The 25 most decisive plays in World Series history

Oct 24, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; The Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) and right fielder Brett Phillips (14) celebrate Phillips hitting the game winning two run walk off single against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the ninth inning in game four of the 2020 World Series at Globe Life Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 24, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; The Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) and right fielder Brett Phillips (14) celebrate Phillips hitting the game winning two run walk off single against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the ninth inning in game four of the 2020 World Series at Globe Life Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /
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Joe Morgan, whose hit made the Cincinnati Reds champions of 1975.. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Joe Morgan, whose hit made the Cincinnati Reds champions of 1975.. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

10. Game 7, October 22, 1975. Cincinnati Reds at Boston Red Sox

Joe Morgan vs. Jim Burton. Change in Championship Probability: 33.84 percent

Far and away the flagship memory from the 1975 World Series is Carlton Fisk’s 12th inning home run that won Game 6 for the Boston Red Sox.

It was powerfully dramatic television, and certainly meaningful. But in the context of deciding the outcome of the World Series, Fisk’s home run merely ensured that there would be a seventh game…something that might have happened anyway that night.

Statistically the Series’ most meaningful moments all occurred one night later, and collectively they led to a 4-3 Cincinnati Reds victory.

The most pivotal of all unfolded during the ninth inning of that decisive game. The Red Sox had jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, only to see Cincinnati rally. Pete Rose’s seventh inning hit tied the game at 3-3. More meaningfully, the succession of taut innings had taxed Boston manager Darrell Johnson’s bullpen close to its breaking point.

He had three front-line relievers: Diego Segui, Dick Drago and Roger Moret. But Drago had worked three innings the previous night, Johnson had already called on Moret, and he opted to keep Segui for  a potential save situation.

Almost by default, then, the ninth inning choice fell to left-hander Jim Burton. A rookie, Burton had pitched in 29 games in 1975, with a 2.89 ERA but only one save.

Thrust into that pressure-packed ninth inning cauldron, Burton faced what was statistically a literal 50-50 proposition. Two walks and two groundouts did not materially move that calculus, but did bring up Joe Morgan in a decisive moment.

Burton may not have been the guy the Red Sox hoped to entrust such a moment to, but Morgan would have been at or near the top of Reds manager Sparky Anderson’s list. Coming off a regular season that would earn him his first of two successive Most Valuable Player Awards, Morgan had batted .327 with league leading percentages in on base average (.456) and OPS (.974).

Burton got a 1-2 count on Morgan, then threw him a breaking ball that Morgan managed to flare into short center. It was hardly hard contact, but it fell safely in front of center fielder Fred Lynn as Ken Griffey – running on contact with two out – scored the go-ahead run.

When Morgan stood in, the prospects of a Reds’ victory were almost exactly 50 percent. As Griffey scored and Morgan stood at first, those odds had swung to nearly 84 percent. When When McEnany retired the Red Sox in order in the bottom of the ninth, the Series win was clinched.