By NICK LECO
October 2, 2008
The 2008 playoffs kicked off yesterday, and only time will tell how memorable this year’s postseason will be. The storylines to this point are spectacular, from the Rays’ improbable run to the Brewers’ late-season comeback to the one-game playoff between the Twins and White Sox. But the question is, Will something happen during the next several weeks that will make this year’s playoffs stick out in the minds of baseball fans for years to come? Only time will tell. But for now, as we anxiously wait to see how the 2008 postseason plays out, let’s take a look back at some the greatest performances in playoff history.
Curt Schilling’s bloody sock in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS
After Red Sox right-hander Curt Schilling tore the tendon sheath in his ankle during Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Angels, many thought he was done for the rest of the playoffs. But after having the medical staff basically staple his sheath together, Schilling came back to pitch in one of the gutsiest performances ever. With his Red Sox trailing the hated Yankees 3-2 in the American League Championship Series, Schilling allowed only four hits and one run in seven strong innings as Boston forced a Game 7. By the end of Schilling’s outing, his sock was soaked with blood. Of course, the Red Sox went on to win their first World Series in 86 years, and Schilling’s sock went on to the Hall of Fame.
Jack Morris’ shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series
Pitching a complete-game shutout in Game 7 of a World Series? Talk about clutch! Oh yeah - did I mention he pitched 10 innings, too? Jack Morris did exactly that against the the Braves in 1991. In what will go down as one the greatest postseason pitching performances in baseball history, Morris hurled a masteful game and earned the win - and the World Championship for Minnesota - when Gene Larkin’s single drove in Dan Gladden in the bottom of the 10th inning.
Reggie Jackson’s three homers in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series
Reggie Jackson wasn’t dubbed “Mr. October” for nothing. After a tumultuous first season in New York, Reggie’s Game 6 perfomance secured his place in Yankees lore. And in case three home runs in a postseason game isn’t epic enough for you, add in the fact that he did it on three straight pitches (all on the first pitch of the at bat) against three different Dodgers pitchers. Reggie went on to earn World Series MVP honors, and the rest is history.
Don Larsen’s perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series
There have been only 15 perfect games pitched in the modern era, so pitching one in the World Series is truly a remarkable feat. As a journeyman pitcher coming off an ugly two-inning perfomance in Game 2, the Yankees’ Don Larsen probably would have been satisfied with getting through a couple innings against the Dodgers in Game 5. Larsen didn’t even know he was going to start that day, but luckily for the Yankees, he did - and what a perfomance it was. Larsen was masterful - perfect, actually - in leading the Yankees to a 2-0 win. The Yankees went on to win the series, and Larsen earned World Series MVP honors. Larsen’s perfect game remains the only no-hitter of any type ever pitched in postseason play.
Kirk Gibson’s walk-off homer in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series
“I don’t believe what I just saw!” Those were the words uttered by legendary announcer Jack Buck, who spoke for all baseball fans after one of the most memorable and most unlikely home runs in history. Suffering through terrible knee pain, Kirk Gibson was not expected to play in the 1988 World Series and his appearance as pinch hitter in the bottom of the ninth against the most dominant closer of his era, Dennis Eckersley, was certainly shocking and unexpected in itself. Gibson’s subsequent shot to right field made believers out of the Dodgers, who went on to defeat the mighty A’s. The image of Gibson hobbling around the bases pumping his fist is one of the most indelible in baseball history.
While there are certainly countless other memorable postseason perfomances in the history of the game, those are few that stick out in my mind, and memories like those are what makes October baseball so special. The 2008 MLB playoffs just got underway, and every game offers the potential to be one of those postseason memories that will stay with every single baseball fan for as long as they live. Make sure you tune in.
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