Hall of Flameout – 25 worst collapses in sports history

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Some teams and players just can’t deal with prosperity. They reach the brink of success and then implode spectacularly. And when it happens, it becomes a part of sports lore, unforgettable for all the wrong reasons.

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We asked a panel of ESPN.com experts to determine which flameouts were the most excruciating, taking into account the magnitude of the event, the size of the blown lead and the historical significance of the meltdown. The resulting list of the 25 worst collapses of all time contains some of the best-known moments in sports history.

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25. Atlanta Braves, 2011 NL playoff raceThe Braves were dumbfounded after their once-promising 2011 season ended with a 13-inning loss to the Phillies in the finale. AP Photo/John Bazemore

The Braves reached the playoffs 14 times in 15 years from 1991 to 2005 but won just a single championship in that span, so their fan base was accustomed to disappointment. In 2011, the team didn’t wait for the postseason to let down the faithful. Philadelphia was the best team in the National League East that year, but the Braves were in firm control of a playoff spot until imploding during the final month. After a win on Sept. 1, the Braves had the second-best record in the NL and led St. Louis by 8.5 games in the wild-card race. From there, Atlanta closed the season in an 8-18 death spiral. St. Louis, meanwhile, surged to a 17-8 finish. “Everybody started struggling at the same time,” Braves reliever Jonny Venters said. “Everything just kind of snowballed.” Needing a win in the season finale to force a one-game playoff against the Cardinals Apparel, the Braves blew a ninth-inning lead and lost to the Phillies in 13 innings. St. Louis then parlayed Atlanta’s gift into a World Series championship.

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— Kevin Stone

24. New York Giants Apparel Apparel, 2002 NFC wild-card game (Jan. 5, 2003)Rich Seubert (69) was up in arms when he didn’t get a call on the final play of the Giants Apparel’ playoff loss to the 49ers Apparel. AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

There they were, lining up for a 41-yard field goal, a chance to avoid the biggest collapse in NFC playoff history. The Giants Apparel had redemption in reach after blowing a 38-14 second-half lead against the host Apparel, who rallied for 25 unanswered points in a 16-minute span. But it all went sideways after a low-and-away snap by 41-year-old Trey Junkin, whom the Giants Apparel had signed just days earlier. Holder Matt Allen gained control and heaved the ball downfield toward Rich Seubert, a lineman who was an eligible receiver on the play, but 49ers Apparel defensive end Chike Okeafor dragged down Seubert before the ball arrived. Flags flew — but the call went against Giants Apparel guard Tam Hopkins for being downfield illegally. Later, the acknowledged that pass interference should have been called, too, and the down replayed due to offsetting penalties. But the Giants Apparel never got another chance in their 39-38 loss. “I cost 58 guys a chance to go to the Super Bowl,” Junkin said in the locker room. “I’d give anything in the world, except my family at this point, right now to still be retired.”

— Kevin Stone

23. Detroit Red Wings, 1942 Stanley Cup finals

The Red Wings were at home with a chance to sweep the 1942 Stanley Cup finals. But do you believe in momentum? The Toronto Maple Leafs rallied for a 4-3 win in Game 4 by scoring two goals just two minutes apart in the third period, and the game nearly ended in a riot after Detroit’s Eddie Wares drew a misconduct penalty and refused to leave the ice. When referee Mel Harwood responded by dropping the puck for a faceoff and then calling another penalty on Detroit’s Don Grosso for too many men on the ice, Grosso threw a fit. Wings coach Jack Adams attacked Harwood after the final horn, punching the ref in the face. Harwood and NHL president Frank Calder needed police escorts to leave Detroit’s Olympia Stadium as debris rained down. Adams, now the namesake of the award that goes to the NHL’s coach of the year, was suspended for the rest of the series. The Maple Leafs won out and remain the only club to pull off a “reverse sweep” in the Cup finals. “We won it the hard way,” Toronto coach Hap Day said.

