​1. Magglio Ordonez
At this point in my writing career, I rarely assume the role of fanatic. That was not the case in 2006 as I was still learning my current craft and divorcing myself from the devout fandom of my youth. I was an unabashed Detroit Tigers fan, and when they made a surprise trip to the 2006 postseason, I was elated.

I remember rocking back and forth like Leo Mazzone during the opening games of the Division Series against the New York Yankees. I recall my excitement when the Tigers advanced to the American League Championship Series. Then the night of October 14, 2006, happened. As I sat in a basement restaurant in Manhattan with no cell phone service, as it were at that time, I struggled to balance my friend’s birthday celebration with the joy of my favorite team in the playoffs and the game going on without my observance. I sat through pre-dinner drinks and appetizers. I sat through the wait for our meals. In the end, I couldn’t take it anymore. I stood up from our table, politely excused myself from the meal and walked around the corner to a bar that to this day, I cannot identify.

As I ordered a beer and took my place at the worn, wooden bar, Magglio Ordonez stepped to the plate. As my beer was served, Ordonez pounded a home run to left field. With my hand around the pint glass I erupted in joy, spilling my beer on the man next to me. As he began to explode in anger, he realized what had happened in the game, turned to me with a smile on his face and congratulated me, fan to fan, with a hug of appreciation. I promptly paid my tab—and that of the beer-soaked man next to me—and returned to dinner without another word.

Magglio Ordonez will forever be remembered as a legendary post-season hero in Detroit. His blast allowed Tigers fans to forget the misery of the 119-loss 2003 season and move onto a better era of Tiger baseball. His blast closed a chapter of youthful fanaticism in my life, and his blast still puts a smile on my face. Being a post-season hero isn’t always about the mythical home run to win the World Series. Sometimes, being a post-season hero allows fans to forget. It allows fans to own a unique experience forever. Being a post-season hero is special, not just to the player, but to the fans it touches in a Manhattan bar with no name. —Mark Anderson

2. Bob Moose
There comes a point when everyone finds out that life isn't fair. That time came for me when I was 8 years old while watching Game Five of the 1972 National League Championship Series on my family's new color television. The hometown Pirates had won the World Series the previous year. Since I obviously had little in the way of life experience to that point, I just assumed the Pirates would win the World Series every year when they entered the then-best-of-five NLCS against the Reds. Even when the series went to a decisive fifth game after the Pirates got skunked 7-1 in Game Four, it never entered my mind that the they might not go to the World Series, especially when they took a 3-2 lead into the ninth inning with the stopper—they didn't call them closers then—Dave Giusti on the mound. Johnny Bench led off the ninth with a home run to tie the game, and the nightmare played out until George Foster eventually scored the winning run on a wild pitch by Bob Moose.

I was devastated as my favorite team's trip to another World Series vanished right there in technicolor. Forty years later, it still stings to think about that game. I met George Foster at a banquet a few years back, and he was a nice guy. I told him I still felt a bit of hatred for him deep down inside. He laughed. I didn't. —John Perrotto

3. Armando Benitez
The Baltimore Orioles are back in the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. Their last appearance was in 1997, when the club went wire-to-wire atop the American League East. A big part of that squad was the bullpen, led by closer Randy Myers and eighth-inning flamethrower Armando Benitez. Only one of those two could be said to have had a large impact on the ALCS, which Baltimore lost to Cleveland before Edgar Renteria had a song written about him.

Benitez made three appearances in that six-game series. In Game Two, Benitez came in in the eighth with a 4-2 lead. Two walks and a home run later (to Marquis Grissom no less), the Indians had a 5-4 lead that they wouldn't relinquish. Two nights later, he relieved Mike Mussina after Moose set the ALCS record with 15 strikeouts in only seven innings. Thankfully, this was Benitez's one good appearance of the series (allowing only one baserunner). For Game Six, with the Orioles facing a three games to one deficit, Mussina started on three days' rest and gave Baltimore a one-hit, no-run, 10-strikeout performance. But neither team was scoring, and Benitez finally made it into the game in the 11th inning with the score still tied at zero. With two outs in the inning, Tony Fernandez took the first pitch of the at-bat—a middle of the plate fastball—over the right-field wall to give Cleveland the 1-0 victory (on a 20.09 second tater trot) and a trip to the World Series.

That's two losses directly attributable to Benitez in a four games-to-two series loss. No wonder Davey Johnson and Mike Mussina looked so deflated after the home run. Orioles fans felt the same way. —Larry Granillo

4. Bill Mazeroski
Bill Mazeroski spent 17 seasons in the big leagues, all with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He hit .260/.299/.367 and collected more than 2,000 career hits. He won eight National League Gold Gloves for his defensive work at second base and is regarded as one of the best—if not the best—ever to field the position.

