1991 World Series
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The 1991 World Series was played 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. With 69 innings in total, the 1991 World Series holds the current record for longest seven-game World Series ever (some of the early years had nine-game Series, extending longer).
- Don Denkinger (AL), Harry Wendelstedt (NL), Drew Coble (AL), Terry Tata (NL), Rick Reed (AL), Ed Montague (NL)
The 1991 World Series was notable for its series of grueling contests, with five of its games being decided by two or fewer runs and three running into extra innings (including the third game, a twelve-inning marathon which ended when Twins manager Tom Kelly ran out of pitchers).
|WP: Jack Morris (1-0) , LP: Charlie Leibrandt (0-1) , SV: Rick Aguilera (1)|
|Home Runs: MIN - Greg Gagne (1), Kent Hrbek (1)|
The Twins struck early with two home runs (a three-run blast from Greg Gagne and a solo shot from Kent Hrbek) to take a 4-0 lead en route to a 5-2 win. Only some fine defense from the Braves saved a rout.
|WP: Kevin Tapani (1-0) , LP: Tom Glavine (0-1) , SV: Rick Aguilera (2)|
|Home Runs: MIN - Chili Davis (1), Scott Leius (1)|
In the bottom of the 1st, Dan Gladden lifted a seemingly routine pop-up towards second base. Atlanta fielders Mark Lemke and David Justice miscommunicated and collided with one another as the ball fell from Lemke's glove and Gladden reached second on a two-base error. After a walk to Chuck Knoblauch, Glavine induced a bat-breaking double play, 5-3, for two outs. But a two-run blast from Chili Davis gave the Twins an early 2-0 lead.
The Braves got a run back in the top of the 2nd when Justice singled, was doubled to third by Sid Bream, and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Greg Olson. 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 tried to beat the throw to third from Gladden. An overthrow to third gave Smith the base, but Tapani, backing up the base, threw to Kent Hrbek at first. Gant, who had rounded first and was heading to second, scrambled back to the bag and, depending on one's rooting interests, was pulled off the bag either by Hrbek's strong tag or his own momentum. Umpire Drew Coble determined the latter, ending the inning. Announcers Jack Buck and Tim McCarver were adamant in their insistence that Hrbek had pulled Gant off the bag, as was at least one Minnesota reporter. But the call stood and Hrbek and his family were harassed by Braves fans – some good-natured and some not – for the rest of the series. A video of Hrbek's tag cvan be found here: 
The Braves tied the game in the 5th 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 until the bottom of the 8th when the unheralded Leius drilled a Glavine pitch into the left-field seats for what proved to be the game-winning home run. Rick Aguilera got the save and the series headed to Atlanta with the Twins leading two games to none.
|WP: Jim Clancy (1-0) , LP: Rick Aguilera (0-1)|
|Home Runs: MIN - Chili Davis (2), Kirby Puckett (1) ATL - David Justice (1), Lonnie Smith (1)|
In arguably one of the greatest baseball games ever played, the Braves outlasted the Twins in a thrilling twelve-inning battle, the first World Series game ever played in the Deep South. 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 Pittsburgh Pirates in sixteen-plus innings. It took the Twins only two batters to end the shutout streak.
Reminiscent of Game 2, Dan Gladden hit another ball towards David Justice. This time, Justice and Ron Gant miscommunicated, and Gladden wound up at third with nobody out in the top of the 1st. Gladden then scored on Chuck Knoblauch's sacrifice fly to Justice. However, the Twins would not score again until the 7th.
The Braves, meanwhile, got the run back in the 2nd when Greg Olson scored on Rafael Belliard's single. Justice led off the 4th with his first World Series home run, and the Braves led for the first time in the series, 2-1. In the 5th, they scored again when Lonnie Smith homered. The Braves loaded the bases but only scored one more run due to the clutch relief pitching of Terry Leach. 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 1st-inning misplay between Gant and Justice, Avery had been quite effective. But after Kirby Puckett homered in the 7th to make it 4-2 and two other fly outs made it to the warning track, Atlanta manager Bobby Cox reluctantly sent Avery out for the 8th inning. After a Terry Pendleton error put Brian Harper on first, Avery went to the showers in favor of the Braves' regular-season closer, Alejandro Peña. Pena had been 13 for 13 in save opportunities, but he had not pitched since the prior Wednesday. The first batter that he faced, 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, when Minnesota manager Tom Kelly used up his entire bench and had to send reliever Rick Aguilera to pinch-hit for the active pitcher, Mark Guthrie, who had never had an at bat in his major league career; with the bases loaded and two out, Aguilera flied to center. In the bottom of the 12th, Justice singled to right and after Brian Hunter popped out, Justice stole second. With two outs, Mark Lemke entered the pantheon of World Series heroes by hitting a single to left that enabled Justice to just beat the throw from Gladden. His score gave the Braves a 5-4 win and cut the Twins' lead in the series to 2-1. Jim Clancy was the winning pitcher for Atlanta while Aguilera took the loss for Minnesota.
