Top 10 craziest game endings in Yankees history (Part 2, #1-5)

Andy Marlin

Sunday afternoon's game strangely ended on a wild pitch. What other games in Yankees history have ended in such a unusual way?

Continuing yesterday's list, here are the top five craziest game endings in Yankees history. Before number five though, an honorable mention must be made:

Honorable mention: Senators fans can't bear to see team go
9/30/1971 at Washington Senators

As noted by site member bluecheese999 in the comments for the the 10th-6th ranked game endings, this game was absolutely nuts. I did not think of it, since I did not remember that the Yankees played in this game, but it deserves mention. It was the Washington Senators' final game in D.C. after 72 seasons of baseball. The initial American League Senators of the Walter Johnson era had moved to Minneapolis to become the Twins after the 1960 season, but MLB immediately granted D.C. an expansion franchise so that baseball would not leave the nation's capital. The new iteration of the Senators was just as bad as its predecessor though, and with attendance at RFK Stadium plummeting, owner Bob Short agreed to move the team to Texas, where they would become the Rangers.

Senators fans were understandably pissed. During the team's final game, the Ted Williams-managed Senators were beating the Yankees, 7-5 despite homers from Bobby Murcer, Roy White, and Rusty Torres off starter Dick Bosman. It appeared that one last homer from beloved slugger Frank Howard and a two-run rally against Yankees reliever Jack Aker would give the Senators a victory in their final game, but the fans were uninterested. After Murcer bounced one back to Joe Grzenda for the second out in the ninth, fans stormed the field. Here's a Washington Postarticle with more:

They ran the bases and stole home, tore out tufts of grass, grabbed the ball boys' folding chair and pinched dirt for their jacket pockets.

When first base was lifted and carried away, you could tell it was all over. And so, the final irony: the fans lost the game for the Senators, who had to forfeit their last contest here to the Yankees.

No one on the field cared, nor did those fans who watched smilingly from their seats. The huge banks of lights dimmed out one by one. Police started herding the crowd back into the stands. Three men were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

Two groundskeepers lifted their shovels under police guard to dig up the pitching rubber. Four other officers stood over home plate. One of them said, "They just told us to guard home playte." He didn't say for what.

Halfheartedly motioning kids to get off the dugout for the last time, usher captain James Findley, who started working at Griffith Stadium 28 years ago "before they cracked down on the child labor laws." He was 14 at the time and remembers "Walt Masterson and DiMaggio and Mantle and Williams when he was playing." The rowdiness? "Just one of them things. Can't blame 'em on a last night. They're sad. I'm sad. This is my life."

Thank God the Yankees have never left New York. That scene was undoubtedly depressing. Washington would not get another baseball team for 34 years.

Even though I might have put this game on the list if I didn't forget about it, I am okay with it not being on the list since it's much more Washington baseball history than Yankees history. The Yankees shouldn't have even won it anyway. Pour one out for all those Washington fans who died between 1972-2004 who never got to see baseball in Washington ever again.

(9/30/71 box score)

5. Palmer can't handle easy bunt, Yankees tie ALDS
ALDS Game 2, 10/2/1996 vs. Texas Rangers

Before the '96 Yankees could even get to the moment when Hayes won the World Series, they needed to win the pennant. They captured the AL East title and played the Rangers in the first round of the playoffs. The homer-happy Rangers won the AL West to secure the first playoff berth in the franchise's 35-year-history, and they celebrated their playoff debut by dominant Game 1. Juan Gonzalez crushed a three-run homer off David Cone in the fourth to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead and soon after, third baseman Dean Palmer drove a two-run shot of his own to make it 5-1. Starter John Burkett pitched a complete game and the Rangers won, 6-2.

The Yankees had to win the second game; otherwise, they would have been forced to win three games in a row in Texas to stay in the playoffs. Gonzalez continued to dominate the Yankees by hitting a pair of homers off Pettitte, and the Rangers took a 4-1 lead. Cecil Fielder homered off Ken Hill to cut the deficit to two, and later in the game, the Yankees tied it off the Rangers' bullpen thanks to a sacrifice fly by Hayes to score Derek Jeter in the seventh and an RBI single by Fielder to bring Bernie Williams home in the eighth.

Both bullpens pitched scoreless ball for the next three innings. Brian Boehringer worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the 12th by striking out Palmer to end the threat. Future Yankee Mike Stanton returned to the mound for his third inning and immediately gave up a single to AL Rookie of the Year Jeter, then walked Tim Raines. Johnny Oates called on righty Mike Henneman to relieve Stanton, and Hayes prepared to bunt Jeter to third base.

Whoops. It was an easy sacrifice, but Palmer simply threw it away, and the Yankees won the game 5-4, their first playoff win after four losses in a row going back to the painful series in Seattle in '95. Gonzalez continued to pummel Yankees pitching with homers, as he tied a playoff with five homers in one series despite only playing four games. The Yankees survived the onslaught though, and they won both the third and fourth game in Texas to eliminate the Rangers and move on to the ALCS. They may very well have won Game 2 if Palmer made the play on the bunt anyway, but his flub sure helped.

