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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Tris Speaker (second from left, bottom row), with fellow American League stars in 1911. Speaker would deliver the key hit in the 1912 World Series. (Photo by Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images)
Tris Speaker (second from left, bottom row), with fellow American League stars in 1911. Speaker would deliver the key hit in the 1912 World Series. (Photo by Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images) /

2. Game 8, October 16, 1912. New York Giants at Boston Red Sox

Tris Speaker vs. Christy Mathewson. Change in Championship Probability: 50.52 percent.

In entry No. 21, Fred Merkle’s heroics during the 10th inning of the eighth game of the 1912 World Series were spelled out. Merkle’s base hit off Smoky Joe Wood sent Red Murray home with the run that gave New York a  2-1 lead and moved the Giants within three Christy Mathewson outs of a World Series victory.

On this day, however, there was room for more than one hero. All that hero, Tris  Speaker, needed was the heavy-handed intervention of fate.

Boston’s first hitter was Clyde Engle, a light hitting reserve tasked to pinch hit for Sox pitcher Smoky Joe Wood.

Engle was the best of Red Sox manager Bill Carrigan’s few bench options. A. 234 hitter in occasional regular season duty, he had batted just twice previously in the World Series. He did have one glorious moment, a two-run producing pinch hit double in the second inning of Game 5, but by then the Sox already were down five, and they would lose 5-2 to Rube Marquard.

Engle managed nothing more conspicuous than a medium fly ball to center. But the usually reliable Giants outfielder Fred Snodgrass inexplicably dropped it, allowing the fortunate Engle to plant the potential tying run at second base.

As much as one can do so, Snodgrass redeemed himself on the next play, racing back to snag Harry Hooper’s line drive to deep center. Engle, assuming the ball would not be caught and intent on scoring the tying run, had not tagged up, so he could not advance when Snodgrass did make the play. The next hitter, Steve Yerkes, walked, bringing up Speaker, Boston’s most feared  hitter.

At the outset of a Hall of Fame career, Speaker had batted .383 for Boston,  with league-leading totals in doubles (53), home runs (10) and on base average (.464). This time, however, he managed nothing more useful than a foul pop along the first base line.

But Merkle, New York’s first baseman, seemed initially confused as to whether he or catcher Chief Meyers would make the play. Seeing Merkle hesitate, Meyers dashed for the ball but could not reach it.

The Giants would rue giving Speaker a second chance. He lined Mathewson’s next pitch into right field for a base hit, Engle coming around to score the tying run and Yerkes stopping at third.

That hit changed the victory prospects from 66 percent in New York’s favor to 85 percent in Boston’s favor. Larry Gardner, the next hitter, carried a fly ball deep enough to right field to end the drama.