Do I even have to tell you what happened 20 years ago today?
20 years ago today, this game happened. It was awesome.
Jack Morris was a grizzled veteran, one of the most succesful pitchers in the game. He faced off against a green youngster named John Smoltz, who would one day have an even better career than Morris. But neither pitcher was ever more brilliant than they were that night. They matched zeroes through seven innings, knowing full well that the World Series would be lost by whichever team blinked first.
Of course, the first seven innings were just a warmup act for the 8th. Baseball fans talk about greatest players, greatest games, greatest World Series, and greatest home runs, but I’ve never seen a list of greatest innings before. If there was (and my hat is off to anyone who attempts to compile such a list), that 8th inning might be at the very top. Both teams loaded the bases with less than two outs, and both teams failed to score. But Morris survived the 8th, and Smoltz didn’t.
Morris remained in the game through the 10th inning – making him the last American League pitcher to toss a complete game shutout in the World Series. In the bottom of the 10th, Dan Gladden led off with a single that he somehow made into a double. Chuck Knoblauch (who was still a hero and not a pariah to Minnesota fans) bunted Gladden to third. The Braves decided to take no chances on letting Kirby Puckett defeat them again, so they walked him. They also walked Kent Hrbek to load the bases.
Up next was Chili Davis’s spot in the order. Davis was the Twins’ biggest power threat, but he had been lifted the previous inning for pinch runner Jarvis Brown. Instead, Tom Kelly sent Gene Larkin up to the plate, thus ensuring that Twins fans would always have a reason to remember the light-hitting backup first baseman. The Braves, knowing that a deep fly ball would end the game, brought the outfield as far in as possible to avoid a bloop single. Larkin had no problem hitting the ball over their heads for the win.
Who can’t remember the scene? Dan Gladden threw his arms in the air and raced home as the rest of the Twins swarmed home plate. It was the last truly Wheaties-box-worth moment in Minnesota history.
I really would like to see the Twins win another World Series. Like most of you, I am enough of a Twins fan to be deluded into thinking that it could happen pretty much every single year. But honestly, even if they never win another I could die happy (as far as sports are concerned) because of 1991. If I live another 100 years and continue following baseball the entire time, I really don’t think I’ll ever witness something so amazing as that game.
If your memories are as fond as mine, make sure you take some time today to smile about the 1991 championship.