These are marvelous accomplishments that anyone would be proud of, but they are not why Mazeroski is remembered today. He is best known for the role he played in the 1960 World Series, which probably should be called Pythagoras' Nightmare if it isn't already.

This series saw the New York Yankees dominate the Pirates in every fashion imaginable except one—wins in a seven-game series. The Yankees outscored their opponents, 55-27, but Pittsburgh hung around by losing the blowouts (16-3, 10-0, 12-0) and winning the close ones (6-4, 3-2, 5-2).

With the series tied at three games each, the Pirates jumped out to an early lead at Forbes Field, scoring twice in the first and twice more in the second. The Yankees scored a single run in the fifth and four more an inning later to take a 5-4 lead. After extending their advantage to 7-4 in the top of the eighth, Yankees relievers Bobby Shantz and Jim Coates coughed up five runs in the bottom half, with the key blow being a three-run homer off Coates by backup catcher Hal Smith that appeared to be the game- and series-winner.

But the Yankees scored twice in the top of the ninth to tie the game, 9-9, and set the stage for one final dose of improbability. Ralph Terry, who had relieved Coates the previous inning to stop the bleeding, stayed on to face Pittsburgh's number-eight batter, who was hitting .292 for the series, including a two-run homer off Coates way back in Game One.

Terry's first pitch missed high. His second didn't miss at all. Mazeroski swung and drilled it over the 406-foot sign in left field as Yogi Berra, who had homered and driven in four runs on the day, could only stand and watch the Pirates win it all. Pandemonium ensued, and a hero named Maz was born. —Geoff Young

5. Steve Bartman
There are things that you do in your 20s that look silly with the benefit of time. I moved to Chicago 10 years ago in August, a bit too late into the 2002 season to fully develop a crush on the Cubs (and the Cubbies lost 95 games that year). But, in the summer of 2003, I was a 23-year-old who was smitten with my neighbors just up Sheffield Ave. That summer, my then-girlfriend, now-wife took a month-long trip to Russia to visit her family. Most people would have turned to alcohol to cope, but I'm not a drinker, and I was already flirting with something much more self-destructive. WGN was always on at the gym, and I lived and died on each pitch while going an extra mile on the elliptical machine. October came, and the Cubs were in the playoffs for the first time since 1989. Perhaps you know what happened next in Game Six of the NLCS. Yes, I remember where I was. I was listening the call in my car on my way to conduct an interview for the research project that I was working on.

I suppose that like any heartbreak, there's always a villain in the story. Seeing that I was new to town, I probably had no claim to be a true Cubs fan. But my heart broke still the same. Not in the same way as getting dumped by a girlfriend, but in the same way that when you finally work up the nerve to say something to a crush and get shot down. I could have been rational and blamed Dusty Baker for over-extending the arms of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. I could have blamed Alex Gonzalez (I can never keep straight which one… they were both there…) for making an error. I could perhaps retroactively find a way to blame Marlins clean-up hitter Miguel Cabrera, but Mike Trout was only 12 at the time. But love and the Cubs defy logic. I suppose that nine years later I (and the city of Chicago) can forgive Steve Bartman for being an over-eager guy who just wanted to catch a foul ball. And while I'm at it, I should forgive myself for wanting to be part of something so magical that I let my heart get broken. —Russell A. Carleton

6. David Ortiz
Most playoff heroes are known for a certain hit, or a certain game. David Ortiz’s performance in the 2004 playoffs is memorable for specifics, yes, but much more than that. In the Division Series against Anaheim, Ortiz hit the ninth-inning homer that turned a 6-6 game into a series win after the Angels had come all the way back from 6-1 via a Vlad Guerrero grand slam.

That was great and all, but it was in the Championship Series with the Red Sox down three games to none that Ortiz’s etched his name on history’s plaque. In Game Four, Ortiz singled in two runs in the fifth and then hit the game-winning homer in the bottom of the 12th to keep the Red Sox alive. In Game Five, Ortiz homered in the eighth to bring Boston’s deficit to one and then, improbably, muscled a single into right-center to score Johnny Damon with the winning run in the bottom of the 14th.

Ortiz was quiet in Boston’s Game Six win but opened the scoring against New York’s forever-villain Kevin Brown by homering in the first inning of the Red Sox’ series-clinching Game Seven win. I was going to write that Ortiz was quiet in the World Series, but my memory has betrayed me. He actually hit .308/.471/.615 as the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years.