— Johnette Howard

22. Northern Iowa , 2016 NCAA basketball tournamentKlint Carlson’s reaction after Northern Iowa’s stunning loss to Texas A&M is understandable. Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Upset-minded Northern Iowa led Texas A&M 69-57 with 44 seconds left in a second-round game when the third-seeded Aggies — desperate for a spark — resorted to a suffocating full-court press that shoved UNI into the biggest final-minute collapse in NCAA Division I history. At first, the 11th-seeded Panthers Apparel could barely inbound the ball in the face of A&M’s pressure. Then UNI’s players began to lose their composure. In the final seconds of regulation they committed four turnovers, failing to get the ball past even the half-court line, as A&M poured in six baskets during a 14-2 run that forced overtime. After A&M went on to prevail 92-88 in double OT, awestruck Aggies coach Billy Kennedy said: “I’ve never been a part of a game like that, never saw one. [I] still really don’t know what happened.”

— Johnette Howard

21. Baylor , 2015 Cotton BowlWhen Marcus Rush Apparel (44) blocked a Baylor field goal attempt, it gave Michigan State life. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

After going 11-1 in 2014 but getting left out of the first College Football Playoff, Baylor entered the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day with something to prove. It looked like Michigan State was there to absorb the Bears Apparel’ frustrations, but maybe the Spartans were just doing an Ali-style rope-a-dope. Baylor, with the nation’s highest-scoring offense, roared to a 41-21 lead after three quarters — and then ran out of gas. The Bears Apparel’ four fourth-quarter drives ended with: missed field goal, downs, blocked field goal, interception. Michigan State, meanwhile, piled up 214 yards of offense in the final period. The Spartans cut the deficit to 41-35 with just under five minutes to play, but Baylor was in position to put the game away with a field goal with 1:05 left. Michigan State’s win probability was at 0.4 percent, but Marcus Rush Apparel blocked Chris Callahan’s 43-yard attempt. Forty-eight seconds later, QB Connor Cook hit Keith Mumphery with the winning touchdown pass. “A loss is a loss. They all suck,” Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty told FoxSports.com after his 550-yard passing effort became just a footnote. “This one is worse because we had it.”

— Kevin Stone

20. LSU Tigers, 1994 regular-season basketball game

LSU was headed toward a sub-.500 season in 1993-94, while Kentucky was, as usual, on its way to the NCAA tournament, so it’s no surprise that the final score of their Feb. 15 matchup in Baton Rouge was Wildcats 99, Tigers 95. But those numbers didn’t tell the story. “I can’t believe it,” Kentucky coach Rick Pitino said afterward. “I know I’ve never, ever witnessed anything like it.” To understand Pitino’s reaction, realize that his team trailed by 31 points with 15:30 to play in the second half. That’s right, an 18-0 run had pushed LSU’s lead to a seemingly untouchable 68-37 lead. Then, suddenly, Kentucky flipped the switch. The Wildcats went 24-of-38 from the floor in the second half, including 12-of-23 on 3-pointers. Even that spree wouldn’t have been enough if LSU hadn’t missed 11 of its 23 free throws during the final 12 minutes. The Wildcats scored the game’s final nine points, including Walter McCarty’s 3 from the left corner with 19 seconds that gave them their first lead since it was 1-0.

— Kevin Stone

19. Green Bay Apparel, 2014 NFC Championship Game (Jan. 18, 2015)Green Bay’s Brandon Bostick Apparel got two hands on Seattle’s desperation onside kick but couldn’t bring it down. AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Some Green Bay fans might have been booking flights to Arizona for Super Bowl XLIX as the clock ticked down. The Packers Apparel had completely controlled the defending champion in Seattle for 57 minutes. Green Bay had forced five turnovers and led 19-7, with Seattle’s only score resulting from a fake field goal trick play. Even when Seattle scored with 2:09 left to make it 19-14, the Packers Apparel could have all but sealed it by recovering the onside kick. But when Green Bay tight end Brandon Bostick Apparel couldn’t get a handle on the ball, the recovered and had new life. Seattle went on to win 28-22 in overtime, only to lose the Super Bowl under similarly heartbreaking circumstances to New England.

