This Week in Baseball History: Oct. 5 – 11

Nothing compares to October baseball.

In just a couple of hours, the 2020 Division Series will kick off. Which players will become the heroes of this postseason and lead their team to a World Series? To get extremely hype for today’s festivities, let’s look back on some of the most historic moments that happened in October baseball.


Oct. 5, 2001 – The Historic No. 71 (and 72)


In 1998, Mark McGwire shattered the single-season home run record previously held by Roger Maris for 37 years by clubbing 70 homers in one season. Little did fans know that McGwire’s historic season would not be No. 1 for long.

Enter 2001. A 36-year-old slugger by the name of Barry Bonds had just come off an MVP runner-up season where he hit 49 home runs (the most in his career to that point) with a slash line of .306/.440/.688. On Aug. 11, ’01, Bonds set a new career-best with his 50th blast. With 45 games remaining in the season, Bonds would have to average a home run essentially every other day to beat McGwire’s record. He slugged seven more homers over the last couple weeks of August to end the month with 57 total.

Bonds tore through September with 12 more bombs, entering the last week of the season with 69 home runs. The Giants were set to face the Astros then Dodgers for the final six games. Bonds struggled in his first two games, going 2-for-10 with no homers. But in the last game of the series against Houston, Bonds tied McGwire with No. 70 off Wilfredo Rodriguez.

Three games left. The Giants were an outside shot at the wild card, and they began their final series on Oct. 5 facing the Dodgers’ All-Star starter Chan Ho Park.

Their wild-card hopes appeared to vanish almost immediately as the Dodgers jumped out quickly to a quick 5 – 0 lead. The lead-off batters for the Giants struck out and grounded out, leaving the bases empty for Bonds. Park delivered a first-pitch ball before trying to throw an outside fastball past Bonds.

But Bonds being Bonds, he turned on the pitch and demolished it into right-center field for No. 71.


Bonds wasn’t finished just yet.

Two innings later, Bonds led off with yet another home run, this time on a hanging breaking ball that he punished to dead center for No. 72.

The Dodgers held on to a win in this close 11 – 10 game. Bonds went hitless with two walks the rest of the day, and his multi-homer heroics were not enough as the Giants fell out of wild card contention.


Oct. 6, 2010 – The Doc’s No-Hitter 


Roy Halladay toiled throughout the 2000s toward the title of the most dominant pitcher of his era. This was a feat that he arguably accomplished.

Only one pitcher had more fWAR than him in that decade: Randy Johnson.

But Johnson was on the tail end of his career when Halladay started to firmly establish himself among the game’s premier pitchers. Halladay’s excellent performance throughout the decade, which included a Cy Young in ’03, helped him stand out on a Blue Jays team that finished third or lower in the division every year except one from ’94 to ’14. As a result, Halladay never had the opportunity to show his skills where it matters most: the postseason.

That changed in ’09 when the Jays traded him to the Phillies, a powerhouse team that had just won the World Series in ’08 and lost it to the Yankees the next year. He immediately established himself as the team’s ace, an argument supported by his perfect game on May 29, 2010.


With the Phillies finishing first in the NL East that year, Halladay had his first shot at postseason glory.

Halladay’s day came on Oct. 6 in game one of the NLDS against the Reds, a formidable foe that was tied for third-highest team wRC+ (106) and led by that year’s MVP, Joey Votto.

But they were up against “Doc” Halladay, a pitcher known for surgically dissecting and neutralizing the opposing bats with ease. He wasn’t a strikeout pitcher, but rather he was a control specialist who excelled at getting weak contact. This is exactly what he did to the Reds the first time through the order, retiring six of those nine batters on weak infield outs (with one strikeout, too).

The second time the Reds hitters saw Halladay, he was out for blood. He punched out four of the next five Reds on a variety of pitches, from backdoor two-seamers painted on the corner to changeups that dived into the dirt. But with two outs in the fifth, Jay Bruce became the Reds first baserunner after he worked a full-count walk. This momentary interruption didn’t bother Halladay’s flow, who resumed his dominance by forcing a weak groundout on the next batter to end the inning.

The energy building among the 46,411 fans in Citizens Bank Park with each passing out, and Halladay continued carving up the opposition. He flew through the next three innings on 33 pitches, and soon enough it was the ninth inning and the Phillies were up 4 – 0. The first Reds batter, Ramón Hernández, hit an easy pop out to second. The next, pinch hitter Miguel Cairo, did the same exact thing to third base.

