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Ranking the top five World Series in the last 25 years

By Matt Snyder | Baseball Writer

David Freese's 2011 heriocs go down in Fall Classic history.
David Freese's 2011 heriocs go down in Fall Classic history. (USATSI)

World Series history: Top 10 hitters of all-time | Top 10 pitchers of all-time

We've been running through some historic World Series moments now that we're inside two weeks until the 2013 Fall Classic, so I figured let's have a little more fun. Let's rank the best World Series of all-time!

Um, no. I don't remember any World Series before 1984 -- yes, that year, specifically -- and trying to sort through the World Series back in the early 1900s with no real broadcast footage would be a bit of a fool's errand. So let's go with the top five in the last 25 years.

Why five in 25? Well, it's just the top five we've seen in the last quarter century and video footage is readily available for consumption for all of those. And it's my list, so I make the rules.

Here are my subjective picks for the top five World Series in the last 25 years. I'll rank 'em, just for fun.

1. 2001: Diamondbacks over Yankees in seven

I'm only 35 years old, so my opinion here is probably only truly including World Series I actually witnessed, but this is bar none the best World Series in baseball history in my humble opinion. Not only was the backdrop the inclusion of a New York team in the wake of the horrible tragedy that was 9/11, but we were treated to incredible baseball. Also, an absurd amount of drama once the Yankees returned home for Game 3.

With the Yankees trailing two games to none, Roger Clemens went out and dominated in Game 3, with the Yankees winning, 2-1. Oh, and take note that Mariano Rivera got the two-inning save and lived to tell about it, Fredi Gonzalez (too soon?).

Game 4 was as even as it can get. The Yankees scored in the bottom of the third with the Diamondbacks answering in the top of the fourth. From there it was tied until the D-Backs plated two in the eighth with an Erubial Durazo double being the big blow. Tino Martinez would tie it up with a two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth. And then Derek Jeter hit a walkoff homer in the bottom of the 10th -- coming after midnight in a game that started on Halloween, giving Jeter the nickname, "Mr. November."

Game 5, again, was ridiculous. The Diamondbacks got another incredible start, this time from Miguel Batista, and took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth. And, again, Byung-Hyun Kim coughed it up with two outs. This time it was Scott Brosius with the clutch bomb. Then, in the bottom of the 12th, Alfonso Soriano came through with a walkoff single.

The D-Backs returned home and destroyed the Yankees, 15-2, in Game 6.

And then Game 7.

Oh, mama, Game 7. Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens traded zeroes for most of the night, until Danny Bautista doubled home a run in the bottom of the sixth. Arizona had the lead late, but they'd seen that before. Once again, the lead was blown. Martinez had an RBI single in the seventh and Soriano homered to lead off the eighth.

In this one, though, the roles were reversed. For the second time in his career -- against 24 saves at the time -- legendary Yankees closer Mariano Rivera would blow a postseason save.

Take it away, video:

What a series. Epic.

2. 2011: Cardinals over Rangers in seven

Every series on this list was outstanding theater, but the scales tip in favor of this one to be No. 2 for me because I covered it in person.

Regardless, this was incredible. Game 1 gave us a two-run Mike Napoli homer to tie it up, only to have Allen Craig come through with a pinch-hit single to get the Cardinals the lead back. And they'd win by a run. Game 2 again saw Craig come through with a go-ahead, pinch-hit single, so the Cardinals took a 1-0 lead into the ninth. The Rangers would prevail, though, behind an Ian Kinsler single, a huge Kinsler stolen base, an Andrus single and two sacrifice flies.

Game 3 was a slugfest/blowout, but Albert Pujols made history, joining Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson as the only players to ever hit three homers in one World Series game (Pablo Sandoval has since joined the list). The Rangers took the next two games and Game 5 was another dramatic finish, as Napoli doubled home two in the bottom of the eighth as the Rangers would go on to win by two.

And then, of course, there was Game 6:

Remember, David Freese also had a two-out, two-RBI triple to tie it in the ninth. In the top of the 10th, Josh Hamilton hit a two-run homer, but the Cardinals answered with two more of their own in the bottom half. Amazing game.

Game 7 was not a classic, but it was a well-played game and featured some more heroics from Craig and Freese.

3. 1991: Twins over Braves in seven

I think most would objectively put this second on the list. Like I said, sentiment played a role in my decision.

Anyway, this was one for the ages.

