3. Mickey Owen – dropped third strike, Game 4 of 1941 WS (New York Yankees vs. Brooklyn Dodgers)
In the first of many Subway Series between the Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers, Brooklyn came within one strike of tying the Series up at two games apiece in Game 4. Well, one caught strike, that is. The Dodgers’ star reliever, Hugh Casey, was making quick work of the hard-hitting Yankee lineup, defending a 4-3 lead and facing down Tommy Henrich with two outs and no one on in the top of the ninth. Casey was too much for Henrich, getting him to swing and miss at a curveball for strike three. However, the game wasn’t over, since the pitch glanced off catcher Mickey Owen’s glove and bounded toward the backstop. Henrich broke out of the box and made it to first easily, and the rest of the inning featured a ruthlessly quick and efficient Yankee rally to make the Dodgers pay.
From there, a Joe DiMaggio single was followed by a 2-RBI double by Charlie Keller to give the Yanks the lead, then a walk by Bill Dickey and a Joe Gordon double made it 7-4. Owen’s mistake and the Yankees’ capitalization on it seemed to break Brooklyn’s spirits, as they went down weakly in the bottom half of the inning and lost the Series the next day.
4. Yankees Fail to Finish Job vs. Pirates in 1960 WS (Pittsburgh Pirates vs. New York Yankees)
Although not a traditional choke job, the Pirates defeating the Yankees in the 1960 World Series was a perfect David vs. Goliath story. The Yanks pounded the Pirates in Games 2, 3 and 6, winning every game by 10 runs or more, while Pittsburgh eked out victories in Games 1, 4 and 5. Game 7 was a seesaw battle, one of the most exciting every played, and for a moment, it appeared New York was poised to finish the job in the top of the eighth, when they tacked on a couple insurance runs to take a 7-4 lead. However, there was life in the Pirates yet, as they teed off on Yankee relievers Bobby Shantz and Jim Coates in the bottom half of the inning. Hal Smith capped a five-run rally with a two-out three-run homer to give the Pirates a 9-7 lead heading into the ninth. The Yanks didn’t go down quietly either, tying the score, but it proved to be in vain, as Bill Mazeroski led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk-off home run.
In the end, the Yanks were on the losing end of the series despite outscoring the Pirates by a whopping 55-27 margin. It often comes down to execution in the clutch, and as impressive as three blowout World Series victories may be, you still need that fourth win, and it doesn’t matter how you get it.