Dubsism

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The 10 Worst Baseball Pennant Race Collapses – The Red Sox Weren’t The Worst, Just The Most Fun

Given what happened the other night, there’s a lot of superlatives being bandied about…while the Red Sox and Braves both managed a serious dose of  “epic fail,” neither of them are the worst choke job in pennant race history.  So, before you let anybody tell you the Red Sox pulled off the worst collapse in history, compare it to some of the truly titanic throat-closers of all time.

10) 1987 Toronto Blue Jays

"I've got to make room for Sil Campusano."

The favorite American League sons of the Great White North were 96-59 and had a 3.5-game over the Detroit Tigers with seven games to play. On the second-to-last Sunday of the season,  Toronto had a one-run lead over the Tigers headed into the ninth inning, until Kirk Gibson’s solo shot tied the game. The Tigers went on to win in 13 innings; the Blue Jays didn’t win again that season.  Toronto ended the 1987 season at 96-66, which allowed the Tigers to snatch the AL East with a sweep of the Blue Jays on the final weekend of the season.

9) 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers

It’s hard to paint a team that posted a 26-22 record down stretch with the “collapse” brush, but it’s also hard to say a team that gagged away a 13.5 game lead and lost a playoff didn’t fold.  Trouble is, the New York Giants got crazy hot; they won 37 out of their final 44 games and tied Brooklyn on the final day of the season. The Dodgers lost the three-game playoff, thanks to Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round The World.”

8 ) 2011 Atlanta Braves

This was like the “stealth” collapse; nobody really seemed to understand this was a choke job until the Braves were only leading the Cardinals by three games with five to play.  St. Louis trailed the Braves by 10.5 games in late August, and the lead only shrank to 8.5 games by the first week in September, which is largely why this went unnoticed until the last weekend of the season. The Braves forgot how to hit, posted a record of 9-18 in September, and lost the wild-card on the last day of the season.

7) 2011 Boston Red Sox

The power of the present makes people want to think this tank-job rates higher on the list, especially those wacky Red Sox fans who want to believe they didn’t beat their wives and/or blow their brains out over #7 on the list.  Granted, this is the worst collapse that happened entirely in September, but it genesis lies throughout the season. The Sox stumbled out of the gate, but recovered to lead the AL East for most of the second half. But they fell behind the Yankees early in September, and the free-fall continued. In short, what killed this team in April simply resurfaced in September.

The Sox figured they could always win the wild-card, as they led the Rays by nine games on Labor Day.  However, since the Red Sox only won seven games the rest of the way, Tampa Bay ran them down on the second-to-last day of the season, which led to the dramatic Wednesday night finish, which saw the Sox blow a 3-2 lead with two outs in the ninth against last-place Baltimore, while at the same time the Rays rallied from a 7-0 early pasting to beat the Yankees 8-7 in extra innings to claim the AL Wild Card.

6) 2007 New York Mets

In 2007, the Phillies had not yet emerged as the current uber-squad they are perceived to be today. In fact, they trailed the Mets by seven games on September 12th, but since the Shea crew had Pedro Martinez back on the mound after surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff,  the Mets were the favorite in what was considered to be a weak National League field. That was before the Flushing Nine went down the stretch to finish the season one game behind the surging Phillies.

5) 1969 Chicago Cubs

The Amazin’ Mets of 1969 would have never been if it weren’t for this Chicago fold. 1969 was the first season in which there was divisional play, and for the entirety of the season, the Cubs had led the newly-formed NL East.

However, this was before the Cubs swallowed their own tongue. Chicago held a solid 9.5-game lead on August 14th, but within two weeks, the Mets had closed the gap to two games. The Cubs collapse continued as they dropped 14 of their final 20 games, and New York won the division by eight full games.

4) 2009 Detroit Tigers

From May 10th until the final day of the 2009 season – a total of 164 days – the Detroit Tigers enjoyed the driver’s seat in the AL Central.  The problem was they let the Minnesota Twins hang around, so much so the Twins were able to sweep the last three games of the season against the Tigers to force a one-game playoff. The Twins won 6-5 in a classic 12-inning affair, leaving the Tigers as the only team to blow a three-game lead with four to play.

