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The 1991 World Series was played from October 19 to October 27 between the Minnesota Twins (95-67) of the American League and the Atlanta Braves (94-68) of the National League. The series was, in some respects, similar to the 1987 World Series also played by the Minnesota Twins (against the St. Louis Cardinals), most notably in that the home team won all seven games. The 1991 World Series was ranked by ESPN to be the best ever played, 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.
Series MVP: Jack Morris, Twins
1991 League Championship Series
The 1991 World Series was notable for its series of grueling contests, five of its games being decided by two or fewer runs and three running into extra innings (the third game, a twelve-inning marathon which ended when Twins manager Tom Kelly ran out of pitchers). The fierce competition started early in Game 2 when Twins first baseman (and Twin Cities native) Kent Hrbek seemingly pulled Ron Gant off of the bag to apply a tag; however the out was ruled fair and the game continued.
Atlanta fans were notably ill-tempered in their response to Hrbek. Harassing phone calls were sent to his hotel room, death threats to his home in Bloomington, Minnesota (including one sent to his mother), and he was booed fiercely at all three games at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Due to this incident, Atlanta fans commonly still refer to the Metrodome as the "Scene of the Crime."
Battered by their marathon loss in Game 3, the Twins came back the next day and fought fiercely, losing Game 4 by a score of 3-2. Game 4 was best remembered for Atlanta's Lonnie Smith's collision at home plate with Minnesota catcher Brian Harper and Mark Lemke squeeking by Harper (while tagging from a sacrfice fly from Jerry Willard) to win the game for Atlanta. However, the wheels came off in Game 5 and the exhausted Twins didn't put up much of a fight as they were routed 14-5.
As the Twins walked off their plane at the Charles Lindbergh Terminal of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, it seemed their fate was sealed, but the gods of baseball had other ideas for them. Game 6 was a stellar showcase of the defensive and offensive talents of future Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett, ending with the most famous walk-off home run in Twins history, as Puckett sent the fourth pitch of the 11th inning, a weak hanging changeup off Charlie Leibrandt on a 2-1 count, screaming into the left-center field seats. Surprisingly for Puckett, who made a name for himself during his career as a "hack" batter who always went after the first pitch, he took the first three pitches of the at-bat before sending the fourth on its one-way ride. In the deciding seventh game, neither team gave nor asked any quarter. Scoring threats were posted and quashed with ruthless efficiency, including a heart-stopping eighth inning wherein both teams were retired with the bases loaded by double play. A slick (and rare) 3-2-3 double play between Hrbek and Harper retired the side in the top of the 8th, the favor was returned to Hrbek by Lemke in the bottom after the pitcher had intentionally walked Puckett, possibly leery of a sudden repeat of the previous night's heroics. The game was finally won in the bottom of the 10th on a Texas-league single by Gene Larkin that forced home the winning (and only) run from third base in the person of left fielder Dan Gladden, usually accompanied by the excitement of legendary baseball announcer Jack Buck calling out that the Twins had won the World Series. A day earlier, Buck's highly understated joke that the Atlanta fans had had some "good-natured fun" with Hrbek had earned some extremely angry letters in Twin Cities newspapers, from local fans coming to the defense of their hometown hero. Game 7 was also notable in that it represented the finest pitching performance from Twins rotation ace Jack Morris, ten innings of shutout baseball. A Twin Cities sports writer wrote that on that night, "[Morris] could have outlasted Methuselah".
