“DIARY OF A WINNER”

 

THE CURSE OF THE BAMBINO, PART 10
"IT AIN'T OVER 'TIL IT'S OVER"...

 1986 WORLD SERIES, GAME #6
One wild pitch and one error
by first baseman Bill Buckner

October 25, 1986 ... They were one pitch away from a world championship, just one pitch from an end to 68 years of frustration, just one pitch. In a heartbreak that ranks with all of the heartbreaks ever recorded in the long book of Boston Red Sox heartbreak history, the Sox let that world championship bounce away in the red dirt of Shea Stadium. One wild pitch and one error by first baseman Bill Buckner.

The New York Mets scored three runs in the bottom of the 10th and final inning after allowing the Red Sox two in the top of the inning to post a wild, 6-5 win in the sixth game of this World Series.

Never have the Red Sox come this close and failed. Never in the Bucky Dent game or the Enos Slaughter game or the Jim Burton game or all the recorded games of frustration had the finish been this close to a championship. Never. Not since 1918. Never.

The game started as the Sox easily and efficiently took command. Dwight Evans doubled off the wall in left-center to score Wade Boggs with the first Red Sox run in the first inning. In the second inning the Red Sox went up 2-0 on three singles by Spike Owen, Boggs and Marty Barrett. The Sox looked confident while the Mets seemed tight and nervous. Roger Clemens was pitching and was unhittable. He struck out six of the first nine hitters and was perfect through four innings.

But in the fifth inning, he walked Darryl Strawberry, who stole second and scored on a hit by Ray Knight. Mookie Wilson then hit a base hit to right and Evans let the ball get by him, to put the runners on the corners. John McNamara elected to play infield back and concede a run in favor of a doubleplay. Pinch hitter Danny Heep did just that and the game was tied.

The score stayed tied through the sixth and Mets reliever, Roger McDowell, walked Barrett to start off the inning. Barrett advanced to second on a ground ball and then Jim Rice reached on a throwing error by Ray Knight. With runners on the corners, Rich Gedman lined a single to left to score Barrett, but third-base coach Rene Lachmann sent home Rice, who was thrown out with plenty to spare, but the Red Sox now led 3 to 2.

Clemens got through the seventh inning but developed a blister on the middle finger of his left hand. He was scheduled to hit third in the eighth-inning. Dave Henderson led off with a single and was sacrificed to second. McNamara elected to send up a pinch-hitter for Roger, who would already thrown 135 pitches. Mike Greenwell was struck out on three pitches, but McDowell then walked Boggs and Barrett to load the bases.

With left-handed Bill Buckner due up next, Mets manager Davey Johnson brought in left-hander Jesse Orosco. Don Baylor and his 31 home runs and 94 RBIs was on the bench, and Dave Stapleton was ready to take over at first base. But McNamara elected to let  Buckner it for himself and he flied out, on the first pitch, to end the inning.

Calvin Schiraldi now came into pitch in the eighth. Pinch-hitter Lee Mazzilli greeted him with a base hit and then Lenny Dykstra attempted to sacrifice him along. He bunted back to the mound and Schiraldi had plenty of time to make the play at second, but threw the ball in the dirt. Wally Backman was then ordered to try another sacrifice bunt and worked it successfully, moving the runners up to second and third. When Schiraldi walked Keith Hernandez the load the bases and went 3-0 on Gary Carter, the crowd at Shea Stadium could sense the turn in momentum. Carter lined a single to left that scored Mazzilli with the tying run, and Red Sox fans must have considered jumping out their windows.

Neither team scored in the ninth inning, and the game went into extra innings. Dave Henderson briefly became a hero again, when he led off the 10th by smashing a pitch from Rick Aguilera over the left-field fence for a home run. The Red Sox led 4 to 3. It was perfect because Henderson had no idea about the last time the Red Sox had won a World Series. Boggs came up with two outs and slapped a double to left and then Marty Barrett grounded a single up the middle to score an insurance run and put the Sox up 5 to 3. A Red Sox championship seemed to be a certainty and Shea Stadium fell quiet. The Red Sox were now three outs from a world championship. After 68 seasons of scapegoating and blame, destruction and doom, it now seemed it would be gone for all time.

Schiraldi needed just three outs. Wally Backman flied out to left. Then Keith Hernandez hit a fly ball deep to center that Henderson drifted back on, to make the catch. In the locker room, the attendants stuck plastic over the lockers and the press box nearly emptied as the reporters raced to the Red Sox clubhouse. Jean Yawkey and Haywood Sullivan beamed and stood side-by-side as their images were flashed on television sets across America.