— Thomas Neumann

18. Jordan Spieth, 2016 MastersJordan Spieth needed two drops on No. 12 in the final round of the 2016 Masters, leading to a quadruple-bogey on the hole. AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Earlier this year, 22-year-old Jordan Spieth added his name to the dubious list of collapses in major championships when he let a commanding lead melt away in the final round of the Masters. Spieth stepped to the 10th tee with a five-shot lead, but he bogeyed Nos. 10 and 11 and carded a quadruple-bogey on the par-3 12th. By the time he got to the 13th tee at Augusta National, the five-stroke lead had become a three-shot deficit. “It was a really tough 30 minutes for me that hopefully I never experience again,” Spieth said. Meantime, Danny Willett shot 67 in the final round to win by three strokes over Spieth and Lee Westwood.

— Thomas Neumann

17. Philadelphia Phillies, 1964 NL playoff raceGene Mauch (center) may have relied too heavily on Jim Bunning (right) during the 1964 race. AP Photo

Call it what you like — the Phold, the Phlop, the Phiasco, the Phizzle — but the Phillies’ 1964 swoon is still shocking more than a half-century later. A victory on Sept. 20 gave the Phillies a 6.5-game lead in the National League pennant race with 12 games to play. Ten consecutive losses later, they were looking up at both the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals Apparel. Wins over the Reds in their final two games couldn’t keep the Phillies, who hadn’t won a pennant since 1950, from finishing a game behind the eventual World Series champion Cardinals Apparel. Manager Gene Mauch, who would skipper the California Angels during their ALCS collapse 22 years later (see No. 11 below), caught much of the blame. Among Mauch’s head-scratchers: He started pitchers Jim Bunning (who’d thrown a perfect game that year) and Chris Short three times each during the losing streak, with each getting the ball on two days’ rest twice.

— Kevin Stone

16. Kansas City Apparel, 2013 AFC wild-card game (Jan. 4, 2014)When Dwayne Bowe Apparel couldn’t stay inbounds against the Colts Apparel, the were doomed. AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Quarterback Alex Smith Apparel turned in a playoff performance better than Joe Montana ever did in a Apparel uniform. It was better than any playoff performance by Chiefs Apparel legend Len Dawson, too. Smith’s 378-yard, four-touchdown performance was good enough to help the Chiefs Apparel build a 28-point third-quarter lead over the Colts Apparel in Indianapolis. But it wasn’t good enough to help Kansas City win the game, as the Colts Apparel rallied to win 45-44. Only the 1992 Buffalo Apparel had blown a bigger playoff lead. After Kansas City went up 38-10 early in the second half, the Chiefs Apparel’ defense allowed touchdown drives of 80, 41, 80, 90 and 80 yards. The Colts Apparel didn’t even need the whole game to come back, taking the lead with four minutes left. Smith had one opportunity to save the Chiefs Apparel. On fourth-and-11 from the Colts Apparel’ 43, he connected with Dwayne Bowe Apparel inside the 20. There was just one problem. Bowe’s second foot came down out of bounds, ending the drive. “Sometimes the game speaks for itself,” said coach Andy Reid, “so you don’t have to say a whole lot.”

