1991 World Series
|1991 World Series|
|MVP||Jack Morris (Minnesota)|
|Umpires||Don Denkinger (AL), Harry Wendelstedt (NL), Drew Coble (AL), Terry Tata (NL), Rick Reed (AL), Ed Montague (NL)|
|Hall of Famers||Twins: |
Bobby Cox (manager)
John Schuerholz (GM)
|ALCS||Minnesota Twins defeated Toronto Blue Jays, 4–1|
|NLCS||Atlanta Braves defeated Pittsburgh Pirates, 4–3|
|TV announcers||Jack Buck and Tim McCarver|
|Radio announcers||Vin Scully and Johnny Bench|
The 1991 World Series was the championship series of Major League Baseball's (MLB) 1991 season. The 88th edition of the World Series, it was a best-of-seven playoff played between the American League (AL) champion Minnesota Twins (95–67) and the National League (NL) champion Atlanta Braves (94–68). The Twins defeated the Braves four games to three to win the championship. In 2003, ESPN selected it as the "Greatest of All Time" in their "World Series 100th Anniversary" countdown, with five of its games being decided by a single run, four games decided in the final at-bat and three games going into extra innings.
In addition to the suspense of the outcome of many of its games, the Series had other highlights. For example, the series-deciding seventh game was a scoreless tie (0–0) through the regular nine innings, and went into extra innings; Minnesota won by a score of 1–0 in the 10th inning, with their starting pitcher, Jack Morris, pitching a complete game. Morris was named the MVP for the series.
With 69 innings in total, the 1991 World Series shares the record for longest seven-game World Series ever, in terms of innings, with 1924 (some early series were best-of-nine contests or contained tie games; 1912 logged the most innings ever, at 75).
The 1991 World Series was notable for several grueling contests, with five of its games being decided by one run and three games in extra innings (including the third game, a 12-inning marathon which saw Twins manager Tom Kelly run out of hitters).
|1||October 19||Atlanta Braves – 2, Minnesota Twins – 5||Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome||3:00||55,108|
|2||October 20||Atlanta Braves – 2, Minnesota Twins – 3||Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome||2:37||55,145|
|3||October 22||Minnesota Twins – 4, Atlanta Braves – 5 (12)||Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium||4:04||50,878|
|4||October 23||Minnesota Twins – 2, Atlanta Braves – 3||Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium||2:57||50,878|
|5||October 24||Minnesota Twins – 5, Atlanta Braves – 14||Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium||2:59||50,878|
|6||October 26||Atlanta Braves – 3, Minnesota Twins – 4 (11)||Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome||3:46||55,155|
|7||October 27||Atlanta Braves – 0, Minnesota Twins – 1 (10)||Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome||3:23||55,118|
|WP: Jack Morris (1–0) LP: Charlie Leibrandt (0–1) Sv: Rick Aguilera (1)|
MIN: Greg Gagne (1), Kent Hrbek (1)
The ceremonial first pitch of the World Series prior to Game 1 was thrown by retired AL umpire Steve Palermo, who had been forced into early retirement when he was seriously injured by gunshot while coming to the aid of a robbery victim in Dallas on July 7, 1991. After the pitch, the Twins' Al Newman returned the ball to Palermo and the series umpires jogged to the mound to exchange well wishes.
The Twins started their ace, Minnesota native Jack Morris. In his first season with his hometown team, the future Hall of Famer won 18 games, recorded a 3.43 ERA (16th best in the American League), and pitched ten complete games. He was also one of the few starting pitchers in the series on either side with prior experience; seven years earlier, as the ace of the Detroit Tigers, Morris won two games in the 1984 World Series and helped lead Detroit to its most recent world championship.
The Braves countered with Charlie Leibrandt, who was the only Brave with Series exposure. Prior to joining the Braves in 1990, Leibrandt was a member of the Kansas City Royals for six seasons and had won 17 games for their 1985 World Series champion squad. Thus, he was also the only Braves starter who had previously faced several members of the Twins lineup, including Dan Gladden, Kirby Puckett, and Kent Hrbek. In 1991, Leibrandt was 15–13 with a 3.49 ERA for the Braves.
Minnesota scored first in the bottom of the third. With two out, leadoff hitter Dan Gladden walked and then stole second. Rookie second baseman Chuck Knoblauch then singled to drive him in, but was caught in a rundown in between first and second and tagged out to end the inning. Manager Tom Kelly explained later that he wanted Knoblauch to take the turn around first to draw the throw away from the plate and allow the run to score. The Twins added three more runs in the fifth, as Kent Hrbek lead off with a double, Scott Leius singled and shortstop Greg Gagne hit a three-run shot. Leibrandt was immediately pulled from the game following the home run, and reliever Jim Clancy promptly allowed Gladden and Knoblauch to reach base on an error and a walk. Gladden reached third on a fly ball by Kirby Puckett for the first out, and after Knoblauch stole second Chili Davis was put on intentionally. Twins catcher Brian Harper then lifted a fly ball to left field that was caught for the second out. Gladden tagged again and tried to score, running over Atlanta catcher Greg Olson in the process, but Olson held onto the ball for the third out even though he was flipped so hard by Gladden that he momentarily stood on his head.
The Braves broke through against Morris in the top of the sixth, as Jeff Treadway and David Justice reached base with two out. Ron Gant then followed with a single that Gladden misplayed, which scored Treadway and left runners at second and third. Morris got out of the jam by striking out Sid Bream to end the inning, and the Twins added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning as Hrbek homered off Clancy.
After walking the first two batters to lead off the eighth, Morris was pulled from the game in favor of Mark Guthrie, who induced a double play off the bat of Terry Pendleton. After Guthrie walked Justice, Twins closer Rick Aguilera came into the game and gave up a hit to Gant. The hit drove in Lonnie Smith from third base, and the run was charged to Morris. It was the last run scored for either team, as the Twins won the game 5–2 with Aguilera picking up the four-out save.
