2. Tris Speaker, 1912 Boston Red Sox. Speaker’s heroics actually came in Game 8 of a Series won by the Red Sox over the New York Giants 4-3 with one tie. And again here, as in several of the games highlighted on this list, we are talking about a contest ranked among the greatest in baseball history.
Christy Mathewson and Joe Wood – who had entered in relief of starter Hugh Bedient after being shelled one day earlier – were locked in a 1-1 death match through the regulation nine innings at Boston’s Fenway Park.
But the Giants, on Red Murray’s double and Fred Merkle’s single, carried a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the 10th, and with Mathewson on the mound looked like sure winners. Then extraordinary things began to happen.
First Giant outfielder Fred Snodgrass dropped Clyde Engle’s routine fly ball for a two-base error. Then Snodgrass raced back and made a spectacular catch of Harry Hooper’s apparent game-tying double for the first out. Following a Steve Yerkes walk, Speaker came up.
He lifted what looked like an easy foul pop near the first base dugout. But first baseman Merkle failed to react, and by the time catcher Chief Meyers did it was too late…the ball fell harmlessly. Reprieved, Speaker lined a game-tying single into right field, Yerkes taking third and Speaker second on the throw in.
Following an intentional walk to set up a potential double play, Red Sox third baseman Larry Gardner capped the Series with a fly ball deep enough to right to allow Yerkes to score the championship run. It was the first ‘walk-off’ plate appearance in World Series championship history. But it was Speaker's hit that turned the outcome. Speaker Win Probability Added: 51 percent.
1. Hal Smith, 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates. Without Smith’s heroics one inning earlier, Mazeroski’s Game 7 home run of 1960 is probably a mere footnote. Maz got the glory, but Smith provided the true game-turner.
The Yanks led 7-4 at Forbes Field with just six outs separating them from another in the franchise’s interminable line of World Series wins. Left-hander Bobby Shantz was assigned the task of getting those six outs.
But Gino Cimoli led off with a single, then Bill Virdon’s ground ball took a bad hop and struck Yankee shortstop Tony Kubek in the Adam’s Apple, rolling into left field and knocking Kubek from the game. It also knocked Shantz from the game, Jim Coates coming on in relief as Dick Groat stood at home plate representing the tying run.
Groat’s single scored Cimoli, narrowing the gap to 7-5 before Coates steadied, retiring Bob Skinner and Rocky Nelson. But Roberto Clemente also singled, scoring Virdon to make it 7-6.
With two on and two out, Smith held the game and Series in his hands. He worked a 2-2 count, then powered Coates’ last pitch far over the same left field wall Mazeroski would later clear. This one gave Pittsburgh a seemingly safe 9-7 lead.
The Yanks tied the game with a pair of ninth inning runs before Mazeroski’s blast which, absent Smith’s heroics, probably would have only pulled the Pirates within 9-7. Smith Win Probability Added: 64 percent.