Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Silver anniversary: the Buckner gamePosted by Chris Jaffe
Twenty-five years ago today, one of the most famous—or infamous, depending on your perspective—games in baseball history took place: Game Six of the 1986 World Series.
Boston had won three of the first five games and a win here will clinch it. Famously, they didn’t. Moments like this are so famous there doesn’t seem much point in recapping it. Long story short, the Red Sox enter the bottom of the 10th up 5-3, got the first two batters out, and then completely imploded. They allowed three straight singles, a game-tying wild pitch, and then finally the ball that rolled through Bill Buckner’s leg for the walk-off Mets win.
It didn’t end the World Series—that happened the next night when the Mets won Game Seven, but it’s the cumulating moment one of the best postseasons ever. Both LCS was a classic. In the NLCS, the Mets and Astros fought through six incredibly wonderful, tension-filled games. In the ALCS, the Red Sox rallied from a three-games-to-one deficit to beat the Angels.
That said, while Game Six of the World Series was great and 1986 featured arguably the best pair of LCS ever that year’s Fall Classic wasn’t that great until the Buckner inning.
Game One was a nice pitcher’s duel, with Boston winning 1-0 on an unearned run, but then things got flaccid. Games Two and Three were back-to-back blowouts. Game Four’s final score was a little closer, a 6-2 Mets win, but that’s because of two Boston runs in the bottom of the eighth. Game Five was similar, a 4-2 Boston win that was 4-0 after seven innings. Prior to Game Six, there hadn’t been a single lead change within any game in the Series.
Game Seven was really good game, with Boston taking an early 3-0 lead before losing it, but it wasn’t a classic. 1986 had one of the best postseasons ever, but the World Series was the weakest link in it, despite the great Game Six.
While Buckner got the infamy for the error, the score was already tied when that happened. Who knows what would’ve happened from there. According to WPA, the biggest moment in the inning was Bob Stanley’s wild pitch that let the tying run in. Lucky for Stanley he’s not the guy everyone remembers.
There’s a bizarre coda to the game—and I just love this story. Stuck in the catacombs of Shea Stadium during the game was a young Dan Patrick. He knew Boston took a two-run lead in the top of the inning and went to the Boston clubhouse to interview guys, but didn’t know what happened after that. He heard the tremendous roar from the crowd and realized the Mets must’ve staged the improbably comeback, but didn’t know how. So, when the players walked in, he looked at the first one he saw and uttered those immortal words: “Bill Buckner—what happened?”
I love that. Buckner didn’t love that question, but it wasn’t his low moment of the night.
Here’s some alternate reality for you: Dave Henderson came achingly close to becoming an all-time baseball clutch legend. He had a clutch homer in that ALCS that helped the Red Sox claim the pennant. Then, in Game Six of the World Series, he belted a homer in the 10th inning that gave them the lead. If Boston holds on, he’s the man everyone remembers. He’s not totally forgotten, especially in Boston, but he’s hardly the name people remember from the postseason.
Aside from that, many other events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event occurring X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold for those that would rather just skim the list.
1,000 days since the Diamondbacks signed Jon Garland as a free agent.
2,000 days since Terry Francona managed his 1,000th game. His record at this point: 494-506.
2,000 days since the Houston Astros all-time cumulative franchise record peaked at four games over .500: 3,516-3,512. Their record since then: 428-515.
6,000 days since a brawl at a Carolina League game between Durham and Winston-Salem lasted more than 30 minutes and resulted in 10 ejections. As it happens, the fight occurred on “Strike Out Domestic Violence Night” at the old ballpark.
7,000 days since Andujar Cedeño hit for the cycle, becoming the player with the worst in-season batting average to ever get the cycle.
7,000 days since the Houston Astros returned from their longest scheduled road trip ever, 26 games.
7,000 days since Texas signed amateur free agent Fernando Tatis.
25,000 days since Mel Ott hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning.
1889 Great pitcher Smokey Joe Wood is born.
1902 Infielder Herman Long jumps from the Boston Braves to what will become the New York Yankees as the AL and NL raid each other’s roster (mostly AL raiding NL rosters).