Morris' win was his third World Series win in as many starts, as he won Games 1 and 4 of the 1984 Series. Leibrandt's poor performance resulted in his being removed from the World Series rotation, although he did pitch in Game 6, facing just one batter and giving up the game-winning home run to Kirby Puckett.
During the game, a Kent Hrbek pop foul hit Commissioner Fay Vincent's daughter Anne in the head.
|WP: Kevin Tapani (1–0) LP: Tom Glavine (0–1) Sv: Rick Aguilera (2)|
MIN: Chili Davis (1), Scott Leius (1)
The pitching match-up featured 1991 National League Cy Young Award winner Tom Glavine against the Twins' 16-game winner and number two starter, Kevin Tapani. Tapani had the lowest ERA of the Twins' rotation, with a 2.99 ERA.
Leading off the bottom of the first, Dan Gladden lifted a seemingly routine pop-up toward second base. Atlanta fielders Mark Lemke and David Justice miscommunicated and collided with one another, and the ball fell from Lemke's glove and Gladden reached second on a two-base error. After a walk to Chuck Knoblauch, Glavine induced Kirby Puckett to ground to third, where Terry Pendleton stepped on the bag to retire Gladden and threw across to Sid Bream to retire Puckett for the double play. But the next batter, Chili Davis, then homered off Glavine and gave the Twins an early 2–0 lead.
The Braves got a run back in the top of the second when Justice singled, was doubled to third by Sid Bream, and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Brian Hunter. Controversy occurred the next inning when Lonnie Smith reached first on an error by Scott Leius. With two outs, Ron Gant ripped a single to left. Smith, playing for a record fourth team in World Series play, tried to beat the throw to third from Gladden, which was wild and missed third baseman Scott Leius. Smith was able to take third, but Gant was caught between bases trying to advance on the throw. Tapani, backing up the play, fielded Gladden's throw and threw back to first. Gant headed back to the base standing up but off balance, and in the process he became tangled with Kent Hrbek, who continued to apply the tag and can visibly be seen pulling Gant off of the bag with his glove arm. First base umpire Drew Coble called Gant out. A furious Gant and first base coach Pat Corrales argued to no avail. Coble said in an interview conducted for the home video recap of the series that in his view, Gant was not in control of his body when he returned to the base, that his own momentum caused him to get tangled with Hrbek, and that he fell off the base. He explained "everybody watches the feet on the replays, but if you watch his upper body, he's falling over and in my judgment his momentum after he hit the bag carried him on and off." For his part, Hrbek stated that Gant fell on him and pushed him. Kelly said that Gant would not have had a problem if he had slid into the bag. This call was ranked as one of the top ten worst baseball calls by both ESPN and Sports Illustrated. Hrbek became a hated figure in Atlanta, was booed lustfully, and would even receive a death threat. In 2011, the Twins celebrated the 20th anniversary of the controversial play by commissioning a bobblehead doll of Hrbek and Gant entangled, a promotion that proved popular with the Minnesota Twins fans.
The Braves tied the game in the fifth when Olson doubled, advanced to third on a groundout by Lemke, and came home on a sacrifice fly by Rafael Belliard. The game stayed tied into the eighth. In the top half, Belliard got a leadoff hit on a bunt single, and after a sacrifice, Pendleton beat out an infield hit. But Tapani got Gant out on a foul popup and Justice on a fly out to end the threat. Kelly remembered seeing a tape of the game that showed Glavine in disbelief that Atlanta was unable to score, and felt that Glavine's emotions took over. Immediately in the bottom half, the unheralded Leius drilled Glavine's first pitch into the left-field seats for what proved to be the game-winning home run.
Both starting pitchers stayed in the game through eight innings and were quite effective, giving up just five runs combined (three earned). Rick Aguilera earned the save for the Twins, and the Series headed to Atlanta with the Twins leading two games to none.
|WP: Jim Clancy (1–0) LP: Rick Aguilera (0–1)|
MIN: Kirby Puckett (1), Chili Davis (2)
ATL: David Justice (1), Lonnie Smith (1)
In what is considered one of the greatest World Series games ever played, the Braves outlasted the Twins in a thrilling 12-inning battle. This game matched Minnesota's 20-game winner Scott Erickson against Atlanta's late-season hero and NLCS MVP, Steve Avery. In the NLCS, Avery had not allowed a run to the Pirates in 16 1⁄3 innings.
Twins manager Tom Kelly said going into the three games in Atlanta that managing without the designated-hitter rule was "right up there with rocket science."
In a play reminiscent of Game 2, Dan Gladden led off the game by reaching on a fielding mistake. Gladden lifted a fly ball toward right-center field where David Justice and Ron Gant both went to try to catch it. However, neither man called for the ball and it dropped between them. Gladden reached third on the hit standing up, and Knoblauch subsequently flied out to allow him to score the first run of the game and end Avery's scoreless innings streak.
The Braves, meanwhile, got the run back in the second when Greg Olson scored on Rafael Belliard's single. Justice led off the fourth with his first World Series home run, and the Braves led for the first time in the Series, 2–1. In the fifth, the Braves scored again when Lonnie Smith homered. Erickson was pulled from the game after allowing Terry Pendleton and Justice to reach base, on a walk and an error by Chuck Knoblauch on a ground ball that should have ended the inning. David West entered the game and walked two consecutive batters, forcing home an unearned run (charged to Erickson) and leaving the bases loaded for Terry Leach who struck out Mark Lemke to end the inning. With the score 4–1, the Braves looked to close it out. As it turned out, the game was just beginning.
Except for the run that resulted from the first-inning misplay between Gant and Justice, Avery had been quite effective. But after Kirby Puckett homered in the seventh to make it 4–2, one inning after two Twins hits and two other fly outs to the warning track, Atlanta manager Bobby Cox reluctantly sent Avery out for the eighth inning. Brian Harper, who had not started the game at catcher (instead Kelly started Junior Ortiz--Erickson's personal catcher for much of that season) pinch hit to start the top half of the inning and reached on an error. Avery went to the showers in favor of the Braves' regular-season closer, Alejandro Peña. Peña had been 13 for 13 in save opportunities since joining the Braves in a late-season trade with the Mets, but he had not pitched since the prior Wednesday. The first batter that he faced, pinch-hitter Chili Davis, tied the game with a monstrous home run to left, leaving Avery with nothing to show for a great pitching effort.
