Mid-1980s playoff baseball had no equal

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Seriously, when did we ever see a run of iconic postseason moments like we had in the mid-1980s?

Now I tend to overrate the 1980s because that was the decade where I matured as a baseball fan, and my Hall of Fame picks have a definite pro-1980s slant. But I do not think I am seeing things through rose-colored Ray Bans.

I am defining “An Iconic Post Season Moment” as a highlight that can be easily defined with a name or a few words. “The Carlton Fisk Homer.” “The Bobby Thomson Homer.” “Bucky Bleeping Dent.” “Reggie in 1977.” “Don Larsen’s perfect game.” “Willie Mays’ Catch.” “The Bloody Sock.”

OK, technically the Bobby Thomson homer and Bucky Bleeping Dent weren’t postseason games, but you get the idea.

It is an easy-to-define moment in baseball history that many casual fans know about, and a bunch were piled up between 1985 and 1988. And not only those moments, but also a slew of heart-stopping postseason games that were often overshadowed by the more iconic games played right before or afterwards.

Ozzie Smith… Go crazy folks!
Game Five, 1985 NLCS – October 14, 1985 – Cardinals 3, Dodgers 2

The Cardinals and Dodgers were tied 2-2 in games and on the scoreboard. Fernando Valenzuela was throwing a gem while the Cardinals bullpen kept the Dodgers off of the board. Tom Niedenfuer faced
Ozzie Smith, who had never hit a left-handed home run in his career. He picked the perfect time for his first one. As Jack Buck so accurately described it, the Cardinals fans and Ozzie went crazy. The defensive wizard had his unlikely offensive highlight.

Don Denkinger’s call
Game Six, World Series – October 26, 1985 – Royals 2, Cardinals 1

It is too bad that it isn’t called the Brian Harper game after his clutch RBI hit in the 8th inning to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. Or the Danny Cox game, after his seven-shutout-inning performance. It isn’t even the Dane Iorg game. Remember he stroked a two-run walk-off hit with his team on the verge of elimination. Alas, the game’s legacy will be Denkinger’s jaw-droppingly-awful call on Jorge Orta’s ground out. His last name will always be a shorthand for instant replay proponents.

Hendu’s homer
Game Five, 1986 ALCS – October 12, 1986 – Red Sox 7, Angels 6 in 11 innings

You might remember Dave Henderson homering off of Donnie Moore with the Angels one strike from a trip to the World Series. And you also probably know about Moore’s tragic ending. But do you remember that Mike Witt was pitching a gem for 8 2/3 innings before he was removed for Gary Lucas? Do you remember the Angels took the lead because Dave Henderson dropped a ball over the fence for a go-ahead homer? Or that the Angels tied the game after Henderson’s homer and had the pennant-winning run on third base with fewer than two outs, and seldom-used mop-up man Steve Crawford got the Red Sox out of the jam? Did you remember Gary Pettis hit a fly ball that was a foot shy of being a pennant-winning homer? Or Henderson drove in the winning run in the 11th? As Al Michaels said during the 9th inning, “We’re looking at one for the ages here.”

The Mets and Astros 16-inning marathon
Game Six, 1986 NLCS – October 15, 1986 – Mets 7, Astros 6 in 16 innings

Between the Mets overcoming a three-run hole in the 9th inning and taking the lead in the 14th… and Billy Hatcher hitting a game-tying homer in the bottom of the 14th… and the Mets scoring three in the 16th and the Astros scoring two before Jesse Orosco struck out Kevin Bass with the tying and winning runs on… the Mets seemed too exhausted at the end to celebrate their pennant. On my short list for wildest and most exciting game I have ever watched.

The Buckner error
Game Six, 1986 World Series– October 25, 1986 – Mets 6, Red Sox 5 in 10 innings

I hate referring to Bill Buckner by name in reviewing this game. The error was so overrated. When I went to bed that night crying (and I did) I was thinking about the wild pitch Bob Stanley uncorked. (Or should it have been a passed ball on Rich Gedman’s ledger?) The game was already tied when Buckner made the error. Buckner’s miscue was just the last mistake in a series of disastrous moves by manager John McNamara. But, sadly, the image of the ball going through Buckner’s legs symbolized the Red Sox… until Dave Roberts stole second base.