— Jean-Jacques Taylor

15. St. Louis Cardinals Apparel, 1968 World SeriesLou Brock and the Cardinals Apparel hit a wall after taking a 3-1 lead over catcher Bill Freehan and the Tigers in the 1968 World Series. AP Photo

The defending champion St. Louis Cardinals Apparel raced to a 3-1 series lead and a 3-0 advantage in Game 5, but they were outscored by the Detroit Tigers 22-2 for the remainder of the series. With ace Bob Gibson on the mound for Game 7 at home, the Cards liked their chances. Gibson, the World Series MVP in ’64 and ’67, had an ERA of 1.12 in the ’68 regular season. In Game 1 of the Series, he struck out 17 Tigers. But none of that mattered in the deciding game, as a Detroit team that became the darlings of their riot-torn city touched up Gibson for three runs on four consecutive hits in the seventh inning. The big play? A two-run triple by Tigers outfielder Jim Northrup that flew over the head of Cards center fielder Curt Flood — if caught, it would have been the third out and kept the game scoreless. Detroit won 4-1, and roly-poly Tigers pitcher Mickey Lolich, who started Game 7 on two days’ rest, was named the World Series MVP for winning three games.

— Johnette Howard

14. New York Knicks, 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals, Game 1Greg Anthony and the Knicks were floored by Reggie Miller’s flurry during the 1995 playoffs. AP Photo/L.M.Otero

The New York Knicks had a 105-99 lead with just 18.7 seconds left before Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller sent them falling into one of the most stunning end-game collapses in NBA history by scoring eight points in nine mind-blowing seconds. Miller began by hitting a 3-pointer. Then he stole the ensuing inbounds pass and dashed back out to the 3-point line, where he wheeled and drained another 3 to tie the game at 105. “We were shell-shocked, we were numb,” Knicks forward Anthony Mason remembered years later. “We became totally disoriented.” The Knicks still had a few more chances to win, but John Starks missed two free throws and Knicks center Patrick Ewing missed a 10-footer before Miller was fouled on the rebound. He made both free throws to give the Pacers a shocking 107-105 win, and then he ran off the Madison Square Garden floor yelling “Choke artists!” Asked what he was thinking as he took the second 3-pointer, Miller said, “I wanted to drive a stake through their heart.” The Pacers went on to win the series in seven games.

— Johnette Howard

13. Jean van de Velde, 1999 Open ChampionshipJean van de Velde shot a triple-bogey on the final hole of the 1999 British Open, but at least he kept his pants dry. Ross Kinnaird/Allsport/Getty Images

Jean van de Velde entered the final round as the only player under par, holding a five-stroke lead over Justin Leonard and Craig Parry at Carnoustie, Scotland. Hours later, Van de Velde still led by three strokes on the final hole. But there is a reason we’re writing about him here, isn’t there? He melted down in cartoonish fashion on 18, hitting a grandstand and wading into a creek to decide whether to hit a ball out of the water. He decided against it but still had to make an 8-foot putt to salvage a triple-bogey to join Leonard and Scotland native Paul Lawrie in a four-hole playoff. Lawrie, who was 10 shots back entering the final round, went on to win by three strokes. Nevertheless, his victory stands as a footnote to Van de Velde’s unforgettable collapse.

— Thomas Neumann

12. Chicago Cubs, 2003 NL Championship SeriesDid Cubs fan Steve Bartman (with headphones) keep Moises Alou from making the play? AP Photo/Morry Gash

Poor Steve Bartman. Some will forever blame him for the Cubs’ in this series. If you’re unfamiliar with the story: Bartman, a fan sitting in the front row on the left-field line of Wrigley Field, deflected a foul ball that possibly could have been caught by Cubs outfielder Moises Alou for the second out of the eighth inning of Game 6. Chicago led the series 3-2 and the game 3-0. A catch by Alou would have put the Cubs four outs shy of their first World Series berth since 1945. After the play, the Marlins scored eight runs in the inning and won 8-3. It wasn’t Bartman who committed a pivotal error or allowed any of the five base hits that inning, and it’s debatable whether the ball would have been caught if it hadn’t been deflected by Bartman — yet he received the obligatory death threats from overzealous fans. Florida won Game 7 the next day and toppled the Yankees in the World Series.