At this point, the game got bizarre. Substitutions and double switches were used by both teams into the 12th. After Mark Wohlers retired Randy Bush to lead off the top of inning, Gladden singled. Knoblauch followed with a double play grounder to second that Lemke misplayed, allowing Gladden to advance to third. With the middle of the Twins' order to follow, Cox brought in Kent Mercker to pitch to Kent Hrbek.
As Mercker came into the game, Tim McCarver theorized on the CBS broadcast that the Twins might be forced to use one of their pitchers as a pinch hitter if the inning continued. Entering the tenth inning, Kelly had used all but Paul Sorrento and Al Newman on his bench and only had Mark Guthrie and Rick Aguilera in his bullpen. Sorrento was used as a pinch hitter in the tenth inning, and Newman entered the game in the 11th to replace Mike Pagliarulo at third base. With Guthrie having pitched the 10th and 11th innings, Aguilera was the last player available for Kelly to use that night; he could not use the other two players he had on the roster as they were scheduled to be his Game 4 and 5 starters (those being Jack Morris and Kevin Tapani).
On the fourth pitch of the at bat, with Knoblauch running to avoid a potential double play, Hrbek struck out looking. With Puckett now at the plate, and the pitcher's spot on deck, McCarver's theory became reality. Cox brought in Jim Clancy to pitch and called for an intentional walk with the pitcher's spot due next, loading the bases and forcing Kelly's hand. Kelly sent Aguilera to the plate, although Aguilera did have some success as a hitter and was in fact a converted infielder. On the third pitch of the at-bat Aguilera flied out to deep center field, leaving the bases loaded and the game deadlocked. Kelly said in an interview that if the game had gone on longer, since he had used up all his relief pitchers, he would have put left fielder Gladden (who had previously made emergency pitching appearances on at least two occasions) on the mound and Aguilera in the outfield.
In the bottom of the 12th, Aguilera remained in the game to pitch and quickly got the first out on one pitch. But then Justice singled to right and after Brian Hunter popped out, Justice stole second on an 0–2 pitch to Greg Olson. With two outs and first base open and the normally light-hitting Mark Lemke on deck, Aguilera, wary of Olson's stealth status as one of the Braves' best clutch hitters (despite an overall average of only .241, he had batted .373 with two outs and runners in scoring position during the season), pitched him very carefully after the stolen base and ended up walking him. Lemke (who had nearly caused a major Twins rally with his fielding error in the top of the inning) now entered the pantheon of World Series heroes by hitting a single to left that enabled Justice to just beat the throw home from Gladden. His score gave the Braves a 5–4 win and cut the Twins lead in the Series to two games to one. Clancy took the win while Aguilera received the loss.
The game lasted a then record four hours, four minutes, until broken in 2005 in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series with a time of five hours, 41 minutes. It was the first of four games in this Series to end with the winning team scoring the deciding run in the ninth inning or later. It was also the first World Series game to be played in the state of Georgia.
|WP: Mike Stanton (1–0) LP: Mark Guthrie (0–1)|
MIN: Mike Pagliarulo (1)
ATL: Terry Pendleton (1), Lonnie Smith (2)
Game 4 matched up Jack Morris against Atlanta starter John Smoltz, a former Detroit prospect and Michigan native who idolized Morris while a youngster. As they had done in Game 3, the Braves won by scoring a run in their final at-bat. Because Game 3 ended after midnight, some credited Mark Lemke with winning two World Series games in one day.
As was the custom in the first three games, the Twins scored first. In the second inning, catcher Brian Harper scored on Mike Pagliarulo's double. The Braves tied it in the third when Terry Pendleton hit his first post-season home run.
The Braves appeared ready to take a lead in the fifth when Lonnie Smith singled and stole second. Pendleton then followed with a deep fly ball to center field. As Kirby Puckett went back to field it, Smith stopped between the bases to see if Puckett had a chance to catch it. Puckett got under the ball and reached up for it, and Smith reacted by going back to second to tag up since it appeared Puckett had the ball in his reach. As it so happened, Puckett had not judged the ball properly and it nicked the top of his glove and fell behind him. Smith took off and tried to score but with his tagging up, it took him slightly longer to get to home plate than he would have taken if he had just stood where he was. As a result, the relay reached Harper before Smith got to the plate. Smith’s only recourse was to try to dislodge the ball from Harper by plowing into him, but Harper held on despite the violent collision and recorded the first out. With Pendleton on third now and Morris having walked Ron Gant, David Justice stood in. Morris threw a pitch that got past Harper, but he was able to recover and tag Pendleton out as he tried to score. The game would remain tied through the sixth.
In the top of the seventh, Pagliarulo homered to give the Twins the lead, 2–1. With a lead and a bullpen that had allowed only one earned run in the entire post-season, the Twins opted to go for more runs by pinch hitting for Morris and removing him after six innings. He had been effective, allowing only the one run, but had a high pitch count. The move backfired as Braves got the run back in the bottom of the inning when Smith made up for his baserunning gaffe and homered off Twins reliever Carl Willis to tie the game. The game entered the bottom of the ninth still tied at two. With one out and Mark Guthrie pitching, Lemke drilled a triple off the left-center field wall. Jeff Blauser was walked intentionally to set up a possible double play to force extra innings. After a series of moves by both managers, former Brave Steve Bedrosian took the mound to face veteran minor leaguer Jerry Willard. Willard hit a fly ball to Shane Mack in right field. Lemke tagged and broke for the plate as soon as Mack caught the ball. Mack fired to Harper, who caught the throw and had the ball as Lemke reached the plate. Lemke slid around Harper and was called safe with the winning run. After the call Harper leapt up with the ball and vociferously protested, as did Bedrosian, but umpire Terry Tata stood by the call and the replay showed it to be the correct call.
