Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Orleans vs. Philadelphia in the Postseason

The Eagles won in Dallas Sunday night to clinch the NFC East title and the third seed in the NFC playoffs. The Saints earned a postseason berth with a win over the Bucs setting up Saturday night's wild-card showdown in Philly.

This will be the third Saints-Eagles playoff meeting and the fourth between these two cities in a Big Four postseason.

1992 Wild Card Round

The Saints went 12-4 on the strength of their stout defense, led by linebackers Rickey Jackson, Pat Swilling, Vaughan Johnson and Sam Mills. They held opponents to 202 points, the fewest allowed by any team between 1987 and 2000. Despite equaling the franchise's all-time high in wins, they could only manage a wild-card spot as the 49ers went 14-2.

Their first-round opponent was an 11-5 Eagles squad that was playing to honor the memory of star defensive tackle Jerome Brown, who was killed in an auto accident before the season. The Birds were well-balanced as both the offense (led by Randall Cunningham) and the defense (led by Reggie White) ranked in the top six in scoring.

The game at the Superdome was overshadowed by the day's other playoff game that had just ended in Buffalo. Down 35-3, the Bills pulled off the greatest comeback in NFL history when they beat the Oilers 41-38 in overtime.

New Orleans struck first when Craig "Ironhead" Heyward scored on a 1-yard touchdown plunge, but the Eagles answered back on this deep ball:

The Saints led 20-7 in the third quarter and were still up 20-10 with 11 minutes left, but the Eagles came back again.

Ahead for the first time at 24-20, the great Reggie White added two more points to the lead by taking down Bobby Hebert in the end zone.

A field goal made it a two-possession game and then 19 seconds later, Eric Allen iced it with a pick-six.

Philadelphia scored 29 unanswered points to win 36-20. Their 26 points in the fourth quarter are the most ever in the final stanza of a playoff game. They would fall a week later in the divisional round to the eventual champion Cowboys, 34-10.

2006 Divisional Round

With new coach Sean Payton and new quarterback Drew Brees, the Saints returned to the Superdome after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Their first home game was on Monday Night Football and it only took one minute for a legendary play to be made.

New Orleans went 10-6 and in the franchise's 40th season, earned a first-round bye for the first time ever. A week six win over the 10-6 Eagles gave them the tiebreaker and the two-seed. They drew Philly in the divisional round after the Eagles edged the Giants in the wild-card game.

It's amazing that I was able to track down the video of the 1992 game pretty easily, yet I was unable to find any good video for this 2006 contest. The NFL site has links to video of the game, but they have since been taken down.

Two short field goals put the hosts in front, but the Eagles took the lead in the second quarter on Jeff Garcia's 75-yard bomb to Donte Stallworth. New Orleans responded with a 14-play 78-yard march that ended with Reggie Bush's 4-yard score. But Philadelphia scored again right before halftime for a 14-13 lead, then made it an eight-point game on Brian Westbrook's 62-yard touchdown run.

The second half, however, belonged to Deuce McAllister. The running back scored on the next two New Orleans drives, once on the ground and once through the air as the Saints took a 27-21 lead. The Eagles reached the New Orleans 6 with 11 minutes to play, but Andy Reid chose to kick a field goal rather than try to go back in front. Philly went three-and-out on their two remaining drives and never reached midfield. The Saints prevailed 27-24 and advanced to their first NFC Championship Game.

In Chicago a week later, the Saints were doomed by four turnovers and the Bears rolled them 39-14 to deny them a Super Bowl trip. But that 2006 season was just a sign of things to come as the Saints became one of the league's premier franchises and won a championship three years later.

2003 NBA First Round

After the Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans their first two seasons in the Crescent City were in the Eastern Conference. That first spring resulted in a 47-35 record and the city's first playoff team since the ABA's Buccaneers in 1969. The 76ers won one more game during the regular season to secure home-court advantage in the 4-5 first round matchup.

