Major League Baseball can point to its rich and storied history, which dates to before the first World Series in 1903. Over the years, a number of baseball clubs have gained fame for their memorable regular-season performances en route to the playoffs. Some of these teams made history because they overcame long odds to reach the postseason. Other squads are remembered because they dominated the competition on their way to the playoffs.
Here are the top 10 most memorable regular-season performances by baseball clubs en route to playoff appearances:
1. New York Yankees, 1998: The Yankees set an American League record by winning 114 games in the regular season. Yankees fans had much to be proud of that year, as their team would go on to win the World Series.
2. Tampa Bay Rays, 2011: The Rays were nine games behind the American League wild-card leader–the Boston Red Sox–as late as September and looked to be out of the postseason hunt. Instead, the Rays became the first club in Major League Baseball’s history to overcome a nine-game deficit in September to reach the playoffs. The Rays clinched the wild-card berth on the final day of the season. The team did it in grand fashion by coming back from seven runs down to beat the New York Yankees 8-7 in extra innings.
3. Chicago Cubs, 1906: The Cubs finished the 1906 regular season with 116 wins and 36 losses. No major league team since that time has topped the Cubs’ .763 winning percentage. Unfortunately, the Cubs could not parlay that tremendous regular season record into postseason success. The club lost the World Series to its crosstown rival, the Chicago White Sox.
4. St. Louis Cardinals, 2011: Most people who took a look at the major league standings on Aug. 25, 2011, probably thought that the Cardinals’ season was over. At that time, the team was 10.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves for the National League’s wild-card spot. Amazingly, the Cardinals would go on to win 23 of their last 31 games and secure a ticket to the playoffs (and eventually win the World Series).
5. Seattle Mariners, 2001: The Oakland Athletics capped off a superb year in 2001 by winning 102 games. However, the team finished an amazing 14 games behind the first-place Seattle Mariners. The Mariners set an American League record by winning 116 games.
6. Boston Braves, 1914: The Braves had finished 31.5 games behind the league winner in 1913. The team seemed to be heading for a similar fate in mid-July 1914. The club was ranked dead last in the National League. The Braves would go on an amazing run during the latter part of the season to win both the league pennant and the World Series.
7. Colorado Rockies, 1995: The club played its first major league game in 1993. The Rockies made it to the playoffs in the 1995 season. No other expansion club up to that point had reached the playoffs in such a short time span.
8. Arizona Diamondbacks, 1999: Under manager Buck Showalter, the Diamondbacks made history by reaching the playoffs in only the club’s second year in existence.
9. New York Mets, 1969: In previous seasons, the Mets had been the epitome of a bad team. Few people expected the club to do anything of note in 1969. The Mets surprised everyone by winning 100 games and making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The squad was not done. It went on to win the World Series in that year.
10. Montreal Expos, 1981: Fans of the Expos were ecstatic when the team made its first and only appearance in the playoffs in 1981. Perhaps the club, now called the Washington Nationals, will secure its second postseason berth ever in 2012.
Major League Baseball’s official website
The author has been following Major League Baseball since he was a child and is a fan of the Atlanta Braves