The World Series and its unlikely heroes


Brett Phillips’ incredible world series walk-off is just the latest in a long line of improbable postseason legends

Last Saturday, baseball fans watched as Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen took the mound, three outs away from LA taking a commanding 3-1 lead in the World Series. However, the underdog Tampa Bay Rays had different plans. After a single by Kevin Kiermaier and a 2-out walk to Randy Arozarena, the Rays’ hopes of tying the series rested on the shoulders of journeyman outfielder Brett Phillips. What happened next was likely one of the most absolutely insane chain of events in baseball history. 

Prior to his incredible walk-off base hit, Brett Phillips was in no way considered one of the elite players in the MLB. Phillips is better known for his play on the defensive side of the ball, and had only received two at-bats throughout the entire postseason. However, Phillips is not the first surprise player to shine on baseball’s biggest stage, as the baseball gods almost always find a way to create legends out of nowhere. With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the past unlikely heroes of October.

David Freese, St. Louis Cardinals, 2011:

David Freese is likely one of the most famous improbable World Series heroes of all time, if not the most famous. Don’t get me wrong Freese was never a bad player leading up to the 2011 Fall Classic, but he was by no means a household name at the time. This all changed with two late game at-bats in Game 6, demoralizing a Texas Rangers team that was one out away from glory. The first was a two-out triple, scoring the two runs, tying the score in the bottom of the ninth inning, and sending the game to extra innings. As if that weren’t incredible enough, Freese followed this up with a walk-off home run that sent St. Louis and the baseball world into a frenzy, as he single handedly sent the Cardinals to Game 7. Freese may not have been the face of the Cardinals franchise, but his two at-bats in Game 6 will never be forgotten.

Steve Pearce, Boston Red Sox, 2018:

Steve Pearce was never a star player who fans packed ball parks to see, but he did possess one skill every player strives for: hitting in the clutch. Pearce’s name was often overlooked on a stacked Boston Red Sox lineup that featured all-stars such as Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez. However, Pearce’s ability to deliver when the lights shone the brightest became apparent in Game 5 of the 2018 World Series between the Red Sox and the Dodgers. Pearce began the game by hitting a two-run shot to give Boston an early lead. Pearce then proceeded to homer again in the eighth inning giving the Red Sox some much-needed reassurance heading into the ninth inning. Despite their star power, the Red Sox rode on the coat-tails of Steve Pearce, as he was crowned World Series MVP for his ability to put up runs when it mattered most.

Geoff Blum, Chicago White Sox, 2005:

While many still remember the electrifying performances of Freese and Pearce, this next player’s World Series highlight is not reflected upon as often as it should be. Geoff Blum only received one at-bat with the White Sox in the 2005 Fall Classic, but boy, did he ever take advantage of that opportunity. In the top of the 14th inning, Blum stepped to the plate, and after taking two pitches, hit a solo homerun that barely snuck over the right field fence. This proved to be the crushing blow to the Houston Astros, as the White Sox went on to not only win Game 3, but the series as well.

Despite fans often looking to teams’ star players to be productive in the games that matter, it’s often the overlooked players such as Blum and Phillips that can change the trajectory of an entire series. This is largely what makes baseball a sport unlike any other the ability to change an entire game in one play is something that many sports simply cannot replicate. It’s the reason why even below-average players have the opportunity to become legends.