This Week In Baseball History: September 28 – October 4

Where were you for Game 162?

The regular season may be over, but we still have one month left of baseball. In the chaotic year that has been 2020, we may experience an even more chaotic postseason as 16 teams begin their journey toward glory tomorrow night. In anticipation of all the drama that is sure to come, let’s look back at some of the most iconic moments in postseason history, from arguably the greatest defensive play ever to the walk-off to end all walk-offs.

But first, we have to travel back in time to the beginning of the 2010s and relive the legendary Game 162.


September 28, 2011 – The Game 162


Where to start with this…

Let’s rewind about a month. After the games on Aug. 25, the Braves held a 9.5 game lead on the wild card, thanks to a 79 – 53 record, the second-best in the entire National League. The Cardinals were 10.5 GB from the Braves, dangerously treading water with a 68 – 63 record.

Meanwhile, on Aug. 27 the Red Sox had the best record in the entire American League at 82 – 51, which gave them a two-game divisional lead on the second-place Yankees and a nine-game lead on the Rays for the wild card.

But over the next month, both of these powerhouses collapsed. From Aug. 26 through Sept. 27, the Braves went on a 10 – 19 skid, entering their last game of the season on a four-game losing streak. Somehow the Red Sox performed even worse. Starting on Sept. 1 and going through Sept. 27, the Sox went 7 – 19.

Both teams entered their Sept. 28 games desperately needing a win as their postseason hopes were hanging by a thread. Not only had the Braves and Red Sox lost their shot at a division title, but their spots in the wild cards were up for grabs—the Cardinals and Braves had the same 89 – 72 record, while the Red Sox and Rays were tied at 90 – 71.

Shortly after 7 p.m. on Sept. 28, four incredibly consequential divisional battles began: Boston at Baltimore, Philadelphia at Atlanta, St. Louis at Houston, and New York at Tampa.

The Cardinals had the least heart-attack-inducing game on this final day. A five-run first inning set the tone for St. Louis as they pummeled the opposing starter, Brett Myers. The Astros did not put up much of a fight as they lost to a sparkling CGSO by Chris Carpenter, who recorded 11 strikeouts and gave up just two hits and one walk. Since St. Louis had easily won this game, they turned their attention to Atlanta.

Philadelphia and Atlanta fought their way through a close back-and-forth match. The Phillies scored first on Ryan Howard’s first-inning double, but the Braves responded almost immediately with Chipper Jones‘ run-scoring sac fly. Dan Uggla of the Braves struck next, hitting a two-run homer in the third inning to give them a 3 – 1 lead. Braves ace Tim Hudson kept the Phillies offense muzzled until they scored one run in the seventh on a misplayed grounder by shortstop Jack Wilson. The Phillies kept grinding away, working a sac fly on a bases-loaded situation against Craig Kimbrel in the top of the ninth to tie the score and send it into extras. Both teams failed at executing with RISPs in extra innings until the 13th when Hunter Pence flared a ball into shallow right to put the Phillies ahead 4 – 3. The Braves failed to come back in the bottom of the innings as they were set down 1-2-3, essentially handing the wild card over to the Cardinals.


Meanwhile in Baltimore, the Red Sox scored first thanks to a Dustin Pedroia RBI single in the top of the third, but the Orioles responded with a two-run homer by J.J. Hardy. The Red Sox kept grinding their way toward a lead, with one run scored in each of the next two innings to go ahead 3 – 2. This already intense game suffered through a 1.5-hour rain delay in the middle of the seventh, adding even more to the drama. But the Red Sox came out of the delay looking at a favorable situation: in 2011, they were 77 – 0 when leading after eight innings. But in the bottom of the ninth, they completely fell apart. Jonathan Papelbon notched two strikeouts to start the inning before Chris Davis raked a double down the line. The next two batters, Nolan Reimold and Robert Andino, hit a game-tying ground-rule double and then a walk-off single to left field to give the Orioles a dramatic win. For the Red Sox, their only hope laid in the hands of the Yankees. That is NEVER a good thing for Boston.