Allen Iverson led the way for Philly in the opener with 55 points, tied for the sixth-most in playoff history (An old link, but the list is still correct as no one has scored more than 51 since).

The Sixers won again at home to go up 2-0, but for Game Three the series moved to New Orleans for the city's first NBA playoff game, which the Hornets won by 14. Philadelphia took command in the fourth game as six players scored in double figures in a 96-87 victory. They missed a chance to clinch at home, however, when New Orleans hung on for a two-point win to stay alive.

Game Six was another thriller. The 76ers were clinging to a 103-101 lead in the waning seconds and New Orleans needed a stop, but that was often hard to do against Iverson.

Top-seeded Detroit dispatched the Sixers in six games in the next round. Now that the Pelicans (as they are now called) are in the West, the only way to get a New Orleans-Philly meeting in the NBA postseason is in the Finals.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Kansas City vs. Indianapolis in the Postseason

The Chiefs and Colts both finished 11-5 and will play on Saturday afternoon to open the wild card round of the NFL playoffs.

It will be the fourth playoff meeting between them and as you may have expected, those were the only KC-Indy matchups in any of the Big Four postseasons. There hasn't been an Indianapolis opponent for baseball's Royals. The NBA's Kings and Pacers spent all but three seasons in separate conferences with no Finals pairing. On the ice, two short-lived 1970s hockey teams played in different leagues (the Indianapolis Racers of the WHA and the NHL's Kansas City Scouts, who later became the New Jersey Devils after a brief stay in Colorado).

The Chiefs are trying to snap a postseason losing streak that has reached seven games, an NFL record. The Lions also have an active seven-game losing streak in the playoffs, dating back to the 1991 season. Kansas City last won a playoff game on January 16, 1994, so long ago that it was in the Astrodome against the Houston Oilers with Joe Montana at quarterback. 

Three of the seven losses have been to Indianapolis. Let's take a closer look at each Colts-Chiefs playoff contest.

1995 Divisional Round

Marty Schottenheimer's Chiefs were a perfect 8-0 at home, although six of the wins came by seven points or fewer. Nevertheless, Derrick Thomas and a fierce defense powered KC to a 13-3 mark that secured a bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The AFC was very crowded around .500 with three teams (including the Colts) at 9-7, three more at 8-8 and two at 7-9. Indianapolis was the fifth seed and despite missing injured running back Marshall Faulk, they scored a 35-20 Wild Card win at San Diego to advance to Kansas City. It was the franchise's first playoff victory since 1971, when the Colts still played in Baltimore.

Arrowhead Stadium has always been a tough place to play, but it might have been at its most challenging on January 7th, 1996. With a kickoff temperature of 11 degrees, a bitter wind-chill factor of minus-9, and a sellout crowd in support of an opponent that was four games better in the regular season, the Colts seemed to have little chance.

The Chiefs scored first as the opening quarter drew to a close. Steve Bono hit Lake Dawson with a 20-yard strike for a touchdown and 7-0 lead. But Indianapolis responded in a big way with an 18-play, 77-yard drive that ate up 8:40 thanks to five third-down conversions and one on fourth down. The Colts evened the score on Jim Harbaugh's 5-yard pass to Floyd Turner. Both teams missed an opportunity to take the lead before halftime. Cary Blanchard missed a 47-yard field goal in the final minute, which opened the door for Kansas City. However, Lin Elliot's 35-yard attempt clanged off the upright to keep it a 7-7 game.

One of Bono's three interceptions set up a chip-shot field goal from Blanchard that gave the visitors a surprising 10-7 third-quarter lead. Elliot had a chance to tie the game with just over 10 minutes left, but his 39-yard attempt was no good. Two more Bono picks led to his being benched in favor of Rich Gannon. On the final drive, he moved the Kansas City offense to the 25-yard line with 42 seconds left, setting up one more try for Elliot from 42 yards out. He missed wide left for an 0-for-3 day and the Colts pulled off the shocking 10-7 upset.

