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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Surviving members  of the 1968 World Champion Tigers gather for a 50th anniversary observance in  2018. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)
Surviving members  of the 1968 World Champion Tigers gather for a 50th anniversary observance in  2018. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images) /

6. Game 7, October 10, 1968. Detroit Tigers at St. Louis Cardinals

Jim Northrup vs. Bob Gibson. Change in Championship Probability: 35.92 percent

Through six games, the Detroit Tigers had given the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals all they could handle, and come away with an even split.

Now, in the seventh and concluding game, the Tigers faced their most daunting challenge yet: Bob Gibson.

Itemizing Gibson’s dominance in1968 is fairly easy…just look at the record. During the regular season he was 22-9 with a record 1.12 ERA. Gibson gave up just 20 earned runs in those nine losses, his team supporting him with just 12 runs. Between May 12 and May 28 Gibson went 0-4 despite a 1.87 ERA.

He also led the league in strikeouts with 268, piling those up across 304 innings and 28 complete games.

If anything, Gibson had been ever better against the Tigers. In Game 1, he shut them out 4-0 on five hits, striking out a Series record 17. Four days later, Gibson pitched a complete game 10-1 win, allowing just five hits and striking out 10 more.

Through six innings of the seventh game, Gibson allowed only one hit, walked nobody and struck out six.

But if Gibson was his same old self, so was the Cardinal offense, held equally at bay by Tiger pitcher Mickey Lolich. So the game moved scoreless into the seventh where, at least at the outset, Gibson’s performance was as dominant s ever.

He got Mickey Stanley looking to lead off, then retired Al Kaline on an easy grounder to third.  It was his 10th consecutive Tiger victim. But Norm Cash worked a full count, then got just enough of a Gibson pitch to loop it in front of Maris in right field for a single. The next batter, Willie Horton, did something the Tigers had not accomplished against Gibson all Series; he backed up a hit with another hit, moving Cash into scoring position.

That put the spotlight on Northrup, a capable but not exceptional bat in his third full season as a Tiger outfielder. He sent a fly ball into medium-short center. But in his haste to make a shoestring catch or at least retire Cash at home, Cardinals center fielder Curt Flood overran the ball, which skidded past him into deep center field as Cash and Horton both scored.

With Lolich doing a Gibson impersonation, those two runs would be all the Tigers needed…although they’d soon add a third when Bill Freehan followed Northrup’s triple with a double of his own.

When Northrup stepped in, that two on, two out, seventh inning scenario gave the road team a 49 percent chance of winning the game and the Series. As he stood on third, the odds of that occurrence had been punched all the way up to 85 percent.

The Tigers eventually won 4-1.