Before ’04, Ortiz had played in 21 post-season games, hitting .224/.280/.368. In 14 playoff games in 2004, Ortiz hit .400/.515/.764 with five homers. I’ve given you a bunch of stats to show how amazing Ortiz was, but that somehow undersells it. Watching the Red Sox in 2004 was like watching a sad movie you had seen many times before, but somehow, that time, it had a different ending. That’s how unexpected, shocking, thrilling, and exhilarating it all was, and Ortiz was the central character (among many) in it all. Through 110-plus years of post-season baseball, I’d put Ortiz’s performance up against anyone’s both in terms of the actual numbers and the total impact. —Matthew Kory

7. Kirk GIbson and Dennis Eckersley
I do/don't remember Kirk Gibson's homer off of Dennis Eckersley in the 1988 World Series. I had recently turned 7 and was not yet a baseball fan in the sense of watching games, having a team, liking players, and so forth. I played Little League and enjoyed it (in no small part due to the fact that I was pretty good—I had less fear of the ball than a lot of little kids, and I was (OK, am) chubby, so I had pretty good pop in my bat), but fandom didn't come until the next year, when not one but both of my (semi-)local teams were in the World Series. I picked the A's nearly at random—my family wasn't from Northern California, or any other part of California, and didn't really care about baseball in any case. By all rights, I should've been a Giants fan because my parents had bought me a Jeffrey Leonard Starting Lineup the year before, when he was still a Giant. But I wasn't. I was an A's fan.

As I got older, I started learning a little more about the history of the team, beginning with the recent past and working my way back through Billyball, through the Reggie Jackson years, to Kansas City and Philadelphia. Reverse chronological order and baseball's never-ending fascination with Gibson's limping, fist-pumping tater trot means I soon absorbed this massively heartbreaking moment into my psyche as a fan. Except that's weird, right? Why would the play have hurt me? I didn't care about the team at the time. I don't have any right to the emotion. I should have simply learned about the play, said "that sucks," and moved on with my life. And yet I can't help it: When I see replay of the Gibson homer, I feel exactly as busted up as when I see the Jeremy Giambi / Derek Jeter flip play, which I watched in real time. Maybe it's just my nature to focus on the devastation rather than the remarkable positive history also available to me as an A's fan—I have zero feelings, literally absolutely none, about the back-to-back-to-back World Series champion '70s teams, for instance. Whatever the reason, and however emotionally stable I may or may not be, Kirk Gibson is always the first player that comes to mind among the great history of playoff heroes in baseball because of the weird phantom pain I still feel from his homer. (Giambi was safe, by the by.) —Jason Wojciechowski

8. Jose Lind
Jose Lind. Yes, I know. Sid Bream, Francisco Cabrera, Stan Belinda: Those are the (un)holy names of Game Seven of the 1992 NLCS. Belinda coughed up the Pirates’ 2-0, ninth-inning lead, squandering the Bucs’ near-comeback from a 3-1 series deficit. Pinch-hitter Cabrera singled home the hobbled Bream, who beat Barry Bonds’ throw home from left field, somehow. This is the narrative that has asserted itself over time. (Video.)

But it was that error by Jose “Chico” Lind that catalyzed all of it. After Terry Pendleton’s leadoff double off of Pirates starter Doug Drabek—who carried a five-hit shutout into the ninth—Dave Justice hit an average ground ball to Lind’s backhand side. It wasn’t a gimme play, but it wasn’t all that hard, either. It was a play that a good, even decent, second baseman makes. I feel like saying that Adam Kennedy makes it, because I feel like Adam Kennedy is a decent, average second baseman.

We know fielding percentage is a hollow stat, but it does tell you, basically, whether a guy who gets to the ball catches it. Lind made six errors in 786 chances during the 1992 regular season, good for a .992 fielding percentage. The league average was .981. He won the Gold Glove Award that year. He seems to have had above average range. Jose Lind makes this play.

Only he doesn’t. Justice’s ball ticks off his glove.

Justice reaches, Pendleton moves to third. This is the play that makes the inning an inning, the one that jumps the Braves’ win expectancy from 19 percent to 35 percent.

With his 129th pitch, Drabek then issues his second walk of the game, to Bream—who was from Pennsylvania and had been the Pirates’ regular first baseman for the second half of the 1980s. Bases loaded, nobody out. Maybe, if Lind makes his play, Drabek takes care of Bream. Maybe, if Drabek takes care of Bream, manager Jim Leyland throws pitch counts to the wind and lets Drabek finish out the pennant-clinching game.