For the second time in five years the underdog team from Minnesota, of which once, when they were playing in another town, was written "First in war, first in peace and last in the American League", had captured Baseball's highest trophy.
|W: Jack Morris (1-0) L: Charlie Leibrandt (0-1) S: Rick Aguilera (1)|
|HR: MIN – Greg Gagne (1), Kent Hrbek (1)|
October 20, 1991 at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (Minnesota Twins)
|W: Kevin Tapani (1-0) L: Tom Glavine (0-1) S: Rick Aguilera (2)|
|HR: MIN – Chili Davis (1), Scott Leius (1)|
|W: Jim Clancy (1-0) L: Rick Aguilera (0-1)|
|HR: MIN – Chili Davis (2), Kirby Puckett (1) ATL – David Justice (1), Lonnie Smith (1)|
October 23, 1991 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium (Atlanta Braves)
|W: Mike Stanton (1-0) L: Mark Guthrie (0-1)|
|HR: MIN – Mike Pagliarulo (1) ATL – Terry Pendleton (1), Lonnie Smith (2)|
October 24, 1991 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium (Atlanta Braves)
|W: Tom Glavine (1-1) L: Kevin Tapani (1-1)|
|HR: ATL– David Justice (2), Lonnie Smith (3), Brian Hunter (1)|
October 26, 1991 at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (Minnesota Twins)
|W: Rick Aguilera (1-1) L: Charlie Leibrandt (0-2)|
|HR: ATL– Terry Pendleton (2) MIN– Kirby Puckett (2)|
October 27, 1991 at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (Minnesota Twins)
|W: Jack Morris (2-0) L: Alejandro Peña (0-1)|
Quotes of the Series
"The one-oh delivery to Puckett, down the middle... Deep to left center! Way back, way back, it's gone! Touch 'em all, Kirby Puckett! Touch 'em all!" - WCCO announcer John Gordon, announcing the same event.
"And after eight full innings of play, Atlanta nothing, Minnesota nothing...I *think* we'll be back in just a moment." - an emotionally-drained Vin Scully, concluding the heart-stopping 8th inning of the radio broadcast of Game 7 after both teams had quashed bases-loaded, one-out scoring threats.
"...Baseball is the greatest game there is." - Twins third baseman Mike Pagliarulo
- For the first time in World Series history, both league champions had finished the previous season in last place.
- This was the last World Series that Fay Vincent (who was forced to resign a year later) presided over as commissioner. In Game 1, a Kent Hrbek foul pop up hit Vincent's daughter Anne in the head.
- Braves outfielder Lonnie Smith played for a record fourth team in World Series play.
- 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."
- Braves second baseman Mark Lemke, who hit .234 during the regular season, became perhaps the most surprising hero of the 1991 World Series. Lemke hit .417 in the World Series, drove in the game winning run (a two-out single to score David Justice, who had singled and stolen second) in Game 3, tripled with one out in the 9th inning in Game 4 before scoring the winning run on Jerry Willard's fly ball to right.
- The Braves' 5-4 victory in Game 3 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.
- By the 11th inning in Game 4 (with the score tied at 4-4), the Twins, who had used up all of their position players, had to resort to using relief pitcher Rick Aguilera to pinch-hit. With the bases loaded and two out, Aguilera hit a high fly ball that was easily caught.
- At the start of Game 7, Braves lead-off man Lonnie Smith (who filled-in for Otis Nixon, who was suspended in September for drug abuse) shook hands with Twins catcher Brian Harper. In Game 4, Smith had a memorable collision at the plate with Harper.
- For the first time since 1962, the World Series goes to the full seven games and ends with a 1-0 verdict.
- The 1991 World Series was the first since 1924 to end with an extra-inning seventh-game. Like in 1991, the 1924 World Series ended with the home team winning in its last at-bat. Curiously, the Twins were also the winning team of that World Series, though at that time they were the Washington Senators.
- The Braves were the first Major League team since the 1889-1890 Louisville Colonels to win a pennant after posting the worst record in the league the previous year.
- Game 7 was a pitching duel between Minnesota's Jack Morris and Atlanta's John Smoltz. Curiously, Smoltz was a farmhand in Morris' previous organization, the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers traded Smoltz to the Braves in 1987 for pitcher Doyle Alexander in anticipation for a playoff showdown against the Minnesota Twins.
- History of the World Series - 1991
- 1991 World Series by Baseball Almanac
- 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
|Major League Baseball World Series|