Tim McCarver explained on the CBS broadcast the specific reason why Lemke was called safe instead of out. Since the play at the plate was not a force play, Harper needed to tag Lemke with the ball to record the putout. Harper did have the ball in his glove and made contact with the base runner, but he never made a motion with his glove; in fact, his positioning was such that he would have had to reach across his body to make the tag. As such, the ball never touched Lemke and by rule, he was safe. McCarver later narrated the play as "An arm's length; an elbows width: the subtle difference between out...and safe." The win tied the Series at two games apiece and ensured a return to Minnesota.
|WP: Tom Glavine (1–1) LP: Kevin Tapani (1–1)|
ATL: David Justice (2), Lonnie Smith (3), Brian Hunter (1)
In Game 5, it was Glavine vs. Tapani in a Game 2 rematch. Neither pitcher matched their effectiveness from their first series starts, and despite the final score, this contest was still close until after the seventh inning stretch. For three innings, the pitchers matched zeroes, but in the fourth, Gant singled to left and Justice homered off the top of the left-field wall for a 2–0 Braves lead. Bream followed up with a walk, and Olson then hit what appeared to be a double play grounder to second. But the ball hit Bream's leg, resulting in Bream being called out for runner interference but Olson being safe at first. Lemke, the hero of Games 3 and 4, drilled a triple that scored Olson, and Lemke himself then scored on light-hitting Rafael Belliard's double. At this point, the Braves led 4–0, their biggest lead in any game in the Series.
In the fifth, Pendleton and Gant singled, with Pendleton moving to third. Then Justice hit into a fielder's choice that scored Pendleton and gave the Braves a 5–0 lead. With Glavine working on a two-hitter, the game seemed in hand for the Braves. But Glavine's control deserted him in the sixth inning and he wound up getting pulled from the game. Knoblauch reached on a one-out walk and then went to third on Puckett's single. A walk to Davis loaded the bases, and Glavine suddenly had difficulty finding the strike zone. He walked in two runs on bases-loaded walks to Harper and Leius, making four walks in the inning and three consecutive. Kent Mercker came on to get out of the jam and he got the final two outs with only one additional run scoring. The game entered the seventh with the Braves leading, 5–3.
Tom Kelly sent David West out to begin the bottom of the seventh. West had failed to retire a batter in Game 3, facing two batters and giving up two walks (while one of these walks did force a run home, this run was an unearned run charged to starter Scott Erickson). Smith hit his third home run in three nights to give the Braves a 6–3 lead. And then the floodgates opened. Pendleton and Gant walked, Justice singled to score Pendleton, and West was again taken out without retiring a batter; in this game, he would be charged with four earned runs without retiring a batter, for an ERA of infinity (West would retire his first World Series hitter in the 1993 World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies). Hunter singled to score Gant and put two on with nobody out and an 8–3 Braves lead. After Olson popped out, Lemke hit his third triple in his last four at bats, driving home Justice and Hunter, and scoring when Belliard singled to center. The Braves ended the seventh with an 11–3 lead and the announcers began talking about the chances of the two teams in Game 6.
However, there were still two innings to be played. Davis, playing this game in right field in place of Mack, who was 0–for–15, singled. He moved to second on a ground out and scored on Al Newman's triple. In the bottom of the eighth, Pendleton doubled and Gant tripled, scoring Pendleton. Justice grounded out to the pitcher, scoring Gant, and Hunter then ended the Braves' offensive barrage with a home run.
Both managers emptied their benches to give playing time to non-starters. Randy St. Claire gave up a run when Gladden tripled (the fifth triple of the game between the two teams) and scored on a fielder's choice by Junior Ortiz, but the game ended in a 14–5 Braves rout, the only lopsided game in the Series. The Braves scored just under half of total runs for the series in these eight innings. The Braves now had their first lead in Series games, three to two, and only needed one win to clinch their first World Series since 1957. In fact, the marquee wall at Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium read "Three at home and one at the Dome." The Washington/Minnesota franchise had now lost 14 straight World Series road games dating back to 1925, a streak that remains active as the Twins have not advanced to a World Series since 1991.
|WP: Rick Aguilera (1–1) LP: Charlie Leibrandt (0–2)|
ATL: Terry Pendleton (2)
MIN: Kirby Puckett (2)
Both teams had each other in their palms. The Braves were one win away from their first world championship since 1957 while the Twins were returning to the Metrodome where they had a 9–1 postseason record (including 6–0 in the World Series) entering the do-or-die Game 6. After the reshuffling of the Braves' rotation following Game 1, Steve Avery would start for Atlanta on three days' rest. The Twins kept their three-man rotation with Scott Erickson, who had been batted around in Game 3, getting the start for Minnesota.
In the top of the first, the Braves got two baserunners on, but they would eventually be stranded. In the bottom of the first, Chuck Knoblauch singled with one out and the struggling Kirby Puckett strode to the plate looking to break out of the slump he had been in for most of the series. Puckett responded with a triple to left field scoring Knoblauch, opening the scoring and giving the Twins’ center fielder his first big play of the game.
After retiring Chili Davis for the second out of the inning, Avery faced another slump-ridden bitter in Shane Mack, who had been held without a hit to that point in the series. This time, Mack finally broke the hitless streak with a broken-bat single to score Puckett. Scott Leius followed with a single, advancing Mack to third, but Avery escaped further damage by retiring another struggling Twin, Kent Hrbek, to keep the game at 2-0.
The Braves hit Erickson hard, but failed to score against him. No better example can be cited than what happened in the top of the third. After Terry Pendleton reached with one out, Ron Gant drove a pitch deep to left field. Puckett, giving chase, tracked the ball down and then leaped to snare it before it could hit the thirteen-foot high Plexiglas barrier the Twins put over the left field wall. Pendleton, who had reached second, was forced to turn around and barely beat Puckett’s throw back to first. Atlanta would end the inning without scoring.
