I used to throw my arms up a la Tug McGraw.
Brad Lidge had the honors of being mobbed last October and if the Phillies win the World Series again, there’s the chance he could clinch back to back World Series.
And that got me thinking, who ELSE has clinched World Series in back to back seasons?
Now seeing this is Sully Baseball, I can’t have an idle thought like that without writing a list.
By clinching it, I mean throwing the last pitch of the World Series for an out… not necessarily being the winning pitcher or even getting the save… but getting the final out.
As I write this, I don’t know what the answer will be.
I know Mariano Rivera clinched three straight and would have clinched four straight had the Diamondbacks not rallied in 2001.
I also know off of the top of my head that Rollie Fingers did NOT clinch two World Series in a row even though he was the closer for the 1972, 1972 and 1974 World Champion A’s. Dick Williams had Darold Knowles clinch the 1973 World Series against the Mets.
Also, the closer role wasn’t a dominant position until the late 1960s and 1970s… so I am guessing that most World Series were clinched by starting pitchers.
So, let’s look back at…
The 20 game winner pitched a complete game shutout in Game 8 of the first All New York World Series in 1921. (It was the last year of the best of 9 format.)
The Giants scored the only run of the game on a 2 out error in the first inning. Nehf held the Yankee lineup to only 4 hits as they played without an injured Babe Ruth. Ruth eventually pinch hit for Wally Pipp (what is it about Yankee legends subbing for Pipp?)
THE LAST PITCH (1921): With Aaron Ward on first with one out, Frank Home Run Baker came to the plate as the winning run. Baker grounded out to second and Ward tried to take third where he was gunned down to end the World Series.
A year later, the Yankees and Giants met up again. With one game called for darkness, the Series went to Game 5 with the Giants up 3-0-1. Nehf pitched well but the Yankees had the lead until the Giants rallied off of Joe Bush for a 5-3 lead.
THE LAST PITCH (1922): Aaron Ward again made the final out, this time in a more traditional way. With two outs and nobody one, Ward flew out to right fielders and future Hall of Famer Ross Youngs to give the Giants back to back titles against the Yankees.
Kuzava was a mediocre spot starter and reliever who the Yankees plucked from Washington midway through the 1951 season.
He made only one appearance in the 1951 World Series and only one in the 1952 World Series… but Casey Stengel must have had confidence in him because his lone appearances were the assignment of clinching the World Series
Once again the Giants and Yankees were facing off in an all New York 1951 World Series. Kuzava was brought in to relieve Johnny Sain and stop a Giants rally as they were hoping to tie the series at 3 a piece.
THE LAST PITCH (1951):
After letting up a pair of sacrifice flies that cut the Yankee lead to 4-3 and had the tying run on second, Kuzava got pinch hitter Sal Yvars to line out to right fielder Hank Bauer to end the series.
A year later, the World Series again stayed within the bounds of New York City. The 1952 Series was between the Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers and is considered to be one of the best of all time. Kuzava worked out of a bases loaded jam in the 7th inning, aided by Billy Martin’s running catch on Jackie Robinson’s pop up. After working around an error in the 8th, Kuzava retired the first two in the 9th.
THE LAST PITCH (1952): Kuzava faced Pee Wee Reese with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th. He got a weak pop fly to left fielder Gene Woodling to end the series and have the honor of Yogi Berra jumping on his back.
For all of the books and documentaries and retrospectives of the 1975 World Series, it is amazing how infrequently the last moment is shown.
Yeah Pete Rose, Carlton Fisk, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan, Luis Tiant, Bernie Carbo, Ed Armbrister, Dwight Evans and Fred Lynn all had amazing highlights…
But it was Will McEnaney who got the final word (and the cover of Sports Illustrated.)
THE LAST PITCH (1975): After the Reds scored off of rookie reliever Jim Burton in the 9th inning, they were poised to clinch their first World Series since 1940. McEnaney got pinch hitters Juan Beniquez and Bob Montgomery for the first two outs. The third batter was a little more challenging: Carl Yastrzemski, who was having a terrific series. With a 2-1 count and Carlton Fisk on deck, McEnaney got Yaz to pop up to Cesar Geronimo, ending arguably the greatest World Series ever played.
