There have been thousands of errors in Major League Baseball history. Some are very harmless, happening in the early part of a game, but there are some that are the most harmful ever. Those are the kind of errors that happen in World Series games or during a pennant race. There are ten errors in particular that rank up there as the costliest in baseball history.
Most of these errors happened in the World Series but there are a few that didn’t, including one that was more of a mental error than a physical error. Those can be just as harmful as the physical errors. Some of these players have been forgiven for what happened while there are others who can’t show their faces in those cities again.
Here are the top ten costliest errors in Major League Baseball history.
10. Tony Fernandez Lets One Through in 11th Inning — Sept 26, 1997
The seventh game of the World Series is one of the worst possible times to commit an error. Well, that is what happened to Fernandez in 1997 while a member of the Cleveland Indians. In the 11th inning, Florida Marlins’ second baseman Craig Counsell hit a ground ball right at Fernandez that should have ended the inning. However, Bobby Bonilla screened Fernandez and caused him to commit an error to allow the inning to continue. The Marlins would score the winning run later in the inning to win the title in just their fifth year of existence. The Indians continue to wait for their next championship and the number of years continues to pile up since Cleveland’s last World Series title in 1948.
9. Fred Merkle Misses Second Base — Sept 23, 1908
Merkle’s play in 1908 was more of a mental error that a physical one but it changed the course of the pennant race. On September 23 with Merkle’s New York Giants and the Chicago Cubs looking for the National League pennant, Merkle didn’t touch second base on what would have been a game-winning base hit by Al Bridwell to score Moose McCormick. Merkle thought the game was over and ran off the field. Chicago’s Johnny Evers noticed that Merkle never touched second and went on a mad scramble for the ball. Evers touched second after finding the ball and yelled at umpire Hank O’Day, who he had told days earlier about a similar play. Merkle was called out and the run didn’t count. The game had to be played in its entirety at a later date with the Cubs winning, which allowed Chicago to go to the World Series. It was the last time the Cubs won the Fall Classic and they can thank Merkle for it.
8. Hank Gowdy Gets Tripped Up — Oct 10, 1924
Gowdy would love to forget what happened in the 12th inning of Game 7 of the 1924 World Series between the Washington Senators and New York Giants. Washington’s Muddy Ruel hit a high pop-up that appeared to be the second out of the inning, but Gowdy, who was catching for the Giants, got his foot stuck in his catcher’s mask and fell down. The ball would drop harmlessly but with his new life, Ruel doubled and scored the winning run to give the Senators the championship. It is one of the low lights in the life of Gowdy, who would serve in both World War I and II and could be the only baseball player who participated in both wars.
7. Willie Davis Gets Lost In The Sun — Oct 6, 1966
October 6, 1966 is a day that many Los Angeles Dodgers fans would love to get out of their memory bank. Davis is definitely among them as he made three errors in the World Series against the Baltimore Orioles. Each error was caused by Davis losing a fly ball in the afternoon sun at Dodger Stadium. The team would make six errors on the day and ended up getting swept by the Orioles, but it’s Davis’ mistakes that will be remembered. It was noted the next day in the Los Angeles Times that Davis came back to the dugout to tell pitcher Sandy Koufax, “I’m sorry; I just lost them in the sun.” Davis was a great player who simply had a bad day at the worst possible time.
6. Fred Snodgrass Has Butter Fingers — Oct 16, 1912
When a play is named after you, it is usually really good or really, really bad. In Snodgrass’ case, it was very bad. In the 1912 World Series, Snodgrass dropped a pop-up in the eighth game of the series that allowed the Boston Red Sox to rally and win the championship. In the tenth inning, Clyde Engle hit a fly ball towards Snodgrass in right field. Snodgrass caught the ball at first but would drop it, allowing Engle to go to second. While Snodgrass would make a great catch on the very nice play, his drop cost the New York Giants greatly. Snodgrass said the same thing over and over after the game. “I just dropped the darn thing.”
5. Matt Holliday Flubs Line Drive– Oct 8, 2009
The St. Louis Cardinals had the Los Angeles Cardinals where they wanted them in Game 2 of the National League Divisional Series in 2009 with two outs in the ninth inning. James Loney hit a line drive to left field right at Holliday for what should have been an easy out to end the game to even the series at one game apiece. Instead, for some reason, Holliday lost the ball in the lights or the shirts in the crowd and it hit him in the stomach, allowing Loney to reach. The Dodgers would rally to win 3-2 and would sweep the series. Holliday said after the game that he was just hoping the ball would hit his glove as he couldn’t see it. Fortunately, Holliday and the Cardinals would win the World Series two years later.
4. Leon Durham’s Gatorade Error — Oct 7, 1894
The 1984 season for the Chicago Cubs was supposed to be the one that finally brought the North Siders their first title since 1908. After winning the first two games at home of the NLCS against the San Diego Padres, the Cubs needed to win just once in three games at San Diego. After losing Games 3 and 4, the Cubs led in Game 5 before a groundball by Tim Flannery went right between Durham’s legs at first base allowing the tying run to score. The Padres would win Game 5 and Durham’s error was just added to the list of bad things that have happened to the Cubs. The error is famous for the fact that Gatorade spilled on Durham’s glove just before that inning and Cub fans think it is part of the curse of the Billy Goat. It was still an error that cost the Cubs a chance at the World Series.
3. Alex Gonzalez Gets A Bad Bounce– Oct 14, 2003
19 years after the Durham error, the Cubs found themselves once again one game away from the World Series against the Florida Marlins. After losing Game 5 on the road, the Cubs returned home for Game 6. In the eighth inning, Miguel Cabrera hit a groundball to Gonzalez that should have turned into an inning-ending double play. The ball bounced out of the glove of Gonzalez however and the momentum that the Marlins had from the “Bartman play” earlier in the inning continued. Florida scored eight times in the inning to win Game 6 and would win Game 7 the next night to move on, once again ending any Cubs hopes of going to the Fall Classic. Many fans place blame on Bartman for what happened that night, but if Gonzalez had made that play, the Cubs may have finally won after all.
2. Mariano Rivera Misses His Throw — Nov 4, 2001
Rivera is the greatest closer of all time and had the New York Yankees on the verge of winning their fourth straight World Series title in 2001 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. In the ninth inning however, Rivera made the biggest error of his career which allowed Arizona to rally to get the win in Game 7 to win the World Series. With pinch runner David Dellucci on first base, Damian Miller bunted back to Rivera, who tried to throw Dellucci out at second base but made a bad throw. The flood gates were open as Tony Womack hit a double to score the tying run and Luis Gonzalez would single later in the inning to win the game. Rivera was great for 20 years but not on that play.
1. Bill Buckner Commits THE ERROR — Oct 25, 1986
The most famous error in baseball history came from a man known for his bat not his glove. With the Boston Red Sox about to win their first World Series since 1918 against the New York Mets, Red Sox manager John McNamara decided to leave Buckner at first base instead of replacing him for defense with a two-run lead in the tenth inning of Game 6. After the Mets rallied with two outs to tie the game, Mookie Wilson hit a slow roller up the first base line that went between the legs of Buckner to score Ray Knight with the winning run. The Mets would go on to win Game 7 and Buckner became public enemy #1 in Boston with fans blaming the “Curse of the Bambino.” After the Red Sox won their second title in 2007 however, Buckner came back in 2008 to a rousing ovation.