Sunday, October 27, 2013

Satisfying October Part 2: The Top 20 Most Fulfilling Post Season Appearances

Last week we started to look at the top 10 most satisfying October appearances.  Not all of the teams won the World Series but they all overcame some level of adversity to reach October.  Some teams had decaded without any success.  Some teams had nearly a decade of close calls.  Here are the top 10 to finish out our list.  Don't forget to leave your comment or email me your list of Most Satisfying Octobers* and don't forget to check out our lists of Top 25 Most Disappointing Octobers Parts 1 & 2 as well as Top 20 Most Shocking Octobers Parts 1 & 2.

10. 2008 Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies organization does not have a history of what you could call success. For the greater part of the history of the league the Phillies have been known mostly as losers. The difference between the normal Phillies teams and this team was expectations. After finally making the playoffs in 2007 only to be swept out by the red hot Rockies, this year expectations were high. When they faced a surprise Brewers playoff team there were fears that there might be a repeat of the Rockies let down from the year before. The Phillies had little trouble with the Brewers but fought tooth and nail against the Dodgers and Manny Ramirez to reach the World Series for the first time since 1993. Facing the surprising Tampa Bay Rays there was again fear that the Rays would steal what the Phillies fans had waited so long to see. Riding the arms of Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer and Brad Lidge the Phillies took a 3 games to 1 lead. Hamels started Game 5 and was spectacular in horrible conditions. Rain was soaking the field and wind was making it almost impossible to catch a pop fly.  Conditions got so bad that the umpires paused the game only to pick up where they left off more than 24 hours later. Phillies fans had already waited 28 years since their last World Series what was another 24 hours?  Using their great bullpen of J.C. Romero, Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge to shut down the upstart Rays, the Phillies scored the winning run on a Pedro Feliz single and brought home the second World Series Championship in team history. For home grown talent like Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels it was a dream come true.

9. 1975 Cincinnati Reds
Sparky Anderson took over the Reds at the start of the 1970 season. He inherited a team that had won 89 games. He led them to 109 wins and a World Series loss to the #14 team on our list.  Anderson and the Reds reached the World Series again in 1972 and lost a classic seven game series to Oakland. They lost the NLCS the next year to the Mets and a pattern was seemingly forming. They had become known as the Big Red Machine for the way they could produce wins but the machine seemed to putter out at the end of the year. Their 1975 opponent was a surprise Red Sox team making their first post season appearance since 1967. When the Reds blew a lead late in Game 6, a potential clinching game, and lost when Carlton Fisk hit his infamous Home Run, Reds fans feared they had missed their chance. The machine kept chugging along in Game 7 and finally brought Sparky the World Series title he had been working on for all these years.

8. 1923 New York Yankees
Babe Ruth instantly changed the Yankees organization. They went from underachieving, disappointing losers to contenders almost over night. The Giants and McGraw, the National League rivals, allowed the Yankees to play at the Polo Grounds (for a fee) and call it their home (when the Giants were on the road). The Yankees finally reached the World Series in 1921 only to lose to the cross town Giants and the gloating McGraw. 1922 was a repeat of 1921 except that the Yankees surpassed the Giants in paid attendance. Unhappy that the Yankees were no longer the joke of the league. McGraw evicted Ruth and the Yankees leading to the house that Ruth built. The 1923 World Series was the third straight year of Yankees- Giants in the World Series. The series was tied at 2 after four games and still could have gone either way. The Yankees took the next two games to win their first World Series title ever. Even better, it was against McGraw and the hated Giants.