Kirk Gibson’s home run
Game One, 1988 World Series – October 15, 1988 – Dodgers 5, Athletics 4

The funny thing about Game One of the 1988 World Series was it was already an entertaining game with many memorable moments before Kirk Gibson hobbled to the plate. There were exchanged bean balls in the first inning. Mickey Hatcher homered in the first (matching his entire regular-season output) and his sprint around the bases was nothing short of hilarious. Then Jose Canseco hit a grand slam, the first of his season, that ricocheted off the center field camera. It was good, fun baseball. But then came the Kirk Gibson home run that was so surreal that I nearly cry every time I see it.

And those are just the massive highlights. Each postseason (including 1987) had games that normally would be considered the brilliant October highlight. They were simply outshone by those epic moments.

Don’t believe me? Well take a look at these games, series, performances and series-clinching heroics that may not have been as legendary as Buckner and Gibson, yet had our hairs standing on end when they happened…

The entire heart-stopping 1985 ALCS

OK, maybe the first game was boring. But the rest of the series between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Kansas City Royals was an underrated classic. Game Two saw Pat Sheridan hit a game-tying homer in the 9th for Kansas City, which took the lead in the 10th, only to give up two in the bottom of the 10th to blow it. Game Three saw the Royals survive a five-run inning by the Blue Jays. Toronto scored three in the 9th to win Game Four. Danny Jackson saved the Royals season in Game Five. The Blue Jays had the pennant-winning run at the plate in Game Six but couldn’t win, and the Royals pulled off the win in Game Seven. Bet you didn’t remember how good that series was!

Jack Clark’s homer
Game Six, 1985 NLCS – October 16, 1985 – Cardinals 7, Dodgers 5

Mike Marshall was going to be the hero for the Dodgers. He hit a solo shot in the bottom of the 8th inning to give LA the lead and set up a seventh game. But Tom Neidenfuer, who had already thrown 1 2/3 innings, let two runners on. With first base open and two outs, Tom Lasorda let Niedenfuer pitch to Jack Clark. He crushed the first pitch he saw into the left field stands for a go ahead and eventual pennant-winning homer. Niedenfuer’s career was never the same.

Terry Pendleton crushes the Royals
Game Two, 1985 World Series – October 20, 1985 – Cardinals 4, Royals 2

Charlie Liebrandt was throwing a two-hit shutout into the 9th inning and keeping the Cardinals on their heels. With two outs and the bases loaded, Terry Pendleton smacked a double down the line that cleared the bases and gave the Cardinals the lead for good. St. Louis took control of the series… or so it seemed.

The spectre of Mike Scott
Game One, 1986 NLCS – October 8, 1986 – Astros 1, Mets 0
Game Four, 1986 NLCS – October 12, 1986 – Astros 3, Mets 1

Mike Scott squared off against Doc Goodenin the opening game of the NLCS. Glenn Davis’ solo homer was all the offense in the game. Alan Ashby and Dickie Thon homered in Game Four. And that was all he needed to make it clear the Mets weren’t going to beat Scott, making the 16-inning Game Six more desperate for New York. They had to win or face Scott in Game Seven.

Lenny Dykstra’s walk-off shot
Game Three 1986 NLCS – October 11, 1986 – Mets 6, Astros 5

A classic back-and-forth game where the Astros took a 4-0 lead and Darryl Strawberry tied the game with a three-run shot in the 6th. The Astros were up 5-4 in the bottom of the 9th when Lenny Dykstra launched a go-ahead, walk-off homer that sent Shea into hysterics. If the Astros won that game, they’d be handing the ball to Scott in Game Four to give them a 3-1 lead.

Calvin Schraldi hits Brian Downing
Game Four, 1986 ALCS – October 11, 1986 – Angels 4, Red Sox 3 in 11 innings.