Just one out left. All that stood between Halladay and his enshrinement in baseball lore was Brandon Phillips. Halladay quickly worked to an 0 – 2 count, throwing a 79 MPH breaking pitch way off the plate that Phillips weakly dribbled in front of home. Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz dropped to his knees, frantically scooped up the ball, and fired over to first for the last out.


Halladay had made history. He became the only pitcher other than Don Larsen to throw a no-hitter in postseason play.


Oct. 8, 1956 – The Postseason Perfecto


Speaking of Larsen…

The mid-century Yankees were a persistent thorn in everyone’s sides. They won the World Series every year from ’49 to ’53. Heck, from ’36 to ’56, the Yankees appeared in every World Series but six. Fans back then had enough of the Yankees (which is still the case to this day), and it was a joyous occasion in 1955 when the Dodgers beat the Yankees to win their first and only championship while located in Brooklyn.

These two teams met for a rematch the very next year. The Yankees (97 – 57) easily won the AL, while the Dodgers (93 – 61) narrowly beat out the Milwaukee Braves by one game to claim the NL Pennant. The Dodgers won the first two games of the series before the Yankees clawed back in games three and four to tie the series at 2 – 2. The stage was set for a pivotal game five with the Dodgers sending Sal Maglie to face the Yankees’ Larsen.

The Yankees had acquired the 26-year-old Larsen in the ’54 offseason as one piece in a 17-player trade with the Baltimore Orioles. Larsen pitched well in his first abbreviated season in pinstripes in ’55, throwing just 97 innings of 3.06 ERA/123 ERA+ ball. He followed this up with a 3.26 ERA/119 ERA+ performance over 179.2 IP in ’56 to firmly establish himself as a dependable starter for the Bronx Bombers.

Larsen had started game two against the Dodgers, but he lasted just 1.2 innings after walking four batters and loading the bases in what would become a four-run rally. This short outing allowed Larsen to start game five on just three days of rest.

A different Larsen controlled the mound this time around. Throughout the entire game, he only allowed a single three-ball count. In fact, he didn’t throw a ball to 11 of the batters he faced. He flat out a dominated a lineup that featured four future Hall of Famers. Maglie tried to keep pace with Larsen, throwing 3.2 perfect innings before allowing a solo shot to Mickey Mantle.

The very next inning, Dodgers slugger Gil Hodges hit a long fly ball to left-center in Yankee Stadium I, where the outfield wall was 457 feet from home plate. But Mantle saved the day with a fantastic running catch.


It really seemed like no Dodger could stop Larsen from throwing the first perfect game in over 34 years. Not even Dale Mitchell, who entered the game as a pinch hitter with two outs in the ninth inning. Mitchell rarely struck out, and he’s actually the 14th-hardest batter to strike out in history.

That didn’t matter to Larsen, who struck him out on a check swing for his seventh K of the day to finish the only postseason perfect game ever. As he walked off the mound to celebrate, Yogi Berra jumped into Larsen’s arms in one the sport’s most iconic images.


While the Dodgers retaliated with a Jackie Robinson walk-off single in game six, the Yankees ultimately came out on top in game seven to win their 17th championship in franchise history.


Oct. 9, 1996 – The Jeffrey Maier Incident


40 years after Larsen’s perfecto, the Yankees found themselves in the hunt for their 23rd World Series title. The ’96 Yankees (92 – 70) had won their first division title since 1981 thanks to breakout seasons by a couple of second-year players: the setup man—Mariano Rivera; the burgeoning ace—Andy Pettitte; and the young shortstop out of Kalamazoo, MI—Derek Jeter.

Pettitte, Jimmy Key, and Kenny Rogers guided the Yankees to three victories in an extremely close ALDS matchup against the Texas Rangers. In all of these nail-biting wins, the Yankees scored the game-winning run in the very last inning.

The stage was now set for an intense intra-divisional ALCS against the Baltimore Orioles, with game one taking place on Oct. 9 in the Bronx in front of 56,495 fans.

Scoring happened early and often, with the Yankees and Orioles going blow-for-blow over the first four innings. The Yankees jumped ahead in the bottom of the first after Tim Raines hit a leadoff double before advancing and later scoring on a fielder’s choice. The Orioles responded with their own fielder’s choice RBI in the next half-inning before the Yankees did the same exact thing again in the bottom half of the second.

Orioles slugger Brady Anderson, who hit a career-high 50 homers in ’96, clubbed another one in the third to tie the score. Rafael Palmeiro hit his own solo shot an inning later, and after a B.J. Surhoff sac fly in the sixth, the Yankees found themselves down 4 – 2. The Yankees cut the deficit to one thanks to a bases loaded walk to Darryl Strawberry in the seventh.