3) 1978 Boston Red Sox

Three words: Bucky F–king Dent. Yes, this is the scenario which forever immortalized in the loathe-zone of Red Sox faithful from Falmouth to Fort Lauderdale a man whose name sounds more like a tooth-care product for beavers.

July 1978 saw the Sox with a 14-game lead over the defending world champion Yankees. But, the Bronx Bombers chipped away at that deficit until it was down to a still-formidable 7.5-game lead with only 32 games to play. However, the Red Sox gagged 14 of 17 games which allowed the Yanks to pull into the left lane and pass Boston.

However, the Sox won their final eight which forced a one-game playoff at Fenway Park.  That’s the last day Bucky Dent’s name was ever uttered in Sox Nation without the extra frigative, as the Yankees’ light-hitting shortstop hit a 7th-inning game winning homer (his 5th of the season) to send the Yankees eventually to their second consecutive World Series title.

2) 1995 California Angels

Just like the ’78 Red Sox, the Angels blew a huge lead, only to make a late rally, only to choke in a one-game playoff. California held a lead of 11.5 games in Mid-August, but went 12-27 in their final 39 games (including winning their last five games) which allowed the Seattle Mariners to force a one-game playoff. However, in that game, Seattle ace Randy Johnson mowed the Angels like they were his back yard to the tune of a 9-1 shellacking.

1) 1964 Philadelphia Phillies

It’s hard for many baseball fans born after 1985 to understand that for nearly a century, the Phillies were even more of a hard-luck franchise than the Cubs. The Phillies were the last original National League team win a pennant when they finally did so after nearly 70 years of existence in 1950. They went 30 more years before they became the last original member of the senior circuit to win a World Series in 1980. That’s why 1964 is such a big deal.

Nobody had a greater streak of futility than the Phillies. From 1919 to 1947, the Phillies finished in last  place a total of 17 times, and next to last seven times. This is why the Phils were the first major league franchise to post 10,000 losses. They spent the 1950’s oscillating between decent and deplorable, but they seemed to turn the corner in the early 1960’s.  1962 and 1963 found the Phillies climbing back to respectability, and throughout the 1964 season, they seemed destined to make it to the World Series. Philadelphia boasted a stocked line-up, featuring stars like rookie third baseman Dick Allen, outfielders Johnny Callison and Cookie Rojas, catcher Gus Triandos, and pitchers Jim Bunning and Chris Short.

1964 seemed to be the Phillies year for the taking. The first indicator that the Phils were the team of destiny came on Father’s Day, when future U.S. Senator and Hall-of-Famer Jim Bunning pitched a perfect game. This was the first National League perfecto since 1880, and even the Shea Stadium faithful found themselves cheering for the visiting hurler given the rarity of the event.

T.S. Eliot said April is the cruelest month; had he been a Phillies fan, he would have saved that designation for September 1964.  The Phils held a 6.5 game lead over the Cardinals and Reds with 12 games to go that month. Then, thanks to the “managerial genius” of Gene Mauch, Philadelphia lost 10 games in a row and ended up one game behind St. Louis in a tie for second place with Cincinnati.

Other collapses worthy of consideration:

  • 1962 Los Angeles Dodgers: Blew a 4 game lead with 7 left to play
  • 1938 Pittsburgh Pirates: Lost a September 1st lead of 7 games
  • 1993 San Francisco Giants: Dropped a Mid-August lead of 9 games
  • 1983 Atlanta Braves: Gagged away a 6.5 game lead in under 30 games
  • 1942 Brooklyn Dodgers: Blew a 7.5 game in under 25 games
  • 2005 Cleveland Indians: Dropped 6 of their final 7 after taking lead in Wild Card race
Apologies for the history lesson, but it really is the only way to show Red Sox fans that what happened this September and culminated Wednesday isn’t the worst collapse ever…it is just the Red Sox latest entry in the Futility Sweepstakes.