If the Red Sox lost the ALCS (and they were one strike from doing just that), the moment that would have been etched in Boston lore would have been in the 9th inning of Game Four. With Roger Clemens dealing and the Sox with a three-run lead in the 9th, the Rocket tired and Calvin Schraldi came in. Jim Rice misplayed a Gary Pettis flyball to make it a one-run game. The Angels loaded the bases with two outs. On an 0-2 count, Schraldi hit Brian Downing with a slow, looping curve. The game was tied, the Angels won in 11 and took a 3-1 lead. It looked all over… until Henderson came to the plate fewer than 12 hours later.

Ryan Express and Doctor K duel at Shea
Game Five, 1986 NLCS – October 14, 1986 – Mets 2, Astros 1 in 12

Nolan Ryan threw a nine-inning, 12-strikeout, two-hit, one-walk masterpiece. It wasn’t enough. Dwight Gooden let in one run over 10 innings. Wasn’t enough. Finally, the Mets won after a botched pickoff play in the 12th set up Gary Carter’s winning hit. Another game the Astros lamented in those 16 Game Six innings.

The ball rolls through Tim Teufel’s legs
Game One, 1986 World Series – October 18, 1986 – Red Sox 1, Mets 0

It was clear from the start that the 1986 World Series was going to be defined by a ball through an infielder’s legs. Early on, it looked like Mets second baseman Tim Teufel was going to wear the goat horns. With Bruce Hurst and Ron Darling locking horns in a scoreless game, Rich Gedman rolled one through Tim Teufel’s wickets for the only run of the game. The Sox were in control early in the Series and only made the ending more cruel.

The Red Sox blow another lead in a World Series clincher
Game Seven, 1986 World Series – October 27, 1986 – Mets 8, Red Sox 5

One of the reasons I call the Buckner error so overrated was there was another game to play. And a rain delay allowed Bruce Hurst to pitch. And guess what? The Red Sox had the lead in that one as well! Back-to-back homers by Evans and Gedman sparked a 3-0 lead. Hurst took the three-run lead into the 6th when the Mets tied it. With a totally rested bullpen, McNamara inexplicably brought in Schraldi to pitch the 7th, and Schraldi surrendered a solo shot to Ray Knight. It was a one-run game going into the bottom of the 8th, but Strawberry’s homer put the World Series away for good.

Tigers sweep to clinch the East
Final Regular Season Game – October 4, 1987 – Tigers 1, Blue Jays 0

OK, it wasn’t a postseason moment, but it did clinch the division on the last day of the year. The Tigers were down 2½ games with six to play. And going into the last weekend of the season with Toronto, the Tigers would be eliminated with two losses. Instead, they won the first two games by one run each. On the final day of the year, both Jimmy Key and Frank Tanana threw complete games. The lone difference was Larry Herndon’s solo shot in the second inning.

No Jack Clark? No problem!
Game Three, 1987 NLCS – October 9, 1987 – Cardinals 6, Giants 5

The Cardinals’ MVP and former Giant star Jack Clark was reduced to a pinch hitter in the NLCS. His replacements, Jim Lindeman and Dan Driessen, came through big time in Game Three. Down 4-0 in the 6th, Lindeman hit a home run to put the Cardinals on the board. Driessen hit a game-tying single in the 7th, and Lindeman drove in a key insurance run as St. Louis came all the way back for the win.

Hack Man!
Game Four, 1987 NLCS – October 10, 1987 – Giants 4, Cardinals 2

With the Cardinals up 2-1 and Danny Cox dealing, the Giants were in trouble. But in the fifth inning, Jeffrey Leonard, The Hack Man, hit his fourth homer in as many games to give San Francisco the lead for good.

Candy Maldonado loses it in the lights
Game Six, 1987 NLCS – October 13, 1987 – Cardinals 1, Giants 0

The Giants were a game away from the pennant and Dave Dravecky was doing his best, throwing a solid six innings. But Candy Maldonado misplayed a Tony Pena fly ball into a triple. Pena would score later on a sacrifice fly for the only run of the game.

Frankie “Sweet Music” wins it.
Game Seven, 1987 World Series – October 25, 1987 – Twins 4, Cardinals 2

A strange World Series had appropriately a Twilight Zone of a clincher. Frank Viola looked lousy, and rookie Joe Magrane looked great. Then suddenly Viola became unhittable and three of the worst calls you will ever see cost both team runs. Eventually the Twins took the lead and won one of the least likely championships in baseball history.

