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October 17, 2000

The Daily Prospectus

What Makes Them So Great?

by Joe Sheehan

Over at ESPN.com there's a piece on the greatest World Series games since 1975, as chosen by the BP staff. The piece has generated a lot of e-mail, and I want to address some of the issues raised.

As a general rule, a game is the sum of its parts. In the same way that a great feat or a great season--see Maris, Roger--doesn't qualify a player for the Hall of Fame, a signature moment doesn't make a game great.

That's the argument against the two games most often appearing in my inbox: Game 1 of the 1988 World Series and Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. Each contest ended with a dramatic game-winning home run that turned a deficit into a victory. In the latter case, the home run ended the Series and gave the Blue Jays their second straight World Championship.

You can't deny the drama and excitement of those moments. The barely-ambulatory Kirk Gibson hobbling to the plate against Dennis Eckersley, who was just beginning his second career as a dominant closer, and pulling a 3-2 pitch into the right-field seats to turn a likely Dodger loss into a win. Joe Carter jumping for joy as his line drive cleared the left-field fence and ended the 1993 Series, only the second Series-ending home run in history.

Great moments. Legendary ones, really. But the games, when measured against the ones on our list, fall just short when considered in their entirety. The Gibson and Carter home runs were certainly more exciting than, say, Dane Iorg's game-winning single in 1985 or Gene Larkin's single in 1991, and when we run a list of the greatest World Series moments, they will certainly be at or near the top.

As I wrote at the beginning of the piece: "The 'greatness' of an individual game isn't something that can be reduced to a formula or a metric." Those of you who feel strongly that Game 1 of the 1988 Series or Game 6 in 1993 (or Game 4 in 1993 or Game 2 in 1992) belong on the list, know that those games all received votes.

Why did our top five end up that way? Well, I did notice one interesting thing: all five games were won by the home team. Maybe a game is etched a little deeper in our memory if there are 55,000 people cheering the dogpile at the end, as opposed to shocked silence. The games on my ballot that didn't make the story both ended with the road team winning (Game 6 in 1992, Game 4 in 1996).

The Gibson and Carter games may suffer, for lack of a better word, by having ended with such a signature moment. Those home runs dominate the memory to such an extent that they may dwarf our view of the games, which were close.

All that said, I'm comfortable with our list, and glad to see it generate the kind of response it did.

Joe Sheehan can be reached at jsheehan@baseballprospectus.com.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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