We’ve been lucky to get several World Series that went to Game Seven in recent years. It’s been a while now since the Yankees have played in a World Series, never mind a Game Seven; the loss to the Diamondbacks in 2001 was the most recent one. That has probably kept our life spans steady, so at least there’s that.
Before 2001, the last Game Seven they had played in was 1964, where they lost to the Cardinals. That was the end of a stretch, where the Yankees went to Game Seven of the World Series in seven of 10 years. Go out another three years and it was eight in 13 years.
Two years in particular toward the end of that run show the very narrow margins in which a World Series can be decided.
The 1960 World Series between the Yankees and Pirates is fairly notorious for those that know baseball history. The Yankees won Games Two, Three, and Six by a combined 35 runs, with the “closest” of those being a game where they won by 10 and allowed zero runs and four hits. Meanwhile, the Pirates won their three games by two, one, and three runs. That set things up for Game Seven.
In a lot of way, the final game played out a lot like the series as a whole. The Pirates took an early lead (just like they had after winning games one and five), but not an insurmountable one. The Yankees then rallied back, and did so by scoring runs in bunches. Seven unanswered runs gave them a 7-4 lead going to the bottom of the eighth.
Pittsburgh, however, rallied with five runs in the eighth. Game Four starter Ralph Terry had to come in to finish off the inning.
Down to their last three outs, the Yankees rallied. Mickey Mantle drove home a run with a single, while Yogi Berra picked up a game-tying RBI with a groundout. The Yankees were back in the game and series. That, however, lasted only a couple pitches. Bill Mazeroski famously led off the bottom of the ninth with a series-winning home run. Despite scoring just 27 runs compared to the Yankees’ 55, the Pirates had won the World Series.
The Yankees made up for it the following season, beating the Reds in five games to win the 1961 World Series, but they found themselves in another seven-game classic the next year
It was the Yankees and Giants splitting the first six games in the 1962 World Series. The Yankees won Games One, Three, and Five, meaning they had a lead at three separate points in the series. However, they failed to follow up any of those up with another win, sending the series to a decisive seventh game.
The man tasked to start that final game was the man who had walked off the mound as the losing pitcher two years earlier: Ralph Terry.
He had been the winning pitcher in Game Five, allowing three runs in a complete game. The Yankees were able to bring him back so quickly thanks to rain wreaking havoc on the series. Terry and the Yankees’ game five win happened on October 10th. Game Six was not played until October 15th, and the final game on the 16th.
Terry’s second go round in a Game Seven started off way better than his first. The pitcher retired the first 17 Giants he faced. In the meantime, the Yankees had opened up a lead in a bit of strange fashion.
With the bases loaded and nobody out, Tony Kubek came to the plate. He grounded one to the shortstop, starting a 6-4-3 double play. A run scored on the play, giving the Yankees the lead, but according to win probability, the Yankees’ chances actually decreased after it happened.
Things got a little scary in the seventh inning when Willie McCovey tripled, but Terry followed that with an inning-ending strikeout.
The ninth was when things actually got close. Matty Alou led off the frame with a single. Terry bounced back with two outs, bringing the heart of the Giants’ order up. It was none other than Willie Mays who stepped to the plate. He delivered with a double, with Alou being held up at third.
McCovey then squared off against Terry, now facing the possibility of giving up a second walk-off World Series-winning hit in three years. Instead, he got him to line out to second base, sealing a 1-0 game seven win.
Terry had gone the full 180, going from losing pitcher in Game Seven to winning pitcher, also taking home the MVP in the process. In some ways, the Yankees went the full 180 too. While it wasn’t quite as lopsided as two years prior, the Yankees were outscored and generally out hit by the Giants this time around. While in 1960, they scored literal dozens of runs and came up short, in 1962 they won by scoring fewer than three runs per game, and even winning on an otherwise negative play.
Weird things can happen in seven-game samples in baseball. There is no more proof than the divergent paths of the game sevens in the 1960 and 1962 World Series.
All historical stats and box score courtesy of Baseball Reference