('96 ALDS Game 2 box score)

4. Chesbro steals an extra-innings win
7/16/1904 vs. Detroit Tigers

Oh how I wish I knew more about this game. This note from Retrosheet is all I know about it:

7-16-1904 DET @ NYA - Highlanders pitcher Jack Chesbro stole home in the tenth inning to win his own game, 9-8.

I'm sorry, what? Chesbro had an all-time great season in 1904, setting an AL record with 41 wins as he utilized his spitball to pitch to a 1.82 ERA (65 ERA-) and 2.11 FIP (78 FIP-), an 8.3 WAR season by FanGraphs measures. He evidently did not have his best spitball that day at Hilltop Park against the Tigers, but his offense supported him enough to send the game to extra innings.

Chesbro was not much of a hitting, as he hit .197/.216/.267 with a 42 wRC+ in his career, but he had his best year in '04 with a .236/.253/.339 triple slash and a 76 wRC+ (not bad for a pitcher at all). He reached base in the 10th inning against the Tigers, reached third, and then stunned the crowd by stealing home, his only stolen base of the '04 season and one of just five in his 393-game career. Just imagine if this happened today--not even position players steal home to walk off a game, aside from this freak play in the 1997 ALCS.

3. Wild pitch ends amazing '27 season on a weird note
World Series Game 4, 10/8/1927 vs. Pittsburgh Pirates

Never before had a World Series ended with an American League team completely whitewashing the Senior Circuit in a four-game sweep, but then again, perhaps baseball had never seen a team quite like Miller Huggins's '27 Yankees. The 110-win juggernaut powered by Babe Ruth's 60 homers and Lou Gehrig's 220 OPS+ completely dominated the American League and recorded one of the highest run differentials in baseball history, an astounding +376. (For comparison's sake, the incredible '98 Yankees finished at +309.)

The '27 National League champion Pirates were a stellar team in its own right, but the '27 Yankees simply played at ungodly levels. Give the Pirates credit though--the myth of them being mystifed watching the Yankees take batting practice is overstated. All four games were tight affairs until late in the game. The Buccos managed to keep the series opener close before losing, 5-4. Game 2 was a two-run game entering the top of the eighth inning at Forbes Field, but a three-run rally off the wild combination of Vic Aldridge and Mike Cvengros gave the Yankees a 6-1 lead. The third game was the true blowout, as the Yankees won 8-1, but the score was only 2-0 entering the bottom of the seventh at Yankee Stadium. That's when the Yankees blew it open with a six-run frame powered by Ruth's 61st homer of the season, a three-run bomb off Cvengros. Hall of Famer Herb Pennock, "The Squire of Kennett Square," took a perfect game into the eighth inning and finished up with a three-hitter to push the Bucs to the brink of elimination.

In the finale, the Yankees started relief ace Wilcy Moore, who was a completely unknown 30-year-old rookie prior to the '27 season and emerged as the team's unsung hero. The two teams exchanged runs in the first inning, and it stayed tied until Ruth lifted his 62nd homer, a two-run clout in the bottom of the fifth against Pirates starter Carmen Hill. Undeterred, the Bucs did not surrender, and they tied the game at three in the seventh with a two-run rally. The game stayed knotted at three into the bottom of the ninth after Moore finished his ninth strong inning of work.

Manager Donie Bush asked Johnny Miljus to pitch his seventh scoreless inning of the series in relief to send the game to extra innings. Miljus did not bring any control to his final inning. He walked Hall of Fame center fielder Earle Combs to lead off the ninth, then allowed a bunt single to shortstop Mark Koenig, who hit an under-the-radar .500 in the series. Miljus faced Ruth and uncorked a wild pitch to move the winning run to third base. At that point, he just gave up and intentionally walked Ruth to get to Gehrig. The bases were loaded with no one out, and Miljus had to somehow get the greatest first baseman in baseball history to not bring home the run. Somehow, someway, he did it and struck Gehrig out. Next up was Bob Meusel, an intimidating offensive threat himself. Yet again, Miljus struck out the fearsome batter.

Stunningly, Miljus seemed prepared to pull a "Houdini" act and escape this inning, though he had to face Hall of Fame second baseman Tony Lazzeri. "Poosh 'em up" Tony had been the goat of the previous World Series for striking out against a hung over Grover Cleveland Alexander with the bases loaded, but he could now be the hero. However, Miljus didn't give him the chance, as he threw his second wild pitch of the inning, allowing Combs to come home with the winning run to clinch the Yankees' second World Series championship and end the '27 season on an anticlimactic note. It remains the only time in World Series history that the season ended on a Wild Pitch. Again, imagine that happening today. Oh, the fun with reaction GIFs we would have...

('27 World Series Game 4 box score)

2. Cust symbolizes the 1998-2011 Orioles in tumble
8/16/2003 at Baltimore Orioles

Imma just leave this here:

That play pretty much sums up the Orioles' streak of 14 consecutive seasons of incompetence and under-.500 baseball. The 2003 Yankees were a 101-win machine, but one of those wins was a complete gift.