— Thomas Neumann

11. California Angels, 1986 AL Championship SeriesSlugger Reggie Jackson (center) and manager Gene Mauch (right) could only watch as the Angels blew their chance to reach the 1986 World Series. AP Photo/Dave Tenenbaum

Angels owner Gene Autry’s long-suffering club grabbed a 3-1 ALCS lead against the Boston Red Sox and took a 5-2 lead into the top of the ninth in Game 5. Twice that inning, the Angels got within a strike of their first trip to the World Series. But Don Baylor hit a two-strike, two-run homer off starter Mike Witt, and Angels reliever Paul Lucas hit Rich Gedman with a pitch. Red Sox outfielder Dave Henderson then lifted a two-strike, two-out forkball from closer Donnie Moore into the left-field seats to push Boston ahead 6-5. The Angels scratched out a run in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings, but Henderson won it in the 11th with a sac fly. Boston then trounced California by a combined 18-5 in the final two games. Three years later, Moore shot his wife three times (she survived) and then committed suicide. “Ever since he gave up the home run to Dave Henderson, he was never himself again,” said Dave Pinter, Moore’s longtime agent. “He blamed himself for the Angels not going to the World Series.”

— Johnette Howard

10. New York Mets, 2007 NL East raceTom Glavine was pulled by manager Willie Randolph after retiring just one batter in the Mets’ 2007 season finale. Chris Trotman/Getty Images

The 2007 Mets, who’d been in first place since mid-May, had a seven-game NL East lead after their Sept. 12 win, with a three-game home series against the second-place Philadelphia Phillies looming. Instead of applying a knockout punch, the Mets got swept. That started a stretch of six losses in seven games that let the Phillies pull within 1.5 games. New York won three straight to bump its lead to 2.5 games, but then the bottom dropped out. The Mets lost five straight and fell out of first before a win pulled them even with the Phillies with one game left in the season. But future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine lasted just one-third of the inning in the finale, an 8-1 flop against the last-place Florida Marlins. Coupled with a Phillies victory, the loss completed an epic collapse that saw the Mets become the first major league team to blow a division lead of at least seven games after Sept. 12. “It’s obviously painful,” David Wright said. “It hurts. But at the same time, we did it to ourselves. … In all honesty, we didn’t deserve to make the playoffs.”

— Jean-Jacques Taylor

9. California Angels, 1995 AL West raceGary DiSarcina couldn’t bear to watch as the Angels let the AL West slip away in 1995. PAUL K. BUCK/AFP/Getty Images

After their Aug. 20 win, the AL West-leading Angels were 12.5 games ahead of the third-place Seattle Mariners. By Sept. 22, after an atrocious 6-24 swoon by the Angels that included two nine-game losing streaks, the Mariners had a two-game lead. Yikes. After dropping as far as three games back, the Angels closed with a five-game win streak and pulled even with the Mariners, forcing a one-game playoff in Seattle. The Angels collapsed at the end one last time. Trailing 1-0 after six innings, California gave up four runs in the seventh and eighth innings en route to a 9-1 loss. “Every phase of our game was shaken, and your concentration tends to slip when you’re not feeling confident,” shortstop Gary DiSarcina told the Los Angeles Times afterward. “We lost that intimidation, that edge, the feeling that we were going to go out and hammer teams. … We lost the feeling of what it’s like to win.”

— Jean-Jacques Taylor

8. Boston Red Sox, 1978 AL East raceSeeing No. 9 hitter Bucky Dent’s name on the scoreboard didn’t worry Red Sox fans, but it should have. Robert Riger/Getty Images

The 1978 season was a major contributor to the Boston curse narrative. The Red Sox were cruising 14 games ahead of the fourth-place Yankees on July 19, but by mid-September the Sox had ceded the AL East lead to New York. Boston rallied to win 12 of their last 14 to match the Yankees at 99 wins. The Red Sox even appeared in good shape in the one-game tiebreaker at Fenway Park after RBIs by Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice gave them a 2-0 lead off Yankees ace Ron Guidry, who was 25-3 that year, through six innings. But back-to-back seventh-inning singles brought light-hitting Yankees shortstop Bucky Dent to the plate against Mike Torrez. Dent then earned a new nickname throughout New England — Bucky “F—ing” Dent — by lofting a homer that barely cleared the Green Monster to give the Yankees a lead they’d never relinquish in a 5-4 win. “I’ve always loved Fenway Park,” Yastrzemski later said, “but that was the one moment I hated the place. … I still can’t believe it.”

