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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Walter Johnson examines a sculpted likeness of himself in 1924.. (Photo by Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images)
Walter Johnson examines a sculpted likeness of himself in 1924.. (Photo by Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images) /

19. October 15, 1925. Washington Senators at Pittsburgh Pirates

Kiki Cuyler vs. Walter Johnson. Change in Championship Probability: 29.26 percent

One October earlier, Walter Johnson had held off the New York Giants through three extra innings until his Senators could nail down one of the most pulsating Game 7s in history.

Now, the onus fell on Johnson to carry his Senators to a repeat title.

From Johnson’s standpoint, the 1925 Series had been far more of an individual success than 1924. He defeated the National League champion Pittsburgh Pirates 4-1 in Game 1, then shut them out 4-0 in Game 4. Into the eighth inning of this seventh game, though, the 37-year-old Johnson was holding on.

The Senators had gifted him with four first-inning runs and a 5-3 lead through four innings. As the bottom off the eighth opened, though, Pittsburgh had closed to within one run, 7-6.

Johnson’s collapse actually unfolded across two dramatic moments paced just seconds apart, and – coincidentally – landing back-to-back in this countdown. The first – and slightly more important – will be dealt with in entry 18. This entry concerns the second.

The moment begins two outs into the bottom of the eighth, Pittsburgh having tied the game 7-7, and with Pirate Carson Bigbee perched at second.

Win or lose, Senators manager Bucky Harris was committed to Johnson. He worked around Eddie Moore and walked him, then coaxed Max Carey into a ground ball that might have gotten the Senators out of the inning with a tie. But shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh, in the throes of a terrible defensive series, capped it with his eighth error on an errant throw to Harris at second for the force. The bases were now full.

As outfielder Kiki Cuyler came to the plate, the odds of a favorable outcome for Pittsburgh had already shifted substantially. As the inning began, those odds favored Washington by 66 percent. By the time Cuyler arrived on the scene, they favored Pittsburgh by 64 percent.

Cuyler moved them even more. The right-hander slashed a liner down the right field line, the ball hopping into the Forbes Field grandstands for a ground rule double that scored Bigbee and Moore. That gave Pittsburgh a 9-7 lead with three outs to get and a 93 percent likelihood of winning the Series.

When Red Oldham put down Washington in order in the top of the ninth, that’s precisely what happened.