The Yanks and O's played a tight game in mid-August that featured the following crazy-ass things that should just never, ever, ever happen in a baseball game:

  • Sterling Hitchock and Pat Hentgen, starting pitchers in the year 2003.
  • Deivi Cruz, designated hitter.
  • The Orioles batting out of order during the first inning, when they scored a run...
  • ...and getting away with it because Joe Torre was asleep at the wheel, allowing the run to count. Future Hall of Fame manager, everyone.
  • A multi-homer game from human paper towel roll John Flaherty.
  • A homer from whatever Jose Morban is supposed to be.
  • A Mariano Rivera save opportunity ruined by a homer from... Luis Matos?
  • A multi-homer game from human paper towel roll John Flaherty.
  • Noted slug Hideki Matsui getting picked off by John Parrish.
  • A bases loaded, one out chance to score runs for Jorge Posada and Alfonso Soriano ruined by O's reliever Hector Carrasco. Take a lap, boys.
  • A MULTI-HOMER GAME FROM HUMAN PAPER TOWEL ROLL JOHN FLAHERTY. (Seriously, Orioles? Go home, you're drunk.)

The final play of the game takes the cake though. Jason Giambi finally realized, "Well, shit, it's goddamn Hector Carrasco, I can do this myself," and he took him yard with two outs in the top of the 11th inning. The Yankees had a 5-4 lead, and the recently-reacquired, bone-chip-peddling Jeff Nelson entered the game to try to save it. He got the first two outs, then walked Hunterdon County's Jack Cust with two outs. Nelson rebounded to reach a 1-2 count on Larry Bigbie, but down to the Orioles' final strike, something else happened that should never occur in a baseball game: a Larry Bigbie extra-base hit.

Bigbie lined one toward right-center field for a double. Karim Garcia cut it off and threw in to Soriano, the cutoff man. Cust motored around the bases, then slipped between third base and home when he realized the third base coach decided to hold him. Asked for an explanation, Cust later said, "I tried to plant, but my feet just gave out. It's the grass. It's just soft." Soft grass is the reason! Make it hard as a rock, and Cust is apparently fine!

By falling, Cust was now caught in a rundown between third baseman Aaron Boone and Jorge Posada, now in the game at catcher after the two-homer Flaherty shenanigans. Although he was player worthy of Hall of Fame consideration, Posada could be a real dope on the baseball field at times. He threw to Boone during the rundown, then bizarrely ran off to the side instead of returning to home plate.

No one was covering home plate. That can partially be blamed on Nelson too, who appears to have disappeared during the plate, perhaps to his mysterious planet where his "fake to third, fake to first" move actually works for a goddamn change. Cust decided that it was wrong to win a baseball game with no catcher though, so he kindly fell again, and Boone tagged him out on the ground, Cust's tying run cut down just a few feet from home plate to a bouncing Morban's stunned dismay.

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The 1998-2011 Orioles, ladies and gentlemen. May the current O's recapture that form for the rest of this season.

(8/16/03 box score)

1. "HE DROPPED THE BALL!"
6/12/2009 vs. New York Mets

Well, obviously.

Seriously, this was a thing that happened. I advise skipping ahead to the 32-second mark since that's when the SNY broadcast kicks in and Michael Kay stops screaming at you (I don't know why the graphic mentions Al Leiter and David Cone since they are not allowed to say anything amid Kay's histrionics). On the WCBS, even John Sterling was stunned enough to not do his Yankees warble for a little while.

A two-out RBI double by David Wright off Rivera allowed the Mets to take an 8-7 lead to the ninth after a tight first seven innings that featured four Yankee homers, an unimpressive 100-pitch, four-inning outing from starter Joba Chamberlain, and pitching meltdowns from ageless Mets starter Livan Hernandez and Yankees reliever Brett Tomko (World Series champion!).

Former Angels nemesis-turned-Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez entered the game to save it. This was back when K-Rod was actually a superb reliever, having just saved a record 62 games with the Angels in '08 and begun his Mets career without a blown save in two and a half months. Off the field, he was only known for being obnoxious, not for assaulting his father-in-law in the Mets' clubhouse (that would be next year's fun).

K-Rod got into trouble when Jeter grounded a one-out single up the middle to put the tying run on base and the winning run at the plate. He struck out Johnny Damon, but Jeter stole second on the play. Mets manager Jerry Manuel curiously decided to risk putting the winning run on base by intentionally walking Mark Teixeira to face a nigh-equal threat in Alex Rodriguez. In the K-Rod/A-Rod battle, the latter worked the count in his favor to 3-1, then popped up a pitch near the middle of the plate.

A-Rod threw the bat down in frustration and it seemed the game was over. Second baseman Luis Castillo settled under it, stumbled toward right field a little bit, then tried to catch the ball with one T-Rex hand. He dropped it. Running hard with two outs, both Jeter and Teixeira scored, and the Yankees won. Amazin' Avenue's Sam Page best explained this chaos with a graph:

3621453808_cbdefcc105_o_medium

I can think of no other game in Yankees history in which a loss turned to a win in such a bizarre manner. Dear sweet fancy Moses.

(6/12/09 box score)

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