In 1909, the Pirates beat the Tigers in the first seven-game World Series. It was uninspiring. Only one game was within a run, none went into extras, and Game 7 was a blowout.
Three years later, the Red Sox and Giants played their own seven-game series (eight, if you count Game 2, which ended in a tie), and this one was a classic. There were four one-run games and two extra-inning games (including the tie). And Game 7 was an all-timer, with Boston scoring two runs to walk off vs. Christy Mathewson in the 10th.
The point is, a seven-game World Series can be many things. In that spirit, we came up with a system to rank every seven-game Fall Classic. We ask five questions:
• No. 1. What was the overall score differential?
• No. 2. How many one-run games were there?
• No. 3. How many extra-inning games were there?
• No. 4. Was Game 7 a classic?
• No. 5. How many memorable things happened in the series?
Much of this is subjective, but we did the math and ranked all 39 seven-game World Series.
1. 1975: Reds over Red Sox
The perfect World Series, complete with five one-run games and the most famous extra-inning game in World Series history, Game 6, which ended with Carlton Fisk’s down-the-line blast. Game 7 is one of the more underrated games in World Series history.
2. 1991: Twins over Braves
Everyone recalls Game 7, when Jack Morris threw 10 shutout innings to outduel John Smoltz. But that whole series was incredible, with five one-run games and three extra-inning affairs, including a Game 6 that ended with Kirby Puckett’s walk-off in the 11th.
3. 1924: Senators over Giants
Game 7 was a crazy 12-inning affair; the legendary Walter Johnson pitched four scoreless innings with one day of rest, and the Giants made a couple errors in the final frame to allow the winning run to score.
4. 2001: D-backs over Yankees
This would have ranked higher except the D-backs outscored the Yankees, 37-14. All three Yankees wins were one-run affairs, two of them extraordinary late-inning comebacks. The D-Backs, perhaps fittingly, had a comeback of their own in the breathtaking Game 7
5. 1912: Red Sox over Giants
The decisive game featured heroes and goats. The Giants’ Fred Merkle, already infamous for a baserunning mistake four years prior, hit what looked like the game-winning single in the top of the 10th, but exoneration was not meant to be. Boston scored a pair in the bottom of the frame after two Giants errors.
6. 2016: Cubs over Indians
Who can forget Game 7 — the Cubs taking control, the Cleveland comeback, and the rain delay that altered the entire dynamic?
7. 2017: Astros over Dodgers
This series included two of the craziest contests in World Series history, Games 2 and 5. It would have been higher on the list if Game 7 had been more memorable.
8. 1971: Pirates over Orioles
This was Roberto Clemente’s series. He hit .414 with a couple of home runs, made some dazzling defensive plays and gave America a full sense of his greatness.
9. 1926: Cardinals over Yankees
The series is most famous for an aging Pete Alexander shutting down the Yankees for the last 2 1/3 innings; the scene was recaptured in the movie “The Winning Team,” starring Ronald Reagan. This made Alexander the only man named after a President — his full name was Grover Cleveland Alexander — and portrayed by a President.
10. 1986: Mets over Red Sox
“Little roller up along first, behind the bag. It gets through [Bill] Buckner! Here comes [Ray] Knight, and the Mets win it!” Vin Scully’s call says it all.
11. 2011: Cardinals over Rangers
This Fall Classic had all sorts of nuttiness, including a failed bullpen phone connection and an unbelievable Game 6. Game 7 lacked drama, or else this would have been in the Top 5.
12. 1973: Athletics over Mets
Reggie Jackson won his first of two World Series MVP Awards. The Mets outscored the A’s, but Oakland won two nail-biters, and Reggie hit a big homer in Game 7.
13. 1965: Dodgers over Twins
This was the Sandy Koufax series. He missed Game 1 to commemorate Yom Kippur. Then he pitched shutouts in Games 5 and 7 as the Dodgers won it all.
14. 1960: Pirates over Yankees
This wasn’t a great World Series; the Yanks outscored the Pirates, 55-27. But Game 7 — and Bill Mazeroski’s home run — will always make it a classic in its own way.
15. 1958: Yankees over Braves
The Yankees and Braves played back-to-back seven-game series in 1957-58. This one featured a couple of extra-inning thrillers, including Game 6, in which the Yankees held on for dear life in the bottom of the 10th, with Hank Aaron standing on third base as the tying run.
16. 1997: Marlins over Indians
There were a couple of one-run games, including a crazy Game 7 that Cleveland could not wrap up despite having a lead in the bottom of the ninth.
17. 2014: Giants over Royals
Only a couple of good games in this series, but one of them happened to be Game 7, when Madison Bumgarner secured his legendary postseason status by pitching five scoreless relief innings on two days of rest.
18. 1946: Cardinals over Red Sox
In Game 7, the Red Sox tied it in the top of the eighth, but the Cardinals scored the game-winner in the bottom of the inning when Harry “The Hat” Walker doubled and Enos Slaughter scored all the way from first base on a mad dash.