Video: 1995 Colts (NFL.com videos don't allow embedding)

It was nothing but disappointment and what-ifs for Kansas City, but for the upstart Colts it was on to the AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh. The Steelers led 20-16 in the final moments, but Jim Harbaugh had one more trick up his sleeve. He drove Indy to the 29-yard line setting up one play that would decide the conference title.

Phil Simms and Dick Enberg briefly thought Aaron Bailey caught it, but alas, one of football's best Cinderella runs ended on one of the most exciting near-misses in sports history.

2003 Divisional Round

The 1995 game was a 10-7 defensive struggle, but this one was a 38-31 shootout in which there was not a single punt in the entire game.

The 12-4 Colts, led by Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James, Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne obliterated the Broncos 41-10 in the opening round to set up the game at Arrowhead. The Chiefs rode Priest Holmes, Trent Green, Tony Gonzalez and the rest of the league's highest-scoring offense to a 9-0 start on their way to a 13-3 mark.

The game lived up to its billing as the first five possessions resulted in points. Manning was superhuman, with three touchdown drives of 70+ yards. Meanwhile Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil settled for two short field goal tries, one made and one missed by Morten Anderson, making it 21-10 Indianapolis at intermission.

Holmes opened up the second half with a 48-yard run deep into Colts territory, but David Macklin stripped the ball and Indy took over before turning the miscue into three points. With the game slipping away at 24-10, Holmes powered a Kansas City touchdown drive. But it took only seven plays for Manning to respond, the last a 19-yard score to Reggie Wayne that made it a two-score game again. The Chiefs weren't dead yet, as Dante Hall did this on the ensuing kickoff:

That gave the Chiefs new life, but Manning was relentless. A methodical 10-play, 81-yard drive culminated with a 1-yard TD plunge by James that pushed the lead to 38-24. Green cut the lead in half again with a 17-play drive, but it required nearly seven minutes. With only 4:16 to play, the pourous Chiefs defense had little margin for error. James picked up a couple of first downs to grind the clock and the Colts earned an exciting 38-31 victory.

The Colts were riding high after two dominant offensive performances, but they ran into one of the NFL's all-time great teams in the AFC title game. Ty Law intercepted Manning three times as the Patriots won 24-14 on their way to the Super Bowl. It was the 14th consecutive win for New England during their astounding and record-setting 21-game undefeated run.

2006 Wild Card Round

Another year, another 12-4 record for Tony Dungy, Peyton Manning and the Colts. It was the fourth of seven consecutive seasons with at least 12 victories, but 2006 would be the sweetest for Indianapolis.

As the third seed in the AFC, they drew the 9-7 Chiefs, who snuck into the playoffs in Week 17 with win and losses by the Titans, Bengals and Broncos. The first two games featured on our list were in Kansas City, but this one would be in the comfortable confines of the RCA Dome.

It was a slow start for the Colts, who could only muster field goals on their two first quarter drives. KC's offense did nothing, but they caught a break when Ty Law, now a Chief, picked off Manning and ran it back to the 9. But Lawrence Tynes missed a 23-yard field goal and the shutout continued. (Would he ever make a clutch kick in his life?)

Manning would throw another pick, this one inside the 5-yard line, to squander a scoring chance. But he'd make up for it by completing three passes to set up Adam Vinatieri's 50-yard field goal that ended the first half and gave Indy a 9-0 lead. Law would intercept Manning again in the third quarter, but the Chiefs offense went three-and-out once again before giving it back to Peyton for a 12-play, 89-yard touchdown drive.

With 2:38 remaining in the third quarter and trailing 16-0, Kansas City picked up its first first down of the afternoon. Their eighth drive of the game was a successful one, as a Trent Green-to-Tony Gonzalez TD and subsequent two-point conversion cut it to a one-score game. The hopes would be short-lived. Manning opened the fourth quarter with another touchdown march that put the game away.

