The greatest Game 1s in World Series history

October 29th, 2022

On Friday night, the Astros and Phillies clashed in Game 1 of the World Series at Houston’s Minute Maid Park, and it turned out to be a Fall Classic opener for the ages.

There is plenty of competition in that category as history has given us some memorable Game 1 drama over the years.

Here’s a look back at some of the greatest Game 1s in World Series history.

2022: Phillies 6, Astros 5 (10)
All was going according to plan for Houston, with the Astros jumping out to an early 5-0 lead thanks largely to a pair of homers and four RBIs from Kyle Tucker. But in the third inning, starter Justin Verlander, who had retired the first nine batters he faced, ran into trouble and the Phillies got three runs back. Nick Castellanos got Philadelphia on the board with an RBI single to left, and that was followed by a two-run double from Alec Bohm. Then, in the top of the fifth, J.T. Realmuto delivered a game-tying two-run double. The bullpens for both sides took over and were predictably sharp.

Nick Castellanos saves the game
With the game still tied in the bottom of the ninth, Jose Altuve blooped a single into center field with two outs and then stole second base on a very close play. The next batter, ALCS MVP Jeremy Peña, hit a looping fly ball into shallow right field, but Castellanos rushed in and made a sliding catch to keep the Phillies alive and force extra innings.

In the 10th, Realmuto struck again, launching a solo homer to right that put Philadelphia on top for good. Alex Bregman doubled with one out in the bottom of the 10th, and after Phillies reliever David Robertson struck out Tucker, Yuli Gurriel followed with a walk before both runners moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. But with the game hanging in the balance, Robertson got pinch-hitter Aledmys Díaz to ground out to third, sealing a huge Game 1 victory for the underdog Phillies. The five-run deficit Philadelphia overcame to win was the largest in a World Series game in 20 years.

J.T. Realmuto’s go-ahead homer
2019: Nationals 5, Astros 4
This one had pretty much everything, beginning with an unexpected start from a pitcher who had been locked in for a long time. The Astros lost a Gerrit Cole start for the first time since July 12, and the first time at home since May 22. It had young and old, too — with 20-year-old Juan Soto and 35-year-old Ryan Zimmerman both homering for the Nationals in the franchise’s first World Series game. On top of that, you had a back-and-forth game, late-inning drama and dazzling defense. The Astros, down 5-2, rallied in both the seventh and eighth innings, but Daniel Hudson and Sean Doolittle were able to hold them at bay. That set the tone for a series that saw the road team go 7-0, with the Nats eventually prevailing.

Soto’s 4th inning solo homer
2015: Royals 5, Mets 4 (14 innings)
The Royals got off to a fast start in Game 1, when Alcides Escobar hit an inside-the-park leadoff homer in the bottom of the first. But the Mets fought back and found themselves with a 3-1 lead entering the bottom of the sixth before the Royals tied it back up. The Mets took the lead again in the eighth on an error, and they appeared poised for a series-opening 4-3 win. Jeurys Familia induced a groundout from Salvador Perez to start the ninth, but then he allowed a game-tying homer to Alex Gordon. The game went 14 innings, the longest World Series Game 1 by innings in history, with the Royals eventually winning on an Eric Hosmer walk-off sacrifice fly off Bartolo Colon. The game set the tone for the series, too, as the Mets held a lead at some point in each of the four games they lost en route to the Royals’ World Series win.

2004: Red Sox 11, Cardinals 9
Ultimately, this was a one-sided World Series that ended in a sweep. But the 2004 Cards were a 105-win club that featured the “MV3” of Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen, so they were hardly pushovers. St. Louis took a big Boston punch, falling behind, 7-2, after three innings, due in part to a David Ortiz three-run homer. But the Cards rallied to tie the game on Larry Walker’s RBI double in the sixth — one of his four hits. After two more Boston runs, St. Louis tied the game again in the top of the eighth, but the Sox had one more surge in them. Mark Bellhorn’s two-run shot off Julian Tavarez in the bottom of the frame was the decisive blow in this wild back-and-forth battle.

2000: Yankees 4, Mets 3 (12 innings)
The first game of the Subway Series was scoreless until the sixth, when David Justice put the Yankees up, 2-0, on a double. The Mets came right back in the top of the seventh with three runs on singles from Bubba Trammell and Edgardo Alfonzo to take the lead. The Mets looked set to take the first game of the series heading to the bottom of the ninth, when Armando Benitez got the first batter he faced, but then he walked a batter and allowed two singles to load the bases for Chuck Knoblauch, who tied it on a sacrifice fly. The Yankees ultimately won in the bottom of the 12th on a Jose Vizcaino walk-off single off Turk Wendell. The Yanks went on to win the series in five games, with the Mets’ only win coming in Game 3 at Shea Stadium.

