There are no sexier words in sports - heck, there might not be sexier words in the entire English language - than Game Seven. Game Seven is truly the ultimate. Sure, the playoff play-in games from this year (and the last few years) have been cute, and yeah, they are do or die, as are game 5's in the early rounds. But Game Seven is a climax. It has built from something dynamic; two teams have battled to a six game stalemate that can only be answered in this one final game. It is a grand thing the Super Bowl lacks. The Super Bowl builds up off of hype and presentation. Hockey and basketball have them as well, but in essence, there is no greater Game Seven than in baseball. A baseball Game Seven builds off of two teams who have to prove something after fighting back and forth everyday for a week. And, oh look, the NLCS will play just such a game this evening. Goodie, goodie!
I have no horse in this race. I don't care for the Giants and I truly despise the Cardinals, but wow, have they played one hell of a series. I will be rooting for the Giants, because, well, screw the Cardinals. Yes, I have not forgiven them for 2006. Really, I have not forgiven them for 1985 yet, either. So on a purely superficial and selfish level, I want the Giants to win. I also think a Tigers/Giants World Series would be a good match up. Besides, we just had Cards/Tigers a few years ago and Tigers/Giants would be a first time ever match up in the series and those are always fun. So I will be eschewing a dull Monday Night Football game this evening and DVRing Dancing With the Stars and instead, I will be riveted to the most awesome spectacle in sport: Game Seven.
And after that little rant, let's look at a few of baseball's Game Seven heroes...
Jack Morris (1991)
Morris solidified his reputation as a "Money Pitcher" by going out in game 7 of the 1991 World Series and pitching 10 shutout innings. I think he would have gone 20 in this game if need be.
Johnny Damon (2004)
Damon hit my favorite game seven home run (at least that I watched live) in the top of the second inning of game 7 of the 2004 ALCS. The Red Sox had come back in the series from being down three games to none to force the game 7. Damon hit a grand slam to make the game 6-0 before most Yankees fans had settled into their seats. It was a glorious death blow to the Yankees.
Luis Gonzalez (2001)
Gonzalez ended the 2001 World Series by dunking the ugliest little blooper over Derek Jeter's head to score Craig Counsell and beat the unbeatable Mariano Rivera and end the Yankees latest dynasty. Most people I know were rooting for the Yankees at the time for all sorts of convoluted reasons; I would root for the terrorists before I root for the Yankees.
Edgar Renteria (1997)
Renteria had the game winning single to win the 1997 World Series - which is certainly pretty cool. But he also holds a wonderful trivial distinction. He also made the last out of the 2004 World Series for the Cardinals. He is the only person to be the last batter of a World Series both as the winner and the loser.
Bob Gibson (1964, 1967)
Bob Gibson didn't have a nickname...Bob Gibson didn't need one. Bob Gibson won not one, but two Game Sevens in his career (and heck just for good measure, he lost one too, in 1968). I think if you asked 100 people who they would want to pitch Game Seven, at least half would say Gibson. I can't say I disagree with them.
Bill Mazeroski (1960)
This page is pretty awesome. It has more than a few heroes on it. Bucky Dent hit a homer that eventually won a playoff game. Bobby Thomson hit a homer to win a playoff series. Kirk Gibson won a Game 1 with a homer. Roger Maris won a Game 3 with a homer, as did Mark McGwire. Don Larson pitched a perfect game in a Game 5. Joe Carter hit a homer to win the 1993 World Series, though it was game 6. Jackie Robinson's last game in the majors was Game Seven in 1956, and he played in a bunch of them, including Brooklyn's only winner in 1955. This whole page has nothing but game winning credentials. But Bill Mazeroski has the absolute unique distinction amongst this page - and big league history - for hitting the only World Series Game Seven winning home run in the bottom of the ninth. He is pictured rounding third from that day in 1960 on the card above.
Grover Cleveland Alexander (1926), Walter Johnson (1924)
Here we get a twofer, a pair of old pitchers who came out of the bullpen to secure Game 7 victories for their teams. Ol' Pete Alexander did it in 1926 and The Big Train did it in 1924. That is 780+ wins to call on in the late innings. All hands on deck indeed.
Darryl Strawberry (1986)
The Mets have been beaten in Game 7 three different times (1973, 1988, 2006) and the 1986 World Series is mostly known for its Game 6, not seven. But do not underestimate that '86 game seven. It was a stirring comeback win for the Mets. They were down 3-0 in the early innings, Ron Darling giving up a couple of nasty home runs, one off of the glove of the pictured Darryl Strawberry. The Mets would chip away at the Red Sox lead and Ray Knight hit the home run that gave the Mets the lead they would never relinquish, but it was Darryl Strawberry who put the exclamation point on the evening, hitting a monstrous towering blast that made it 7-5. The Mets won the game 8-5 and the series. That was 26 years ago and 11 year old Max has been waiting for another one ever since.
Not shown: Gene Larkin (1991), Frank Viola (1987), Brett Saberhagen (1985), Charlie Leibrandt (1985), Willie Stargell (1979), Reggie Jackson (1973), Mickey Lolich (1968), Lew Burdette (1957), Johnny Podres (1955), Enos Slaughter (1946).
(definitely) not shown (for a reason): Yadir Molina, Orel Hershiser, Francisco Cordero, Aaron *bleeping* Boone.