The Twins took a 2-0 lead in the series after Scott Leuis' solo homer in the bottom of the eighth gave them a one-run victory. The Braves would then get a walkoff single from Mark Lemke in the 12th inning of Game 3 and then tied the series with a Jerry Willard walkoff sac fly in the bottom of the ninth of Game 4. So four games, three one-run games and two walkoffs.

And that was only the beginning.

After being crushed, 14-5, in Game 5, the Twins came back home trailing three games to two. And in Game 6 in the bottom of the 11th? Yep, Mr. Kirby Puckett:

Note the call and the parallels with Freese's situation. Excellent work by Joe Buck in 2011 to pay homage to his father, Jack Buck, by doing the same call.

What could possibly top that? Only the greatest pitcher's duel in World Series history. Young Braves starter John Smoltz would go 7 1/3 shutout innings in the biggest game of his life and be outdueled, as the wily veteran Jack Morris worked 10 shutout innings, getting the win when pinch hitter Gene Larkin singled home Danny Gladden in the bottom of the 10th, for yet another walkoff -- the fourth of the series.

4. 1997: Marlins over Indians in seven

Entering the series, we already had two nice storylines. Marlins manager Jim Leyland had been to the playoffs three times but never to the Fall Classic. The Indians hadn't won it all since 1948.

The series would not disappoint. The two teams split two games in Miami before an unreal slugfest in Cleveland. The game would enter the ninth inning tied, 7-7, and the Marlins would score a whopping seven runs in the ninth, with big hits from Darren Daulton, Gary Sheffield and Bobby Bonilla. The Indians would actually get four of those runs back and have the tying run on deck when Omar Vizquel grounded out to end it.

Game 4 was an Indians blowout before more drama in Game 5. The Marlins took an 8-4 lead into the ninth and the Indians again made them sweat. A David Justice two-RBI single and then a Jim Thome RBI single cut the lead to one and Sandy Alomar stepped to the plate representing the go-ahead run. He flew out to deep right, a true gut-punch to the hometown fans who thought it was headed to the stands for a walkoff homer.

The Indians would get Game 6 to force a Game 7, though, and it was a classic. Jaret Wright and Al Leiter both threw well, as did the Marlins bullpen. Indians closer Jose Mesa, though, blew the save in the ninth after allowing a pair of singles in front of a Craig Counsell sac fly, scoring Moises Alou. And it went to the 11th inning a 2-2 tie, setting the table for Edgar Renteria's heroics:

Again, what a series.

5. 2002: Angels over Giants in seven

At the time, the Giants had never won the World Series since moving to San Francisco and the Angels had never even been to one. The two clubs split the first two games, both one-run affairs. Game 2 was especially action-packed, with the two offenses trading blows all game, combining for 21 runs on 28 hits. Six homers were hit, including two by Tim Salmon. Salmon also broke a tie with a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth. Barry Bonds would trim the lead to one in the ninth with a homer of his own -- and remember, that's when it showed Salmon on the bench saying something along the lines of "that's the farthest ball I've ever seen ... "

Still, the Angels held on.

The Angels would also win Game 3 by a 10-4 count before an outstanding Game 4. It was tied heading to the bottom of the eighth, when David Bell singled home J.T. Snow against a young phenom by the name of Francisco Rodriguez. The Giants evened the series at two games apiece.

Game 5 was a throwaway blowout in favor of the Giants -- though it did include a Bobblehead Project worthy moment! -- but Game 6 was again a beauty. Giants starter Russ Ortiz was in control until the seventh inning, when he was removed and notoriously awarded the game ball by manager Dusty Baker -- only to see the Angels storm back.

It was 5-0 Giants when Ortiz was removed with two runners on base. Felix Rodriguez would then surrender a three-run homer to Scott Spiezio. The Angels would again score three in the bottom of the eighth, as Darin Erstad homered to lead off the inning and Troy Glaus crushed a go-ahead, two-RBI double off Giants closer Robb Nen. Angels closer Troy Percival got a 1-2-3 ninth to even the series at three.

Here are the fireworks:

In Game 7, the Angels rode early RBI doubles from Bengie Molina and Garrett Anderson along with excellent pitching from rookie John Lackey and the bullpen. They'd win, 4-1, and take home their first-ever World Series title.


So will one of those get bounced in favor of the 2013 World Series? Let's hope so. Long, close series in late October are as good as it gets.

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