Vizcaino’s walk-off single
1995: Braves 3, Indians 2
Coming off a National League Championship Series sweep of the Reds, the Braves squared off against the heavily-favored Indians, who had won 100 games in a strike-shortened season. Cleveland got on the board early after leadoff man Kenny Lofton reached on an error and then scored when Carlos Baerga hit an RBI groundout — all against NL Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux. But the Mad Dog was nails the rest of the way, giving up just two hits and one additional run while tossing a complete game on 95 pitches. In the process, Maddux outdueled Orel Hershiser, who turned over a bases-loaded jam to the Tribe’s bullpen, which in turn allowed two runs to score. The Braves’ Game 1 win helped Atlanta become the only club since the LCS went to a best-of-seven format in 1985 to sweep and then go on to win the World Series.

1988: Dodgers 5, A’s 4
The Dodgers had knocked off the Mets, who had the best record in the NL, in seven games in the NLCS, but Los Angeles was still considered the underdog against the 104-win A’s in the World Series. And in Game 1, it looked like the 94-win Dodgers might not be set up to win the series. They got out to an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first on a Mickey Hatcher homer, but found themselves trailing by the next half-inning after a Jose Canseco grand slam. The Dodgers got a run back in the sixth on a Mike Scioscia single, but still found themselves trailing by one entering the bottom of the ninth against Dennis Eckersley. With a runner on after a walk and two out, the Dodgers sent Kirk Gibson to the plate to pinch-hit — despite the fact he’d injured both of his legs in the NLCS. He homered, giving the Dodgers a win in Game 1 and etching his name onto the list of some of the most improbable feats in sports history. The call is legendary — “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened” — from Vin Scully, and the image of Gibson pumping his fist while rounding the bases is legendary itself.

Kirk Gibson’s pinch-hit HR
1972: A’s 3, Reds 2
Game 1 set the stage for an epic seven-game series between a pair of juggernauts. A’s catcher Gene Tenace was the hero in the opener, giving Oakland a two-run lead with a homer in the second, then crushing a go-ahead shot in the fifth, which accounted for half of the four hits against Cincinnati’s Gary Nolan. In that one game, Tenace doubled his entire hit total over Oakland’s five-game American League Championship Series win over the Tigers, when he went 1-for-17, and his homers helped the A’s ride to a 3-2 victory. Tenace went 8-for-23 in the series with another two homers for a 1.313 OPS en route to earning the World Series MVP Award.

1954: Giants 5, Indians 2 (10 innings)
This Game 1 had its fair share of drama, there’s no question about that. It featured the catch that’s widely accepted as the best in postseason history — Willie Mays’ basket grab with his back to the infield on a ball off Vic Wertz’s bat. That happened in the eighth, with the game tied at 2 and runners on first and second. Had Mays not caught that ball, the Indians would’ve surely taken the lead. The game ended up going 10 innings, ending on Dusty Rhodes’ dramatic three-run walk-off homer off Bob Lemon. It wasn’t just any walk-off homer, it was a pinch-hit homer, to the short right-field porch at the Polo Grounds. The Giants went on to sweep the series — though they wouldn’t win another World Series until 2010.

BB Moments: Willie Mays’ Catch
1946: Red Sox 3, Cardinals 2 (10 innings)
The 154-game regular season wasn’t enough for the Cardinals to clinch the NL pennant, as they finished tied with the Brooklyn Dodgers and had to win a best-of-three series just for the right to play the Red Sox. Then, in World Series Game 1, nine innings weren’t enough to decide the opener between these storied franchises. Boston right fielder Tom McBride laced a two-out RBI single off St. Louis starter Howie Pollett in the ninth that tied the game at 2, then — after Pollett remained in the game for the 10th — Rudy York took him deep with a two-out homer that the Red Sox rode to a 3-2 win. The Cards would go on to win the series after falling behind, 3-2, by winning the final two games at Sportsman’s Park III in St. Louis, where the Cards drew more than one million fans for the first time in club history that season.

1924: Giants 4, Senators 3 (12 innings)
Much like the Washington fans a century later with the Nationals, Senators fans had to wait a while before the club made its first World Series, in 1924. It was a big chance for Walter Johnson, who by then was 36 and three years away from his final game. The Big Train dueled New York’s Art Nehf for 12 innings at Griffith Stadium, as Washington’s Roger Peckinpaugh sent the game to extras with his tying RBI double in the bottom of the ninth. Finally, though, Johnson relented. The Giants plated two in the 12th, and the Senators came back for one in the bottom of the inning and got the potential tying run to third before falling short. Eventually, it took another 12-inning affair in Game 7 for the Senators to fight back and claim the championship.

1918: Red Sox 1, Cubs 0
Though he would one day make his World Series mark in the batter’s box with the Yankees, Babe Ruth first did so as a Red Sox pitcher in 1916. After helping pitch Boston past Brooklyn that year, he got another shot in 1918, and delivered. The left-hander twirled a six-hit shutout in Chicago, though he went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts at the plate. Stuffy McInnis provided the offense with a fourth-inning RBI single off Hippo Vaughn, and Ruth completed the shutout before picking up another victory in Game 4 to help the Sox win their last championship for quite some time.