For the Record
Luis Sojo
An error enabled Luis Sojo (right) to score on a bases-clearing double against the Angels in a one-game playoff in 1995. 
Robert Sorbo/AP

When there's nothing to separate a pair of baseball teams after six months, they settle the deadlock with a one-game playoff. These winner-take-all fixtures are essentially once-a-decade affairs, occurring just seven times since the first World Series in 1903, not including the four three-game playoffs to decide the NL pennant between '46 and '62.

Tonight, the White Sox and Twins will settle their divisional stalemate with a one-off -- the first time American League clubs have needed the extra game since '95.

There's something about the one-and-done format which lends itself to high drama (as college hoops fans know). Sure, not every one-game playoff is one for the SI Vault, but the stakes are always stratospheric. And it's these brief outings in postseason purgatory where familiar names like Bucky Dent and Bobby Thomson forged their legends.

In honor of tonight's AL Central showdown -- the 163th game of the season for these clubs -- we've put together's All-163 team, honoring those players who shone the brightest in these unusual, sudden-death circumstances.

Catcher | Joe Garagiola, Cardinals (1946)

In the opener of a three-game set to decide the NL pennant, the 20-year-old rookie went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs to lead St. Louis to a 4-2 victory over Brooklyn. Garagiola didn't play in the second game, when the Cards clinched the pennant with an 8-4 win, but came back to bat .316 in the World Series.

First baseman | Gil Hodges, Dodgers (1951, 1959)

Eight years after his uneven performance in the Dodgers' three-game loss to the Giants in '51, Hodges compensated by scoring the game-winning, pennant-clinching run from second base on Carl Furillo's infield hit. The run propelled Los Angeles to the '59 World Series, where they defeated the White Sox in six games.

Second baseman | Edgardo Alfonzo, Mets (1999)

Facing the Reds at old Riverfront Stadium to settle the NL wild-card race, Alfonzo's two-run homer in the top of the first inning proved to be the game-winning hit. Al Leiter tossed a two-hit shutout and the Mets won 5-0.

Shortstop | Bucky Dent, Yankees (1978)

With the Red Sox holding a 2-0 lead over the Yankees in the seventh inning, New York's light-hitting No. 9 hitter drove an innocuous-looking fly ball over the Green Monster for a three-run homer. Thurmon Munson's subsequent RBI double and Reggie Jackson's solo shot in the eighth sealed a third straight postseason trip for the Yanks.

Third baseman | Bobby Thomson, Giants (1951)

With 20-year-old Willie Mays on deck, Thomson's famous "Shot Heard 'Round The World" at the Polo Grounds sank crosstown rival Brooklyn and capped New York's miraculous second-half charge up the NL standings.

Left fielder | Matt Holliday, Rockies (2007)

Holliday went 2-for-6, drove in two runs and scored the game-winning run in the 13th inning on Jamie Carroll's shallow sacrifice fly, sliding past San Diego's Michael Barrett and scraping his chin on the play. His opportunistic dash sealed a dramatic 9-8 victory for the Rockies, who plated three runs off future Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman.

Center fielder | Willie Mays, Giants (1951, 1962)

After going just 1-for-10 against Brooklyn as a rookie in '51, Mays was dominant against the L.A. Dodgers throughout their three-game playoff in '62. The center fielder went 3-for-3 with a pair of home runs in the opener and his RBI single in the third and deciding game lifted San Francisco into the World Series.

Right fielder | Scott Hairston, Padres (2007)

The lone player from a losing side to make our All-163 team, Hairston's two-run homer in the top of the 13th in last year's one-gamer with Colorado opened an 8-6 lead for the Padres. It should have been enough for Hoffman ... but it wasn't.

Utility | Luis Sojo, Mariners (1995)

The shortstop's poor-man's grand slam off Mark Langston blew open a taut 1-1 deadlock in the seventh inning, paving the way for Seattle's emphatic 9-1 victory over the Angels. The play was scored a three-run double but the shortstop came around to score on a throwing error -- and his sliding into home plate remains the game's enduring image.

Right-handed pitcher | Joe Niekro, Astros (1980)

Just days before taking part in the most dramatic NLCS in history, the well-traveled knuckleballer tossed a six-hit complete game for his 20th win of the season.

Left-handed pitcher | Gene Bearden, Indians (1948)

Brandishing an impressive floating knuckleball, the 26-year-old rookie went the distance in an 8-3 victory over the Red Sox at Fenway Park, spiriting the Indians to their first pennant in 28 years.

Closer | Rod Beck, Cubs (1998)

Fatalistic fans of the Cubs could barely watch as the Giants scored three runs in the top of the ninth to cut Chicago's comfortable 5-0 lead to 5-3. Enter Beck, who recorded the final two outs -- the last on a Joe Carter pop-up -- to carry the Cubs into the playoffs for the first time since '89.

Who did we overlook? Will a player on the White Sox or the Twins join this group tonight?


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