A year later, the Reds seemed poised to repeat and have their place in history as one of the greatest teams of all time. They faced the Yankees in the newly remodeled Yankee Stadium (not to be confused with the newly built Yankee Stadium of this year.) It was no contest as the Reds won the first three games and came from behind to take the lead in the 4th game. The Reds pulled away with a 4 run 9th and McEnaney took the mound in the 9th with a 7-2 lead.
THE LAST PITCH (1976): After quickly retiring Otto Velez and Mickey Rivers, McEnaney went 2-0 on Roy White. He flew out harmlessly to George Foster in left field to give the Reds their second straight title and the right to be called a dynasty.
The only one to do it three years in a row and would probably love to see Lidge NOT make this list.
It’s amazing when you consider how quickly closers flame out that 13 seasons after exploding onto the scene as John Wetteland’s set up man that he is still the best in the business.
He is so cool and so effective than the few times he DID fail are considered to be two of the biggest post seaon upsets in history (the 2001 World Series and the 2004 ALCS.)
And yet there are still morons out there who consider him to be overrated.
The 1998 team is considered to be one of the great teams in baseball history and rightfully so. The Padres actually put up a fight in games 1, 3 and 4… but couldn’t hold onto a lead in any of those games. Rivera came into game 4 in the 8th inning and got out of a bases loaded jam. He actually came to bat in the top of the 9th.
THE LAST PITCH (1998): After getting a double play off of the bat of Carlos Hernandez, Rivera faced Mark Sweeney with the bases empty and a 3-0 lead in the game and the series. I remember when I was watching the game I thought “The Padres have the Yankees JUST WHERE THEY WANT THEM!” Sweeney grounded out to third base, completing the sweep and the coronation of the 1998 Yankees.
The 1999 Yankees were great again. They made it past the Rangers and my Red Sox in the playoffs with only one loss and faced the Braves in what was supposed to be a dynasty showdown. It wasn’t a contest. The Yankees won game 1 in come from behind fashion, crushed the Braves in Game 2 and won Game 3 on a walk off shot by Chad Curtis.
Game 4 was a formality and it looked like Roger Clemens was going to throw a complete game shutout for his first ring (and denying Rivera a spot on this list.) But for the second straight year, Rivera came into the game in the 8th inning to get the Yankees out of a jam.
THE LAST PITCH (1999): Rivera got two quick outs before facing Keith Lockhart, who flew out harmlessly to Game 3 hero Chad Curtis. Rivera went 1-0 with 2 saves and a 0.00 ERA to earn MVP honors in the World Series.
The 2000 Yankees limped into their title defense with an 87-74 record, but after a scare from the A’s made it back to the World Series. And like in 1921, 1922, 1951 and 1952, it was a Subway Series. This time it was the Mets who clashed with the Yankees. While the games were competitive, all but one went to the Yankees.
After scoring 2 in the 9th off of Al Leiter in Game 5, the Yankees gave the ball to Rivera again. Were you expecting Allen Watson?
THE LAST PITCH (2000): With a runner on third and 2 outs, Rivera faced off against Mets hero Mike Piazza, representing the tying run. On an 0-1 count he hit a deep drive that for a moment looked like a game tying homer. But Bernie Williams tracked it down to give the Yankees (and Rivera) 3 in a row. Little did they know that it would be their last title until at least this year.
AND THAT’S IT!
It thought for sure there would be a few more in there… but alas that’s it.
Yeah the Yankees won back to back titles in the 1970s… but in 1977 Mike Torrez closed out the World Series and in 1978 he was too busy serving up home run balls to Bucky Dent.
The Blue Jays won back to back titles in the 1990s, but Mike Timlin clinched the 1992 series and was merely watching in 1993 as Joe Carter slugged that homer.
So maybe Brad Lidge will be added to this list this year…
Or maybe it will be another notch on Mariano Rivera’s belt.
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