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, forty-one minutes.
|WP: Mike Stanton (1-0) , LP: Mark Guthrie (0-1)|
|Home Runs: MIN - Mike Pagliarulo (1) ATL - Terry Pendleton (1), Lonnie Smith (2)|
Because Game 3 had ended after midnight, Mark Lemke became the first player in history to win two World Series games in the same day. Game 4 matched up Jack Morris against Atlanta starter John Smoltz, a former Detroit prospect who had idolized Morris while a youngster.
As was the custom in the first three games, the Twins scored first. In the 2nd inning, Brian Harper scored on Mike Pagliarulo's double. The Braves tied it in the 3rd when Terry Pendleton hit his first post-season home run. The Braves appeared ready to take a lead in the 5th when Lonnie Smith singled and stole second. A double by Pendleton sent Smith towards the plate, after Smith committed a huge error by going back to tag up (the ball appeared that it might have been caught by Kirby Puckett, but took off and went over his head). The throw to catcher Harper was online and Harper caught the ball, tagging Smith and holding onto it as Smith plowed over him at full speed. The collision sent both sprawling, but Harper held on to the ball and got up to ensure Pendleton, who had gone to third, did not score. The Braves now had a runner at third with one out. A few moments later, Morris unleashed a wild pitch and Pendleton sped toward home. But Harper retrieved the ball and tagged the sliding Pendleton for the second out of the inning. David Justice popped out and Morris was out of the jam due mostly to horrible baserunning by the Braves.
In the top of the 7th, Mike Pagliarulo homered to give the Twins the lead, 2-1. But the Braves got the run back in the bottom of the inning when Smith homered off Twins reliever Carl Willis to tie the game. The game entered the bottom of the 9th still tied, 2-2. 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 delivered a fly ball to Shane Mack in right field. Mack caught it and fired toward the plate. The ball beat Lemke to the plate, but he got around Harper with a hook slide, scoring the winning run that beat the Twins, 3-2. Harper leapt up and vociferously protested, but umpire Terry Tata stood by the call, and replays showed it to be correct (Harper never made a motion to tag Lemke with his glove). The win tied the series at two games apiece and ensured it would return to Minnesota.
|WP: Tom Glavine (1-1) , LP: Kevin Tapani (1-1)|
|Home Runs: ATL - David Justice (2), Lonnie Smith (3), Brian Hunter (1)|
In Game 5, it was Tom Glavine vs. Kevin Tapani in a Game 2 rematch. And despite the final score, this contest was still up in the air until the 7th inning. For three innings, the pitchers matched zeroes, but in the 4th, Ron Gant singled to left and David Justice homered off the top of the left-field wall for a 2-0 Braves lead. Sid Bream followed up with a walk, and Greg 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 interference but Olson being safe at first. Mark 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 5th, Terry Pendleton and Gant singled, with Pendleton advancing 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 was not sharp in the 6th inning and wound up getting pulled from the game. Chuck Knoblauch reached on a one-out walk and then went to third on Kirby Puckett's single. A walk to Chili Davis loaded the bases, and Glavine suddenly couldn't find the strike zone. He walked in two runs by giving bases-loaded walks to Brian Harper and Scott Leius. 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 7th with the Braves leading, 5-3.
