There are fewer things in sports more exciting than the home stretch of the baseball season. Tight pennant races seem to happen every year. Baseball teams play at their peak to try and claim one of the few prized playoff spots. Throughout history, many teams have had seemingly insurmountable leads that they managed to squander. Here’s a look at some of the most infamous collapses in baseball pennant race history.
1951 Brooklyn Dodgers
The Dodgers had a 13.5 game lead in the National League in August. They went 26-22 down the stretch, which isn’t a complete failure. The Giants however surged to a 37-7 finish, including a 16 game winning streak. They tied the Dodgers on the final day. Upon winning the coin toss to determine home field, the Dodgers opted to play Game 1 at home and the next two at Polo Grounds. That lead to the infamous ‘shot heard round the world’ by Bobby Thompson, and the Giants claimed the pennant.
1962 Los Angeles Dodgers
It was a new coast 11 years after their 1951 flop, but the same story. The Dodgers lead by 4 games with 7 to play. They lost 10 of their last 13 games, and the Giants once again caught them. Fittingly, they squandered a lead in the deciding game of the playoff series, and the Giants claimed the pennant again.
1964 Philadelphia Phillies
This is still well remembered in Philadelphia. The Phillies, long a struggling franchise, seemed destined to claim the pennant. The Phillies lead by 6.5 games with only 12 to play. However, in mystifying fashion, the Phillies dropped a stunning 10 in a row. They won their last 2 games, but that was only enough to get them back in to a 2nd place tie. The Cardinals claimed the pennant and eventually the World Series.
1969 Chicago Cubs
This was an extended collapse. The Cubs had an August lead of 9.5 games over the New York Mets, whose early history was marked by monumentally bad teams. The Mets got hot however, and ended up taking the division by 8 games over the Cubs, a swing of 17.5 games. The Cubs lost 14 of their last 20 games to seal the deal.
1978 Boston Red Sox
This was a pennant race that saw a Boston collapse followed by a Boston comeback. The Red Sox lead the AL East by 14 games at one point, but crumbled down the stretch and yielded the lead to the Yankees. However, Boston closed with 8 straight wins. That set up a 1 game playoff at home. During that game, unheralded Yankees shortstop Bucky Dent hit a clutch home run, eliminating the Red Sox from the postseason.
1995 California Angels
Prior to their 2002 World Series championship, the Angels weren’t known for any pennant race success. One of their most famous failures came in 1995. They squandered an 11.5 game lead to the Mariners, eventually losing a 1 game playoff game by a 9-1 score.
2007 New York Mets
The Mets looked to be on their way to 2nd straight division title with a 7 game lead in mid-September. However, their pitching staff completely failed them, and they had a couple of key losing streaks down the stretch. The Philadelphia Phillies battled back to claim the NL East on the last day of the season. The Mets missed the chance to force a playoff by losing 9-1 at home to the Marlins on the last day of the season.
2009 Detroit Tigers
The Tigers were in first place for much of the 2009 season, right up until the last day. With 4 games to play, they had the chance to clinch the division with a win over the Twins. Minnesota took the game however and entered the final 3 games 2 back. The Twins swept their final series while the Tigers only managed one more win. It was a tough final week for the Tigers, which concluded with blowing a 10th inning lead and losing in 12 to Minnesota in the playoff.
2007 Phillies Catch Mets
1995 One Game Playoff