Here’s what happened.
Many fans and pundits of Major League Baseball (MLB) certainly think so. The 1991 World Series is remembered for its nail-biting finishes, record-setting performances, and its sheer improbability.
Ultimately, the National League Champion Atlanta Braves fell to the American League pennant winner, the Minnesota Twins, on October 27, 1991.
Here’s why it mattered then.
Few people could have reasonably expected or predicted that either team would face each other in the Fall Classic. The 1990 season had ended with the Braves and Twins at the bottom of the West Division in their respective leagues. The Braves had won only 65 games and came within three of losing 100. On June 23, Robert “Bobby” Cox was tapped to replace Russ Nixon as manager. The move turned out to have a tremendous impact on the ball club’s future.
The 1991 worst-to-first season was capped by a series that featured three games decided in extra innings and three that were won on the last pitch. An 11th Inning solo home run in Game 6 by Kirby Puckett forced a deciding game. In Game 7, starting pitchers Jack Morris and John Smoltz dueled for eight hitless and scoreless innings. Gene Larkin hit a single off Braves reliever Alejandro Pena In the 10th to drive in the winning run.
Here’s why it matters now.
This is what Jim Caple wrote in an article for ESPN Classic: “Had the 1991 World Series been played in New York or Boston or down the block from Doris Kearns Goodwin, it would be regarded as the best series of all time, hands down. Instead, Ken Burns devoted nine episodes to his baseball documentary and never mentioned Morris’ 10-inning masterpiece . . .”
Caple also wrote: “Prior to the first pitch of Game 7, leadoff hitter Lonnie Smith walked up to the plate and shook hands with Minnesota catcher Brian Harper. More than a sign of friendship, it was an acknowledgement that the two had been part of something bigger than either player. That they were part of the best World Series ever played. Even if the networks executives disagree.”
Here’s the latest update . . .
Atlanta’s 1991 season started a run of 14 straight division titles. The Braves earned the NL pennant four more times during the Cox era, and won the series in 1995. Cox retired at the end of the 2010 season after Atlanta lost the Division Playoffs to the San Francisco Giants, eventual World Series Champion.
Under manager Fredi Gonzáles, the Braves entered the final month of the 2011 season with an 81⁄2- game lead in the Wild Card standings. But they went 9-18 in September. A 13-inning loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in the season’s last game eliminated the Braves from playoff contention.
. . . And here’s an interesting fact!
The 1991 season began Cox’s 2nd tenure as Braves manager; the first was from 1978-1981. He retired with the all-time record for being ejected by umpires from a game: 158.