Tom Kelly sent David West out to begin the bottom of the 7th. West had failed to retire a batter in Game 3 and thus had an infinite ERA. Smith hit his third home run in three nights, all solo shots, 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 with retiring a batter (he would retire his first World Series hitter in the 1993 World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies). Brian 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 scored when Belliard singled to center. The Braves ended the 7th 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 Shane 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 8th, 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. Thus, Randy St. Claire was on the mound pitching to Francisco Cabrera as the 9th inning began. St. Claire gave up a run when Gladden tripled and scored on a fielder's choice, but the game ended in a 14-5 Braves rout. The Braves now had their first lead in games, three to two, and only needed one win to clinch their first World Series since 1957. The Washington/Minnesota franchise had now lost 12 straight World Series road games dating back to 1924.
|WP: Rick Aguilera (1-1) , LP: Charlie Leibrandt (0-2)|
|Home Runs: ATL - Terry Pendleton (2) MIN - Kirby Puckett (2)|
Both teams had each other in their palms. The Braves needed another win to capture the World Series. The Twins needed to win Game 6 to stay alive. The Braves put their late-season ace Steve Avery on the mound. They would be facing the Twins' Scott Erickson, who was starting on three days' rest and had been battered around by Atlanta in Game 3.
The Twins, on the other hand, were coming back to the Metrodome where they had an all-time post-season record of 9-1 including two wins over the Braves the previous weekend. And unlike the Pirates, they would face Avery on three days' rest.
In the top of the 1st, the Braves got two baserunners on but failed to score against Erickson. In the bottom of the 1st, Chuck Knoblauch singled and Kirby Puckett tripled, scoring Knoblauch and setting the tone for the rest of the evening. Avery retired Chili Davis and now faced Shane Mack, who was 0 for 15 in the Series. But Mack now got his first hit, scoring Puckett, and giving Avery his first two-run deficit since August 25th. Scott Leius singled, putting runners at first and third, but Avery got Kent Hrbek out to keep the score 2-0.
The Braves hit Erickson hard, but the balls seemed to go directly to the fielders. No better example can be cited than Ron Gant's seeming extra-base hit in the top of the 3rd with Terry Pendleton on first. Kirby Puckett leaped and made a sensational catch against the 13-foot Plexiglas fence, sending Pendleton back to first instead of around the bases for Atlanta's first run. Erickson got out of it by getting a ground out from David Justice.
In the 4th, 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 5th when Rafael 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 to make the game 2-2. With two outs, Justice lifted what appeared to be a go-ahead home run for the Braves to right. 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.
Dan Gladden responded with a walk and a steal of second. He moved to third on Knoblauch's liner to right and scored on Puckett's center field sacrifice fly and the Twins led 3-2. The Twins kept their one-run lead into the 7th. Mark Lemke singled to center and went to second on a wild pitch by 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. But the Braves scored only one run, Lemke on a fielder's choice, and Carl Willis finished the inning with a strikeout of Justice with the go-ahead run on third.
The game remained tied at three until the 11th. Bobby Cox, perhaps sensing a long game ahead, sent Charlie Leibrandt to the mound. Leibrandt threw four pitches to Puckett. The first three gave him a 2 ball-1 strike count. Puckett, with a long reputation and history as a "hacker" who swung at anything hittable, took the first three pitches, patiently working the count until Leibrandt threw him a weak hanging change-up on the fourth and last pitch. He launched the pitch into the left-center-field seats for a game-winning home run that tied the series at three games apiece. It would be the first Game 7 since the 1987 World Series, which was also played at the Metrodome by the Twins. With his walk-off home run, Puckett completed the game only one hit – a double – from hitting for the cycle.
Leibrandt was the losing pitcher while reliever Rick Aguilera was the winning pitcher.
|WP: Jack Morris (2-0) , LP: Alejandro Peña (0-1)|
|Home Runs: none|
In the deciding and nail-biting seventh game, neither team gave nor asked any quarter. Scoring threats were posted and quashed with ruthless efficiency, including a heart-stopping 8th inning wherein both teams were retired with the bases loaded by double play. A slick (and rare) 3-2-3 double play between Kent Hrbek and Brian Harper retired the side in the top of the 8th, and Mark Lemke returned the favor to Hrbek in the bottom of the same inning after Atlanta reliever Mike Stanton had intentionally walked Kirby Puckett, possibly leery of a sudden repeat of the previous night's heroics.