In the fourth, the Twins appeared ready to increase their lead, putting runners at second and third with one out. But Avery buckled down and retired the side to keep the game close. Another critical play occurred in the fifth when Belliard kept the Twins from completing a double play with a fierce slide. His hustle enabled Lonnie Smith to reach first. This became important when Pendleton golfed Erickson's next pitch into the seats, his second World Series home run, to tie the game at two. With two outs, Justice lifted what appeared to be a go-ahead home run for the Braves to right, but at the last instant, the ball hooked foul by about two feet. Erickson retired Justice and the Twins came to bat with the score tied.
Gladden responded with a walk and a steal of second. He moved to third on Knoblauch's lineout to right and scored on Puckett's center field sacrifice fly and the Twins led 3–2. Avery would be relieved after the inning. The Twins kept their one-run lead into the seventh. Lemke singled to center (knocking Erickson out of the game) and went to second on a wild pitch by reliever Mark Guthrie. After a strikeout, Smith walked and Pendleton then reached on an infield single. The Braves now had the bases loaded and one out as CBS commentator Jack Buck said the World Series was on the line right there. Gant hit what seemed to be a sure double play ground ball off the Twins' Carl Willis. The ground ball retired Pendleton, but the speedy Gant beat the relay to first and Lemke scored with the tying run (charged to Erickson). Willis, however, got out of the jam by striking out Justice to end the inning with the score tied at three. Willis would be charged with a blown save, but he pitched two scoreless innings after the blown save, the eighth and the ninth. Atlanta kept the Twins off the scoreboard, with left-handed specialist Mike Stanton pitching the seventh and eighth innings and struggling closer Alejandro Peña pitching the ninth and tenth innings.
The game remained tied at three until the 11th. Bobby Cox sent Game 1 starter Charlie Leibrandt to the mound to face Kirby Puckett, who recalled telling Chili Davis that he planned to attempt to bunt for a base hit, to which Davis responded "Bunt my ass. Hit it out and let's go home!" Puckett replied that he would take a few pitches first--a rare move for him, as he was known as a free swinger who often went after the first pitch. After uncharacteristically taking a strike and two balls from Leibrandt, Puckett launched the next pitch into the left-center-field seats for a dramatic game-winning home run that tied the Series at three games apiece. Jack Buck famously called the home run with the line "And we'll see you tomorrow night!"
This moment is captured in a statue of Puckett just outside Gate 34 at the Twins' new home, Target Field. The statue is of Puckett rounding second base, pumping his fists after hitting the dramatic walk-off home run.
Puckett's home run forced the first Game 7 since the 1987 World Series, which was also played at the Metrodome. With his walk-off home run, Puckett completed the game a double shy of hitting for the cycle.
Twins closer Rick Aguilera took the decision for the Twins after pitching the 10th and 11th innings, while Leibrandt earned his second loss of the series. He took the loss hard. Normally known as one of the friendliest and most cordial members of the Braves, a despondent Leibrandt refused to answer questions from reporters after the game. He would later also lose Game 6 of the 1992 World Series by allowing another extra-base hit to the Blue Jays Dave Winfield for the eventual game and series-winning runs, but was significantly more philosophical about his later misfortune, saying "I was devastated last year. I'm down right now, but I'll get over it."
|WP: Jack Morris (2–0) LP: Alejandro Peña (0–1)|
The first World Series Game 7 in four seasons saw a rematch of the Game 4 starters. Jack Morris returned to the mound for his third start of the Series for the Twins while John Smoltz made his second for the Braves. Going into the game, this Series had been regarded as one of the best ever. The Seventh Game would reinforce that point. A symbolic moment for this World Series occurred on the first at-bat when Braves leadoff hitter Lonnie Smith shook hands with Twins catcher Brian Harper just before stepping up to the plate. The moment was seen as a gesture of the respect the teams had for each other, though Morris later admitted that in the competitive heat of the moment he had not been happy with his catcher about it, though it was Smith who extended his hand initially.
Neither team was able to score a run early on. The Twins had their first opportunity in the bottom of the third inning, when Dan Gladden doubled and advanced to third on a flyout by Chuck Knoblauch. But Smoltz struck out Puckett to end the inning. The Braves put a runner into scoring position with one out in the top of the fifth, as Mark Lemke reached third on a sacrifice bunt by Rafael Belliard and a bunt single by Smith. But Morris got Terry Pendleton to pop out and then struck out Ron Gant to end the threat.
Neither team threatened again until the eighth inning. The top of the inning included a critical defensive play, with Smith on first and nobody out. Braves manager Bobby Cox called for a hit and run with Pendleton at the plate. Pendleton responded by lacing a double into the left-center field gap, but Smith made his second baserunning mistake of the series. As he rounded second, Smith momentarily hesitated and as a result of that, he was forced to stop at third. While he was running, Greg Gagne and Knoblauch tried to fake Smith out by pretending to start a 6–4–3 double play. Smith claimed he did not fall for the decoy, but instead was watching to see if Gladden or Puckett would make the catch. Morris later claimed the play should never have taken place. On the pitch before, with a 1–2 count on him, Pendleton appeared to swing and miss for strike three (which Morris believed Pendleton did). Pendleton appealed to home plate umpire Don Denkinger, saying that he'd foul-tipped the pitch at the plate. Denkinger turned to third base umpire Terry Tata, who confirmed the call. Replays were inconclusive. 