The Colts only won 23-8, but in yardage they outgained Kansas City 435-126. It was only the sixth playoff game since at least 1940 to have one team gain 300 more yards than their opponent. Average margin of victory of the first five games: 38.6

Rk Tm Year Date Time LTime Opp W# G# Day Result OT Rush Pass Tot TO
1 SDG 1963 1964-01-05 BOS 15 15 Sun W 51-10 243 106 349 1
2 DAL 1975 1976-01-04 4:00 1:00 @ RAM 16 16 Sun W 37-7 173 150 323 2
3 PIT 1976 1976-12-19 2:00 1:00 @ BAL 15 15 Sun W 40-14 154 202 356 1
4 JAX 1999 2000-01-15 12:30 12:30 MIA 0 17 Sat W 62-7 236 153 389 5
5 NYG 2000 2001-01-14 12:30 12:30 MIN 0 18 Sun W 41-0 84 320 404 3
6 IND 2006 2007-01-06 4:30 4:30 KAN 0 17 Sat W 23-8 144 165 309 0
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/10/2013.

After a road win in the divisional round over Baltimore, the Colts returned home to face their old nemesis, Tom Brady and the Patriots. New England raced out to a 21 -3 lead, but Manning quickly tied the game before the two legendary quarterbacks traded scores in a duel for the ages. Manning put the Colts ahead in the final minute and Brady pushed the Patriots to midfield before getting picked off. The Colts finally slayed the Pats and advanced to the Super Bowl. It was a bit anticlimactic in rainy Miami as Indy beat the Bears 29-17, but Manning and the Colts finally earned that ring.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Completely Overhauling the Starting Lineup

Chad Jennings has a good post today over at The LoHud Yankees Blog, comparing the 2013 starters with the potential group for 2014. He writes:
"Here’s what’s kind of amazing about it: That same page for 2014 might list a different Yankees regular at every single position. Think about that. The Yankees are in the middle of an almost total lineup reconstruction, with Brett Gardner being the only player who was a regular last season being projected as a regular next season (at a different position and a different spot in the order)."

Baseball-Reference's yearly positional starter lists are based on who logged the most time at each spot. We might be looking at a different starting nine by position in the Bronx for the first time since 1966-67.

1966 Elston Howard Joe Pepitone Bobby Richardson Horace Clarke Clete Boyer Roy White Mickey Mantle Roger Maris
1967 Jake Gibbs Mickey Mantle Horace Clarke Ruben Amaro Charley Smith Tom Tresh Joe Pepitone Steve Whitaker

That transitional period saw all eight positions (no DH) change, thanks to Pepitone and Mantle swapping between first base and center field and Clarke shifting from shortstop to second base.

This is the only time in Yankees history that this occurred, but with all the new acquisitions and Robinson Cano's departure, it might happen again this season. Let's take a look now at the other 29 teams.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Sporcle: Leading the League in Strikeouts and Walks

There have been 46 seasons (by 28 pitchers) in which a hurler led their league in both strikeouts and walks allowed. How many can you name?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Divisional MVP's

What if the Most Valuable Player Award was given to six players each year, with one for the top player in each division? This came up in the comments section of a recent High Heat Stats post. The author, birtelcom, suggested the idea and fellow HHS contributor Bryan O'Connor gave his six winners for 2013: Chris Davis, Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Freddie Freeman, Andrew McCutchen and Paul Goldschmidt.

That's a pretty good list. Even though we won't know the MVP results until later in the week, we know that Davis, Miggy and Trout are the three AL finalists, making them the three voting winners. Goldschmidt and McCutchen are finalists in the NL, with Yadier Molina joining them in the top three. I'll give Cutch the Central nod as he's favored to win the award. The NL East is wide open with no finalist. Freeman will likely be the highest in the vote, but as Bryan points out there is an "opportunity for a non-traditional candidate like Andrelton Simmons or Matt Harvey."

Let's take a look at who the winners would be for each of the last 20 seasons, starting with the 1994 realignment to six divisions. The chart on the left has the player in each division that finished highest in the MVP voting. The chart on the right has the player that led the division in Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement. Players listed in bold were both the WAR leader and leading vote-getter.

