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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The Arizona Diamondbacks celebrate their really to defeat the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. Matthew Stockman/ALLSPORT
The Arizona Diamondbacks celebrate their really to defeat the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. Matthew Stockman/ALLSPORT /

3. Game 7, November 4, 2001. New York Yankees at Arizona Diamondbacks

Tony Womack vs. Mariano Rivera. Change in Championship Probability: 49.75 percent.

So many aspects favored the New York Yankees entering the bottom of the ninth inning of  the seventh game of the 2001 World Series. They led 2-1, they had the best closer in history, Mariano Rivera, on the mound, ad they were  the three-time defending champions.

But Mark Grace  led off with a base hit and Damian Miller reached on Riovera’s throwing error. One failed sacrifice bunt later, Rivera stood in against leadoff hitter Tony Womack.

In many respects, Womack was the ideal candidate for such a pressurized situation. Although powerless – his career-high of seven home runs came in 2000 – he was a veteran of five full major league seasons who knew how to handle a bat. In 2001 Womack had batted .266 for Arizona, in the process stealing 28 bases.

His Series work had been less successful: a .226 average. But at least Womack had tasted some success that night, singling in the seventh inning. In fact it had been Womack’s hit – coming in what at the time was a 1-1 tie — that prompted Yankee manager Joe Torre to remove starter Roger Clemens.

With runners at first and second and needing a base hit, his plan against Rivera’s notoriously challenging cutter would be simple: shorten up and make contact.

Brenly tried to help Womack in his efforts by substituting Midre Cummings as a pinch runner for the leadfooted Miller at second.

Womack took a cutter inside, then another. The next pitch was a high fastball called a strike by plate umpire Steve Rippley. Womack fought off a cutter to run the count to 2-2, then looked for Rivera to come back inside as he had done on the first two pitches.

Rivera accommodated and this time Womack turned on the fastball, sending it screaming down the right field line. Cummings scored easily from second while Bell advanced to third with the Series winning run and Womack pulled into second.

With that one swing, the prospects of an Arizona victory pivoted from just 35 percent to – first and third,  tie game, just one out – an imposing 85 percent.

Seconds later Luis Gonzalez would win fame, immortality and the championship with the hit that is best recalled today. But it was Tony Womack who truly swung the odds in Arizona’s favor with the third most decisive play outcome in World Series history.