Aug 19, 2011; Kirby Lee-US Presswire
The 1991 World Series was named the #1 Fall Classic of all time by ESPN. Relive the memories this postseason by celebrating the anniversary of the ’91 World Series games.
"It started in Game 6 after Puckett’s homerun, just goin’ up into the clubhouse. The celebration that we had, and then just seeing Jack Morris, knowing that he was gonna start that Game 7. And the calmness that he had. He started to put his game face on that night. –Dan Gladden"
The only reason the Minnesota Twins made it to Game 7 was because Kirby Puckett finished out Game 6. The seventh game was a rematch of Game 4, with Atlanta Braves starter John Smoltz facing his childhood hero Jack Morris for a second and decisive time. It wasn’t just any game. It was Game 7:
"We’re playing for the ultimate goal of every player. It was just a fantastic battle. –Mike Pagliarulo"
Both starting pitchers threw absolute gems. At times, they pitched out of jams. At other times, each was lights out against the opposite team. The starting pitchers each went deep into the game, and the Twins put together some theatrics that may have prevented the game from getting beyond their control. In the top half of the eighth inning, with Lonnie Smith on first base, Mike Pendleton doubled to deep left field. The Twins second baseman Chuck Knoblauch faked a throw to second, and short stop Greg Gagne faked the relay to first, imitating a double play. The fake play flustered Smith long enough to prevent him from scoring, and the Twins eventually retired the Braves while keeping the game scoreless.
The Twins batted in the bottom half of the inning, and they also had an opportunity to put runs on the board. Smoltz was finally pulled for a reliever after 8 1/3 innings, with runners on a first and third. Mike Stanton replaced Smoltz. He walked the previous evening’s hero, Kirby Puckett, to load the bases and then induced an inning-ending double play from Kent Hrbek. The Braves could not put any runs on the board during their half of the ninth, and they ended a possible Twins rally when Braves manager Bobby Cox called for an intentional walk of Pagliarulo to put runners on the corners. Twins pinch hitter Paul Sorrento promptly hit into an inning-ending double play. As Dan Gladden said of the tenth:
"Everybody that played in that game had a chance to be a hero at some point during the game."
But instead of providing an offensive hero, the two teams went into extra innings for the third time, a Major League Baseball record. Morris insisted he would return for the tenth inning. As manager Tom Kelly said:
"That’s the definition of a workhorse, the guy that gets the job done, the guy that carries the load, a Hall of Fame type guy. And that was Jack Morris on that night."
Morris did, indeed walk back onto the mound in the 10th inning. When Kelly thought Morris needed to be relieved, he walked to the mound and tried to take the ball from Morris. Morris refused to give it up. After a few moments’ deliberation, Kelly realized he’d never get his way. Instead of changing pitchers, he gave Morris back the ball, stating to Morris,
"What the hell, it’s just a game."
The fans roared as Morris stayed on the mound, and he finished another scoreless inning. In the Twins’ half of the tenth, leadoff hitter Gladden stretched a well-hit single into a double, barely beating the throw. Knoblauch bunted Gladden to third, and Cox decided to walk Puckett and Hrbek to load the bases. With one out, Gene Larkin was called on to pinch hit. Larkin singled to deep left center, and Gladden started jumping in celebration at third base before he even began running home to score the only run of the game.
That day is etched in the collective memory of Minnesota Twins fans: the “worst to first” season, the seesaw World Series, and the second time earning the title of Word Series Champions. Twins fans hope it will soon be time to christen their new home field with a championship title, but they will always remember the Greatest Fall Classic of All Time.