Hershiser lets up a run and the Mets win
Game One, 1988 NLCS – October 4, 1988 – Mets 3, Dodgers 2

Orel Hershiser took his 59-1/3 scoreless inning streak into the postseason and didn’t look like he was going to miss a beat. He cruised into the 9th inning of Game One of the NLCS with a two-run lead and tossing a six-hit shutout. But Darryl Strawberry got a one-out RBI double. Tommy Lasorda lifted Hershiser for Jay Howell and the Mets pounced. They scored two more times on Gary Carter’s two-out, two-strike, two-run double to take the lead for good. If the Dodgers couldn’t win with Hershiser on the mound, what chance did they have?

Eckersley strikes out Boggs
Game One, 1988 ALCS – October 5, 1988 – Athletics 2, Red Sox 1

A tense pitchers duel between Dave Stewart and Bruce Hurst reached its climax in the bottom of the 9th. With two outs, the A’s were up by one and two former teammates and future Hall of Famers squared off. With the tying run in scoring position and the winning run on first, Dennis Eckersley had to face Wade Boggs. It was Eck who triumphed by striking out Boggs to end the game en route to his ALCS MVP.

Jay Howell’s ejection
Game Three, 1988 NLCS – October 8, 1988 – Mets 8, Dodgers 4

Rain allowed Tommy Lasorda to trot out Orel Hershiser again for Game Three. He pitched very well (one earned run in seven innings), but once again there was trouble when Jay Howell came out of the bullpen. He was caught with pine tar on his glove and was suspended for the rest of the series. The bullpen imploded, and the Mets took a 2-1 series lead, winning both games Hershiser started.

Mike Scioscia homers off Dwight Gooden
Game Four, 1988 NLCS – October 9, 1988 – Dodgers 5, Mets 4 in 12 innings

I think this is one of the wildest and most underrated games in baseball history. Twenty-four hours after losing another Hershiser-pitched game, the Dodgers blew an early lead, and the Mets were three outs away from a commanding 3-1 lead. Then Mike Scioscia, not exactly a power threat, launched a two-run, game-tying shot to right field off Dwight Gooden. The Dodgers wiggled out of extra inning jams before Kirk Gibson hit a go-ahead, two-out homer in the 12th. But with closer Jay Howell suspended, the Dodgers had to have a patchwork bullpen shut the door. When Tim Leary and Jesse Orosco allowed the Mets to rally, Hershiser came out of the pen with no day’s rest and got Kevin McReynolds to pop up. The tide of the series had shifted. Without Scioscia’s homer, the Mets would cruise to the World Series.

Big Mac’s walk off shot
Game Three, 1988 World Series – October 18, 1988 – Athletics 2, Dodgers 1

The Dodgers had ideas of sweeping the heavily-favored A’s as Game Three went tied into the 9th. Jay Howell came out of the bullpen for the first time since his suspension and faced his old teammate Mark McGwire. Howell lost the battle as McGwire launched a game-ending shot into the left field bleachers, giving the A’s hope.

Hershiser and the second impossible dream
Game Seven, 1988 NLCS – October 12, 1988 – Dodgers 6, Mets 0
Game Two, 1988 World Series – October 16, 1988 – Dodgers 6, Athletics 0
Game Five, 1988 World Series – October 20, 1988 – Dodgers 5, Athletics 2

The Dodgers’ bullpen blew two Hershiser’s starts, so he took matters into his own hands. He threw a five-hit shutout to eliminate the heavily favored Mets. Then a day after Kirk Gibson’s homer, he not only threw a three-hit shutout against the A’s but collected three hits himself. Then in Game Five, he clinched the World Series with his third complete game victory in eight days.

Wrapping up

That’s more than 25 amazing postseason games in a four-year stretch without including any of the iconic games.

And I would argue this is a greater stretch than even the 1950s or the recent 2003-2004 memorable postseasons.

