4 classic baseball games to cure your MLB Opening Day withdrawal
There is nothing quite like the magic of the Opening Day of baseball — a moment when even the worst teams feel the hope of a full 162-game season, when every pitcher has an ERA of 0.00, when every record can still be broken.
Sadly, unexpectedly, today is not that sort of Opening Day. MLB has postponed the completion of spring training and the start of the 2020 season indefinitely due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, casting uncertainty over the rest of the season. While baseball has been disrupted by dramatic events before — labor strikes, earthquakes, 9/11 — not even World War I or World War II cast America's Pastime into such deep uncertainty.
But just because there will not be baseball on TV for the foreseeable future does not mean there is no baseball at all. Here are some of The Week staff's favorite games that you can stream online.
Game 7 of the 1991 World Series — Atlanta Braves at Minnesota Twins
The tone of baseball's opening day — full of optimism, sunshine, and pleasingly low stakes — makes it tempting for me to choose some drowsy, forgettable game; after all, most baseball games barely leave a trace. But in following the directive to choose just one, I kept returning, instead, to one of the most brain-meltingly tense contests in modern memory: Game Seven of the 1991 World Series, in which a single run punctuated 10 scoreless innings. It featured a pair of star pitchers — Jack Morris and John Smoltz — matching each other's virtuosity as the pressure built; Smoltz pitched into the eighth, while Morris pitched nine, then insisted on pitching the tenth. (In acceding, Twins manager Tom Kelly allegedly said, "Oh hell. It's only a game.")
Morris and Smoltz — along with Kirby Puckett and Tom Glavine, who also appeared in the Series — are now in the Hall of Fame, but, in another baseball hallmark, it was the anonymous Gene Larkin — an emergency pinch-hitter nursing a bum knee — who knocked in the Series-winning run. Both teams had finished in last place in 1990 before charging through the '91 season and towards this classic game — a welcome reminder that in baseball, as in life, there is always cause for hope. — Jacob Lambert
Game 5 of the 1995 ALDS — New York Yankees at Seattle Mariners
It has become something of a cliché among certain people to claim that sports are not artistic — that to enjoy them is pedestrian and brutish and unintellectual, much less an opportunity for creativity or spiritual enrichment. My counterpoint: This game.
Admittedly, it's also something of a cliché for Mariners fans like myself to bring up the 1995 ALDS at every opportunity (look, we don't have a lot of perfect moments as a franchise). Still, there's a Hollywood drama to how it unfolded: The New York Yankees had won the first two games of the series at home in the Bronx (the latter of which starred some young punk named Mariano Rivera), and arrived at the Kingdome looking to easily wrap things up. Seattle, though, rallied behind Randy Johnson for game 3, and scrabbled back from a 5-0 deficit to survive game 4.
Game 5 was, fittingly, a nasty, knock-down, drag-out fight, with the Yankees pulling ahead every few innings and the Mariners tying it back up. Then, in the bottom of the 11th came the Edgar Martinez at-bat that is now so legendary, Wikipedia simply refers to it as "the Double."
Games such as these, though, have a way of melting into the cultural ether so you forget the moments that the box scores and gifs don't quite capture. The police officer who forgets himself and cheers from the stands. The sea of homemade signs —Yankees sweepless in Seattle, Refuse to Lose — clutched by fans with faces raw with hope. Even Mariners announcer Dave Niehaus' call, since memorialized in a rather terrible Macklemore song, fails to precisely encapsulate the moment: My oh my. Watch the whole game and you'll see: even his exclamation is a poetic understatement. — Jeva Lange
Game 7 of the 2001 World Series — New York Yankees at Arizona Diamondbacks
No Major League Baseball team has won back-to-back World Series since 2000. And, for that, we can thank the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks.
A motley crew of aging veterans like Matt Williams, Mark Grace, Tony Womack, and Steve Finley, the D-Backs — at that point just a four-year-old franchise — stunned the New York Yankees, the country's most iconic sports organization fresh off three straight titles, in an epic seven-game series.
The decisive contest was a classic pitcher's duel in the desert. Arizona starter Curt Schilling was still three years away from the most memorable performance of his career, but his 7.1 inning gem was arguably more impressive than the "Bloody Sock" game. Yet even on a rewatch, there's a sense the Derek Jeter-led Yankees found a way to stave off defeat, as they always seemed to do during that run, thanks to a gutty performance from their ace Roger Clemens and a go-ahead homer from then-rookie Alfonso Soriano in the top of the eighth to go up 2-1.
New York's legendary closer Mariano Rivera was three outs away from sealing the deal, but in the heart of the steroid era, the wily Diamondbacks played small ball to pull even in the bottom of the ninth. Then, a man who slugged 57 home runs during the season lofted a soft liner over a drawn-in infield. With that bases-loaded, walk-off bloop, Luis Gonzalez drove in the winning run and brought down an empire. — Tim O'Donnell
2014 AL Wild Card — Oakland Athletics at Kansas City Royals
A tepid take about the brief mid-2010s Kansas City Royals heyday is that the 2014 World Series-losing season was more thrilling and gratifying for longtime fans than the 2015 title-winning run. A championship is a championship, but never has a team that was so abysmal for so long gone on an unexpectedly dominant run like the one that started in the AL Wild Card game against the A's.
The Royals came from behind three times in the game, including in the decisive 12th inning after the A's had scored in the top half. The tying run in the bottom of the 9th was everything that was incredible about that Royals era — a bloop single getting pinch runner Jarrod Dyson on base for the most emphatic sacrifice bunt, stolen base, sacrifice fly sequence you will ever see. Rev it up, indeed.
After that win, the rest of the playoffs — yes, even the whole Madison Bumgarner part — was the ultimate playing with house money scenario. — Bryan Maygers