Since we’ve played over 100 World Series, there is a long list of contenders for the best World Series performances. Keep in mind, there have been over 100 of these, and every year, there are at least a few players who stand out that deliver one of the greats MLB postseason performances while leading their team to a championship.
It’s also worth noting the overlap between some of the best World Series performances and the best World Series to watch. Isn’t that part of the reason why fans watch the World Series? We all want to see greatness happen right before our eyes and catch one of the greatest MLB postseason performances of all time.
Best World Series performances
That’s why we’ve put a lot of thought and effort into selecting the best World Series performances in baseball history.
It hasn’t been easy because there are a lot of great performances to consider. We also had to limit each player to what they did in one game or one World Series rather than the entire postseason. That being said, here is our list of the best World Series performances in the history of the Fall Classic.
10. Barry Bonds, 2002
His team may not have won, depriving Barry Bonds of MVP honors, but the controversial slugger was clearly the best player on the field.
Over the course of seven games, he had just eight hits in 17 at-bats because he drew 13 walks and seven intentional walks. Of those eight hits, four were home runs and two were doubles. The only problem is not enough of his teammates were on base ahead of him, as Bonds had just six RBIs. Nevertheless, he finished the series with an OPS of 1.994, which is what happens when you hit four home runs in just 17 official at-bats.
9. Babe Ruth, 1928
Babe Ruth played in the World Series 10 times, but 1928 was his best. The Yankees made quick work of the Cardinals, sweeping them in four games.
But in those four games, Ruth was 10 for 16 (.625), including three home runs in Game 4. He wouldn’t be the last Yankee to hit three homers in a World Series game, but it’s enough to get him on our list of the best World Series performances.
8. Bob Gibson, 1968
He started Games 1, 4, and 7, pitching three complete games. In those 27 innings, he allowed just five runs on 18 hits and led the Cardinals to wins in Games 1 and 4. The Tigers got four of those five runs in Game 7 when Lolich was a little better. But Gibson was nothing short of phenomenal in Games 1 and 4, finishing the series with 35 strikeouts in those 27 innings.
7. David Ortiz, 2013
Big Papi was an important part of Boston’s championships in 2004 and 2007. But it was in 2013 that the slugger was at his best.
During six games against the Cardinals, he was an unstoppable force.
He homered in Games 1 and 2 and then proceeded to bat .688, going 11 for 16 with two homers and two doubles. The Cardinals feared him so much that he drew eight walks and four intentional walks, helping give him an OPS of 1.948 and World Series MVP honors.
6. Mickey Lolich, 1968
Mickey Lolich almost single-handedly won this series for the Tigers, who trailed the Cardinals 3-1 after four games. He pitched a complete game in Game 2, giving up just one run on six hits. With Detroit down 3-1, Lolich pitched another complete game in Game 5, giving up three runs in the first inning but shutting down the Cardinals after that, allowing the Tigers to come from behind to win.
On two days’ rest, Lolich came back to pitch Game 7, outdueling the great Bob Gibson and throwing another complete game. He allowed just one run on five hits and remains the most recent pitcher to throw three complete games in a World Series.
5. David Freese, 2011
David Freese was a young and somewhat unheralded player until the 2011 World Series when he delivered multiple clutch hits.
The biggest was the game-tying triple in the ninth inning of Game 6 with the Cardinals on the verge of losing the series. Two innings later, Freese forced a Game 7 by hitting a walk-off home run in the 11th inning of Game 6. But it wasn’t just that one game. Freese was in the middle of everything when the Cardinals won Game 1 and Game 3.
He also hit a two-run double in Game 7.
He finished the series batting .348 with five extra-base hits and seven RBIs, being named for NLCS and World Series MVP in the same year.
4. Reggie Jackson, 1977
Until someone hits four home runs in a World Series game, nobody is going to top what Reggie Jackson did during the 1977 World Series.
In Game 6, Jackson hit three home runs, doing so off of three pitchers. He actually homered in his final at-bat in Game 4, meaning he homered in four consecutive swings. But it wasn’t just that one game that earned Jackson World Series MVP honors for the second time and with two different teams.
He hit .450 during the 1977 World Series with five home runs, giving him an OPS of 1.792 over those six games.
3. Madison Bumgarner, 2014
It’s hard to envision any pitcher carrying a team during a World Series more than Madison Bumgarner did. He opened the series with seven strong innings, allowing just one run. He came back in Game 4 with his second complete-game shutout of the postseason.
Then, he was called upon again in Game 7, pitching five scoreless innings out of the bullpen on just two days of rest.
When he entered the game, the Giants had a 3-2 lead, and it stayed that way over the final five innings of the game, giving Bumgarner two wins and one save in the series while giving up just one run on nine hits over 21 innings.
2. Sandy Koufax, 1965
Sandy Koufax made headlines at the start of the 1965 World Series by choosing not to pitch Game 1 so that he could observe the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.
Frankly, after pitching 335.2 innings during the regular season and tossing a perfect game in September, he earned an extra day of rest. The lefty then took the loss in Game 2 despite giving up two runs over six innings.
However, Koufax made up for the loss and the Game 1 controversy by pitching a complete-game shutout in Game 5.
That allowed the Dodgers to take a 3-2 series lead, only for the Twins to force a Game 7. On just two days of rest and while dealing with incredible pain because of arthritis, Koufax started Game 7. Despite abandoning his curveball early in the game, Koufax pitched a three-hit shutout to lead the Dodgers to a win, earning World Series MVP honors for the second time.
1. Don Larsen, 1956
Two words: perfect game.
Don Larsen remains the only pitcher in World Series history to pitch both a no-hitter and a perfect game during the Fall Classic.
That one game alone is enough to give Larsen the honor of having one of the greatest MLB postseason performances.
For what it’s worth, Larsen started Game 2 of the 1956 World Series and got knocked out with two outs in the second inning, allowing four unearned runs.
However, it’s safe to say that all was forgiven after his perfect game. Remarkably, he needed just 97 pitches to get 27 outs with only one batter even getting to a three-ball count. It may have been just one game, but it was an incredible performance that is unlikely to ever be matched.