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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Fred Merkle (left) with Giants teammates Larry Doyle, Christy Mathewson, John McGraw, and Fred Snodgrass in 1911. (Photo by Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images)
Fred Merkle (left) with Giants teammates Larry Doyle, Christy Mathewson, John McGraw, and Fred Snodgrass in 1911. (Photo by Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images) /

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

Fred Merkle vs. Smoky Joe Wood. Change in Championship Probability: 29.15 percent

More than a century after it was played, the 1912 World Series continues to rank among the half dozen best in the game’s history. Much of the reason for that is the dramatic playout of the eighth and concluding game (there had been one tie).

Two moments from this game are among the 25 most decisive.

That eighth game pitted a certified immortal, Giants ace Christy Mathewson, against the young and aggressive Red Sox lineup led by Tris Speaker. Through nine taut innings the teams were tied 1-1.

After Olaf Henriksen’s pinch hit RBI double broke Mathewson’s mastery and tied the game in the seventh, Boston catcher-manager Bill Carrigan called on his own ace, 34-game winner Smoky Joe Wood, to pitch in relief. Wood had already won twice in the Series, but he’d also been cuffed around badly just the previous day, allowing six first-inning runs.

Wood matched Mathewson through the eighth and ninth innings, sending the game into the 10th. But with one out, Giants right fielder Red Murray sent a drive into fans on the field in left-center for a ground rule double, giving first baseman Fred Merkle a chance.

Merkle took advantage, lining a solid base hit up the middle. Speaker bobbled the ball, allowing Merkle to take second, but by then Murray was already home with the lead run.

Merkle’s dramatic hit upended the game’s math. When he stepped in, the Giants had only a 44 percent chance to win the game and Series. His single jumped those odds all the way to 85 percent.

But 85 percent is not 100 percent, as the Giants would soon find out. See entry No. 2.