To mark the occasion of the Detroit Tigers' recent upset playoff victory over the Yankees, ESPN.com has compiled this list of great Yankees playoff collapses.
I realize, of course, that a key reason why the Yankees have had so many playoff collapses is that they get to the postseason so often (roughly once every two years since pilfering the Babe from the Red Sox back in 1920). The rate at which the Yankees experience catastrophic failure in the playoffs is probably no greater than one would expect based on random chance variation. But that doesn't prevent me from enjoying moments like this! Moreover, 4 of the 10 collapses on the ESPN list have happened in the last six years. Maybe it's just a random blip, but perhaps the incidence of Yankees' collapses is going up.
UPDATE: The ESPN list, while pretty thorough, omits several good candidates, including the Big Red Machine sweep of the Yankees in the 1976 World Series, and the Kansas CIty Royals' sweep of a heavily favored Yankees team in the 1980 ALCS, a fitting revenge for three straight close defeats in the ALCS in 1976-78. Most importantly it fails to include the 1926 World Series, my personal favorite Yankees postseason defeat(with the exception of the 2004 "Reversal of the Curse," of course). In that series, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander came in an put down a bases loaded Yankees rally in Game 7, despite being hungover from celebrating his complete-game victory the night before in Game 6. Then, in the ninth inning, Babe Ruth "clinched" the Cardinals victory by getting caught stealing to make the last out of the series. Anyone who has ever seen a picture of the lumbering Babe knows that a Ruth steal attempt (especially with slugger Bob Meusel at the plate) is not exactly good strategy in a crucial situation!
This entire series of events was immortalized in the 1952 movie The Winning Team, starring Ronald Reagan as Alexander. It's definitely my favorite Reagan movie, for reasons having little to do with cinematic quality:).