The Greatest Historical MLB Second-Half Comebacks
- Updated: July 22, 2015
Have no fear, Atlanta Braves. No need to worry, Seattle Mariners. There is plenty of time to come back and make the playoffs. You want proof? As the second half of the baseball season begins, here is just a sampling of some teams that overcame large deficits to get into the postseason.
1951 New York Giants
Culminated by the most famous home run in baseball history, Giant fans would have never had the chance to revel in Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” if not for their team’s amazing stretch run.
At one time down 13.5 games to the cross-town rival Brooklyn Dodgers, New York won 48 of its final 59 regular season games to force a three-game playoff for the pennant. That drama concluded with Thomson’s historic blast. Even if the Giants’ alleged sign-stealing rubs some the wrong way, there’s no denying this comeback’s place in baseball’s annals.
1964 St. Louis Cardinals
Many times, with every rally comes a collapse. For most of the 20th century, no collapse was greater than that of the ’64 Philadelphia Phillies. By relinquishing a 6.5-game lead over the final 12 games, the Phils’ “Phold” is forever dubious.
The beneficiary of this meltdown was St. Louis. Once in eighth place in the National League in mid-June, the Cards fell even further behind Philly by August – a spread as high as 11 games.
But with the acquisition of Lou Brock, St. Louis charged. The Phillies eventually regressed in epic fashion. The Cardinals would win the NL on the last day of the season…and then would win the World Series.
1978 New York Yankees
The “Bronx Zoo” was in full force. Billy Martin, George Stinebrenner and Reggie Jackson each had egos the size of China and there wasn’t room for all of them. That proved true when Martin resigned as manager in July of ’78 – despite having won the World Series the previous season.
But it was around this time that the Yanks started to chip away at the 14.5 spread built up by the Boston Red Sox in the AL East.
Under Bob Lemon and aided by the pitching of Ron Guidry, New York narrowed the seemingly insurmountable deficit. By game No. 162, they were tied. A one-game showdown at Fenway Park went the way of the Yankees thanks to Bucky Dent’s heroics.
1988 Boston Red Sox
It hasn’t been all bad for Boston during those cursed seasons.
A 43-42 first half spelled the end for manager John McNamara and the beginning for Joe Morgan. That transition sparked the Red Sox to recover from a nine-game hole at the All-Star break. The first place Detroit Tigers were helpless as Boston won 12 in a row and 25 straight at home.
Within two months, the Red Sox had jumped into first place to stay.
1995 Seattle Mariners
Perhaps the Mariners of two decades ago can provide a bit of inspiration to the club of today.
Then again, the ’95 M’s were fortunate enough to have Ken Griffey Jr. returning from injury in August to lead the charge – a rally that was also boosted by the sinking California Angels. What was an 11-game advantage for the Halos in August eventually shrunk to nothing, and the two teams would face off in a one-game playoff for the AL West title.
Seattle won in front of a raucous home crowd and would carry that momentum all the way to the ALCS.
2006 Minnesota Twins
The Tigers were victims once more. Minnesota staggered up to the midway point of the season.
Normally, it would be hard to believe the Twins were about to make the largest second-half comeback in the Wild Card era. But they had been in this spot before. Just three years prior, Minnesota recovered from a 7.5-game hole to win the AL Central.
This time, in ’06, it was 11 games. As the Tigers stumbled, the Twins took advantage – going 49-27 after the All-Star break and edging Detroit for the division. The Tigers, though, would have the last laugh. Not only did they eventually take the pennant, but the Twins were swiftly swept away by the Oakland A’s in the Division Series.