45With seventeen games left in the 2007 baseball season the New York
Mets held a seemingly comfortable seven- game lead in the National League
East over the second- place Philadelphia Phillies. The Mets collapsed and
the Phillies won the division. This collapse inspired Fox News sportswriter
Todd Behrendt to write an article ranking the “all- time great sports collapses.”1 In this chapter we will make some simple assumptions and then
use basic probability to try and determine the probability of each collapse
occurring. The “greatest collapse” would then be the collapse that had the
smallest probability of occurring.
RANKING GREAT SPORTS COLLAPSES
A List of Great CollapsesWe now describe the great baseball, basketball, and football collapses listed
by Behrendt. (I added the last three collapses on the list.)
|• ||The 2007 Mets (described above).|
|• ||On September 20, 1964, the Philadelphia Phillies held a 6.5- game lead
over both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds. The Phillies
went 3–9 down the stretch and the St. Louis Cardinals won the National
|• ||On August 12, 1951, the Brooklyn Dodgers had a 72–36 record and the
New York Giants had a 62–51 record. The two teams had seven head- tohead contests remaining. The Giants wiped out the Dodgers' 13.5- game
lead and beat the Dodgers in a three- game playoff capped off by Bobby
Thompson's amazing home run (see chapter 8).|
|• ||The L.A. Lakers trailed the Portland Trailblazers by 15 points with 10:28
left in the fourth quarter of the deciding game 7 of the 2000 NBA Western Conference Finals. The Lakers came back to win.|
1 See http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/7286840.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: Mathletics: How Gamblers, Managers, and Sports Enthusiasts Use Mathematics in Baseball, Basketball, and Football.
Contributors: Wayne Winston - Author.
Publisher: Princeton University Press.
Place of publication: Princeton, NJ.
Publication year: 2009.
Page number: 303.
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