Game 6 was the only game of the series where both teams had the lead. After St. Louis took a 2-1 lead, Boston hit three home runs in the 4th for a 4-2 lead. Brock tied things with a 2-run home run in the seventh, but Boston put the game away with four runs in the bottom of the inning.

Boston's two straight wins gave them a shot at a Game 7, but to win the title, they would have to go through Gibson. Boston hedged its bet a little bit by bringing back Lonborg on two days rest to pitch Game 7. The move made sense on paper, as Lonborg had pitched just as well as Gibson during the series. In reality, though, Lonborg wasn't at 100% in Game 7; he gave up 10 hits, including a home run to Gibson. While the Red Sox got 2 runs off Gibson, it wasn't nearly enough, and the Cardinals' 7-2 win gave them the championship.

Defining Game
Like I mentioned before, Game 6 was the only one where both teams had the lead. With neither Lonborg or Gibson in the game, the offenses had a chance to thrive, and two hall-of-famers - Yastrzemski and Brock - each hit a game-tying home run. But Boston's offensive outburst in the bottom of the seventh took the drama out of the final two innings.

Gibson was the MVP, and deservedly so for his three complete-game victories, but Brock made a solid argument. He batted a series-high .414, with four extra-base hits and seven stolen bases. If anything, he made Gibson's job a lot easier.

(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

St. Louis 2 0561 47
Boston 1 52 0 382

The List
I'm ranking all the World Series, from worst to best. Here are the ones I've done so far:

73. 1967 - St. Louis (N) def. Boston (A) 4-3
74. 1968 - Detroit (A) def. St. Louis (N) 4-3
75. 1920 - Cleveland (A) def. Brooklyn (N) 5-2
76. 1945 - Detroit (A) def. Chicago (N) 4-3
77. 1940 - Cincinnati (N) def. Detroit (A) 4-3
78. 2009 - New York (A) def. Philadelphia (N) 4-2
79. 1984 - Detroit (A) def. San Diego (N) 4-1
Numbers 80-89
Numbers 90-99
Numbers 100-107

Game 7s
Simultaneously, I'll rank all the Game 7s. The ones that have appeared in my countdown so far:

16. 1940: Cincinnati 2, Detroit 1
21. 1968: Detroit 4, St. Louis 1
29. 1965: Los Angeles 2, Minnesota 0 
31. 1967: St. Louis 7, Boston 2
32. 1945: Detroit 9, Chicago 3

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