The Yankees jumped out to an early, commanding 7 – 0 lead against the Rays thanks to a second-inning Mark Teixeira grand slam. The Yankees, who had already clinched their postseason spot, threw out an eclectic assortment of pitchers that came up with the expanded September rosters. Pitchers like Dellin Betances, in his first and only major-league start, George Kontos, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett held the Rays scoreless for seven innings. But the Rays staged an incredible comeback in the eighth, scoring six runs with a three-run homer by Evan Longoria that made it 7 – 6. In the bottom of the ninth, Dan Johnson tied the game with a solo shot that barely hooked around the right field foul pole. And finally, after a scoreless 10th and 11th inning, the Rays capped off their remarkable comeback with a walk-off homer by Longoria that barely hooked around the left field foul pole, clinching the wild card for the Rays.


According to Cliff Corcoran with SI.com, the Braves and Red Sox’s collapses ranked as two of the five worst ever at that time, with both teams having a ~99% chance of making it to the postseason.


September 29, 1954 – The Catch


Once upon a time, there were two Giants in New York. Eventually, they both found new homes: one team moved across the country to San Francisco, while the other crossed the Hudson River to end up in New Jersey. But for a couple of decades they shared a home: the Polo Grounds.

The dimensions for baseball in this stadium were legendary: 279 feet to left field and a mere 258 feet to right field. Though it was easy to pull a homer down the line, it was quite difficult to hit one anywhere else as the outfield walls shot away directly away from the foul poles, resulting in a dead-center field wall that laid 483 feet from home plate.

Few outfielders could completely cover this vast landscape. But also, nobody was like Willie Mays.

His all-around greatness became clearly evident in his MVP-winning 1954 season, where Mays won the batting title by hitting .345/.411/.667 (175 OPS+) with 41 HR, 110 RBI, and 66 BB to 57 K. This excellent performance propelled the Giants to a tough World Series matchup against the Cleveland Indians, who had a league-best 111-43 record.

The Giants were seeking their first World Series win since 1933 after suffering a tough loss in the 1951 Fall Classic against the intracity rival New York Yankees. The Giants put their faith behind their ace and Game 1 starter Sal Maglie against the Indians’ future Cooperstown resident in Bob Lemon.

The Indians got the lead early thanks to a two-run, two-out triple by Vic Wertz in the first inning. But the Giants responded with two runs of their own in the third. Both starters kept the score tied through the eighth inning, when the Indians worked a lead-off walk and single to put runners on first and second. The Giants brought in Don Liddle to relieve Maglie and to face the red hot Wertz, who had two singles and a triple in his first three ABs. Wertz seemed to have yet another productive at-bat as he worked the count to 2-1 before driving a ball to deep center field.

Mays had a lot going through his mind. He knew the ball was going a long way, but he also knew that the runner on second base, Larry Doby, could easily tag up on a fly out and score the critical go-ahead run. With the full gravity of this situation weighing on Mays’ mind, he used his legendary athleticism to pull of one of the most iconic plays in baseball history.


This catch was absolutely vital as it prevented Doby from scoring and the Giants escaped the situation without giving up any runs. This game ultimately went into extra innings with the score still tied at 2-2.

The five-tool Mays started the Giants rally in the bottom of the 10th, working a one-out walk and stealing second base. After Lemon intentionally walked the next batter, he faced the pinch-hitting Dusty Rhodes (no, not that Dusty Rhodes aka The American Dream). The Giants knew how to make the most of the Polo Grounds, and Rhodes hit a 260 feet pop up down the right field line that barely scraped the wall.


But hey, a walk-off home run is a walk-off home run. The heroics of Mays and Rhodes propelled the team to a win in game one. After three more victorious games, the Giants swept the Indians to win their fifth World Series in franchise history.


September 30, 1972 – The Last Hit of Roberto Clemente’s Career: No. 3,000 


There are very few players whose performance on the field and impact off the field compare to Roberto Clemente. From his breakout season in 1960 at age 25 until his last game in 1972, Clemente was a perennial superstar.

His consistency at the plate, impeccable arm, and otherworldly baseball IQ made him a feared force in right field for the Pirates. Almost every year, he was a lock to hit .300, win a Gold Glove and earn an All-Star nomination. In fact, his 12 consecutive Gold Gloves ties him with Willie Mays for the most by any outfielder.