7. 1968 Detroit Tigers
The country was literally burning. Riots were everywhere and nowhere was hit harder than the city of Detroit. Police clashed in the streets with protesters. The nightly news flashed horrible sights that were occurring just blocks from Tiger Stadium. Inside the stadium something special was happening. Denny McLain was winning 30 games (the first time a pitcher had done so since Dizzy Dean in 1934). Disappointed by the close loss to the Red Sox in the AL race the year before and heartbroken by the city tearing itself apart,the Tigers focused on winning. They faced off against Bob Gibson, Bill White, Lou Brock and the St.Louis Cardinals. Gibson was without question the best pitcher in the game. He went 22-9 in 1968 and had an ERA of 1.12. Gibson dominated the Tigers in his first two appearances in the 1968 World Series. Gibson set the tone that this was a series for pitchers in Game 1 when he struck out 17 Tigers. Gibson won again in Game 4 giving the Cardinals a 3 games to 1 lead in the series. Gibson wasn't superhuman, he only struck out 10 in Game 4. The Tigers clawed their way back in Games 5 and 6 thanks to the pitching of Denny McLain and Mickey Lolich. In Game 7, facing off against Gibson in his third appearance (he had victories in the previous two starts) was Mickey Lolich. The game remained scoreless into the top of the 7th. Gibson got the first two outs and it looked like the pressure would be back on Lolich to keep the game scoreless. Gibson had retired the first 10 batters in a row before allowing a one out single to Mickey Stanley in the 4th. He retired the next 10 straight until Norm Cash singled with two out in the 7th. That was followed by a Willie Horton single, a Jim Northrup triple on a misplayed ball by Curt Flood and a double by Bill Freehan. All of a sudden Gibson was human again and the Tigers took a 3-0 lead. They won the game 4-1 and captured their first World Series since Hammerin' Hank Greenberg returned from war in 1945. It didn't fix the broken city. It didn't settle all of the differences between the factions but it did give the city something to celebrate together instead of mourn together.

6. 1989 Oakland Athletics
The inaugural "Bash Brothers" team of 1988 made our list of most disappointing Octobers. So how do you improve a team that is already the most talented team in the league? Seemingly they didn't, allowing Don Baylor to move on and only signing Mike Moore, an average pitcher to this point in his career. On June 21, the A's, the team that had dominated everyone in 1988, were only two games ahead of the Royals and only 3 1/2 ahead of the surprising Angels. On June 21 the A's made one of the great trades in the history of the game. They sent Pitchers Greg Cadaret and Eric Plunk and Outfielder Luis Polonia to the Yankees and in return they received the greatest player in the game: Rickey Henderson. The A's faced off against Will Clark and the Giants in the World Series most remembered for the Bay Area earthquake, which obviously took all of the celebration factor out of the victory. Still, the A's win gave them the championship in their 1980's-1990's dynasty.

5. 2005 Chicago White Sox
Generations of White Sox fans had seen star players come and go since the 1919 scandal that ruined the organization and nearly all of baseball. Nellie Foxx. Luis Aparicio. Ted Lyons. Even more recent stars like Carlton Fisk, Jack McDowell, Frank Thomas and Robin Ventura. They saw great managers come and go. Ray Schalk. Tony LaRussa. Al Lopez. They even saw a stadium go when old Comiskey Park was shut down, replaced by New Comiskey Park. The one thing they hadn't seen in their lifetime was a World Series. Between 1919 and the 2005 season the White Sox made four playoff appearances and had reached only one World Series. The White Sox surprised a lot of people in 2005 with a young pitching staff of Mark Buehrle and John Garland bolstered by veterans Orlando Hernandez and Freddy Garcia. Their opponents, the Houston Astros, were led by great pitching of their own with Roger Clemens, Andy Pettite and Roy Oswalt and featuring a young player with high expectations, Wandy Rodriguez. There were no easy games in this one. The White Sox rallied in Game 2 to win a 7-6 game. They fought through 14 innings in Game 3 and scored the only run of the Game in the 8th inning of Game 4. It wasn't an easy win but after 86 years the White Sox finally won a World Series. Eddie Collins, Ray Schalk, Kid Gleason and the rest of the Clean Sox could finally rest in peace.