Going by the BBWAA voting, Albert Pujols wins seven NL Central MVPs in an eight-year span. That's three more than the next-highest total as Barry Bonds, Vladimir Guerrero and Chipper Jones received four. Switching to the WAR leader MVPs, Pujols has seven of those as well. Joining him at the top with seven is Bonds, and Alex Rodriguez is right behind them with six. Three-time division WAR leaders are Ken Griffey Jr., Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Roy Halladay, Johan Santana and Robinson Cano.

The unlikeliest winner is 1999 AL West MVP Randy Velarde, who posted 7.0 bWAR with the Angels and Athletics. Poor guy couldn't even get one tenth-place spot on one ballot in the real vote.

Only 36 of the 120 winners (30 percent) were the top vote-getter in their division despite leading the way in WAR.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Hosting the World Series and Monday Night Football on the Same Day

The Red Sox and Cardinals play the pivotal fifth game of their very entertaining World Series Monday night at Busch Stadium. The series is tied at two and aces Jon Lester and Adam Wainwright will square off. The last two nights have featured a walk-off obstruction play and a game-ending pickoff, so who knows what's in store for this one. Less than a mile away, the Rams and Seahawks will play at the Edward Jones Dome on Monday Night Football. Have we ever seen a city host these two sporting events at the same time?

October 27, 1986: Mets vs. Red Sox in Game Seven, Giants vs. Washington on Monday Night Football

It's happened once before. Yes, I know that New York and East Rutherford aren't the same city, but come on. One night after the Mets made their famous Game Six comeback to tie the series, the seventh game scheduled for Sunday night was rained out, pushing it back a day and putting it up against Big Blue's MNF matchup with Washington.

A 2012 Deadspin item linked to this YouTube video of an old news feature about that night and how people brought portable televisions to Giants Stadium to watch the Mets win it all. So many people were following the game that the roar after the final out caused a Washington false start.

There a few more close calls, including two football games that had to be rescheduled for Monday night because of a Sunday night World Series finale.

The Twins and Cardinals went the distance in the 1987 World Series, with Game Seven to be played on Sunday, October 25. That pushed the Vikings-Broncos tilt back a day, and the game went up against the regularly scheduled Rams-Browns MNF game. Frank Viola's eight strong innings led the Twins to a 4-2 win for the championship. The next night, Wade Wilson threw five interceptions, but Minnesota still beat John Elway's Broncos 34-27.

Ten years after that, the same scenario played out in Miami. The Marlins and Indians were playing Game Seven of the Fall Classic on Sunday, so the Dolphins game against the Bears was postponed until Monday. The Marlins won the title by rallying in the ninth inning to tie the game before Edgar Renteria ripped a walk-off single in the 11th. The next night, the Dolphins led the winless Bears by 15 with six minutes left in the game, but Chicago roared back to even the score before winning 36-33 in overtime. This was played opposite the regularly scheduled MNF game, a Packers win at New England in a rematch of the previous year's Super Bowl.

New York was the center of the baseball world in 2000 when the Yankees took on the Mets in the Subway Series. The Yanks won the first two games at home on Saturday and Sunday before the two teams had the day off on Monday. That night, the Jets played the rival Dolphins at home on MNF and fell behind 30-7 in the fourth quarter. Vinny Testaverde engineered a comeback for the ages, tying the game in the final mintes on a touchdown pass to offensive lineman Jumbo Elliott. John Hall's overtime field goal gave the Jets a 40-37 win and capped one of the greatest games in Monday Night Football history. The World Series resumed in Queens on Tuesday night and although the Mets won Game Three, the Yankees won the next two to clinch their third straight championship.

Our last close call was in 2007. The Rockies won 21 of 22 games to surge into the playoffs and roll to the World Series. The Red Sox derailed them quickly, stomping them 13-1 on their way to a four-game sweep. Boston clinched on a Sunday but if the Rockies had won a game, they would have hosted Game Five at the same time as the Broncos-Packers game at Mile High Stadium. Like the games in 1997 and 2000, this one went into overtime as Jason Elam's field goal at the gun tied it at 13. Green Bay won the coin toss and on the first play of the extra session, Brett Favre hit Greg Jennings for an 82-yard touchdown to win the game.