Clemente was not a “slugger,” but rather he excelled as a contact hitter. He began his age 37 season in 1972 needing just 118 hits to join the exclusive 3,000 hit club. Throughout his entire career, Clemente had recorded at least 118 hits in every season but one. And even though he was approaching 40 years old, Clemente had barely declined as a hitter, if at all.

Thus, it seemed all but inevitable the Clemente would make history in 1972. But Clemente came across some roadblocks, particularly in the form of nagging injuries that forced him to miss time. With just five weeks remaining in the season, Clemente needed 36 hits, which was almost half his season total up to that point. But for “The Great One,” this was an easy task.

He recorded 35 hits from Aug. 27 to Sept. 28, entering the Pirates’ Sept. 30 home game against the Mets—the penultimate game of the season—just one hit shy of the 3,000 plateau.

The Pirates, who had already won the NL East, were due to face Jon Matlack, whose 15-10 record and 2.32 ERA/145 ERA+ would earn him the Rookie of the Year award. Matlack won their first battle by striking out Clemente, causing the 13,117 fans in attendance to sigh in disappointment.

They faced off again when Clemente led off the fourth inning with the score tied 0-0. The thousands of Pirates fans rose to their feet once again to cheer on their beloved leader, who took the first pitch for a called strike. Clemente then swung at the next pitch, an outside breaking ball, driving a double to left-center field for No. 3,000.


Just like he had done countless times before, Clemente sparked the Pirates into a rally. Matlack quickly fell apart, throwing a wild pitch and giving up a walk before Manny Sanguillen hit a single to drive in Clemente for the game’s first run. The Pirates tacked on two more runs that inning, which proved to be more than enough as they shutout the Mets, winning 5-0.

Clemente didn’t play another regular-season game as the Pirates wanted him to rest before the upcoming postseason. He went 4-for-17 in NLCS with three walks and a home run, but the Pirates ultimately lost in five games to the Reds. Nobody knew that this would be Clemente’s final season.

On Dec. 31, 1972, Clemente, who was known for his charity work, flew on a plane filled with humanitarian aid for victims of a massive earthquake in Nicaragua. Previous relief flights had not arrived to their intended destinations due to government corruption, and Clemente hoped that his presence on the flight would prevent that from happening. Tragically, the plane crashed shortly after takeoff, killing everyone on board.

To honor Clemente’s larger-than-life legacy, the MLB changed the name of the newly created “Commissioner’s Award” to the “Roberto Clemente Award.” Every year, it is given to the player that “best represents the game of Baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.”


October 1, 1903 – The First Ever World Series Game 


For those of you who don’t remember what life was like in 1903, let me give you a quick refresher.

On June 16, Henry Ford finalized the paperwork needed to officially create the Ford Motor Company. On Dec. 10, Marie Curie became the first female recipient of a Nobel Prize. And on Oct. 1, the first-ever World Series began.

This spectacle represented the beginning of a union between the National League, created in 1876, with the American League, founded in 1901. Previously, both leagues had remained relatively independent of one another. But in August of 1903, the owners for the first-place teams in the AL and NL, who easily led their respective leageus, signed an agreement to establish a best-of-nine post-season series between the two teams.

The Boston Americans, later known as the Red Sox, emerged victorious in the AL with a 91-47 record. They were led by their ace, a fellow known as Cy Young, who posted a 2.08 ERA/145 ERA+ and a league-leading 28 wins. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Pirates, later still known as the Pirates, won the NL with a slightly worse 91-49 record. Their dynamic hitting duo of Honus Wagner and Fred Clarke formed a formidable battery, with both hitters posting nearly identical slash lines: Wagner hit .355/.414/.518 (160 OPS+), while Clarke hit .351/.414/.532 (164 OPS+). Unfortunately, the Pirates’ pitching was weakened due to a series of unfortunate events. Their ace, Sam Leever, injured himself in a trapshooting mishap that rendered him all but unusable in the series. Their No. 3 starter, Ed Doheny, was committed to an insane asylum following a mental breakdown.

Nonetheless, the show must go on! Game 1 of the series began on Oct. 1 in front 16,242 fans that lined the stands of the Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds.

