The history of playoff baseball is as much about the haunting defeats as the unforgettable moments and victories. Picking one play that haunts fans is pretty much impossible, but like the people who eat candy corn, let’s do something we shouldn’t do and choose one.
First, however, here are a few plays that fell short of making the cut:
1986 World Series
Bill Buckner’s error
First, the New York Mets had already tied the game. Second, the Boston Red Sox could have still won Game 7 (and led 3-0 in the sixth inning). And let’s face it, the four titles the Red Sox have won since then have eased the pain.
1988 World Series
Kirk Gibson’s home run off Dennis Eckersley
This has always been more about Gibson’s heroics on one leg than Eckersley’s failure — and while the Los Angeles Dodgers went on to win the World Series, the Oakland Athletics won the following season.
2001 World Series
Tino Martinez and Derek Jeter homer off Byung-Hyun Kim
This game happened on Oct. 31, so extra credit there, but the Arizona Diamondbacks managed to win Games 6 and 7. No, we do not feel sorry for Mariano Rivera and the New York Yankees for losing Game 7 in the bottom of the ninth.
2003 National League Championship Series
The Steve Bartman play
Nope. Blaming a fan for blowing a 3-0 lead (as the Miami Marlins scored eight runs in the eighth) was pathetic and awful. Plus, the Chicago Cubs could have won Game 7. Thankfully, Cubs fans finally have 2016 to remember instead of a foul ball. There are other choices to consider, but the single most haunting play:
1997 World Series
Tony Fernandez’s error for Cleveland in the bottom of the 11th inning
Check out the Tony Fernandez error that led to the Marlins’ walk-off that haunts Cleveland fans forever.
Before that happened, Jose Mesa had blown a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth — the 1997 Indians and 2001 Yankees are the only teams to blow a ninth-inning lead in Game 7 of the World Series (the 1912 Giants blew a 10th-inning lead).
So, Cleveland fans were already in agony as the 11th inning rolled around.
With one out and a runner on first, second baseman Fernandez let a routine grounder go through his legs. Instead of a double play, the Marlins had runners on first and third. With two outs, Edgar Renteria’s single won it.
Cleveland remains without a World Series title since 1948 — having also lost a 3-1 series lead to the Cubs in 2016. No franchise has gone more years without winning it all.