History repeats, not in its exact details, but in broad situations. The World Series is a movie we've seen before, with moments of great heroism and great failure in largely similar situations recurring with only the names changed. Here are five iconic moments from World Series of the past that may well pop up again in some form in the 2013 edition of the Fall Classic.
1. The Big Strikeout from a pitcher at less than his best: Game 7, October 10, 1926, Cardinals vs. the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium
The Cardinals took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh. Starter Jesse Haines, who used a hard knuckleball as his offspeed pitch, was still in the game. The Yankees loaded the bases with two outs, bringing future Hall of Famer Tony Lazzeri, a rookie second baseman who had hit .275/.338/.462 with 18 home runs that season. It was at this point that player-manager Rogers Hornsby noticed that Haines no longer had any skin on his pitching hand and called down to the bullpen for another future Hall of Famer, Grover Cleveland "Pete" Alexander. At that moment, no one was thinking of Alexander as an immortal, but rather as a washed-up, perpetually-intoxicated 39-year-old. Alexander had pitched the day before and wasn't expecting to be used again, so he had tied one on the night before and entered the game somewhat worse for wear. Lazzeri swung at Alexander's 1-1 pitch and hit a ball that had home run distance but curved foul at the last moment. Alexander's next pitch was a breaking ball low and away. Lazzeri swung and missed, ending the threat. Alexander held the Yankees in the eighth, and when Ruth unwisely attempted to steal second with two outs in the ninth the Cardinals had their first championship in franchise history.
2. A hitter so lost he does something completely out of character: Game 3, October 9, 1946, Cardinals vs. the Red Sox at Fenway Park
The Red Sox won this game 4-0, getting a shutout from a largely forgotten righty named Boo Ferris who in his first two seasons in the majors went 21-10 and 25-6, at which point a shoulder injury threw the breaks on his career. The win put the Sox up 2-1 in the Series. The headlines the next day? WILLIAMS BUNTS! Struggling mightily in his first and only postseason, Williams came up in the bottom of the third and no one on and bunted to third for a base hit, something he normally never would have thought about doing. Williams would eventually go 5-for-25 with five walks in what would prove to be seven-game loss to the Cardinals. Although there were many other storylines in the Series, including St. Louis pitcher Harry Brecheen beating the Red Sox three times and Johnny Pesky's tardy throw home in Game 7, Williams' slump, as symbolized by that bunt, became the failure that everyone remembered.
3. An unheralded player coming through in a big spot: Game 1, October 23, 2004, Red Sox vs. the Cardinals at Fenway Park
The first game of Boston's latest attempt to break the so-called Curse of the Bambino was started by knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, but he was long gone by the time the game, a seesaw affair, was resolved. The Red Sox got out to a 7-2 lead after three, but the Cardinals chipped away and tied the game in the sixth. The Red Sox went ahead again in the seventh, but closer Keith Foulke handed the lead back in the top of the eighth and the game was tied 9-9 going to the bottom of the frame. Catcher Jason Varitek reached on an E-6 with one out, bringing up second baseman Mark Bellhorn. Bellhorn was nothing special on defense and could strike out from his hotel room, but the power and patience of the kind the Red Sox have long valued. Cardinals reliever Julian Taverez got ahead 1-2, but was too fine with his next pitch, and Bellhorn hit it off the foul pole to give the Sox an 11-9 lead that they would make stand up for the first of four straight wins. Counting the ALCS against the Yankees, it was Bellhorn's third straight game with a home run.
