Worst World Series Moments of All Time
It probably says something about how amazing the World Series usually is that trying to flesh out the "worst" World Series moments of all time results in a pretty shallow pool of contenders ... but a pool of contenders all the same.
Some of the championship's worst blunders double as some of the most memorable moments in sports history. They traverse a wide range of missteps, including massive scandals, in-the-moment errors and even, in one case, a myth based around an animal. It's kind of a wild ride.
Here's a look at the worst moments in World Series history.
10. Wild Thing's World Series Misstep
Date: October 23, 1993
World Series outcome: Toronto Blue Jays defeat Philadelphia Phillies in six games
Bottom line: It's tough to think of a single pitch that turned someone into a goat (the bad kind) more than the one Philadelphia relief pitcher Mitch Wiliams threw to Toronto's Joe Carter in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. Trailing 6-5 in the bottom of the ninth with two men on base, Carter tattooed Williams' pitch for a three-run home run to win the World Series — the first time a World Series had ended with a walk-off home run since 1960.
Williams, nicknamed "Wild Thing" after the character from the movie "Major League," struggled with control issues throughout his career but inexplicably decided to use a slide-step delivery for the first time in his career in Game 6 — imagine a basketball player changing his shooting form in the most important game of his life.
Williams was never the same after Carter's home run and mustered just two wins and six saves over the next three seasons before his career came to an end.
9. Curse of the Billy Goat
Date: October 6, 1945
World Series outcome: Detroit Tigers defeat Chicago Cubs in seven games
Bottom line: This one verges into the realm of the mythical but we're including it because, well, it's just weird enough to make the list.
Billy Goat Tavern owner William Sianis was watching Game 4 of the 1945 World Series at Wrigley Field with his pet goat, Murphy. He was asked to exit the stadium because Murphy was bothering fans. Siannis was so upset about being booted from the stadium that he allegedly put a curse on the team — "Them Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more" — that seemed to have really worked when the Cubbies lost to the Tigers in seven games.
The Cubs, who hadn't won the World Series since 1908, didn't play in the World Series again until 2016 and clinched the title on November 2, 2016, defeating the Cleveland Indians in Game 7 — exactly 46 years to the day Siannis died.
8. Turner's Selfish Turn
Date: October 27, 2020
World Series outcome: Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Tampa Bay Rays in six games
Bottom line: Los Angeles Dodgers star third baseman Justin Turner was removed from Game 6 of the 2020 World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays after it was discovered that he'd tested positive for COVID — the World Series was being played in a "bubble" environment in Arlington, Texas, because of the pandemic.
After the Dodgers won and clinched the World Series, Turner decided his right to enjoy celebrating the World Series trumped the health concerns of everyone on the field and returned to the field, maskless, in violation of every health protocol established by MLB. Turner's decision overshadowed the Dodgers' accomplishment that day. Turner wasn't punished by MLB, who ended up being as much to blame for allowing him to return to the field and the player issued a nonsensical apology. The rest of us just had to uncomfortably watch the whole thing play out.
7. Giants Refuse to Show Up
World Series outcome: World Series is canceled
Bottom line: For proof that Major League Baseball owners have been tricking off since almost the very beginning, New York Giants owner John T. Brush flat refused to have his National League championship team face the American League champion Boston Red Sox because he considered the AL an inferior league — despite a preseason agreement between the two leagues to play each other in the World Series.
Brush was roundly denounced as a coward by everyone who had anything to do with the game — fans, players, media, other owners — and it led to him drafting a set of rules for the 1905 World Series that defined its dates, sites, ticket prices and profit sharing.
Only once since 1904 has the World Series not been played. More on that in a minute.
6. Houston's Cheating Scandal Mars Title
World Series outcome: Houston Astros defeat Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games
Bottom line: This one played out over the course of several years.
When the Houston Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017 for the first World Series title in franchise history, it wasn't long before the rumblings started that maybe everything with how the team won it all wasn't on the up and up.