But no, he has to take Drabek out. Belinda comes in.

Cut to three batters later: Cabrera singles, Bream scores, Braves win.

Montage: the ensuing off-season: leaves fall from trees; Barry Bonds becomes a free agent and goes to San Francisco; Doug Drabek, ditto, to Houston.

Twenty-year time-lapse: the Pirates have 20 consecutive losing seasons. The film catches up with the moment you are reading this. You are an extra in a movie about the saddest franchise in pro sports, and it is Jose Lind’s fault.

Why pick on him? Maybe it’s the violation, later, in the 1990s, of his restraining order, and the subsequent domestic battery charges. Maybe it’s the drunk driving with no pants on, the cocaine problem. Maybe it’s because the freewheeling Chico Lind, who enjoyed leaping over teammates from a standstill, failed to make that 1992 play, that one serious play, that play he needed to make when it mattered the most. Maybe it’s because Lind generally gets to avoid the same boldfaced ignominy that bedevils Stan Belinda, but is just as guilty, if not more so. Belinda was a high-fastball pitcher who had a reputation early in his career, as I recall it, as a heart-attack closer. What he did that night was something Stan Belinda might do. What Lind did was not something Lind would do. He was a second baseman who caught the balls he touched.

Lind resurfaced as a player-coach of the Bridgeport Bluefish in the independent Atlantic League. He later became the manager and spent four seasons there, from 2003-06.

Stan Belinda was born in Huntingdon, Penna., and went to high school in State College. So I’m going to say he was a boyhood Pirates fan, just to make this hurt more. This is, after all, the most painful moment in Pirates history, other than the death of Roberto Clemente. After the Cabrera hit, which “haunted me for years,” Belinda said, he continued to pitch, often effectively, for the rest of the decade.

In the late 1990s he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but overcame its effects well enough to keep pitching. In 1999, Belinda and Jeffrey Hammonds were traded by the Reds to the Rockies. In the middle of the following season, the Rockies released him. Four days later, on July 29, 2000, another team signed Belinda to what would turn out to be his final pro contract. After 10 appearances and a 9.82 ERA (11 innings, four homers), he was released, on September 12. By the Atlanta Braves. —Adam Sobsey

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
The memory of Gibson off Eck will always stick with wife and had just been married and moved into our base house at Vandenberg AFB in California...we were eating take out at our "table" that was a packing box when it happened. Funny how that stays so vivid in one's mind after 25 years.
I was an A's fan and quite young but still in awe/amazed/respected Gibson just for stepping up to the plate. The home run made my jaw drop.
I think what is often overlooked in that first game is that Eckersley got the first two outs (pop-up and strikeout) rather easily and then facing Mike Davis (.196/.260/.270) walked him. In 1988, in 72.2 innings, Eckersley walked just 11batters, and Davis had 25 BBs and 2 home runs in 310 PAs that year. It was, at least to me watching it, completely unexpected and is the reason I cast Eckersley as the goat. Of course the Gibson home run has the qualities of myth-legitimately so. But that walk set it up.
The one from my childhood I can't shake is Tito Landrum from '83. The White Sox were in the playoffs for the first time since my Dad was my age, and had won the division in a walk. I was so sure there was no way the Orioles were going to beat the Sox pitching. With Lamarr Hoyt, Rich Dotson, Floyd Bannister and my personal favorite Britt Burns starting, the Sox couldn't lose.

And in game 4, Burns was proving me right. He went into the 10th scoreless, and just a baserunning goof from Jerry Dybzynski away from having already won. The first Oriole batter in the 10th inning was Landrum, who promptly deposited one into the upper deck seats of old Comiskey park. My hopes were as crushed as that pitch, and it would be 22 more years before the Sox made the World Series.
I really enjoy these anecdotal lists. Great job, guys!
Byung-Hun Kim springs to mind.
One wonders how Kim might have fared in Game 5 had he not thrown 61 pitches a day earlier.
GY ... how can you resist a Kurt Bevacqua ('84 WS) kiss mention?
a) As a fan of Tommy Lasorda's Dodgers back then, I shared Lasorda's view of Bevacqua. b) If I had to pick a hero from my own memory, it would be Rick Monday for his homer off Steve Rogers in the 1981 NLCS.
It's not like it's done any good, but I have no problem with making an example of Steve Bartman. Eventually it would be nice if fans removed their heads from their behinds in situations like this. You still see it all the time, and it never ceases to amaze me, because these are almost certainly the same people who complain endlessly about lack of effort when players do things like pull up on singles instead of diving for them (and risking playing them into triples) or not legging out every grounder 110%.