4. 1980 Philadelphia Phillies
If your organization has been around since, seemingly, the beginning of time, you would think that at some point you would have a run of success. Nearly every team had, except the Browns, who were now the Orioles and had a run of success as the Orioles. The Washington Senators had already won a World Series, then moved to the Twin Cities and had a run of playoff teams there. Hell, even the Mets had won a world Series already. The Mets for God's sake! Of the original 16 teams 15 of them had won a World Series by 1980. By the time 1980 rolled around two teams had already won World Series in two cities. Phillies fans not only didn't have a World Series title, they had very few close calls. They had reached the World Series only twice (1915 and 1950) and had lost three straight NLCS from 1976-1978. They had a strong team with Hall of Fame players and All Stars. Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose, Bob Boone, Garry Maddox. There was no reason this team didn't have a World Series title. As late as September the team was struggling to get a lead on Montreal. When Garry Maddox lost two fly balls in the same game because he forgot his sunglasses in the dugout the General Manager Paul Owens went on a clubhouse tirade. As the Phillies lost to lesser teams the Phillies fans booed them terribly (I know. You're just as shocked as I am that Philly fans would boo someone).  The tirade seemed to do little to help. Larry Bowa called the fans the "worst fans in the league" and everything was starting to unravel yet again as the Expos stuck around until the last weekend. With three games head to head to finish the season the Phillies took two out of three to finish off Montreal and faced the Houston Astros in one of the best NLCS of all time. Facing George Brett and the Royals in the World Series looked like a serious obstacle but the team that came to be known as the Cardiac Kids, for their ability to walk that thin line between a dramatic win and a heartbreaking loss, had it under control through the late innings in Game 6. They gave Phillies fans one last palpitation when Bob Boone tracked a foul ball along the first base line. Boone put his glove up and as the ball hit the leather he turned to make sure the runners weren't advancing. The only problem was the ball popped back up in the air and Boone couldn't get a handle on it. Waiting by Boone's side with the most important assist in franchise history, Pete Rose snagged the ball. As he ran back to his position with a smile on his face, he bounced the ball off the turf at Veteran's Stadium as though this were just any other game. One strikeout later and the Phillies had their first World Championship. Tug McGraw said his third strike was the slowest pitch in history. "It took 80 years to get there."

3.   1985 Kansas City Royals
Kansas City was a minor league affiliate for the Yankees for years. When the Philadelphia A's moved there it seemed that the affiliation continued since many of their great players ended up in New York. When the Royals started play in 1969 the pipeline to New York stayed open until the ownership in K.C. said enough. They were no longer nurturing fruit that would ripen in the Big Apple. From now on they would keep their own players. So George Brett and Frank White were not going anywhere. In fact, they even made smart trades like picking up Hal McRae from the Reds. The Royals built a strong team by the mid 1970's and as the A's early 1970's dynasty crumbled the Royals took their crown, winning the division in 1976, 1977 and 1978. They lost each time to the Yankees. After missing the playoffs in 1979 the Royals seemed to have finally gotten past their barrier when they beat the Yankees in the ALCS. Unfortunately, they ran into a team in the same situation, the 1980 Phillies. The Royals continued to play good ball but couldn't seem to get back to the playoffs in a tough division. They finally made it back in 1984 only to face one of the great teams of all time, the 1984 Tigers. The 1985 Royals were nothing short of determined and, if nothing else, lucky. Every time it looked like the end for the Royals they found a way to win. They fought off a strong Angels team in a division race that went down to the wire, winning by only 1 game. In the first best of seven ALCS, the Blue Jays (my God, they were even going to lose to the Blue Jays) took a 3 games to 1 lead. The Royals fought back and shocked everyone by winning three straight to advance to their second World Series. Standing in their way was Ozzie Smith, Vince Coleman, Willie McGee, Jack Clark and Terry Pendleton, their cross state rival, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Royals again seemed to be on the verge of elimination but one of the most controversial calls in baseball history and a failure to react to the chaos by the Cardinals allowed the Royals to keep fighting. In the end, in one of the great seven game series, the Royals finally took the crown erasing all the years of disappointment.