Former Houston pitcher Mike Fiers confirmed in November 2019 what everyone had suspected for some time when he told "The Athletic" that the Astros had used an extensive sign-stealing system to let batters know what pitches were coming. Subsequent investigations by MLB and others revealed the team used the system from 2016 through 2018. Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch were both fired and suspended for one year, as were former bench coach Alex Cora, who had been hired as manager of the Boston Red Sox, and former player Carlos Beltran, who had been hired as manager of the New York Mets.
None of Houston's players were punished by MLB.
5. Worst Call in Baseball History?
Date: October 26, 1985
World Series outcome: Kansas City Royals defeat St. Louis Cardinals in seven games
Bottom line: Umpire Don Denkinger mistakenly called Kansas City's Jorge Orta safe at first in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 6 of the World Series with St. Louis leading the game 1-0 and the series 3-2. The correct call would have put the Cardinals one out from their second World Series title in four years.
Denkinger said he was listening for the ball to hit relief pitcher Todd Worrell's mitt as he was covering first base — which would have been impossible with the game in Kansas City and the crowd noise. Kansas City's Dane Iorg hit a game-winning, two-RBI single for the win later in the inning and the Royals won Game 7. Denkinger received death threats for years following the call but umpired in the majors until 1993, including another World Series assignment in 1991. Denkinger died in 2023 at 86 years old.
4. Buckner's Blunder Sinks Boston
Date: October 25, 1986
World Series outcome: New York Mets defeat Boston Red Sox in seven games
Bottom line: Few athletes in the history of professional sports, if any, have had to deal with the fallout from making a mistake in the field of play like Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner.
With the Red Sox leading 5-3 in the bottom of the 10th inning and just one out away from winning their first World Series since 1903, the New York Mets rallied to tie the score at 5-5. Then, Buckner let a slow ground ball from Mookie Wilson go between his legs, allowing Ray Knight to score and sending the World Series to a deciding Game 7, which the Mets won.
Buckner was the subject of public mockery and harassment for decades. He even received death threats. Buckner, who died in 2019 at 66 years old, didn't blame the legions of fans for what happened following his error. He blamed the media. He may have been right.
3. Strike Wipes Out World Series
World Series outcome: No World Series for the first time since 1904
Bottom line: The World Series wasn't played for the first time in 90 years when a strike wiped out the Fall Classic in 1994. The strike was the result of decades of collusion on the part of MLB owners when it came to free agents. It began on August 12, 1994 and lasted 232 days — the longest strike in professional sports history. This was the first time a strike wiped out an entire postseason for a professional sports league.
If you're looking for the moment that MLB lost its foothold as the most popular of the four top North American sports leagues alongside the NBA, NHL and NFL, this is it. By the time the players returned to the field in 1995, the NFL and NBA had almost totally caught up. Within a decade, it was no longer even a debate.
2. Black Sox Bring Shame to Baseball
World Series outcome: Cincinnati Reds defeat Chicago White Sox in eight games (best of nine)
Bottom line: Major League Baseball was still in its infancy when its first commissioner, Kennesaw "Mountain" Landis, determined players on the Chicago White Sox had conspired to fix the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds on behalf of a group of gamblers led by Arnold Rothstein.
Landis gave lifetime bans to eight players from the White Sox, including superstar Shoeless Joe Jackson, and one player from the St. Louis Browns. While Landis' punishments were severe, they probably saved baseball in its early days.
1. Earthquake Devastates Bay Area
Date: October 17, 1989
World Series outcome: Oakland Athletics defeat San Francisco Giants in four games
Bottom line: The 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake hit the Bay Area just 30 minutes before Game 3 of the World Series started between the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics — two teams located in the Bay Area.
The earthquake registered a 6.9 magnitude and led to 63 deaths, approximately 4,000 injuries, and the partial collapse of the Bay Bridge connecting San Francisco and Oakland. The earthquake occurred as television coverage of the game was just beginning and ABC's Al Michaels famously announced "I think we're having an earth…" before his feed to the nation was cut off. The game was postponed and the World Series began play 10 days later, with the Athletics winning two more games to sweep the Giants.