By NICK LECO
October 8, 2008
Last week we took a look back at a few of the all-time greatest single-game postseason performances. This week, as we get prepared for the League Championship Series, we’ll celebrate the accomplishments of some of the all-time greatest postseason players. These guys were made for October baseball and continually came through in the clutch when it mattered most.
Babe Ruth, Boston Red Sox & New York Yankees
Can you name the pitcher who holds the record for the longest complete game in World Series history? Would you believe me if I told you the answer is Babe Ruth, who tossed all 14 innings in a marathon Fall Classic game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1916? The Babe is known more for his clutch October hitting but was outstanding on the mound as well, going 3-0 with a 0.87 ERA for the victorious Red Sox in the 1916 and 1918 World Series. In total, Ruth won played in 10 World Series and was a member of seven championship teams (three with the Red Sox, four with the Yankees). He batted .326 with 15 homers during his postseason career and is the only player to hit three home runs in a postseason game on two occasions. Ruth’s most dominant World Series performance came in 1928 when he hit .625 with 10 hits, three home runs and nine runs scored in the Yankees’ four-game sweep of the Cardinals.
Bob Gibson, St. Louis Cardinals
Bob Gibson always stepped up his game when the playoffs rolled around and is widely considered the most dominant postseason pitcher of all-time. The Cardinals righty appeared in three World Series and took MVP honors in two of them, and went 7-2 with a 1.89 ERA and 92 K’s in 81 innings in his playoff career. He made three starts in every World Series he participated in and tossed complete games in all but one of those starts. His best October performance actually came in the one World Series his Cardinals lost, as he fanned an unbelievable 17 batters in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series against the Tigers.
Sandy Koufax, Los Angeles Dodgers
Sandy Koufax‘ statistics in the four World Series he took part in - a 0.95 ERA, four complete games and 61 K’s in 57 innings - speak for themselves. His Dodgers won three of those World Series, and he was named MVP in two of them (1963 and 1965). In Game 1 of the 1963 World Series against the Yankees, Koufax struck out the first five batters he faced and finished with 15 K’s in a complete-game win. He pitched another complete game in Game 4, fanning eight en route to a 2-1 win. The Hall of Fame left-hander made three starts in the 1965 World Series and went 2-1 despite giving up only one run. He pitched shutouts in Games 4 and 7 and struck out 10 batters in each of those outings.
Mickey Mantle, New York Yankees
When you are the all-time World Series record holder in home runs (18), RBI (40) and runs scored (42), your name definitely belongs in any discussion of the greatest postseason players. Mickey Mantle played in an amazing 12 World Series with the Yankees during the 1950s and early ‘60s and was a member of seven championship teams. Mantle hit multiple home runs in a World Series six times, and he twice had more than 10 hits. His best performances were in 1960, when he hit .400 with three homers and 11 RBI against the Pirates, and 1964, when he hit .333 with three longballs and 8 RBI against the Cardinals.
Edward Ford, New York Yankees
Edward Ford, who appeared in 11 World Series with the New York Yankees and won six rings, is undeniably one of the greatest postseason pitchers of all-time. The lefty won a total of 10 World Series games during his career to go along with a 2.71 ERA, and took MVP honors in the 1961 World Series. Ford pitched in a total of four World Series games in 1960 and 1961 and won all of them while holding his opponents scoreless in 32 innings of work. For his career, Ford had three shutouts and seven complete games in World Series play.
Reggie Jackson, Oakland Athletics & New York Yankees
You didn’t think I was going to leave Mr. October off this list, did you? We mentioned Reggie Jackson‘s three-home run game in the 1977 World Series in last week’s column, but that was just one of his many outstanding postseason performances. Jackson played in five World Series and won four titles - two with the Athletics, and two with the Yankees. He took World Series MVP honors in 1973 and 1977. Jackson belted a total of 18 postseason homers - 10 in the World Series - and batted .357 in 27 World Series games. And of course, no player has ever dominated a World Series like Jackson did in 1977, when he batted .450 with an unbelievable five homers and eight RBI as the Yankees beat the Dodgers in six games.
Others deserving of consideration: Curt Schilling, Derek Jeter, Kirby Puckett, Manny Ramirez, George Brett, Paul Molitor, Josh Beckett, Lou Gehrig, Mariano Rivera, Johnny Bench, Orel Hershiser
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