The 1950s almost exclusively involved New York or Brooklyn. And while 2003 and 2004 were amazing, neither World Series matched the excitement of their respective LCS. (The 2003 World Series was exciting but paled after the Aaron Boone/Steve Bartman epics.)

And look at the games listed above. Three of those years had Game Seven of the World Series. All of the years had a Game Seven of the League Championship Series.

Also, the joy was spread around. I listed exciting wins for Kansas City, St. Louis, Toronto, Houston, New York, California, Boston, Detroit, San Francisco, Minnesota, Oakland and Los Angeles in a four-year stretch.

Of course, I was 13 when this run started and 16 when it ended, so needless to say it made an impression on me. Maybe someone ten years my junior will be saying nothing was better than the mid-1990s. Maybe someone ten years my senior would read this and say, “Are you kidding me? The 1970s were the best!”

But I stand by my assessment. That era of postseason baseball was the best, stretching between two Jack Buck calls:

“Go Crazy, folks!” to “I don’t believe what I just saw!”

References & Resources
Baseball-reference.com

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Comments

  1. Jim G. said...

    GM5 1986 – I’m not sure who you meant instead of Mark McGwire, so I guess the answer is “No,” I didn’t remember that.

    I’d like to submit another moment – even though the 1984 Tigers didn’t flirt with much drama, Kirk Gibson’s home run off of Goose Gossage to clinch the World Series. The Tigers already had a small lead in game 5, but Gossage had always shut down the Tigers and Gibson’s shot was all the sweeter to be off of Goose.

  2. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    I just spotted that mistake too. I have no idea why Mark McGwire’s name is in there.

    I am correcting it

  3. David Wade said...

    Jim G-

    I think Gibson personally had terrible numbers against Gossage too- at one point Gibby looked back to the dugout and Sparky told him to swing away, just before the blast.

    I like your addition, but I’m a Tiger fan so I’m biased.

    Sully- good choice going with the nickname Frankie ‘sweet music’ Viola, over Frank ‘101 strings’ Viola.

  4. gdc said...

    “The lone difference was Larry Hearndon’s solo shot in the second inning”
    Link might work if you spell it Herndon

  5. John said...

    I was 12 when this started and 15 when it ended. It was the best four-year run of postseason baseball I’ve ever seen, too.

    The hitting show that Will Clark and Mark Grace put on during the 1989 NLCS wasn’t bad, either, if you want to go one more year.

    For some reason, I’ve never been able to forget that Tigers-Blue Jays game at the end of the ‘87 season. I guarantee that none of the Toronto players who were bamboozled by Frank Tanana’s junk have ever forgotten, either.

  6. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    1984 was a nice year, especially with the Padres/Cubs NLCS

    But let’s face it, EVERYONE knew the Tigers were winning that World Series and even though the Padres played them tough, it wasn’t really in question

  7. JRVJ said...

    I’m probably more of a 2003 guy myself (though I have very fond memories of the 1980 Houston – Philly NLCS), but I have one nit to pick: there’s no way that 1988 is the mid-80s.

    Phrased differently, if the mid-80s extend to 1988, then when exactly were the LATE 80s? Just 1989? (and 1990 if you want to be a pedant about these things).

    In any case, depending on your criteria, 1983 and 1987 may or may not be part of the mid 80s, but 1988 not so much.

  8. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    JRVJ,

    I love that with all the words I wrote in this article, your biggest problem is with the first two of the title.

    I suppose you are right, but saying “The Mid 1980s and including 1988” was a smidge of a mouthful.

    (For the record, I believe the 1980s began in 1980 and ended in 1989)

    I agree with 2003 which might have been the single greatest postseason of my lifetime (although 1986 might give it a run for its money).

    And 2004 LOOKED like it might have rivaled 2003 except the World Series was a wash.

  9. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    John,

    I can’t put 1989 on here for a few reasons.

    I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1989 and it was remarkably exciting to be in the epicenter of baseball (horrible metaphor) but neither the ALCS nor the NLCS had a “The series can be tipped either way” moment.

    All three games between the Giants and Cubs at Candlestick were come from behind thrillers… but the Giants won all three of them.

    And the Blue Jays played the A’s tough, but it was over in 5 and Toronto was lucky to pull a single game out.

