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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Bill Mazeroski, hero of the 1960 World Series. (Photo by Morris Berman/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Bill Mazeroski, hero of the 1960 World Series. (Photo by Morris Berman/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

5. Game 7, October 13, 1960. New York Yankees at Pittsburgh Pirates

Bill Mazeroski vs. Ralph Terry. Change in Championship Probability: 36.74 percent.

Mazeroski’s home run, still the only seventh-game walk-off blast in Series history, is so iconic, so firmly cemented in baseball lore, that it seems awkward that it only ranks fifth on the list of Series-turning moments. The answer lies in the workings of math.

Although the home run finalized the Pirates’ prospects of winning at 100 percent – can’t do better than that – Mazeroski’s fete is slightly penalized by the fact that Pittsburgh’s situation was already relatively advantageous.

In fact, as the Pirates second baseman stood in against Terry to open the bottom of the ninth that afternoon, his team already had about a 64 percent chance of winning the game, and by extension the Series.

Two circumstances drove that percentage likelihood of victory so heavily toward Pittsburgh at that precise moment. The first was that the Pirates were the home team, meaning they batted last. If they scored a run by any fashion in the ninth, the game and Series were over.

And even if the game moved into extra innings, home field dictated that the Pirates would always have the last shot at glory.

The second critical factor working against the status of Mazeroski’s blast – at least in statistical lore – was that he was the leadoff hitter. Had the exact same thing unfolded with two out in the bottom of the ninth, the numbers more strongly align with public perception.

But numbers, like life, aren’t fair. Maz’s game-winner has to settle for a top five slot.