Nevertheless, Morris was in a jam as he faced Gant with two runners in scoring position. After retiring Gant on a groundout to Kent Hrbek at first base (the runners couldn't advance), Morris became visibly annoyed when Twins manager Tom Kelly came out to talk to him as he believed Kelly was going to pull him from the game. Instead, Kelly told Morris that he was thinking about giving an intentional walk to David Justice and pitching to Sid Bream, with only three hits in the six previous games, instead. Morris agreed, and Bream stepped up with the bases loaded. Morris induced Bream to ground to first. Hrbek threw to home to force out Smith, who was still at third at the time of the pitch, and Harper relayed the ball back to first to retire Bream, who, with his chronic knee problems (five previous surgeries) and running with a large brace on his right knee, was known as one of baseball's slowest baserunners, in time to complete the rare 3–2–3 double play and end the inning. The Braves would not reach base again for the rest of the game.
In the bottom of the eighth, Randy Bush pinch hit for Gagne to lead off for the Twins, and he singled off Smoltz, then was promptly removed from the game in favor of the faster Al Newman to pinch run. Smoltz then retired Gladden but gave up a single to Knoblauch, his eighth hit of the Series. With one out, runners on the corners, and Puckett coming to the plate, Bobby Cox elected to remove his pitcher from the game. Mike Stanton entered and was ordered to intentionally walk Puckett to load the bases--an unusual decision as managers usually only issue intentional walks when first base is open, not in circumstances where the walk will advance another runner into scoring position. But in this case, the next batter was Hrbek, who, though normally a power threat had not had a hit since Game 3 and whom Stanton had struck out three times in a row (and was a reason the Braves used Stanton, a left-handed specialist). This time, Stanton got Hrbek to hit a relatively soft line drive to Mark Lemke, who then stepped on second to double-up Knoblauch. The game continued with no score.
The Braves went down in order in the top of the ninth, as Morris retired Brian Hunter, Greg Olson, and Lemke. The Twins, with a chance to win the game in their final at bat, led off with a Chili Davis single. After Jarvis Brown came in to run for Davis, Harper attempted to move him over with a bunt down the first base line. Stanton misstepped coming to play the bunt, allowing Harper to reach base without a play. To make matters worse for Atlanta, Stanton's misstep caused him to strain a muscle in his back, and he had to be removed from the game. Cox was forced to bring in Alejandro Peña to pitch to Shane Mack. Despite his earlier struggles, Peña induced a ground ball double play from Mack to record the first two outs. He then gave an intentional walk to Mike Pagliarulo and struck out pinch hitter Paul Sorrento (batting for Greg Gagne) to send the game into extra innings.
Refusing to come out of the game, Morris took to the hill for the top of the tenth. A Twin Cities sports writer wrote that on that night, "[Morris] could have outlasted Methuselah." He successfully rebuffed several attempts by manager Tom Kelly to remove him during the game, and was also supported by pitching coach Dick Such, as he remained on the mound from the first pitch to the last. This led to one of the more memorable quotes of the '91 Series and, arguably, of any deciding game in World Series history: confronted with Morris' insistence on pitching the 10th, Tom Kelly is purported to have said, "Oh hell. It's only a game." And as he had been for most of the night, Morris was effective, retiring Blauser, Smith, and Pendleton in order. Morris threw 126 pitches in the game. Smoltz later said in an interview that if he had had the experience Morris had at the time, he also might have tried to argue his way out of being removed from the game when he got in trouble in the 8th, but as a young and fairly inexperienced pitcher, he didn't feel he had the standing to argue with Cox the way Morris did with his manager.
Peña faced Gladden to start the bottom half of the inning, and the Twins' leadoff hitter lifted a fly ball to left field after breaking his bat upon the impact. The ball landed in front of the charging Hunter for a bloop hit, and the ball then took a high bounce that Hunter was unable to field. Center fielder Gant backed up the play and caught the hop, but Gladden dashed to second and beat Gant's throw to the bag. Kelly then called for a sacrifice bunt, and Knoblauch executed to put the winning run on third with one out. As he'd done in the eighth, Cox called for an intentional walk to the resurgent Puckett. Hrbek, who had not gotten a hit in his last 16 at-bats dating back to his single in the eighth inning of Game 3, was next up, and Brown would be scheduled after Hrbek since Brown had pinch-run for the power-hitting Davis. Despite Hrbek's .115 average in the Series and lack of baserunning speed, and despite the fact that the Braves had left-hander Kent Mercker, who had also struck Hrbek out in a similar situation earlier in the series, warming up in the bullpen along with right-hander Jim Clancy, Cox decided to call a second consecutive intentional walk, loading the bases to set up a force play at home plate.
This left Kelly with a tough decision, as Brown did not hit well and had not yet gotten a hit in the Series, going 0–for–2 in Game 5. Entering the 10th inning, Kelly had already used four of the seven players on his bench. Then in the top half of the inning, he had inserted Scott Leius, who was normally a third baseman, into the game to play shortstop in place of pinch hitter Sorrento. This left Kelly with backup catcher Junior Ortiz and utility man Gene Larkin. Larkin was nursing an injured knee, but had one hit in three pinch hit at bats in Games 3–5 (the hit coming in Game 3), but a .167 average in the postseason. Kelly went with Larkin, who would have been the designated hitter had the game continued and would not have had to take the field. On the first pitch he saw, Larkin drove a single into deep left-center over the drawn-in outfield, scoring Gladden with the series-winning run and giving the Twins their second world championship since moving to Minnesota. Morris was the first player to embrace Gladden at the plate, followed by others. At the same time, Larkin was mobbed at first base. The two jubilant groups eventually merged in the middle of the diamond. The victorious players were soon joined by their families on the field, including Morris by his two sons. Later, the Twins players did a victory lap around the perimeter of the Metrodome field.
For the first time since 1962, a seventh game of the World Series ended with a 1–0 verdict. It was also the first World Series-deciding game to go into extra innings since Game 4 of the 1939 World Series. This World Series was also the first since 1924 to end with an extra-inning seventh-game when the home team, the Washington Senators (who would become the Twins franchise in 1961), won it in their last at-bat. The same thing would also happen in the 1997 World Series when the Florida Marlins would beat the Cleveland Indians in the 11th inning of Game 7. (Game 7 of the 2016 World Series also went to extra innings, when the visiting Chicago Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians in 10 innings.) This game set a World Series record for the longest scoreless tie in Game 7. Only one other World Series game went longer without a run being scored (Game 6 of the 1956 World Series went to two outs in the bottom of the 10th before the winning run was scored).