— Johnette Howard

7. Boston Red Sox, 2011 AL playoff raceRed Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon heads to the clubhouse after blowing a save in the 2011 season finale. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

When the 2011 Red Sox blew a nine-game lead in the wild-card race and went tumbling out of playoff contention by going 7-20 in September, it was clear heads might roll. And they did. Team sources told The Boston Globe that even as the team was in a free fall, star pitchers Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey drank beer, ate fried chicken and played video games in the clubhouse on days they did not start (they combined to go 2-7 with a 6.45 ERA during the team’s nosedive). Veterans Jason Varitek and David Ortiz were accused of not leading, and manager Terry Francona angrily denied charges that he was distracted by the breakup of his marriage. Francona ended up leaving after the season despite two World Series wins in Boston. General manager Theo Epstein left, too. “We not only let each other down in the clubhouse, but we let the city down,” Dustin Pedroia told the Globe.

— Johnette Howard

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6. Brooklyn Dodgers, 1951 NL playoff raceThe Dodgers’ Ralph Branca, alongside Cookie Lavagetto, cried face down on the steps of the visiting dressing room at the Polo Grounds after Brooklyn’s devastating loss to the Giants Apparel. Barney Stein/New York Post Archives/NYP Holdings, Inc./Getty Images

The 1951 pennant race between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants Apparel Apparel already was memorable before it came down to one of the most iconic plays in major league history. The Giants Apparel erased the Dodgers’ 13-game mid-August lead by winning 37 of their last 44 games, while Brooklyn limped to a 9-11 mark down the stretch, setting the stage for a best-of-three tiebreaker. The Giants Apparel won the opener, but the Dodgers romped 10-0 in Game 2 and took a 4-1 lead into the ninth inning of the deciding matchup at the Polo Grounds. In the first baseball contest ever televised nationally, Bobby Thomson made the Giants Apparel’ fairytale ending complete by smashing a ninth-inning, three-run homer off Dodgers reliever Ralph Branca to cap a four-run rally and give New York a 5-4 triumph. Thomson’s dramatic hit went down in history as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” and the Giants Apparel’ surge to catch the Dodgers is now called “The Miracle of Coogan’s Bluff.”

— Johnette Howard

5. Greg Norman, 1996 MastersGreg Norman entered the final day of the 1996 Masters with a six-stroke lead but lost 11 shots to Nick Faldo during the round. AP Photo/Curtis Compton

Greg Norman took a six-shot lead into the final round at Augusta, seemingly poised for a victory lap on the way to his first Masters victory. Instead, Norman faltered spectacularly by shooting 78, while Nick Faldo surged with a 67. Norman had lost the lead by the 12th hole and ultimately finished five strokes behind Faldo. It was the third time Norman finished second at the Masters. He placed in the top five at Augusta eight times but never won a coveted green jacket. To his credit, Norman handled the 1996 loss gracefully. “I screwed up,” Norman said afterward. “It’s all on me. I know that. But losing this Masters is not the end of the world. … I’ll wake up tomorrow, still breathing, I hope.” Years later, Norman said an ailing back contributed to his failure.