4. A great player inexplicably fails in a big spot: Game 8, October 16, 1912, Giants vs. Red Sox at Fenway Park
Game 2 had ended in a 6-6 tie, so with the Series tied at three games apiece, a coin was flipped and the makeup game was held at Fenway Park. Christy Mathewson started his third game of the Series for the Giants, Hugh Bedient, a 22-year-old rookie right-hander who had gone 20-9 for the Red Sox, made his second start and fourth appearance. The game ended regulation tied at 1-1, but the Giants went ahead in the top of the 10th on a double and an RBI single from 1908's unfairly stigmatized goat Fred Merkle off of Boston's star hurler Smoky Joe Wood, who had come on in relief in the eighth. Mathewson came out in the bottom of the inning to close out the game and the World Series. The future Hall of Famer had gone 23-12 with a 2.12 ERA (161 ERA+) in the regular season and had, to that point, pitched 28 innings and allowed three earned runs. However, as was typical of the Deadball era, with its tiny mitts and high error rates, there had been a pile of unearned runs. Those proved to be foreshadowing as Mathewson's defense put him in the soup in the bottom of the 10th.
First, center fielder Fred Snodgrass dropped an easy fly ball to open the inning, a moment which has gone down in history -- don't snigger -- as "Snodgrass's muff." The batter, Clyde Engle, made it to second. Snodgrass made a great catch to steal a hit from Harry Hooper on the very next play, but Engle tagged and went to third. Mathewson had spectacular control; he averaged just 1.6 walks per nine innings over the course of his career, but he struggled with the strike zone throughout this game and now walked his fifth batter of the contest, the weak-hitting second baseman Steve Yerkes, to bring up Tris Speaker, another future Hall of Famer and by far the best hitter on the Red Sox. Speaker hit a high foul pop-up over first base. Merkle didn't move. Mathewson, trying to direct traffic, shouted for catcher Chief Myers to take it -- if Merkle had thoughts of going after the ball, he gave them up with his pitcher shouting, "Chief! Chief!" Myers came tearing out from behind the plate, but he might as well have been six miles away. The ball dropped to the ground in the middle of the triangle formed by the three Giants.
Christy Mathewson (Wikimedia Commons)
Speaker literally cackled. "Well, you just called for the wrong man," he shouted at Mathewson. "It's gonna cost you the ballgame." Speaker lined the next pitch to right field for a single, tying the game and chasing the winning run to third. Manager John McGraw called for an intentional walk to load the bases with one out. Mathewson induced Sox third baseman Larry Gardner to fly out to right field, but Yerkes beat the throw home with the Series-winning run. One of the greatest pitchers in history had been beaten on a mental error -- his own.
5. Too much of a good thing: Game 6, October 21, 1975, Reds vs. Red Sox at Fenway Park
Right-hander Luis Tiant had a career worthy of the Hall of Fame, but he had had a mixed year for the Red Sox in '75, going 18-14 with a 4.02 ERA. Even allowing a generous discount for pitching in Fenway Park, he was an average pitcher at best. The postseason was a different matter; Tiant rediscovered the form that had earned him two ERA titles. He allowed just one run, unearned, on three hits in a complete-game victory over the A's in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, pitched a shutout in Game 1 of the World Series against the potent Big Red Machine, and was just good enough to beat the Reds again in Game 4, making a five-run fourth inning stand up for a 5-4 complete-game win with the aid of a run-saving over-the-shoulder catch by center fielder Fred Lynn in the bottom of the ninth. The Reds took Game 5, however, to take a 3-2 Series lead, so Game 6 became a must-win.
Three days of rain in Boston allowed the Sox to bring Tiant back for Game 6 after five days off. Lynn hit a three-run shot in the bottom of the first, and for awhile it seemed as if that would be enough for Tiant, who shut out the Reds through four. In the fifth Tiant finally broke. Ken Griffey hit a two-run single that just eluded Lynn's mitt, and Johnny Bench drove him home to tie the game. The Reds added two more off of Tiant in the seventh, but manager Darrell Johnson ran him out again in the top of the eighth -- but only long enough for him to give up a leadoff home run to center fielder Cesar Geronimo. He was finally pulled having allowed six runs on 11 hits and two walks in seven innings. This was the game that Carlton Fisk would eventually win with one of the most celebrated home runs in history, but Tiant had shown that even the best pitchers can lose the ability to surprise if overexposed.