With one out in the eighth, Jeter stepped up to face Armando Benítez. The O’s win probability was 73%. Jeter wasn’t yet known as a clutch postseason hitter. He had hit .412 over 17 PAs in ALDS (his first postseason series) and he had already recorded two singles in this game one.

Benitez delivered a first-pitch fastball up in the zone, which Jeter slapped to the short porch in right. A young 12-year-old fan named Jeffrey Maier decided to make it even shorter as he reached his glove over the outfield wall and deflected the ball into the stands, robbing right fielder Tony Tarasco of an easy out and gifting Jeter a game-tying home run.


Tarasco was understandably furious as Maier had clearly reached a couple feet over the wall, but the RF umpire Rich Garcia stood firm on his ruling. Benitez ran to the warning track from the mound to argue his case with Garcia, while O’s manager Davey Johnson joined him from the dugout.

Maier later said that he acted on instinct and didn’t even register what he had done. But the Yankees faithful understood what happened and a random fan put Maier on his shoulders as the entire stadium went nuts.

This missed call all but doomed the Orioles as the Yankees turned to their elite combo of Rivera and John Wetteland to shut out the O’s over the next three innings. And in the bottom of the 10th inning, Bernie Williams hooked a towering walk-off home run around the left-field foul pole.


The Yankees would ride this momentum and win the ALCS in five before beating the Braves in six to win the World Series.


Oct. 11, 1997 – The Last Walk-Off Steal of Home


Almost one year later, baseball fans witnessed another historic moment in the ALCS. But thankfully for many people reading this article, the Yankees weren’t involved this time. The Orioles, however, suffered yet another brutal walk-off loss in their second straight ALCS.

First, let me set the stage.

In May, ’97, Deep Blue beat Gary Kasparov, the first time a supercomputer had outmatched a world champion. One month later, J.K. Rowling published the first Harry Potter book. And that same month, the infamous Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson II fight happened.

Roughly four months later, postseason baseball made its annual return from hibernation. The Indians were a dominant team in the 90s thanks to their fantastic core of Jim ThomeManny RamírezKenny Lofton and more. In ’95, they made their first playoff appearance since ’54. They suffered a tough World Series loss that year and they followed it up with a quick ALDS exit to the Orioles in ’96. But in ’97, they soundly beat the Yankees in the division series to advance to the ALCS and hopefully get their revenge against the Orioles.

Using roughly the same main roster they had in ’96, Baltimore shutout Cleveland in game one, winning 3 – 0. But the Indians retaliated to win game two 5 – 4 thanks to a three-run eighth-inning rally. Game three was set to be a great pitching duel: Mike Mussina for the Orioles and Orel Hershiser for the Indians.

That’s exactly what happened as both starters were electric. Mussina went 7 IP, giving up 1 R, 3 H, 2 BB with a then LCS-record 15 strikeouts. Meanwhile, Hershiser held the O’s scoreless over 7 IP while giving up just 4 H, 1 BB with 7 K.

The Indians’ hopes to win this intense game hit a huge speed bump when, in the top of the ninth, centerfielder Marquis Grissom lost a fly ball in the lights, allowing the Orioles to tie the score 1 – 1.


The game went into extras, with both teams failing to score a run until the bottom of the 12th when Grissom saw the path to redemption.

Grissom stepped up to bat with one out and worked a walk against Randy Myers. The next batter, Tony Fernández, knocked Grissom over to third with a single to right field. Finally, with runners on the corners, Omar Vizquel stepped up with a chance to be the hero. On a 2 – 1 count, Vizquel attempted to lay down a safety squeeze on an off-speed pitch that went low and inside. It ended up missing Vizquel’s bat, but it also missed the center of the catcher’s glove.


The Orioles incorrectly thought the ball was foul, which allowed Grissom to score on the 35th and most recent walk-off steal of home—the only time that this ever happened in the postseason.

Cleveland ended up winning the series in six games, advancing to the World Series where they lost to the Florida Marlins.


Feature Graphic Designed by James Peterson (Follow @jhp_design714 on Instagram & Twitter)

Alex Kleinman

Journalist who loves the Yankees and the Bears. One gives me strength, the other leads me to existential dread. When I'm not obsessing over baseball, you can find me at a concert, hiking in a National Park or chasing my dog, Frankie, who has probably stolen one of my socks.

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