Update: Reader Doug mentioned the 1993 World Series. SkyDome hosted Game Two between the Blue Jays and Phillies on Sunday, October 18, 1993. The next day, the CFL's Toronto Argonauts played a home game against the Calgary Stampeders. During the off night of the World Series, Toronto was stomped 51-7. Toronto sports fans cheered up when the Blue Jays won in Philly on Tuesday en route to their second straight title.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Boston vs. St. Louis in the Postseason

The Red Sox and Cardinals begin what should be a terrific World Series on Wednesday night at Fenway Park. It's certainly an even matchup as both clubs posted identical 97-65 records during the regular season. It's the third World Series between teams that had the same record (1949 Yankees-Dodgers 97-57, 1958 Yankees-Braves 92-62).

This will be the fourth time that these teams have met in the Fall Classic. It will also be the 11th postseason meeting between St. Louis and Boston teams in the four major professional sports. In fact, Boston and St. Louis are the only cities that have met in a World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup Final and NBA Final.

Year Round Boston St. Louis Result
1946 World Series Red Sox Cardinals Cardinals 4-3
1967 World Series Red Sox Cardinals Cardinals 4-3
2004 World Series Red Sox Cardinals Red Sox 4-0
Year Round Boston St. Louis Result
2001 Super Bowl XXXVI Patriots Rams Patriots 20-17
Year Round Boston St. Louis Result
1957 NBA Finals Celtics Hawks Celtics 4-3
1958 NBA Finals Celtics Hawks Hawks 4-2
1960 NBA Finals Celtics Hawks Celtics 4-3
1961 NBA Finals Celtics Hawks Celtics 4-1
Year Round Boston St. Louis Result
1970 Stanley Cup Finals Bruins Blues Bruins 4-0
1972 Semifinals Bruins Blues Bruins 4-0

In 1946, Ted Williams returned from serving in World War II and hit 38 homers with a .342/.497/.667 slash line to lead the Red Sox to 104 wins and the American League pennant. On the other side, the Cardinals needed a best-of-three tiebreaker to get past the Dodgers and reach the World Series.

Boston was down to its last out in the ninth inning of Game One, but Tom McBride singled in the tying run to force extras before Rudy York's solo homer won it in the tenth. The two sides then traded shutouts, with Harry Brecheen evening the series for St. Louis in Game Two and Dave Ferriss putting the Sox ahead again in Game Three. The Cards thrashed their way to a 12-3 in the fourth game, but Boston took the lead once more with a  6-3 win in the fifth.

The Red Sox needed to win one game in St. Louis to claim their first title since 1918, but it didn't come. Brecheen's complete-game victory in Game Six pushed the series to a seventh game, which was a classic. The Cardinals led 3-1 in the top of the eighth inning, before a second-and-third, no-out jam pushed St. Louis starter Murry Dickson out of the game. Brecheen came in from the bullpen and got two outs and it looked like he'd wriggle out of the mess unscathed. But Dom DiMaggio came through with a double that tied the game. The clutch hit came with a price. DiMaggio injured his hamstring on the play and had to be removed for Leon Culberson.

With two outs in the bottom of the inning, Harry Walker stroked a hit to Culberson in center field and Enos Slaughter scored all the way from first base on what went down in history as the "Mad Dash." Slaughter said he wouldn't have even tried to score if DiMaggio had still been in center field. Brecheen recorded the final three outs in the ninth and the Cardinals won the series.

Two decades later, the two teams met again thanks to Carl Yastrzemski's Triple Crown and a worst-to-first turnaround by the Red Sox. But the "Impossible Dream" team had the nearly impossible task of beating Bob Gibson.