    And of course the World Series was a rotten one sided affair BEFORE the Earthquake hit.

    After the Earthquake, the World Series just didn’t seem important even though both of the local teams were playing in it.

    I would argue that 1989 was probably the worst baseball post season ever

  10. JRVJ said...

    Nothing personal. 

    I guess I wasn’t following baseball that closely those years (I do recall the 1986-1988 WS), for a number of reasons (e.g. my paternal grandpa was dying of cancer in October/November 1986, and I guess I only tuned in to the WS that year), so while I remember some of those games, they don’t resonate much with me (1986 WS and the 1st game of the 1988 WS notwithstanding.  The 1987 WS seems to have been erased by the 1991 WS from my mind).

    Strange as it may seem, I remember the 1980 post-season quite well (and I was only 9 at the time).  I was and am still a Yankee fan in 1980, but the shots of George Steimbrenner after Brett hit that towering shot off of Gossage in game 3 are embedded in my mind (and interesting, as a Latin American kid, I LOVED the Astros Unis in 1980.  Ironically, I ended up studying in Philly, consider that my home town in the U.S. and presently favor the Phils over everybody else – even the Yanks – in MLB).

    Go figure.

  11. Marc Schneider said...

    This is an interesting article because recent post-seasons have been less than scintillating, especially the World Series.  Only two seven-game series in the decade of the 2000s and three sweeps (and another five-gamer).

  12. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    JRVJ

    I never take anything personally.
    I’ve been called a j*rk off, a moron, an idiot and someone who doesn’t know anything about baseball.

    And that’s just from my son

  13. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    We’ve had some good post seasons but not a lot of “Oh my God… the Championship could go either way!” moments.

    The 2005 World Series between Chicago and Houston was actually 4 very exciting games. The problem was the White Sox won all four of them.

    The 2004 World Series was a blowout, the 2006 World Series was utterly forgettable and even though the Rockies played hard in the last 3 games the 2007 World Series was never in doubt.

    The rain delay of the 2008 World Series was a fiasco.

    2009 was a good World Series, but after the Yankees beat Lidge in Game 4, was there ever really a doubt?

    And 2010 had a few good games, but the Rangers looked unhinged after the disastrous Game 2.

    Baseball needs an epic World Series BADLY

  14. Tom said...

    Sully

    Terrific write-up, but if you’re going to mention the 1985 ALCS, you can’t do it without talking about how George Brett pretty much put the entire Royals team on his back in Game 3.  Two clutch HR’s, a double, a single and then going on to score what would be the winning run in a 4 for 4, 3 RBI, 4 R performance.  Truly unbelievable.

  15. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    Tom,

    Oh I know. There was so much to write about in that ALCS that I confess I think I lumped it all together.

    Maybe I short changed it, but this post was getting so long that even Tolkien would read it and say “Hey! Cut a few words out!”

  16. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    Zak44

    I agree that the 1980 NLCS was one for the ages.
    There are individual series before and after the ones I mentioned that are amazing.

    The 2001 World Series was incredible.
    The 1991 NLCS and 1991 World Series
    and the entire 1992 post season was great

    And I am sure someone could make the argument for 1991-1993 as being the best ever.

    But there was such an amazing clumping of come from behind wins, memorable homers and brilliant pitching between 1985-1988 that I felt it needed to be mentioned.

  17. Jacob Rothberg said...

    Damn, thats a lot of pain for a Jays fan. No wonder my baptism in to Jays fandom during this period has inured me to the virtual hopelessness of our current situation.

  18. Matt Bowling said...

    I really enjoyed this article.  I was also of the perfect age…12 in 1986 and these playoff years bring back so many memories.  I think Al Michaels’s call of Henderson’s homers is one of the all-time greats.  His voice is so excited when he realizes it is going to go out…“And Downing goes back…and it’s gone!….Unbelievable!”  He is what all announcers should be in their best moments…a little boy who loves sports.

  19. Michael Clair said...

    And to think that if Tim Teuefel’s error came a few games later he would be a villain. Instead his moment is largely forgotten. All hail Tim Teuefel!