2. 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers
1941. 1947. 1949. 1952. 1953. The Dodgers had reached the World Series five times in the last 15 years. Each year a loss. Each time to the Yankees. Usually in some painful, vindictive way. 1941 saw a potential game ending, series tying strike three squirt past Mickey Owens. 1949 saw Don Newcombe pitch one of the greatest games ever only to lose and be labeled as someone who can't win the big one. 1952 saw the Dodgers load the bases with two out and nearly have fate drop the World Series in their laps when the Yankees infield couldn't decide who should catch an infield pop up. As three Yankees looked at each other and three Dodgers raced around the bases, Billy Martin sprinted in from deep second base to grab the ball at his shoe laces ending the Dodgers threat. Brooklyn was the little city living in the shadow of big city New York.  After losing the first two games in the 1955 World Series in Yankee Stadium it looked like another year of failed expectations and another bitter loss to the Yankees. The Dodgers won the next three in Brooklyn to take the lead in the series but lost Game 6 back in New York. If they were going to win this series they would need to win at least one on the road. With a pitching staff that boasted Don Newcombe and Carl Erskine the Dodgers went instead with Johnny Podres in Game 7. With Hall of Fame talent like Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella and Jackie Robinson as well as several other borderline Hall of Fame players (Gil Hodges and Carl Furillo), it was hard to believe the breaks had never gone their way. Brooklyn took the lead in the fourth with an RBI single by Gil Hodges and added a second run in the 6th on an RBI sacrifice fly by Hodges. Brooklyn fans were waiting for the breaks to go the Yankees' way, like they always did, and the bottom of the 6th looked like it was the start of the Yankee Magic they expected. Billy Martin led off with a walk and moved to second on a bunt single by Gil McDougald. Yogi Berra stepped to the plate and the Dodgers outfielders moved over towards right field, leaving the left field line open. Berra drove a ball towards left and Sandy Amoros, the Dodgers Left fielder, sprinted towards the line. Martin and McDougald were tearing around the bases and this would be at least a double and a tie game. Amoros kept sprinting and the left handed throwing Amoros stuck out his gloved right hand and the ball smacked right into the glove. Maybe the Gods had blinked allowing Amoros to make the catch or maybe even the Gods in Yankee Stadium couldn't stand to see the Bums lose again. Or even more realistically, maybe Amoros just made a hell of a play to get to the ball. That was only the first out of the inning. With Martin and McDougald now scrambling back to the base, Amoros turned and threw to Pee Wee Reese who threw on to Gil Hodges for a double play. Podres was spectacular the rest of the way and one of the greatest collections of talent ever assembled had finally beaten their nemesis.

1. 1905 New York Giants
Pride, anger and spite can force a person to make some truly dumb decisions. The start of the American League in 1901 started an all out war between the American and National Leagues. There was pure hatred between the two. One of the cornerstone franchises of the new American League was the Baltimore Orioles. Riding the glory of the original National League franchise, the Orioles signed John McGraw to lead the team. The AL sold itself as being above the National League. The AL players were classy. They wouldn't swear. They wouldn't fight. They wouldn't question umpire decisions. They were an event you could take the wife to see without a fear of offensive behavior. When Ban Johnson promoted the league on these principals he apparently forgot John McGraw was in the league. McGraw did all of those things, especially when he was losing (and with this Baltimore team he lost a lot). When Ban Johnson suspended McGraw (again) in the 1902 season McGraw had had enough of this clean playing, clean living crap.  So he left. He not only left, he went to the Giants and took a few of his star players with him. Enough players that Baltimore couldn't field a team. It was fine by McGraw. He was in the NL now, far away from any association with Johnson. The only problem was, the AL had eaten away enough of the NL's profit that some sort of compromise had to be found in order for the NL to stay in business. Enter the peace talks of 1903. One of the many results of the agreement decided that the AL winner would play the NL winner in a post season series to determine the REAL champions. It would be called the World's Series. Not surprisingly, the Giants were the biggest opponents of the peace agreement. Giants owner John Brush, who had a long standing feud with Ban Johnson, refused to go along with it. Brush had once owned the Cincinnati Reds when Johnson worked as a Cincinnati sports reporter. When Johnson was critical of the team's play and personnel decisions, Brush banned Ban Johnson from the facility making it impossible to report on a team that you can't see. It was a big reason why Johnson formed the AL. The 1903 World Series between the Red Sox and the Pirates went off (barely) without a hitch (almost) but 1904 was different. The Giants won the the National League and based on the league agreements would face the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. McGraw and Brush had their own ideas. According to them the National League was still the only Major League. Why would they tarnish their World Championship status by playing against an inferior minor league? The Giants' players begged and pleaded and protested but because of McGraw and Brush the Giants refused to play the 1904 World Series and declared themselves World Champions (they even wore uniforms with the words World Champions across their chest for the entire 1905 season). In the first of three Connie Mack-John McGraw World Series clashes, the Giants faced the A's in the 1905 World Series. The players, who were furious at not being allowed to play the 1904 World Series, couldn't wait to play this one. They gave the fans all they could have hoped for and more. Christy Mathewson won three of the Giants' victories, pitching three complete game shutouts (that's 27 consecutive scoreless innings in a five game World Series). The Giants won their championship and the World Series would never be missed again...until greed, pride and anger intervened in 1994.

