What Happened When: 2017 Postseason Anniversaries Part 3/3 covers 1982 to 2012. The three-part series takes a look at October baseball happenings in seasons that ended in 7s and 2s. Part 1 can be found here and part 2 can be found here.
What Happened When: 2017 Postseason Anniversaries Part 3/3
It was an all-brew town World Series in 1982. After toppling the California Angels in a tough five-game series, the Harvey Wallbangers Milwaukee Brewers made it to the top of the baseball world. Unfortunately, they faced the Whitey Ball St. Louis Cardinals, who had swept the Atlanta Braves on their road to the NL Pennant. The Cards, in their first postseason since 1968, prevailed in a classic seven-game series.
Five years later, including a trip to the 1985 World Series, the Cardinals returned to the Fall Classic, following a tough seven-game NLCS versus the San Francisco Giants. Their opponents though, were the Minnesota Twins, whom advanced after a five-game series versus the Detroit Tigers.
This was the Twins’ first taste of postseason play since 1970, and it was their very first in the din of sound that was known as the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Unlike the Astrodome, which in 1980 became the first indoor stadium to see postseason play, the Metrodome’s acoustics were such that the sound of the crowd was so overwhelming, to the point where Cardinal players resorted to wearing earplugs during the game.
The home field advantage worked, as this would be the first time that the home team won every game in the series. And since the Twins had Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 at home, that meant that the Twins walked off with the championship. Oddly, the next time this happened was in 1991, and again the Twins were the team with the home field for the potential Game 7 against the Braves.
For nearly 90 years the joke, question by non-fans, or slam of the “arrogance of it all,” about the term “World Series” was about why call it “World” if it is only competed for by American teams (short answer, “World Championship Series” was a newspaper marketing slogan that stuck to the point where across the world baseball league finals are called “World Series”).
Well that changed, or at least the question was modified to “North American,” with the 1992 World Series. After topping the Oakland Athletics in five games, the Toronto Blue Jays finally gave an international flavor to MLB’s World Series. Their opponents were the Braves, fresh off their second straight seven-game classic NLCS with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Blue Jays were able to vanquish the Braves in six games, and brought the World Championship to Canada.
Easily one of the most unique championship seasons of all-time would be the Florida Marlins of 1997. Unique as in they were a “built-to-win-now” team, in their fifth year of existence when they made their postseason debut in the National League Wild Card slot. But as quickly as they put everything together, the dismantling fire sale of the team was even quicker. As in most of the 25-man postseason roster was gone either that offseason, or by the decade’s end. Only debuting in 1997 players like Cliff Floyd and Antonio Alfonseca remained past 1999 (though a few like Jeff Conine and Charles Johnson were brought back early in the 2000s).
Still the 1997 Marlins were very formidable, as they swept the Giants in the NLDS, and toppled the two-time defending NL Champions, and defending World Champion Braves (who defeated the Houston Astros 3-0 in the NLDS) in six games in the NLCS.
In the AL, the Cleveland Indians, in their third year of eventually five AL Central Division titles in a row (and what would be six in seven seasons) took out the defending World Champion New York Yankees in a five-game ALDS on a walk-off home run against Mariano Rivera by Sandy Alomar Jr.
They followed that with a six-game ALCS victory over the Baltimore Orioles (who defeated the Seattle Mariners 3-1 in the ALDS), getting revenge for the O’s ALDS victory over them the year before. However, the Marlins would win the World Series in an epic seven-game series, ending it on a walk-off single by Edgar Renteria.
2002 was the year of the Rally Monkey and thunder sticks in Anaheim, as the Angels finally put everything together in a potential long postseason run package. While they fell a bit short of the AL West Division title, they blew past the four-time defending AL Champion Yankees in a four-game ALDS. They also bested the Twins (who defeated the Athletics 3-2 in their ALDS) in the ALCS.
Meanwhile, the Giants were also putting together a magical “wild” run, as they also made the postseason in the Wild Card slot. They would defeat the Braves in a tough five-game NLDS. They then defeated the Cardinals (who defeated the defending champion Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-game NLDS sweep) in a five-game NLCS. Despite a postseason for the ages out of Barry Bonds, the Angels held on to win the title in an epic seven-game series.
In 2007, October baseball was experiencing some Rocky Mountain High as the Colorado Rockies entered the postseason for the first time since losing one of the first NLDS proper (1981 was the first time for Divisional Series) in 1995, and doing it by scoring three runs, including the game winner on a walk-off sacrifice fly in the 13th inning of Game 163 for the NL Wild Card versus the San Diego Padres.
The Rockies made quick work of the rest of the NL field, starting with the Philadelphia Phillies in a three-game NLDS sweep, and then a four-game sweep of the Diamondbacks (who vanquished the Chicago Cubs in a three-game NLDS sweep) in the NLCS.
Over in the AL, the Boston Red Sox swept the Angels in the ALDS, but it took a seven-game classic to defeat the Indians (who bounced the Yankees out of their ALDS in four games) in the ALCS.
Still, it was the Red Sox prevailing over the Rockies in the World Series. Giving manager Terry Francona and crew their second World Championship in four years, which off course came off of the franchise finally breaking an 85-year championship drought.
Following the excitement of 2011 which provided one of the most historic final scheduled day of the regular season in history, MLB decided to add a second Wild Card slot to each league in the form of a one-game decider for the eventual Wild Card winner.
In 2012 that meant the Orioles would square off against the two-time defending AL Champion Texas Rangers, in Arlington. Also the defending champion Cardinals took on the Braves in Atlanta.
The Orioles defeated the Rangers 5-1, while the Cardinals defeated the Braves 6-3. The Cardinals, who went through the 2011 postseason as the NL Wild Card winner, defeated the Washington Nationals (making the franchise’s first postseason appearance since the Montreal Expos in 1981) in a five-game NLDS before losing to the Giants (who defeated the Cincinnati Reds in a five-game NLDS) in a seven-game NLCS.
While the Cardinals were able to ride their Wild Card Magic Carpet Ride for a little while, the Orioles lost their ALDS to the Yankees in five games. The Yankees in turn though would get swept by the Tigers (who defeated the Athletics in a five-game ALDS) in the ALCS.
The World Series though, would be a four-game sweep by the Giants over the Tigers. Led by series MVP Pablo Sandoval, the Giants captured their second championship in three years, of what would eventually be three in five years under manager Bruce Bochy.