I still can't believe that almost every single fan, idiotically, goes after the ball in the first row. You're at the game. You see that you have a seat in the first row. Think about it for two seconds. There ought to be someone there lecturing you about your responsibilities the way they do when you're sitting in the exit row of an airplane.
It's not like it's done any good, but I have no problem with saying you are out of line. Eventually, it would be nice if you notice that other fans were also reaching for the ball in situations like this. You still see it all the time, and it never ceases to amaze me, because these are almsot certainly the same people as you who complain endlessly about lack of awareness when fans do things like reach for a foul ball or yell to distract a fielder.

I still can't believe that almost every single fan, paradoxically, are not noticed by you when they go for a foul ball in the first row. They're at the gane. You see they ahve a seat in the first row. Think about it for two seconds. There ought to be someone telling you that it's part of human nature to try to catch something coming in your direction.

A lot of things are human nature, Richard, and many of them paint a far uglier picture of humankind than reaching for a foul ball does, but let's just stick to the topic.

You seem to be arguing that I'd have done the same thing. I wouldn't have. You also seem to be arguing that because a lot of people would do it, it somehow makes it okay. This is a curious line of reasoning, in part because my entire POINT was that a lot of fans do it. I'm surprised by the number that do. Almost all of them, but not all of them.

And finally, you also seem to be arguing (admittedly, you were following my format, so this is sort of an accident that happened because of your hilariously cute rebuttal!)that I've endlessly complained about this. Have I? I remember complaining about it when it happened, but that was almost a decade ago.

The idea of doing the parody gave way to the idea of using consistent logic. My main idea, as a Cubs fan, is I'm tired of people picking on Bartman for something most other fans would've done. Even things who "know" better don't always act correctly when the situation actually happens.

I just couldn't structure it as well logically since I was inspired by the format of your comment ;)
But I just want to add that I don't think that you've never complained about this.
OOps, typo. Should never read "don't think that you've never" but should read as "don't think that you've ever". Sorry!

(In all fairness, just forget the logic of the parody and yes, I don't recall you ever complaining about Bartman. I just tried to play a little tongue-in-cheek while saying as a Cub fan, I forgive Bartman. Besides, sometimes it's better to do a parody than to be outright confrontational.)
But I just want to add that your "point" is taken, Richard. We shouldn't never criticize the actions of fans.
OOps, typo. Should read "should never". Sorry, Richard!!!!
Tony Fernandez by a nose over Jose Mesa.
I have not watched that last play nor that last inning since the day it happened. For not only Pirate fans but for the entire City of Pittsburgh that night will burn a hole in our souls.

For 20 years.
Chad Curtis has to get a nod for his heroics in game 3 of the 1999 World Series.

Pettitte struggled, allowing five runs early. Chad Curtis started the comeback with a solo bomb to make it 5-2 in the 5th. After the Yankees had managed to tie it at 5 and send it to extras, Curtis hit a walkoff homer in the bottom of the 10th, giving the Yankees a 3-0 lead in the series.

Not only that, but he then completely spurned Jim Gray on national TV because of what he had done to Pete Rose at the All-Star game that year.

Still the loudest I have ever heard Yankee Stadium in my life. Will never forget that night.
Kirk Gibson going manimal on the Padres in the clinching Game 5 of the 84 Series, two HRs, the last an absolutely vicious, vapor trail-leaving drive into the right field deck. Dude went 3-for-4 with two HR, five RBI and even scored one of his three runs on a *pop up* for crying loud. Talk about not being denied.

How does Jose Lind get a complete pass while Bill Buckner, 16 years later, is STILL the MLB patron saint of WS goats?

Well, Buckner's play was IN the World Series, while Lind's was NOT ...
And that '86 World Series involved two East Coast teams in a generation where your TV set had only about 8 nationwide channels.
True. But the point stands, how many people today remember who was at the plate and who was on the bases when Buckner made his misplay? Not nearly as many who remember Cabrera, Bream and Bonds, I guarantee. And Buckner's error wasn't even in a series-ending game, while Lind's was, in fact it directly led to the series final play. Heck, more people probably remember that Alex Gonzalez made the error that continued the Bartman game than those who remember Jose Lind.

I just find it curious how these narratives take on a life of their own, with heaps of blame washing up at the feet of some, while others who might have been equally culpable escape notice completely.
A few quibbles:

3) How could the Orioles have been facing a 3-1 deficit in Game 6?

5) The Cubs made the playoffs in 1998. They didn't stay long for sure, but they were there.

6) Why was it improbable that Ortiz would get the winning hit in Game 5? He was the best hitter on the team.