1911 Down three games to one, in Game Five of the World Series the Giants comeback from a 3-0 deficit at the seventh inning stretch to top the A’s, 4-1 in 10 innings. New York scores once in the bottom of the seventh before tying it with a pair in the bottom of the ninth. The winning run scores on a walk-off sacrifice hit by Fred Merkle.
1917 Lee MacPhail, Hall of Fame baseball executive whose dad is also a Hall of Fame baseball executive, is born.
1919 In the case of Carl Mays, Judge Robert Wagner sides with the Yankees over AL honcho Ban Johnson. The Yankees just signed Mays, and Johnson wants to punish Mays for walking out on his old team, but doesn’t have the necessary authority to enforce his will on the league.
1919 Ty Cobb corresponds with Dutch Leonard about a Sept. 24, 1919 Tigers-Indians game. Leonard will later use the correspondence to argue Cobb had agreed to throw a late season game instead of giving his best effort. Commissioner Judge Landis will investigate but rule Leonard presents insufficient evidence.
1923 Bobby Thomson, hit the homer that allowed the Giants to win the pennant in 1951, is born.
1927 Heinie Groh, a recently released third baseman, decides to retire.
1932 The St. Louis Cardinals sign free agent Rogers Hornsby.
1937 The Braves sign Casey Stengel as their new manager. He replaces Bill McKechnie who also is a Hall of Fame skipper.
1943 Leo Durocher signs to manage the Dodgers in 1944, and his contract includes clauses in which he’ll get more money the more fans the team draws.
1952 Roy Smalley Jr., shortstop whose dad is also a shortstop, is born.
1955 The White Sox trade Chico Carrasquel and Jim Busby to the Indians for Larry Doby.
1955 Danny Darwin, long-lasting swingman, is born.
1960 Houston announces the hiring of Gabe Paul as their first general manager. He’ll clash with the ownership and leave the team before they play their first game.
1965 After a decade away from the job he does best, Leo Durocher becomes manager. The Cubs hire him.
1967 Houston signs amateur free agent Cesar Cedeño.
1969 Jackie Robinson makes a controversial comment about a centennial committee that names Casey Stengel the best manager ever. Robinson states “That’s a lot of bull—a joke.”
1971 Pedro Martinez, terrific pitcher, is born.
1973 The Red Sox release former Pirate fastballer Bob Veale.
1973 The Cubs trade Fergie Jenkins to the Rangers for Bill Madlock and another player.
1973 The Tigers release Frank Howard.
1974 The Twins release veteran catcher Randy Hundley.
1977 The Cubs trade outfielder Jose Cardenal to Phillies.
1978 The Padres trade Oscar Gamble, Dave Roberts, and $300,000 to the Rangers for Kurt Bevacqua, Mike Hargrove, and Bill Fahey.
1981 Pete Reiser dies.
1985 The Angels announce they won’t offer 3,000-hit club member Rod Carew a contract for next year. This ends Carew’s career.
1987 The first ever World Series in which the home team wins every game comes to an end. The 85-77 Twins (who were outscored during the regular season) top the Cardinals, 4-2. There have been two more World Series featuring a perfect record by home teams: 1991, and 2001.
1991 George Brunet, long-lasting pitcher, dies.
1995 Anhesuer-Busch announce plans to sell the Cardinals after 40-plus years of ownership.
1996 Frank Torre, former big league ballplayer whose brother is one game from leading the Yankees to their first world title in 18 years, receives a heart transplant.
2003 The Marlins win their second ever world title, as Josh Beckett tosses a complete game five-hit shutout in Game Six for a 2-0 win over the Yankees.
2005 One of the longest World Series games of all-time ends in a White Sox victory. They win Game Three 7-5 in 14 innings over the Astros for the win. Houston blows a bunch of chances in this game, as Chicago’s bullpen can’t throw strikes but somehow hold the Astros to only one hit over the last nine innings of the contest. Chicago leads the World Series, three games to none.
2006 The Cubs sign amateur free agent Starlin Castro.
2008 In Game Three of the World Series, the Phillies top the Rays 5-4 with the winning run crossing the plate in the bottom of the ninth.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.