Gary Carter stepped to the plate and Schiraldi, who was just trying to throw strikes, threw one down the middle that was slapped softly into left for a base hit. It meant nothing and Kevin Mitchell, who was on the phone reportedly making airline reservations to fly back home to San Diego, was called on to pinch-hit. He lined a single to center and Carter pulled up at second base.

Up came Ray Knight and Schiraldi threw a fastball for strike. Knight fouled off the next pitch and the world championship was one strike away. Schiraldi jammed Knight with the next pitch and Knight sent a looper into shallow center field. Carter scored and Mitchell alertly went to third. The score was now 5 to 4. With Mookie Wilson due up, McNamara walked to the mound and signaled for Bob Stanley.

Wilson went down 0-1 and then took two balls. He fouled off the next pitch to make it 2-2. Again, the Red Sox were one strike away. Then another foul ball and another and another. There were five in all. Stanley's next pitch was a sinker ball, down and away. Pitchers don't think about wild pitches and catchers don't think about passed balls. But tonight, the ball bounced off Gedman's glove and went all the way to the backstop. Mitchell scored from third and Knight ran down to second. The game was tied at 5 to 5. In Shea, the Mets fans roared and the Boston fans tried to disappear.

Mookie Wilson fouled off two more pitches and then on the ninth pitch fired by Bob Stanley, he topped a ground ball down toward  Buckner at first base. The moment froze in time.  Buckner reached down to field a ball like he had caught hundreds of times. But tonight it bounced between his legs and scooted untouched beneath his glove. Knight wheeled around third, waving his arms and jumping up in the air as the Mets poured from the dugout to greet him as he landed at home plate. Buckner had his career distilled into a single moment and Red Sox fans walked around with the dazed look of survivors in a car accident.

The Mets simply took it away from the Sox. It’s not the worst ever yet. It all will depends on what happens in the final game. If the Red Sox win that game, the story will be a sidelight. But if they don't . . . "



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VIEW SCORECARD
 

1986 WORLD SERIES

 

 

Boston Red Sox

3 Games

 

 

New York Mets

3 Games

 

 

 

    BALL STRIKE    
W RICK AGUILERA

1

0

  0 0  

2B

EVANS (BOST), BOGGS (BOST)

L

C. SCHIRALDI

0

2

  OUT AT BAT  

3B

 

 

ATTENDANCE:

55,078

  0 00  

HR

HENDERSON (BOST)

1986 WORLD SERIES, GAME #6
 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

 

R

H

E

BOSTON RED SOX

1

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

2

 

5

13

3

NEW YORK METS

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

1

0

3

 

6

8

2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RED SOX

 

AB

R

H

 

 

Wade Boggs 3b 5 2 3  

 

Marty Barrett 2b 4 1 3  

 

Bill Buckner 1b 5 0 0  

 

Jim Rice lf 5 0 0  

 

Dwight Evans rf 4 0 1  

 

Rich Gedman c 5 0 1  

 

Dave Henderson cf 5 1 2  

 

Spike Owen ss 4 1 3  

 

Roger Clemens p 3 0 0  

 

Mike Greenwell ph 1 0 0  

 

Calvin Schiraldi p 1 0 0  

 

Bob Stanley p 0 0 0  
             
    IP H ER SO  

 

Roger Clemens 7 4 1 8  

 

Calvin Schiraldi 2.2 4 3 1  
  Bob Stanley - 0 0 0  

 

         

 

             

 

METS

 

AB

R

H

 

 

Lenny Dykstra cf 4 0 0  

 

Wally Backman 2b 4 0 1  

 

Keith Hernandez 1b 4 0 1  

 

Gary Carter c 4 1 1  

 

Darryl Strawberry rf 2 1 0  

 

Rick Aguilera p 0 0 0  

 

Kevin Mitchell ph 1 1 1  

 

Ray Knight 3b 4 2 2  

 

Mookie Wilson lf 5 0 1  

 

Rafael Santana ss 1 0 0  

 

Danny Heep ph 1 0 0  

 

Kevin Elster ss 1 0 0  

 

Howard Johnson ph/ss 1 0 0  

 

Bob Ojeda p 2 0 0  

 

Roger McDowell p 0 0 0  

 

Jesse Orosco p 0 0 0  

 

Lee Mazzilli ph/rf 2 1 0  
             
    IP H ER SO  

 

Bob Ojeda 6 8 2 3  

 

Roger McDowell 1.2 2 0 1  

 

Jesse Orosco 0.1 0 0 0  
  Rick Aguilera 2 3 2 3