1986 World Series Game 6 - Whose Fault Was It?
This past Saturday marked the 29th anniversary of the pivotal Game 6 of the 1986 World Series between the Mets and the Red Sox. I was reminded of the similarities between that Mets team and this year’s Royals team. Both were/are come from behind teams that always believe they’re in the game no matter what. Game 1 of the 2015 World Series had a coincidence that is particularly memorable for me. During last night’s game in the 8th inning, Eric Hosmer had a grounder handcuff him which brought in the go ahead run. Hosmer is a 2 time defending Gold Glove winner at 1B known for his defense. Were it not for Alex Gordon and his heroics in the 9th, that could have been the turning point in the game last night. It instantly took me back 29 years (I had just turned 9) to the ’86 series and Game 6.
Everyone remembers Bill Buckner as the pariah that ruined the chances of the Red Sox to break the Curse of the Bambino that had plagued them since Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920. The routine grounder went through Buckner’s legs allowing Ray Knight to score the winning run and force a Game 7. That error overshadowed an outstanding career as Buckner notched 2715 hits, 1208 RBI and hit .289 for his career. Buckner has noted several times that the media had more to do with his notoriety than actual fans.
Now my team was on the winning end of the whole situation, so clearly I was happy with the result. However, it has always bothered me that Buckner gets the blame for the Red Sox collapse against the Mets when so many more factors came into play. Going back to that night, October 25, 1986 the Red Sox had a 3 games to 2 lead and were winning Game 6 heading into the bottom of the 9th 5-3. Bob Ojeda had scattered 8 hits over 6 innings giving up 2. Roger Clemens was rolling giving up 1 and striking out 8. In the top of the 10th, Rick Aguilera surrendered a homerun to Dave Henderson and another RBI double to SS Marty Barrett. This gave the Red Sox a 5-3 lead heading into the bottom of the 10th.
Calvin Schiraldi who pitched the 8th and the 9th was called on to go one more frame. Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez flied out to start the inning leaving the Mets to their last at bat. The Kid, Gary Carter, started things off with a 2 out single. Kevin Mitchell, pinch hitting, gets another single. Ray Knight goes down 0-2, leaving the Red Sox one strike away from winning the Series, when he miraculously gets another single, scoring Carter making it 5-4. So some blame to Schiraldi for giving up 3 hits and 1 run. Bob Stanley comes in to relieve Schiraldi. Mookie Wilson battled Stanley to 3-2 and multiple foul balls when Stanley uncorks a wild pitch and Mitchell scores tying the game (Knight to second). So some blame to Stanley for bringing in the tying run with a wild pitch. Fair to say everyone is rattled on the Boston side and the pressure is ratcheted up quite a bit. Now the infamous play, and Mookie grounds one down the first base line to Buckner. Mookie was fairly fleet of foot having stolen 25 bags that year. I’m sure that factored in for Buckner who would have had to beat him to the bag. Buckner didn’t field cleanly and the ball trickled into right field with Knight coming around for the winning run.
The Red Sox had a 3-0 lead in Game 7 heading into the 6th as Bruce Hurst had their number that year and dominated again that night. Schiraldi took the loss in Game 7 surrendering 3 runs that would be the difference in that game too. However, all anyone remembers from that series is Buckner’s gaffe when the game was already tied due to other errors and mental mistakes.