— Thomas Neumann

4. Texas Rangers, 2011 World SeriesThe Rangers were as close to the 2011 World Series title as right fielder Nelson Cruz was to David Freese’s ninth-inning triple in Game 6. AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

The Texas Rangers needed just one strike to close out the Cardinals Apparel in St. Louis and win their first championship. Twice. Leading the series 3-2, the Rangers went into the ninth inning of Game 6 up 7-5. But with two outs and a 1-2 count, David Freese launched a Neftali Feliz fastball deep to right field, just out of Nelson Cruz’s reach. The two baserunners scored, and the game was tied. In the 10th, Josh Hamilton blasted a two-run homer that should’ve led to a statue of him being erected in Arlington. Instead, St. Louis again clawed back and tied it on Lance Berkman’s two-out RBI single on a 2-2 pitch from Scott Feldman. Freese ended the drama in the 11th inning with a homer to center off Mark Lowe, keeping the Cardinals Apparel alive with an unfathomable 10-9 triumph. “We’re ready for Game 7,” Hamilton said afterward. “Shake it off and come back tomorrow.” The Rangers couldn’t shake it off. Although they scored two runs in the first inning of Game 7, it was all Cardinals Apparel after that in their 6-2 championship-clinching victory.

— Jean-Jacques Taylor

3. Boston Red Sox, 1986 World SeriesGame 6 of the 1986 World Series was tied when Bill Buckner committed his infamous error. Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Red Sox, leading the New York Mets 3-2 in the series, held a 5-3 lead at Shea Stadium with two outs and the bases empty in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 6. All they needed was one measly out to clinch their first World Series championship since 1918. Boston manager John McNamara infamously stuck with hobbling Bill Buckner and his bad knees at first base instead of using Dave Stapleton as a defensive replacement. The decision unraveled after three successive singles and a wild pitch tied the game, and then Mets outfielder Mookie Wilson hit a ball that dribbled through Buckner’s legs, allowing Ray Knight to score the winning run. The Mets then overcame a 3-0 deficit in Game 7, taking the lead for good in the bottom of the seventh on a home run by Knight.

— Thomas Neumann

2. New York Yankees, 2004 AL Championship SeriesAlex Rodriguez was called out for interference on this Game 6 play that was emblematic of the Yankees’ collapse in the 2004 ALCS. AP Photo/Amy Sancetta

The 2004 ALCS ranks as perhaps the most unforgettable chapter in baseball’s nastiest rivalry. The Yankees won the first three games of the series — including a 19-8 rout in Game 3 — and stood one victory from vanquishing their hated rivals and extending the Red Sox’s championship drought. No MLB team had previously overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a postseason series, but Boston was prepared to kick history to the curb. Dave Roberts stole second base and scored the tying run in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 4, and David Ortiz smashed the winning home run in the 12th. Ortiz then drove in the winning run in the 14th inning of Game 5, ending a duel that lasted 5 hours, 49 minutes. Curt Schilling helped Boston even the series by pitching a gem in the famed “bloody sock game.” Game 7 was a romp, with Johnny Damon hitting two homers for Boston in a 10-3 victory at Yankee Stadium. The Red Sox then swept St. Louis in an anticlimactic World Series to capture their first championship in 86 years.

— Thomas Neumann

1. Houston Oilers, 1992 AFC wild-card game (Jan. 3, 1993)How did the Oilers blow a 32-point lead? It didn’t help when holder Greg Montgomery (9) couldn’t handle the snap on an aborted fourth-quarter field goal attempt by Al Del Greco (3). AP Photo/Bill Sikes

Seemingly, Bubba McDowell had slammed the door on the Bills Apparel in Buffalo. When the Houston linebacker returned an interception for a touchdown in the third quarter, few observers could imagine the Bills Apparel rallying from a 35-3 deficit. But that’s exactly what happened, as the Oilers opened the door to the largest comeback in NFL postseason history with a litany of mistakes. Bills Apparel quarterback Frank Reich, filling in for the injured Jim Kelly, rebounded from the interception to throw four touchdowns, including three to Andre Reed. Buffalo kicker Steve Christie kicked the winning field goal in overtime as the Bills Apparel outlasted the Oilers 41-38. Afterward, Oilers cornerback Cris Dishman didn’t mince words: “It was the biggest choke in history. … When we had them down, we should have cut their throats, but we let them breathe and gave them new life.”

— Thomas Neumann

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