  20. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    Matt,

    I can’t agree with you more. Al Michaels is one of my favorite baseball announcers ever. His calls are knowledgable, emotional and sometimes filled with great humor.

    I miss him calling ballgames.

    He was great calling the last game of the 1987 World Series and was quick to point out some of the rotten calls in that game

    I praised Al’s play by play calling in this blog post of mine

    http://sullybaseball.blogspot.com/2009/02/on-even-further-review.html

  21. Ruben said...

    Totally agree. 1986 in particular had it all. All 3 Series going to the last game (game 6 of the NLCS was effectively game 7 because everyone knew Mike Scott was not going to lose in game 7), and all teams had several chances to win it. With so many game turning points it’s difficult to blame (or credit) any win or loss on any 1 individual play.  How anyone can blame Buckner for Boston’s loss is beyond me. The game wad tied in extra innings (even if he makes the play, odds are the mets still win the game), and Boston batters had hit into 27 outs in the first 9 innings.  If any one of those outs had been a HR instead ( or just a hit or even a walk in a few of the situations) there would have been no 10th inning and nobody’s talking about Buckner today.

    Oh, and for the record, regardless of what the box score said it was a passed ball on German. An MLB catcher has to catch that pitch.

    Almost 25 years later and my blood pressure still rises when I think of that postseason and what could have been.  (I’m a diehard sox fan and the Astros were my favorite NL team back then)

  22. Beau said...

    Two other possibilities from 1987:

    1.  With the Tigers down two games to one (when they were heavily favored) and rallying to tie the series up, Darrell Evans gets picked off third base.

    2.  Game six of the 1987 World Series was probably more memorable than game seven.  Hrbek gets picked off second base to kill a rally but then hits the grand slam against Dayley, who hadn’t allowed a homer to a lefty all year long.  Hrbek’s OPS was almost 400 points lower against lefties.

  23. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    Beau,

    You are right about those 2 games.

    Also Game 1 of the 1987 ALCS when Don Baylor helped the Twins come from behind or Game 2 of the 1988 ALCS which was a back and forth affair settled in the 9th or Game 4 of the 1988 World Series when Jay Howell redeemed himself.

    It says a lot about that era when those games could fall through the cracks

  24. AaronB said...

    Lots of fun reading through that.  Good memories, I’m a Card’s fan, and bad, but all really interesting.  Brought back lots of feelings like Mr. Jeffrey Leonard, the Hack Man:

    Cards fans will forever think of “one flap down” after the way he ran the bases during the HR’s.  Remember, we about had ourselves one heck of a brawl between the Giants and Cards, due in large part because of Leonard.

    Another memorable moment, also from the ‘87 WS:  Tom Lawless hitting a clutch HR, staring the ball down, flipping his bat – like he was the Babe, & circling the bases.  I’m pretty sure Lawless never even hit 10 career HR’s.  He was on the roster strictly for speed & defense.

  25. Reg said...

    1985 and the Don Denkinger game…. I actually referenced this game in a recent blog post on how umpires have NEVER cost a team a game (http://rulebookguru.blogspot.com/2010/12/umpire-has-never-cost-team-game_29.html).  How about the loss being due to the Cardinals 6th inning when with a man on 1st and 2nd with no out in a scoreless tie they failed to adavance a runner?  A poor sac bunt attempt turned into a fielder’s choice at 3rd base, followed by a double play ball. 
    I believe those were the first base runners of the night for St.Louis, meaning they started out 0-15.  If in any of those 15 at bats, someone hits a HR, then Denkinger’s call becomes irrelevant.  Funny how perception is always based on single famous incident, and the rest of the game that led to that situation is forgotten.  Like someone mentioned above about Buckner being blamed, when there were 8 other batters (9 including Buckner himself) who had plenty of opportunities to end the game in 9 innings. 
    Oh, well, if we can blame the umpires for one bad call costing a team a game, I guess it’s fair to blame one single player for costing a game with one single play.

  26. Jeff P. said...

    One fabulous memory lane stroll, Mr. Sullivan.  A few more things:

    —The “Buckner” game should have been called the “Schiraldi” game. More than anyone on the field, he was responsible for the loss.