*-Before everyone crushes me for not including the 2004 Red Sox in this list I realize they could very easily be the #1 most satisfying October.  I made a decision not to include any teams that had appeared in the Most Disappointing or Most Shocking lists in this list.

Legendary Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas once said that 2/3 of the earth was covered by water.  Who did he say covered the rest of it?

Congratulations to Hope and TJD for getting the right answer to last week's Trivia Question.
After the 1964 season the Yankees were purchased by the CBS Corporation.  The Yankees had long had a reputation as being run in a corporate fashion and CBS saw the opportunity to add to a new corporate asset.  The Yankees were on the decline.  Berra had already retired. Mantle was on the decline due to injuries.  Whitey Ford was aging and had little support.  The minor leagues were dried up and the organization was suffering from ignoring the African American talent pool while the other teams were signing Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, Ernie Banks and Frank Robinson (among many other great talents).  CBS tried to run the Yankees like a corporate asset and not like a baseball team.  Despite the best efforts of Michael Burke the Yankees suffered through their worst stretch since before the Babe Ruth era and the worst stretch until the 1980's and early 1990's.  In 1973 CBS finally decided enough was enough.  They sold the team to George Steinbrenner, who began the long process of restoring the good name of the Yankees.


  1. Thank you for these articles. I gain so much knowledge from the articles. I did not know that the Yankees played in the Polo grounds.
    You stated that the 68 series Tigers victory helped heal the city of Detroit. That entire Tigers season helped me deal with the pending and eventual death of my father. It was a relief valve for the entire family. It was my 10th year rooting for the tigers and their first playoff in that time. Personally, this is still my most fulfilling post season.
    You stated that Rickey Henderson was the greatest athlete. Well he had the greatest ego. He personifies everything that is wrong with the world. he may hold a lot of records but in my eyes he is just a punk. Right up there with the Kardasians.
    I thought your # 1 choice was going to be the '55 Dodgers.

    My guess for the trivia question is Gary Maddox.


    1. I'm glad you enjoyed these lists and I had a feeling you would appreciate the 1968 Tigers appearance on the list.
      The 1955 Dodgers certainly could have been at the top but the passionate reaction of the players on the 1904 Giants, for all of them to go against John McGraw the way they did, I felt made that a little more satisfying to them.

  2. "The rest is covered by Gary Maddox."

    Great top 10. I don't know enough about baseball to question you, but this looked like a great roundup.


Have questions about something in this or a former post? Have a suggestion for a future post? Want more information on a specific team, player, season or game? I welcome the feedback, so feel free to leave a comment in the box or email me at baseballeras (at) gmail (dot) com.