The 1991 World Series was the second in five seasons in which the home team won all seven games in the Series. The other time this happened was in 1987, which was also won by the Twins who defeated the St. Louis Cardinals. This would be replicated in the 2001 World Series (when the Arizona Diamondbacks won Game 7 at home with a walk-off bloop hit, much like the ending of the 1991 World Series). Game 7 of this series was the last World Series game played at the Metrodome before the Twins moved out at the end of the 2009 season, and would be the last postseason baseball game played at the venue until 2002, when the Twins lost the ALCS to the Angels.
Composite line score
|Total attendance: 373,160 Average attendance: 53,309|
Winning player's share: $119,580 Losing player's share: $73,323
The pattern of the home team winning each game did not occur again until the 2001 World Series between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the New York Yankees. Seven Twins players appeared in both the 1987 and 1991 Series, playing for the Twins both times: Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Greg Gagne, Dan Gladden, Gene Larkin, Randy Bush and Al Newman. In addition, the Braves' Terry Pendleton also played in the 1987 Series, as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.
The series was also unique because of the standings of the two participating teams in the prior season: both finished the 1990 season in last place; before 1991, no league champion had ever finished the previous season in last place, yet this was the case with both the Twins and the Braves. The Twins also won the AL West Division in 1991 with every team in the division having a .500 or better record, a feat the Braves themselves would achieve when they won the National League East in 2005.
After the Twins' triumph, the 1993 Phillies, 1998 Padres, 2007 Rockies and the 2008 Rays followed previous season's last-place finishes with a World Series appearance, but fell short. However, the 2013 Red Sox would join the 1991 Twins as the only teams to win the World Series a year after finishing in last place.
Following the game, CBS Sports analyst Tim McCarver consoled Atlanta fans by stating that this was an excellent team and that he expected they would "be around" for some time to come. The Braves would, in fact, go on to win an unprecedented 14 consecutive division titles (three as members of the NL West, and the last 11 as an NL East team) not counting the strike-aborted 1994 season. They returned to the World Series the following year, but lost in six games to the Toronto Blue Jays. The Braves made three additional trips to the World Series before the decade ended, winning in 1995 against the Cleveland Indians, but falling in 1996 and 1999 to the New York Yankees.
The Twins would contend for the 1992 American League Western Division title for much of the season but finished six games behind the Oakland Athletics, who won the division for the fourth time in five seasons. The Twins' 90–72 record would be their last winning campaign until 2001, which was Tom Kelly's last season as the team's manager. Over the next several seasons, the players that made up the core of the 1987 and 1991 Twins slowly began to leave. Dan Gladden, the Twins' left fielder, departed in the offseason for Detroit. Jack Morris, the pitching hero of the series, signed with Toronto and returned to the World Series the next year. Greg Gagne and Chili Davis departed following the 1992 season, with Brian Harper leaving at the end of the 1993 season. Kent Hrbek's production began falling due to injuries that kept him off the field for much of the next two seasons, and he retired in 1994. The Twins then traded away both Scott Erickson and Kevin Tapani (neither ever regained their 1991 form) in the 1995 season, as well as Kirby Puckett to retirement due to a loss of vision in his right eye caused by glaucoma. Chuck Knoblauch was the last hitter of the 1991 team to remain in Minnesota, eventually forcing a trade following the 1997 season to the Yankees, with whom he won three additional World Series titles. After being traded to the playoff-bound Boston Red Sox in 1995, Aguilera would return to the Twins in 1996, used by Tom Kelly as a starter. Aguilera returned to the pen in 1997, and stayed until midway through the 1999 season, the last remaining player from the 1991 championship team. Traded to the Cubs, he finished up his career with Chicago that season.
The Twins and the Braves have met four times in interleague play since the 1991 World Series. In 2002 the Braves finally experienced a Metrodome win by taking two games from the Twins in a three-game series, only for the Twins to sweep a three-game series from the Braves at the Metrodome in 2007. The Braves ultimately finished with an all-time record of 2–8 in the stadium before it closed as a baseball venue in 2009. In 2010, the teams played a three-game series at the new Target Field, in which the Braves won two out of three games. After the 1991 Series, the Twins did not play in Atlanta again until 2011 for two pre-season exhibition games at Turner Field. The Braves and Twins split the series 1–1. Then, as part of the new season-long interleague schedule, the Twins played their first regular season series against the Braves at Turner Field in May 2013; the Braves swept the three-game set.
To date, this is the most recent appearance by a Minnesota-based Big Four team in the final round of their respective sport.
This was also the last World Series to be broadcast by Jack Buck. He would be replaced by Sean McDonough on the CBS telecasts in the role of lead play-by-play man for 1992 and returned to his role as the lead broadcaster for the St. Louis Cardinals. Although Buck was able to call postseason action for the Cardinals several times before the decade was over, his health steadily worsened and he succumbed to lung cancer in 2002, two years before the Cardinals returned to the World Series.
The Series telecast drew an overall national Nielsen rating of 24.0 and a 39 share for CBS; Game 7 drew a 32.2 rating and 49 share. As of 2016, no subsequent World Series has approached either number in national TV ratings.
Into the wind, and the left-hander (Charlie Leibrandt) delivers. Puckett swings and hits a blast! Deep left center! Way back! Way back! It's gone!! The Twins go to the seventh game!! Touch 'em all, Kirby Puckett!! Touch 'em all, Kirby Puckett!! And the Twins have won this game, 4 to 3, on a dramatic home run by Kirby Puckett!
Into deep left center, for Mitchell -- and we'll see you tomorrow night!
- Murphy, Brian (April 2001). "Twins' `Overachiever' Kirby Puckett Gets Call to Glory". Baseball Digest.
