*TRIGGER WARNING FOR RANGERS FANS*
The 2011 World Series gets overlooked. It was one of the closest and most well-played Fall Classics of all time, filled with great pitching performances and clutch hitting. Game 6 of the 2011 World Series is one of the best baseball games ever played. But as I watched the highlights resurface on what is the eleventh anniversary of this game, it got me thinking, is Game 6 of the 2011 World Series the most heartbreaking loss for a fan base in sports history? I've sifted through my Rolodex of memories to think of anything that compares to Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. The Texas Rangers, who had never won a World Series, were one strike away from a World Series championship in consecutive innings and ended up losing. So I tried to think of a few examples that might even remotely compare to that level of hardship.
From a baseball standpoint, the first one that came to mind was Game 6 of the 1985 World Series. The St. Louis Cardinals were three outs away from a championship and should've had out number one at first base if not for the fact that Don Denkinger blew the call.
The Royals would go on to walk off the Cardinals in Game 6, and Bret Saberhagen threw a complete game shutout in Game 7. That's heartbreaking, but I don't think it compares to being one strike away in back-to-back innings. And also, the Cardinals won the World Series in 1982 and have since become one of the more consistent franchises in sports. It was heartbreaking at the time, but it didn't exactly shake up the organization.
Another example is Game 7 of the 2016 World Series between the Cubs and the Indians.
After Rajai Davis' home run to tie the game, I think many people expected that the Cubs 108 year drought without a World Series championship was about to become 109. Then the rain delay happened, and the Cubs ultimately ended up winning in extra innings. That would be a hard one to come back from if I was a Cleveland fan, but the Cubs were admittedly the best team in baseball that year and outplayed Cleveland for a heavy majority of that game. They just got outlasted. It doesn't make the loss anymore Earth-shattering, but I don't know if I can put it in the same category as the 2011 Rangers.
In my opinion, the only sports loss that comes close to what the Rangers went through in 2011 is the 28-3 Super Bowl between the Falcons and Patriots.
The Falcons had never won a Super Bowl, and Atlanta as a city had not won a championship since the Braves in 1995. They were steamrolling the Patriots, and it felt inevitable that they were about to hoist their first Lombardi. Then history happened. In the last 20 minutes of that game, everything went right for the Patriots and went wrong for the Falcons. It was the most significant Super Bowl anomaly of all time. But for Falcons fans, they were sadly on the wrong side of that anomaly. Few losses in sports could ever compare to that. It will always go down as the ultimate choke job, which falls into a separate category, in my opinion. At the same time, it's the only sports loss that I can think of that even remotely compares to the Rangers in 2011.
I don't have any emotional attachment to the Texas Rangers, but I know that if the Tigers were one strike away from the World Series in back-to-back innings and lost, you probably wouldn't hear from me for a few days or weeks, or months. My entire soul would be shattered. And the sad truth for the Rangers is that there's really no light at the end of the tunnel. They blew a division lead to the A's in 2012 and haven't made it past the ALDS since they lost the World Series to the Cardinals. When they finally get over the hump, I'm sure it'll be euphoric, but right now, it's got to be a painful, painful memory.