In Game One, the St. Louis ace struck out ten in outdueling Jose Santiago in a 2-1 victory. The only tally against Gibson came on a home run off the bat of Santiago, the only Boston pitcher to homer in the World Series.

A.L. Cy Young winner Jim Lonborg dominated Game Two for the Red Sox. He retired the first 19 batters, but lost the perfect game bid when he walked Curt Flood with two outs in the seventh. He still had a shot at a no-hitter, but Julian Javier doubled with two down in the eighth. That would be the Cards' only hit in a 5-0 Sox victory. Lonborg's was the second World Series one-hitter (Claude Passeau had the other in 1945) and there hasn't been one since.

Nelson Briles pitched the Cardinals to a Game Three victory before Gibson's five-hit shutout gave them a 3-1 series lead. Boston was in a big hole, but Lonborg kept them alive with a three-hitter that sent the series back to Fenway. The Sox hit four solo homers early in Game Six, but it was 4-4 in the eighth inning. Boston busted out with four runs to force a seventh game and another date with Gibson.

The future Hall of Famer did it all in the ultimate game, homering off Lonborg and striking out ten in a complete-game 7-2 win, his third of the World Series. Boston's championship drought dragged on and would not end until 2004 when these two met a third time.

2004 gave us two sensational League Championship Series, with the Red Sox coming back from an 0-3 deficit to beat the rival Yankees and the Cardinals outlasting the Astros in a seven-game thriller. After Boston's historic LCS victory, the World Series was an anti-climax.

Four batters into the first inning of Game One, the Red Sox took a 3-0 on David Ortiz's three-run homer. Boston never looked back. They outslugged the Cardinals 11-9 despite making four errors. The Boston battery led the way in the second game. Jason Varitek's two-run triple in the first inning provided the offense for Curt Schilling, who pitched six innings without allowing an earned run. The Sox won 6-2 to take a 2-0 series lead out west.

It was another night, another first-inning knockout punch for Boston in Game Three, which came on Manny Ramirez's two-run homer. St. Louis put the tying and go-ahead runs on base with nobody out in the third inning, but pitcher Jeff Suppan's baserunning blunder at third base turned into a double play. Pedro Martinez set down the next 13 Cardinals and the Red Sox won 4-1 to move on the precipice of a curse-ending sweep.

Johnny Damon led off the top of the first inning of Game Four with a home run, giving Boston a first-inning lead for the fourth straight game. Derek Lowe pitched seven shutout innings of three-hit ball before Keith Foulke finished the 3-0 win by recording the out that New England had waited 86 years for.


The one St. Louis-Boston playoff meeting in the NFL was memorable one. The powerhouse Rams were 14-point favorites against the upstart Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI.

New England's defense kept the high-flying Rams in check early in the game and only trailed 3-0 after the first quarter. A turning point came about halfway through the second quarter when Ty Law picked off Kurt Warner and ran it back for a touchdown that gave the Patriots the lead.

New England extended its lead right before halftime when Ricky Proehl fumbled and set up a Tom Brady touchdown pass to David Patten with only 36 seconds until intermission. Their defense continued to stymie the Rams and stunningly, the Pats were up 17-3 in the fourth quarter.

It looked like they put the game away in the fourth quarter when Warner fumbled near the goal line and Tebucky Jones picked it up and ran it 97 yards for an apparent three-score lead. But a holding call against Willie McGinest negated the play and gave the "Greatest Show on Turf" new life. Warner ran in for a score two plays later and the the lead was cut in half with 9:33 to play. With less than two minutes left, Warner started a lightning-quick touchdown drive. On just three plays the Rams moved 55 yards in 21 seconds, tying the game on Proehl's 26-yard grab. It was 17-17 and it appeared that New England's luck had run out.

But little did we know that a football legend was about to grow before our eyes. Tom Brady took over at his own 17 with 1:21 remaining and no timeouts. Calling the game on FOX with Pat Summerall, John Madden advised a conservative approach to play for overtime. He quickly changed his mind after Brady completed three short passes to J.R. Redmond and one big one to Troy Brown that got them to the Rams' 36. One more Redmond catch set up Adam Vinatieri's game-ending championship-winning 48-yard field goal that sealed one of the NFL's greatest games and kick-started a great dynasty.