19. 1964: Cardinals over Yankees
Bob Gibson did not have his best stuff in Game 7 (he allowed three home runs, something that had only happened to him twice in his career up to that point) but two were solo homers, and Gibby held on and won his first World Series MVP Award.
20. 1957: Braves over Yankees
Milwaukee’s Lew Burdette won three of Milwaukee’s four victories and pitched two shutouts, one of those in Game 5, when he and the Braves beat Whitey Ford and the Yanks, 1-0.
21. 2002: Angels over Giants
The series revolved around Barry Bonds, who hit four home runs and was walked 13 times. But it was the Angels, thanks to the power of series MVP Troy Glaus, who won the first World Series title in franchise history.
22. 1925: Pirates over Senators
The Senators could not get out future Hall of Famer Max Carey, who hit .458, stole three bases and scored six runs. It was probably this performance as much as anything that secured Carey’s election to the Hall in 1961.
23. 1972: Athletics over Reds
National League MVP Award winner Johnny Bench was upstaged by Oakland catcher Gene Tenace, who smashed four home runs and won the World Series MVP Award. This was the first of three consecutive World Series titles for the A’s.
24. 1962: Yankees over Giants
The Yankees managed to hold down Willie Mays, who hit just .250 with one RBI. Ralph Terry pitched a four-hit shutout in Game 7 to take MVP honors.
25. 1934: Cardinals over Tigers
The Cards are the kings of the seven-game World Series, having won eight of them (the Yankees are second with five). Brothers Dizzy and Daffy Dean won all four games for St. Louis.
26. 1979: Pirates over Orioles
Willie Stargell hit the trifecta in ’79: He won NL, NLCS and World Series MVP Award. “Pops” batted .400 with three homers in the Fall Classic and led the Pirates back from a 3-1 deficit.
27. 1947: Yankees over Dodgers
The key was Game 5, which the Yankees won, 2-1, behind a complete game from rookie Spec Shea and a Joe DiMaggio home run.
28. 1956: Yankees over Dodgers
This series is best remebered for Don Larsen’s perfect game in Game 5 and a classic Game 6, when Clem Labine pitched 10 shutout innings and Jackie Robinson had the walk-off single. But the Yankees finished off the Dodgers with a crushing 9-0 victory in Game 7.
29. 1952: Yankees over Dodgers
The Dodgers were trying to finally break the Yankees’ spell, and they loaded the bases in the seventh inning of Game 7, down two runs. With two outs, Jackie Robinson hit a blooper that seemed a sure hit, but second baseman Billy Martin made a lunging stab, ending Brooklyn’s hopes.
30. 1940: Reds over Tigers
Paul Derringer pitched brilliantly in Game 7, and Billy Myers plated the decisive run with a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning, as the Reds took what had otherwise been a pretty bland series.
31. 1967: Cardinals over Red Sox
Game 1 was close (Gibson pitched well and the Cards won, 2-1) but none of the others really were. Gibson won three games and his second World Series MVP Award.
32. 1985: Royals over Cardinals
It’s not great when a World Series is remembered almost entirely for a blown umpire call. Don Denkinger missed calling out Jorge Orta in the ninth inning of Game 6, forever changing baseball history. Royals fans insist that they would have won anyway and they have a point: St. Louis scored just 13 runs all series, the fewest ever for a team in a seven-game World Series.
33. 1955: Dodgers over Yankees
It wasn’t all that memorable after a good Game 1, but there was plenty of emotion when Johnny Podres pitched the Game 7 shutout to finally give the Dodgers a World Series title over the Yankees.
34. 1982: Cardinals over Brewers
The Brewers won Games 4 and 5 to put them just one victory away from their first championship. And the Crew briefly led in Game 7. But the Cardinals came right back to take the lead and added some insurance runs in the eighth to win a relatively spiceless series.
35. 1945: Tigers over Cubs
Game 6, which included a big Tigers comeback and the Cubs finally winning in the 12th on Stan Hack’s walk-off double, saved this from being the least-memorable seven-game series.
36. 1909: Pirates over Tigers
The first seven-game World Series was not really notable for much. Ty Cobb was held in check, hitting just .231, while fellow Hall of Famer Honus Wagner batted .333 and drove in six runs for the Bucs.
37. 1931: Cardinals over Athletics
There were no one-run games in this series. St. Louis’s Pepper Martin did have a spectacular showing, hitting .500 and scoring five runs.
38. 1968: Tigers over Cardinals
You would expect close games in the year of the pitcher, but there were none in this series. The Tigers won the final two games by a combined score of 17-2. Game 7 did seem to be shaping up into a classic duel between Gibson and Mickey Lolich, but the Tigers scored three in the seventh on four consecutive hits.
39. 1987: Twins over Cardinals
There were no extra-inning games. There were no one-run games. Game 7 was OK, but unmemorable for any non-Twins fan (the Minnesota faithful surely remember Dan Gladden’s run-scoring double in the eighth). The Twins also outscored the Cardinals, 38-26. This may rate as the least dramatic seven-game World Series, but at least it went the distance.