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October's heroes

The 15 most superb postseason performers since '69

Posted: Monday October 29, 2007 1:52AM; Updated: Monday October 29, 2007 10:12AM
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Reggie Jackson may have been a lightning rod for criticism. But there's no touching his MVP performance in the '77 World Series.
Reggie Jackson may have been a lightning rod for criticism. But there's no touching his MVP performance in the '77 World Series.
Walter Iooss, Jr./SI
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DENVER -- The Red Sox not only have great players, they also have great players who play great in October. They are as clutch as they are good, which goes a long way toward explaining two World Series titles in four years -- both by sweeps, no less -- after none in the 85 years before that.

Any fair accounting of the biggest stars of recent Octobers has to be heavy on Red Sox, and my own list of the 15 biggest postseason heroes in recent vintage contains no less than four from this very championship team -- Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. To form my entire roster of the greatest October stars since multi-tier playoffs began in 1969, I enlisted the help of stat genius Steve Hirdt of the Elias Sports Bureau, who's an encyclopedia of knowledge. With Hirdt's help, here are my 15 Mr. Octobers ...

1. Reggie Jackson, Yankees, Angels, A's. The real Mr. October. The 1977 World Series is what everyone knows, of course -- three homers on three pitches, five homers in the series and 1.250 slugging percentage -- but he was often at his best in October. His career postseason numbers, including 18 home runs and a .278 batting average (better than his regular-season figure) reflects that.

2. George Brett, Royals. He hit .337 in postseason play with a stunning 10 home runs. He consistently showed more power in the postseason, slugging .627 overall. His homer off soon-to-be-Hall-of-Famer (I think) Goose Gossage was unforgettable.

3. Schilling, Phillies, Diamondbacks, Red Sox. He should be a Hall of Famer based on Octobers alone. He played a leading role in two of the three World Series titles (and wasn't bad in the other victory and the one defeat, either, in 1993). Overall, his 11-2 October record and 2.23 ERA includes 4-0 with a 0.93 ERA in first-round matchups and 4-1 with a 2.06 ERA in the World Series. All in all, he's drawn a lot of blood.

4. John Smoltz, Braves. It isn't his fault the Braves are regular October chokers. Remarkably consistent, he has a career 2.52 ERA in Division Series, 2.83 in the LCS and 2.47 in World Series. Overall, he's 15-4 with a 2.65 ERA.

5. Beckett, Marlins, Red Sox. The dominant figure on two World Series winners ... before age 28, no less. Given time, he should move up the list. Shut out the Yankees in the decisive Game 6 in 2003 and dominated everyone this postseason.

6. Mariano Rivera, Yankees. Of 26 postseason series in which he appeared, the only time he's allowed more than one run was the 2000 Subway Series, yielding two runs in six innings. His ERA in Division Series is 0.38, in the LCS it's 0.93, and in the World Series it's 1.16. Overall, it's a record low 0.77 in 76 games. That's nuts.

7. Derek Jeter, Yankees. He has a .309 average in all postseasons, including eight series in which he hit .400 or better. Was especially great in the 2000 Subway Series, when the lights were brightest, batting .409 and slugging .864.

8. Kirby Puckett, Twins. A hero in two World Series, Puckett hit .357 in the Twins 1987 victory and slugged .583 in the '91 victory. He also made a World Series-saving catch. Batted .309 in all postseasons.

9. Brooks Robinson, Orioles. He was great before 1969, as well, but the '70 Series against Cincinnati is where he really performed his third-base magic. He hit .429 and slugged .850 in that series and was a career .303 postseason hitter.

10. Bernie Williams, Yankees. He hit .321 in LCS play and .275 in all postseasons. His 22 home runs are second to Manny Ramirez's 24.

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