Tuesday, November 27, 2012

1975 World Series: Off the Pole

The Teams
National League: Cincinnati Reds (108-54) - Seventh World Series (Won in 1919, 1940)
American League: Boston Red Sox (95-65) - Seventh World Series (Won in 1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918)

What Happened
Two outs, ninth inning, Game 7. The future Hall of Famer drills a line drive to center that falls just out of reach of the center fielder, bringing home the game- and World Series-winning run. It's a moment that would have been the defining moment of virtually any World Series, one that should have been replayed countless times in baseball annals.

But in the years following the wild 1975 World Series, Joe Morgan's Series-winning hit became an afterthought, the "oh yah, that happened too" moment of the series. Because really, anything that happened after Game 6, after Carlton Fisk waved that ball fair, was going to be overshadowed.

Everybody's seen it, of course. At least, anybody who's a baseball fan has. If you haven't, take a moment:

It's one of the most famous plays in the history of televised baseball: Fisk swinging at the knee-high pitch, watching it fly toward the monster, waving it fair, jumping in the air. One of the most dramatic home runs in baseball history, one that not only provided a defining moment for what was at the time the greatest World Series ever played, but one that changed how baseball was televised forever.

Fisk's home run did a lot to ensure that the 1975 Series would be remembered forever, but those seven games didn't need a moment like that to live on in history. In five of the seven games, the winning run was scored after the sixth inning. It wasn't ever safe to go to bed; if you did, the team that was losing when you went to sleep would have probably come back to win.

The first five games were good, but they were nothing compared to what happened over the final two games in Boston. In Game 6, Rookie of the Year and MVP Fred Lynn etched his name in Red Sox lore with a three-run home in the first inning, a blast that was the greatest home run in Red Sox history until Cincinnati scored three times in the fifth to tie it. The Reds took a 6-3 lead into the bottom of the eighth when Bernie Carbo was next to hit the greatest home run in Red Sox history, tying the game with two outs in the eighth. Then Carbo was knocked off Red Sox mountain by Fisk, who waved and leaped his way into Red Sox and baseball history by winning the game in the bottom of the 12th.

As if that wasn't enough, Game 7 was almost as good. The Red Sox again took an early 3-0 lead and again let Cincinnati tie it. This time, instead of Boston coming back with clutch home runs, it was Cincinnati coming through, with Morgan capping off the series with the hit of a lifetime.

There are so many reasons that Joe Morgan's ninth inning single in Game 7 should have been one of the greatest moments in baseball history. His hit gave the Big Red Machine their first championship after a handful of years of coming just close. His hit helped him clinch the title of best all-around player of his generation. His hit won one of the greatest World Series ever played.

But baseball has a cruel way of determining heroes and goats, of determining who gets remembered and who gets forgotten. There's no reason that Morgan should have been forgotten, and maybe forgotten is the wrong word. Overshadowed might be more accurate. Either way, it's hard to find a clip of Morgan's winning hit with original audio, while Fisk's home run is easy to find. In this series, the losers were remembered more than the winners. But most importantly, it's long remembered, and will never be forgotten.

In spring training in 1975, Cincinnati manager Sparky Anderson famously asked Pete Rose to try out third base, even though Rose had never played the position in his career. Anderson needed to move Rose to make room in the outfield for George Foster, who was starting to blossom into a star. Rose made the switch flawlessly, and the emergence of Foster gave the Reds the deepest lineup in Major League history. It was fitting, then, that Rose was the MVP of the 1975 World Series. He spearheaded the Reds offense throughout the seven games, his .370 average leading his team by far. It was the shining moment of one of baseball's greatest careers.

(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

Cincinnati03 6 (10)4664
Boston625527 (12)3

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

2. 1975 - Cincinnati (N) def. Boston (A) 4-3
3. 1924 - Washington (A) def. New York (N) 4-3
4. 2001 - Arizona (N) def. New York (A) 4-3
5. 2011 - St. Louis (N) def. Texas (A) 4-3
6. 1912 - Boston (A) def. New York (N) 4-3 (1 tie)
7. 1992 - Toronto (A) def. Atlanta (N) 4-2
8. 1947 - New York (A) def. Brooklyn (N) 4-3
9. 1972 - Oakland (A) def. Cincinnati (N) 4-3
Numbers 10-19
Numbers 20-29
Numbers 30-39
Numbers 40-49
Numbers 50-59
Numbers 60-69
Numbers 70-79
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:

2. 2001: Arizona 3, New York (A) 2
3. 1960: Pittsburgh 10, New York (A) 9
4. 1924: Washington 4, New York (N) 3
5. 1997: Florida 3, Cleveland 2
6. 1912: Boston (A) 3, New York (N) 2 (game 8)
7. 1946: St. Louis (N) 4, Boston (A) 3
8. 1975: Cincinnati 4, Boston (A) 3
9. 1925: Pittsburgh 9, Washington 7
10. 1926: St. Louis (N) 3, New York (A) 2
11. 1962: New York (A) 1, San Francisco 0
12. 1979: Pittsburgh 4, Baltimore 1
13. 1955: Brooklyn 2, New York (A) 0
14. 1952: New York (A) 4, Brooklyn 2
15. 1971: Pittsburgh 2, Baltimore 1
16. 1940: Cincinnati 2, Detroit 1
17. 1972: Oakland 3, Cincinnati 2
18. 1987: Minnesota 4, St. Louis 2
19. 1958: New York 6, Milwaukee 2
20. 1986: New York (N) 8, Boston 5 
21. 1968: Detroit 4, St. Louis 1
22. 1931: St. Louis (N) 4, Philadelphia (A) 2
23. 1973: Oakland 5, New York (N) 2
24. 2002: Anaheim 4, San Francisco 1
25. 1982: St. Louis 6, Milwaukee 3
26. 1947: New York (A) 5, Brooklyn 2
27. 2011: St. Louis 6, Texas 2
28. 1965: Los Angeles (A) 2, Minnesota 0
29. 1964: St. Louis 7, New York (A) 5
30. 1957: Milwaukee 5, New York (A) 0
31. 1967: St. Louis 7, Boston 2
32. 1945: Detroit 9, Chicago (N) 3
33. 1909: Pittsburgh 8, Detroit 0
34. 1934: St. Louis (N) 11, Detroit 0 
35. 1985: Kansas City 11, St. Louis 0
36. 1956: New York (A) 9, Brooklyn 0

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