    —Game 6 of the ‘87 World Series, with Hrbek’s opposite field grand salami at the Metrodome, was pretty freaking exciting.

    —The next time you watch a replay of 1986 ALCS Game 5, watch Bob Boone carefully when Mike Witt is yanked with two gone in the 9th.  He completely turns his back on Marcel Lachemann and is seriously pissed, because he KNEW Witt would get that last out.

    —Even though I’m also a boston fan, I’d say the 1986 postseason was the most thrilling ever.

  27. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    Jeff P

    - First of all I can’t agree with you more about not calling it the Buckner game. But as bad as Schraldi was, the REAL goat was McNamara who managed that game has horribly as you possibly could.

    Schraldi was brutal though.

    - Yeah you are right about Game 6 in 1987. The article’s first draft was slightly shorter than the book “Dune.”

    - Mauch overmanaging that 9th inning was insane. Mike Witt was throwing a masterpiece. And yeah, Gedman was hot but is it worth lifting a pitcher who had just got Evans to pop up for the lefty on lefty match up? It was nuts in 1986 and who knows? May have cost Gene Mauch a spot in the Hall of Fame

  28. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    Reg,

    You will note I didn’t blame Denkinger for the game.

    If Worrell gets Steve Balboni to ground out, or Porter catches that pop up or doesn’t let up a passed ball or Worrell could get Iorg out, then nobody remember the Denkinger call.

    Oh and if the Cardinals didn’t get blown out 11-0 in Game 7 with John Tudor pitching, then maybe Denkinger would be a strange footnote.

    But the legacy, unfairly or not, is Denkinger’s.

    Sometimes the legacy isn’t fair. Bill Buckner didn’t cough the lead up. Steve Bartman didn’t let up 8 runs.

    But in terms of the short hand of the game, it will always be identified as Denkinger’s game.

  29. Reg said...

    Yes, sorry Paul.  I didn’t mean to imply that YOU were blaming Denkinger.  But baseball fans in general do.  And not that it’s totally unfair – he did make a mistake – but my point was only that it wasn’t any more significant then any other play that was made or not made during the game. 

    And I totally agree with you on Buckner and Bartman.  I once read a WPA analysis of the Bartman game, and the difference between making that catch or not, added a 3% probability to the Marlins winning that game, and therefore resulted in a 1.5% higher chance that they’d win the Series – there were many individual plays during that game that increased the probability of the Cubs losing by much more than that.

  30. John said...

    Paul

    I agree that most of the 1989 postseason was a stinker and marred with tragedy, but I choose to remember it for what Clark and Grace did in the NLCS, which was remarkable.

    As for 1985 and Denkinger, the Cardinals were incredibly lucky to be in position to win at all (they’d been outplayed the entire series, but won all the close games). They got the bad call go against them, and then they basically quit. They didn’t do another thing right the rest of the series. And they’d had a few calls go their way both in that game, and earlier in the series, to help them along, but no one remembers that now.

    And as a Red Sox fan, don’t ever try to tell me Buckner blew the ‘86 Series. Bill Buckner wasn’t the one filling out the lineup cards and making the pitching changes.

  31. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    As a Red Sox fan, if anyone ever tried to taunt me by saying “Buckner” I would dismiss that person as a moron who didn’t know what happened that game

  32. Zubin said...

    I have to say I disagree with a lot that has been written here about the 85 Series and game 6 in particular.

    The blown call was very pivotal—that is why it is so remembered.  It is true if the Cardinals had executed in any of a veriety of ways, they would have (probably) won anyway.  However it also true if Denkinger gets the call right, the Cardinals also (probably) win.

    I agree that KC outplayed StL, but that was at least in part to the amorphic strike zone during the whole series.  The Cardinals were viewed as the clearly superior team and they were heavily favored going in.  If the Cardinals won game 6, the ~.200 team batting average could have been cited to show how great of a team they were (even when KC stpped the Cardinal’s hitting they [almost] found a way to win).  Also, if the Cardinals were lucky to be in the series despite hitting .188, then the Royals were equally lucky that their batted balls werefinding the gaps whilethe Cardinals’ were not.

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