It was his play in Game 6 of the '91 Series against Atlanta that cemented his legacy in Twin Cities sports history. After robbing the Braves' Ron Gant of a home run in the field, Puckett hit an 11th-inning homer off Charlie Leibrandt to force a seventh game that the Twins eventually won in what some baseball historians consider the greatest World Series ever.
- Hurst, Matt (October 28, 2011). "World Series 2011: The 5 Best Fall Classic Game 6's Ever". Bleacher Report. Retrieved October 21, 2012.
The 1991 World Series is easily the best World Series ever played, with three games being won in the final at-bat and four coming down to the final pitch. Kirby Puckett's heroics in Game 6 allowed the Twins to stay alive and eventually win Game 7.
- Yellon, Al (October 28, 2011). "The Top 10 World Series Games, Including (Of Course) 2011 Game 6". Baseball Nation. Archived from the original on January 20, 2013. Retrieved October 21, 2012.
No. 10: 1991 World Series, Game 6: This is the game where Jack Buck exclaimed "And we'll see you tomorrow night!" In addition to Puckett's extra-inning heroics, the Twins' bullpen held the Braves scoreless for the last four innings of the game, allowing just three singles, two of which were erased by double plays.
- Yellon, Al (October 28, 2011). "The Top 10 World Series Games, Including (Of Course) 2011 Game 6". Baseball Nation. Archived from the original on January 20, 2013. Retrieved October 21, 2012.
No. 6: 1991 World Series, Game 7: The Senators franchise moved to Minnesota in 1961; 30 years later, the team played two of the most excruciatingly exciting World Series games on consecutive nights. It's the only Series I'm honoring here with a pair of games. This one featured a 10-inning shutout thrown by Minnesota's Jack Morris while the Twins were leaving 12 men on base, finally scoring the game-winner on Gene Larkin's bases-loaded single with one out in the bottom of the 10th.
- "The World Series 100th Anniversary – #1 1991 Minnesota Twins 4, Atlanta Braves 3". Page 2. ESPN. 2003.
- "1991 World Series Game 1 – Atlanta Braves vs. Minnesota Twins". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
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- "1991 World Series Game 5 – Minnesota Twins vs. Atlanta Braves". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
- "1991 World Series Game 6 – Atlanta Braves vs. Minnesota Twins". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
- "1991 World Series Game 7 – Atlanta Braves vs. Minnesota Twins". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
- Kelly, Tom; Robinson, Ted (1992). Season of Dreams: The Minnesota Twins' Drive to the 1991 World Championship. Voyageur Pr. p. 248. ISBN 978-0-89658-209-5.
- Kelly, Tom; Robinson, Ted (1992). Season of Dreams: The Minnesota Twins' Drive to the 1991 World Championship. Voyageur Pr. p. 253. ISBN 978-0-89658-209-5.
- smith, Claire (October 21, 1991). "BASEBALL; Who's On First? Not Gant". The New York Times. Retrieved December 22, 2012.
He fell on top of me. He pushed me over. That's the end of the story.
- Kelly, Tom; Robinson, Ted (1992). Season of Dreams: The Minnesota Twins' Drive to the 1991 World Championship. Voyageur Pr. p. 256. ISBN 978-0-89658-209-5.
- "The Readers' List: Worst calls in history". ESPN. August 28, 2001. Retrieved December 22, 2012.
- "Drew Coble – 1991 World Series". CNN. Retrieved December 22, 2012.
- Caple, Jim (November 19, 2003). "1991 World Series had it all". ESPN. Retrieved December 22, 2012.
- Mason, Tyler (August 5, 2011). "Hrbek bobblehead is a hit with fans". Fox Sports. Retrieved December 22, 2012.
- Kelly, Tom; Robinson, Ted (1992). Season of Dreams: The Minnesota Twins' Drive to the 1991 World Championship. Voyageur Pr. pp. 257–258. ISBN 978-0-89658-209-5.
- Pucket, Kirby. "MLB.Com Highlights". BB Moments: Kirby Forces Game 7. Retrieved September 29, 2011.
- This was echoed twenty years one day later by his son Joe at the end of Game 6 of the 2011 World Series on Fox, when the Cardinals' David Freese hit a walk-off home run in the 11th inning against the Rangers.
- Kelly, Tom; Robinson, Ted (1992). Season of Dreams: The Minnesota Twins' Drive to the 1991 World Championship. Voyageur Pr. p. 281. ISBN 978-0-89658-209-5.
- "Metrodome Moments No. 25". Major League Baseball and the Minnesota Twins. Archived from the original on October 9, 2009. Retrieved November 1, 2009.
- Kelly, Tom; Robinson, Ted (1992). Season of Dreams: The Minnesota Twins' Drive to the 1991 World Championship. Voyageur Pr. p. 284. ISBN 978-0-89658-209-5.
- Wendel, Tim (2014). Down to the last pitch: How the Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves gave us the best World Series of All Time. Da Capo Press, p.189. ISBN 978-0-306822766.
- Christensen, Joe (April 4, 2009). "Baseball Preview 2009: Pitchers are down for the count". Star Tribune. Retrieved December 22, 2012.
- Kelly, Tom; Robinson, Ted (1992). Season of Dreams: The Minnesota Twins' Drive to the 1991 World Championship. Voyageur Pr. pp. 286–287. ISBN 978-0-89658-209-5.
- Nemec, David; Flatow, Scott. Great Baseball Feats, Facts and Figures (2008 ed.). New York, NY: Penguin Group. p. 367. ISBN 978-0-451-22363-0.
- "2002 Minnesota Twins Schedule, Box Scores and Splits". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved December 22, 2012.
- "2007 Minnesota Twins Schedule, Box Scores and Splits". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved December 22, 2012.
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- 1991 Minnesota Twins
- 1991 Atlanta Braves
- A Series to Savor
- 'Worst-to-First' World Series a real winner
- 1991 World Series had it all
- ESPN 25 – 100: Twins win epic Game 7 duel with Braves
- The Greatest World Series of Them All