Sixth team to rally from down 3-1; seventh to win Games 6, 7 on road
By Matt Kelly and Andrew Simon
When the Cubs pulled out a dramatic 8-7, 10-inning victory over the Indians in Game 7 of the World Series at Progressive Field on Wednesday night, they not only ended a 108-year championship drought but also joined a select group of never-say-die teams.
Only five other clubs have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the title since the Fall Classic officially moved to a 2-3-2 format in 1925. Just six had rallied from a 3-2 hole by taking Games 6 and 7 on the road.
2016 Cubs over Indians
Chicago used a three-run fourth inning to pull out a 3-2 win in Game 5 at home, then really got the bats going back in Cleveland. Joe Maddon's crew jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead and took Game 6 by a 9-3 score. That set up a Game 7 that almost defied belief, with the Indians rallying from a 5-1 deficit to tie the game in the eighth on Rajai Davis' two-run homer. But in the 10th, Ben Zobrist's RBI double put Chicago back in front and Miguel Montero's RBI single provided a key insurance run, as the Cubs held on to win, 8-7.
1985 Royals over Cardinals
Hope turned to reality very quickly for the Royals after a 6-1 road victory in Game 5 and then a 2-1 win back home in Game 6, when a blown call by first-base umpire Don Denkinger in the bottom of the ninth spurred a Kansas City rally. The Royals completed the comeback in style one night later with an 11-0 blowout -- tied for the largest winning margin in a Game 7 of the World Series.
1979 Pirates over Orioles
This is the historical comparison the Cubs repeated, as the '79 "We Are Family" Pirates had been the most recent team to rally back from a 3-1 deficit without home-field advantage in Games 6 and 7. Pittsburgh outscored Baltimore, 15-2, over the final three games, and World Series MVP Willie Stargell issued the final blow with a two-run homer in Game 7.
1968 Tigers over Cardinals
Detroit's comeback began with Mickey Lolich's three-run complete-game victory in Game 5. Denny McLain, a 31-game winner that season, followed up with a one-run complete-game effort on short rest in Game 6, setting up Lolich to pitch on just two days' rest for Game 7 in St. Louis. Battling the great Bob Gibson, Lolich prevailed as the Tigers eked out a 4-1 win to capture the title.
1958 Yankees over Braves
The Braves had toppled the Yankees in seven games in 1957, and they looked poised to do it again one year later. In Game 5, New York hung six runs on Lew Burdette (who had won the World Series MVP Award in '57) to send the Fall Classic back to Milwaukee. Game 6 began with a duel between future Hall of Famers Whitey Ford and Warren Spahn, and it went into the 10th, when New York plated two runs in the top half off Spahn. Hank Aaron singled in a run in the bottom half, but he was left stranded on third as the potential tying run. The Yankees came back to win Game 7, 6-2, the following day.
1925 Pirates over Senators
The Senators were on the verge of their second title in as many years after blanking Pittsburgh, 4-0, in Game 4. But the Pirates rallied against two future Hall of Fame pitchers -- beating Stan Coveleski in Game 5 before hanging nine runs on Walter Johnson amid a downpour in Game 7 at home -- to complete the first comeback from 3-1 in a best-of-seven World Series.
Looking further at all best-of-seven series, seven of 38 teams with a 3-1 League Championship Series deficit have rallied to win the LCS (* indicates last two games on the road):
1985: Royals* over Blue Jays
1986: Red Sox over Angels
1996: Braves over Cardinals
2003: Marlins* over Cubs
2004: Red Sox* over Yankees
2007: Red Sox over Indians
2012: Giants over Cardinals
Teams down 3-2 that won Games 6 and 7 on the road
As it turns out, claiming the last two games away from home in the World Series has proven to be nearly as rare as coming back from 3-1. The Cubs became only the seventh team to do it, joining the '79 Pirates, '68 Tigers and '58 Yankees, as well as these clubs:
1952 Yankees over Brooklyn Dodgers
New York's fourth consecutive title was hard-earned, as it had to win two elimination games at Ebbets Field to defeat the archrival Dodgers for the third time in six years. Mickey Mantle blasted his first of a record 18 World Series home runs in Game 6, and Billy Martin made a game-saving catch in the Yankees' 4-2 Game 7 victory.
1934 Cardinals over Tigers
The "Gashouse Gang" roared back to stun the Tigers at Detroit's Navin Field. Daffy Dean, who teamed with his brother Dizzy to win all four of the Redbirds' games in the Series, led St. Louis to a 4-3 squeaker in Game 6. The Cardinals then routed the Tigers, 11-0, in Game 7 to claim their third title in eight years.
1926 Cardinals over Yankees
It's hard to believe a Yankees lineup featuring Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig could ever be topped in a Fall Classic, but the Cardinals pulled off the feat in '26. Future Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander, pitching at age 39, became St. Louis' hero with a complete-game victory in Game 6 and a seven-out save in Game 7. The Series ended memorably when Ruth was thrown out on the basepaths trying to steal second base.
Matt Kelly and Andrew Simon are reporters for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.