The most common Boston-St. Louis postseason matchup came on the hardwood, with the Celtics and Hawks meeting for the NBA crown four times in a five-year span.

Rookie Bill Russell led the Celtics to their first NBA Finals in 1957, while Bob Pettit's Hawks were also making their first appearance in the championship round. Game One went into double overtime, and it was St. Louis that pulled out the victory 125-123. To date it is the only NBA Finals opener that required two OT's. That was a sign of things to come, as they split the first six games with three of them were decided by only two points.

Game Three had some fireworks before tip-off. Red Auerbach took issue with the height of the baskets in St. Louis and asked for them to be measured. Hawks owner Ben Kerner was offended and an argument ensued that ended with Auerbach punching Kerner right in the mouth. Imagine if Gregg Popovich punched Jerry Reinsdorf before a game today. Red was fined 300 bucks by the league.

The seventh game was one of the greatest in NBA Finals history. The two teams went back-and-forth, ultimately going into double-overtime once again. Pettit's 39 points led the way for the Hawks, but Russell grabbed 32 rebounds and Tommy Heinsohn scored 37 points and added 23 boards for a 125-123 Celtics lead.

With three seconds left and needing to go the length of the court, Hawks player-coach Alex Hannum put himself in the game to make a daring attempt. He'd throw the ball all the way off the other backboard and Pettit would catch the bounce at the foul line for the game-tying shot. Amazingly, the play worked perfectly, but Pettit missed the put-back and the Celtics won the series.

The next year brought a Finals rematch and after two games it seemed like they were headed for another down-to-the-wire thriller. The set was tied at 1-1 and Game Three was all square as well when Russell sprained his ankle and was finished for the series. The Celtics hung around, but St. Louis won in Game Six at home behind Pettit's marvelous 50-point performance. He scored 18 of the Hawks last 21 points in one of the best Finals performances ever.

That loss must have made the Celtics really angry, because they responded by winning the next EIGHT league titles. They swept the Lakers in 1959 before another pair of showdowns with the Hawks. 1960 was a seven-game series with no team winning back-to-back games. But it wasn't that dramatic for a seven-gamer as the average margin of victory was 14.4 points. 1961 was the most lopsided of the four series, with Boston winning in five games. The Hawks moved to Atlanta after the 1968 season and other than the brief two-year existence of the ABA's Spirits of St. Louis, there hasn't been pro hoops in St. Louis since.


We finish on the ice and although the Bruins and Blues haven't met in the postseason in over 40 years, this matchup provided one of hockey's most indelible moments.

In both of their first two seasons as an expansion team, the Blues went to the Stanley Cup Finals in and were swept by the Canadiens. They made it back in 1970 and this time they went up against Bobby Orr's Bruins. Orr led the league in scoring, becoming the first (and to date, only) defenseman to claim the scoring title.

The Finals opened in St. Louis and the Bruins dominated anyway, winning the first two games 6-1 and 6-2. At home at Boston Garden, they cruised to a 4-1 victory in Game Three, but Game Four was much tighter. Both teams scored a goal in each period and the contest went to overtime knotted at 3-3.

Orr was tripped while scoring the Cup-winning goal and this photo of him in flight is one of the most famous in sports.

The 1972 semifinal series between the two was an absolute rout, with the Bruins sweeping four games by a combined score of 28-8. Boston moved on to the Finals and beat the Rangers in six games. This Bruins-Blues set is the only series featured here that wasn't for the championship.

The history between St. Louis and Boston sports teams doesn't run as deep as that between some other cities, but it's highlights are as memorable as any. Slaghter's Mad Dash, a double-overtime NBA Finals Game Seven, Bobby Orr's famous goal, the Sox ending the Curse and a Super Bowl walk-off win. Hopefully this World Series will produce a moment like those.

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