About J-Dub

What your view of sports would be if you had too many concussions

16 comments on “The 10 Worst Baseball Pennant Race Collapses – The Red Sox Weren’t The Worst, Just The Most Fun

  1. tophatal
    September 30, 2011

    JW

    Given what we’ve seen happen in the last 48 hours concerning the end of the regular season in the case of the Red Sox where should the blame be apportioned ? Epstein’s contract with the organization is up as of now and there’s the likelihood that Francona will meet the same fate as his predecessor Grady Little .
    .

    I firmly believe the pitching of the Red Sox down the stretch was abysmal . The likes of Beckett , Bard and the bullpen was mediocre to say the least ! .

    I think that these series of games with regard to the wildcard races were simply unbelievable in terms of their endings .

    Let’s just hope that the postseason exploits can be the equal of that .

    tophatal …………

    Like

    • JW
      September 30, 2011

      I don’t think there is much question that the pitching staff bears a big part of the “blame” for what happened to Boston. It might be easier to start with who doesn’t get a share of that blame…

      Like

      • tophatal
        September 30, 2011

        All I know is that the fallout from this has been monumental . Some of my colleagues who work for the company which has an office in Boston are simply askew as to what took place .

        Is there now a suicide hot-line (in Boston and the greater Massachusetts area) in place for those fans who are now suffering some sort of trauma ?

        tophatal …………

        Like

      • JW
        September 30, 2011

        Has anybody heard from Kevin Paul? Do we need to send the cops by his house?

        Like

  2. sportsattitudes
    September 30, 2011

    I was all of six years old when the Phillies crashed and burned in ’64 but I vaguely recall “things being thrown”…and as I got older the story was relayed to me over and over again in great detail. For a franchise being the first to 10,000 losses…none were more painful than those in the home stretch of 1964.

    Like

    • JW
      September 30, 2011

      My dad grew up in Philadelphia, and while he is not a baseball fan, even he has the name “Gene Mauch” burned into his memory.

      Like

  3. sportsglutton
    September 30, 2011

    Great rundown and I totally remember having that Jimmy William’s Topps card. Classic.

    Like

    • JW
      September 30, 2011

      Not Jimmy Williams…it’s JIMY. You should know you are in trouble when your own manager can’t even spell his own name.

      Like

  4. tophatal
    September 30, 2011

    JW

    I think KP is holed up as he’s emotionally distraught with joy after the O’s triumph over the Red Sox . He will come up for air pretty soon of that you can be sure .

    tophatal …………..

    Like

  5. www.diehardsport.com
    September 30, 2011

    Man, those last games of the season were certainly great. The ’64 Phillies are well before my time, but if you rank them higher than my ’09 Tigers I’ll believe you on this.

    Like

    • JW
      September 30, 2011

      I lived in Minnesota in ’09 and saw that happen from the Twins’ point of view. It had to be hard to watch as a Tigers’ fan, but it lacked the historical context of the ’64 Phillies.

      Like

  6. chappy81
    September 30, 2011

    Good read as always, thanks for the history lesson! I kinda forgot about that 2009 collapse by the Tigers. I guess I just remember the Twins side of the story haha

    Like

    • JW
      September 30, 2011

      Thanks…that’s what us old guys are for 🙂

      Like

  7. tophatal
    October 1, 2011

    JW

    Francona out ……… Reagins out ……….. any thoughts on whose head’ll be next on the chopping block ?

    This is going to be one crazy off-season !

    tophatal ………..

    Like

  8. It always bothered me that Jimy Williams spelled his name with one ‘M.’

    I mean, it’s not like he’s young and trendy. He’s a codger. What the hell were his parents thinking or did the typewriter at the hospital not have the ability to type consecutive M’s?

    Anyway, there will be no worse collapse for me than that 78 Red Sox team. Yaz, Rice, Lynn, Evans, Fisk, they were loaded. But like every Red Sox team prior to 2004, they didn’t have any depth in their starting rotation.

    And so it goes that Bucky Fucking Dent is a part of every baseball fan’s vernacular.

    Like

  9. unclemonkey
    October 7, 2011

    Great post! Love all the info and research here as I forgot about quite a few of these.

    Like

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