Young took the mound for the Americans, facing off against the Pirates’ Deacon Phillippe. The Pirates’ stout lineup was quickly able to jump on the Americans’ mistakes. In the first inning, Young worked two easy outs before giving up a triple to Tommy Leach, who scored immediately afterward on an RBI single from Wagner. Sloppy defense, timely baserunning, and clutch hitting allowed the Pirates to score three more runs in the inning, jumping out to a 4-0 lead.

This lead proved to be insurmountable as Phillippe was dealing, giving up only two hits, no runs, and recording seven strikeouts over his first six innings. The Pirates tacked on a couple more runs, including an inside-the-park home run by Jimmy Sebring, the first-ever World Series homer.

The Americans responded with two runs of their own in the seventh and one more in the ninth, but that wasn’t enough as the Pirates won game one by a score of 7-3.

However, the Pirates bats went quiet after this game, scoring on average just 2.4 runs a game for the rest of the series. On the other hand, the Americans bounced back from this rough loss thanks to their great pitching, which powered them to the first-ever World Series championship.


October 3, 1951 – The Shot Heard ‘Round the World


On Aug. 11, 1951, it looked like the Brooklyn Dodgers were World Series bound. They held a commanding 13-game lead over the second-place New York Giants, who went an even 15 – 15 over their previous month. But the very next day, something magical started in New York.

From Aug. 12 to Aug. 27, the Giants won 16 straight games, while the Dodgers went 9 – 9. About a month later on Sept. 30, the season ended with both teams tied at 96 – 58. This began a three-game tie-breaker series to determine who would ultimately win the National League pennant and go to the World Series to face the New York Yankees.

The Giants won the first game 3 – 1, while the Dodgers won the second game in a blow out 10 – 0. The two rivals faced off in a decisive game three on Oct. 3 with everything on the line.

They met in the Polo Grounds in front of 34,320 fans. But millions more closely followed this game live as it was the first-ever nationally televised baseball game. All fans were in for a treat as the Dodgers and Giants trotted out their respective budding young superstar starters: Don Newcombe for the Dodgers and Sal Maglie for the Giants.

Maglie faced some trouble early, with Jackie Robinson singling in the game’s first run in the top of the first inning. But after that it became a pitcher’s duel as Maglie and Newcombe locked down the opposing hitters. The bats were quiet until the bottom of the seventh, when the Giants tied the score 1 – 1 on Bobby Thomson sac fly to deep center.

But the very next inning, Maglie fell apart. After recording a lead-off lineout back to the mound, Maglie let up a line-drive single to Pee Wee ReeseDuke Snider followed this up with a ground ball single that moved Reese to third. Maglie next faced Robinson with runners on the corners, but he threw a wild pitch that allowed Reese to score and Snider to advance. The dangerous Robinson was then neutralized with an intentional walk, but both Snider and Robinson ended up scoring anyways thanks to a couple more timely hits. Although Maglie eventually managed three outs, the damage was already done. The score: 4 – 1.

Newcombe retired the Giants 1-2-3 in the bottom of the eighth, and victory seemed all but assured for the Dodgers.

But the Giants refused to die.

They led off the ninth with back-to-back singles, putting runners on the corners with no outs. Newcombe got the next batter, Monte Irvin, to pop out to first. But then Whitey Lockman crushed a clutch double to left-center, scoring one and leaving runners on second and third as Thomson stepped up to the plate again with the chance to be a hero.

The Dodgers pulled the exhausted Newcombe, who had 5.2 IP just three days before, and replaced him with Ralph Branca, who had pitched eight innings in game one of this series just two days before. Not only that, but he also gave up a game-winning home run to Thomson in that game. The Dodgers decided against intentionally walking Thomson so they could face the rookie Willie Mays (he has certainly made a lot of appearances in this week’s events).

Instead, Branca threw the first pitch, a called strike on the inside corner. Branca tried to get one by him again with a pitch high and inside, but Thomson turned on it, pulling it down the line. The liner flew over the top of the outfield wall and into the stands for a dramatic walk-off home run as the Giants’ announcer, Russ Hodges, repeatedly exclaimed in disbelief: “The Giants win the pennant!”



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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