There will be November baseball in the 2021 World Series; here’s the history of MLB’s November classics

When the Astros fended off that first-inning grand slam to take Game 5 of the World Series against the Braves, it ensured said series would shift back to Houston. It also ensured we’d once again experience one of the oddities of the sporting calendar — Major League Baseball played in November. 

Game 6 at Minute Maid Park takes place on Tuesday, which Gregorians agree is Nov. 2. Should the Astros prevail over the Braves and force a determining Game 7, then that will go down on Nov. 3. Both dates are — stirring conclusion forthcoming — squarely within the bounds of November. 

Postseason baseball is strongly associated with the month of October, so it follows that November MLB games are not a frequent occurrence. They are also very much a recent phenomenon. The first example of November baseball at the highest level traces back to 2001, when the attacks of Sept. 11 forced the final day of the regular season to be pushed back from Sept. 30 until Oct. 7. That, in turn, pushed back the postseason schedule, and Games 5, 6, and 7 of the World Series between the Yankees and Diamondbacks took place in November. 

From that point, occasional November baseball was a function of two coinciding events — the regular season starting a bit later than it does in most seasons and the World Series lasting long enough to reach the rarely explored shores of November. In all, six different World Series have stretched into November — 2001 Diamondbacks-Yankees, 2009 Yankees-Phillies, 2010 Giants-Rangers, 2015 Royals-Mets, 2016 Cubs-Indians, and 2017 Astros-Dodgers — and the 2021 edition will make seven. Drilling down further, a total of 11 World Series games have been played in November. Game 6 between the Braves and Astros will make it 12. 

Other than 2001, the common theme of seasons that sprawl into November is the later Opening Day. Courtroom observers shall gasp at the forthcoming evidence: 

  • 2009 Opening Day: April 6
  • 2010 Opening Day: April 5
  • 2015 Opening Day: April 6
  • 2016 Opening Day: April 4
  • 2017 Opening Day: April 3
  • 2021 Opening Day: April 1

The general lesson is that the later you start in April, the more likely it is that the World Series will stretch into November. Also worth noting is that the schedule now has extra off days built in, which explains how the current season is still going on despite the April 1 start. That also means November baseball will probably be a semi-regular occurrence moving forward.

It so happens that the month of November has occasioned some legendary World Series games. Of particular note is Game 5 of the 2001 World Series, when Scott Brosius hit a game-tying homer off Byung Hyun-Kim with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. The Yankees went on to nip the D-Backs in 12 innings by a score of 3-2. Game 7 of that same series, on Nov. 4, was even more iconic, as Luis Gonzalez gave Arizona a walk-off win with his bloop hit off Mariano Rivera. 

Before we move on, you’ll probably recall this moment from Game 4 in this series: 

That walk-off home run to even the series earned Derek Jeter the nickname Mr. November. His clutch blast did indeed occur in November, albeit barely. That, however, is only because Game 4, which began on Oct. 31, lasted past midnight local time. So it’s not technically a November World Series game. 

Game 5 of the 2015 World Series went down on Nov. 1, and it’s our next November classic. The Mets held a 2-0 lead going into the ninth, and manager Terry Collins famously/infamously let starter Matt Harvey continue pitching. Thanks in part to that decision, the Royals tied it up and eventually won the game and series in the 12th inning. 

Rivaling 2001 Game 7 is Game 7 of the 2016 World Series between the Cubs and the Cleveland baseball team. With dueling title droughts hanging in the balance, Cleveland plated three runs in the eighth to tie the game. Two of those runs came on an unlikely home run from Rajai Davis off Aroldis Chapman. The game went to extras following a 17-minute rain delay, and in the top of the 10th the Cubs put two on the board. Cleveland mounted a serious threat in the home half — Davis drove in a run — but Michael Martinez grounded out to Kris Bryant at third to end it with the potential tying run on first.  

Perhaps the current World Series will add to that brief ledger of November classics? Perhaps indeed. 

Before we take leave of this subject, let’s take a brief walking tour of the MLB November record book, shall we? We shall. To the digits: 

  • Most November games played: Six — Derek Jeter, Yankees; Jorge Posada, Yankees
  • Most November hits: Eight — Derek Jeter, Yankees
  • Most November home runs: Three — Chase Utley, Phillies/Dodgers
  • Most November extra-base hits: Four — Chase Utley, Phillies/Dodgers
  • Most November total bases: 14 — Chase Utley, Phillies/Dodgers
  • Most November stolen bases: Two — Lorenzo Cain, Royals; Johnny Damon, Yankees
  • Most November RBI: Seven — Addison Russell, Cubs
  • Most November runs scored: Five — Johnny Damon, Yankees; Chase Utley, Phillies/Dodgers
  • Most November walks: Four — Nick Swisher, Yankees
  • Highest November batting average (min. 10 plate appearances): .600 — Johnny Damon, Yankees
  • Highest November on-base percentage (min. 10 plate appearances): .667 — Johnny Damon, Yankees
  • Highest November slugging percentage (min. 10 plate appearances): 1.273 — Chase Utley, Phillies/Dodgers
  • Most November innings pitched: 14 — Cliff Lee, Rangers
  • Most November pitching wins: Two — Randy Johnson, Diamondbacks
  • Most November strikeouts: 10 — Roger Clemens, Yankees; Tim Lincecum, Giants; Mike Mussina, Yankees
  • Most November walks: Seven — Andy Pettitte, Yankees
  • Lowest November ERA (min. 6 innings pitched): 0.00 — Miguel Batista, Diamondbacks
  • Most November saves: One — Ryan Madson, Royals; Mike Montgomery, Cubs; Mariano Rivera, Yankees; Brian Wilson, Giants

So who’s the real Mr. November? With all apologies to Jeter, it’s probably Chase Utley or Johnny Damon. Perhaps, though, an Astro or Brave will barge into that conversation by the end of the 2021 World Series. 

November baseball forthcoming? November baseball forthcoming, people. 

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