Another critical defensive play may have come in the top of the 8th, when the Braves' Lonnie Smith was on first (with nobody out) and took off for a hit and run while Terry Pendleton laced a double into the gap. Logically, Smith could have scored from first on the double, especially since he was running as the pitch was thrown. But after the batter made contact with the ball, Twins infielders Greg Gagne (shortstop) and Chuck Knoblauch (second base) feigned starting a double play by pretending to force out Smith at second. Smith hesitated, then ran to third while the batter came to second. The trickery caused enough confusion for Smith to advance only to third when he logically would have scored and put Atlanta in the lead heading into the bottom of the inning. Smith (who did not score in that inning), for his part, insisted that he wasn't fooled, he was waiting to see if the ball would be caught.
In the bottom of the 10th, Dan Gladden hustled out a bloop double to left-center off Alejandro Peña, and went to third on a Knoblauch sacrifice bunt. The Braves intentionally walked Puckett and Hrbek to bring up light-hitting speedster Jarvis Brown with the bases loaded. Twins manager Tom Kelly risked an inning-ending double-play by sending an injured Gene Larkin (his last bench player aside from catcher Junior Ortiz) to the plate. Larkin lofted Peña's first-pitch fastball to left-center, over the Braves' drawn-in outfielders, to score a jubilant Gladden. TV broadcaster Jack Buck called out that the Twins had won the World Series the moment the ball was struck. (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.)
- For the first time in World Series history, both league champions had finished the previous season in last place. Thus, many observers dubbed this the "Worst-to-First Series"
- Seven players appeared in both the 1987 and 1991 Series for the Twins; Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Greg Gagne, Dan Gladden, Gene Larkin, Randy Bush and Al Newman.
- 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. Lemke tied Billy Johnson's 1947 record for triples in a World Series. The bat that Lemke hit for his third triple was sent to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York for display.
- 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 9th inning or later.
- 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 ended with a 1-0 verdict AND went to the full seven games.
- 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.
- Jack Morris successfully rebuffed several attempts by Tom Kelly to remove him during Game 7, remaining on the mound from the first pitch to the last.
- The ceremonial first pitch of the World Series prior to Game 1 was thrown by retired AL umpire Steve Palermo. Palmero had been forced into early retirement when he was seriously injured by gunshot while coming to the aid of a robbery victim one night in Dallas, TX. After the pitch, the Series umpires jogged to the mound to exchange well wishes.
- During Dan Gladden's 3rd-inning at-bat in Game 7, CBS-TV's Jack Buck and Tim McCarver discussed how three games had ended on the winning team's last at-bat. Dan Gladden would later score the winning run in the last at bat of the series.
Quotes of the Series
That's going to be a winner for Atlanta!!! The runner tags at third, here's the throw from Shane Mack, here's Lemke... he is out.. safe, safe, safe!!! They called him safe! Atlanta wins and they're going to say that Harper did not tag him! - Jack Buck calling Jerry Willard's game winning sacrifice fly in Game 4.
Into deep left center... for Mitchell... And we'll see you... TOMORROW NIGHT! - CBS television announcer Jack Buck, announcing Twins center fielder Kirby Puckett's game-winning 11th-inning walk-off home run in Game 6 against Charlie Leibrandt.
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! And the Twins have won this game 4-3 on a dramatic home run by Kirby Puckett! - 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 CBS Radio broadcast of Game 7 after both teams had quashed bases-loaded, one-out scoring threats.
Atlanta hasn't scored in ten innings against Jack Morris! - Jack Buck calling the end of the top of the 10th inning in Game 7.
THE TWINS ARE GOING TO WIN THE WORLD SERIES! The Twins have won it! It's a base hit, it's a 1-0, ten inning victory! - Jack Buck calling Gene Larkin's World Series clinching hit on CBS-TV.
...Baseball is the greatest game there is. - Twins third baseman Mike Pagliarulo.
I just didn't want to quit and somehow we figured out a way to win this thing. - World Series MVP Jack Morris following his masterful performance in Game 7.
- Kent Hrbek and Dennis Brackin: Kent Hrbek's Tales from the Twins Dugout, Sports Publishing LLC, Champaign, IL, 2007.
- Will Leitch: "1991: Rickey, Ripken and the unlikeliest WS ever", mlb.com, April 28, 2020. 
- Tim Wendel: Down to the Last Pitch: How the 1991 Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves Gave Us the Best World Series of All Time, Da Capo Press, Boston, MA, 2014. ISBN 978-0306822766
- 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
|Modern Major League Baseball World Series
Pre-1903 Postseason Series