1986 World Series
The 1986 World Series pitted the New York Mets against the Boston Red Sox.
It was cited in the legend of the "Curse of the Bambino" to explain the error by Bill Buckner in Game 6 that allowed the Mets to extend the series to a seventh game. The NL champion Mets eventually beat the AL champion Red Sox, four games to three.
The New York Mets finished the regular season with a 108–54 record, winning the National League East division by 211⁄2 games over the Philadelphia Phillies. They then won the gut-wrenching 1986 National League Championship Series, four games to two, over the Houston Astros. The talent of the team was colored by controversy during much of the season, with scrappy players both on and off the field. On July 19, 1986, Mets infielder Tim Teufel and pitchers Rick Aguilera, Bobby Ojeda, and Ron Darling were arrested after fighting with policemen outside a bar in Houston. Just three days later, they played a game which became a microcosm of their season when two Mets were ejected after a bench-clearing brawl. A total of three ejections in the game forced starting catcher Gary Carter to play third base, and the Mets to play a pitcher in the outfield, with left-hander Jesse Orosco and righty Roger McDowell alternating between the pitcher's mound and the outfield as needed. Despite the adversity, they still won the game in the fourteenth inning. Former NL MVP George Foster was released a few days after the game, based partly on his refusal to move from the Mets' bench during the fracas.
Boston went 95–66 during the season, winning the American League East division by 51⁄2 games over their rivals, the New York Yankees. The gritty play of ALCS MVP Marty Barrett and Rich Gedman; clutch hitting from veterans Jim Rice, Wade Boggs, Don Baylor, Dwight Evans and Dave Henderson; and quality starting pitching, especially from 1986 American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens, Bruce Hurst and Oil Can Boyd, pushed the Red Sox to the World Series. The team's defining moment occurred in Game 5 of the 1986 American League Championship Series against the California Angels. With the Angels leading three games to one in the best-of-seven series and their top reliever Donnie Moore on the mound, the Sox needed a last-out miracle home run from Henderson to survive Game 5; they later loaded the bases and got the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly from Henderson off Moore in the eleventh. The Angels never recovered from this blow, and with Boston capitalizing on some defensive miscues by the Angels, and clutch performances by some of their big name players (namely Rice and Clemens in the deciding game), the Red Sox clinched the pennant with a seven-game win.
The Boston Red Sox finally returned to the Fall Classic after an eleven year hiatus determined to shake the "Curse of the Bambino" once and for all. Although the "Beantown Bombers" had appeared in nine previous World Series contests (winning five), their last championship title had come an agonizing sixty-eight years prior (in 1918) when Babe Ruth pitched the Sox to two victories over the Chicago Cubs. This time Roger Clemens was on the hill and the Rocket had just completed a spectacular season in which he had compiled a 24-4 record and set a Major League mark with twenty strikeouts in a single regulation game. The New York Mets were making their third World Series appearance (winning last in 1969) and totaled one-hundred eight regular season wins while finishing a whopping 21½ games ahead of their nearest competition. The Mets also boasted a standout pitcher in Dwight Gooden who had dominated the National League much like Clemens had against the American League. Several sportswriters had hyped-up the impending showdown on the mound, and many agreed that a "shootout" was on the horizon.
Game 1 opened with both teams going neck and neck down the stretch with Boston's Bruce Hurst topping New York's Ron Darling and Roger McDowell for the 1-0 victory. Manager Dave Johnson went with the obvious choice of Gooden for Game 2, but the Red Sox managed to oust the ace and four of his peers (Rick Aguilera, Jesse Orosco, Sid Fernandez, and Doug Sisk) for a 9-3 victory that featured homers by Dave Henderson and Dwight Evans. Despite the win, Clemens had fared just as poor and lasted only 4 1/3 innings before being replaced by Steve Crawford. New York lefty Bob Ojeda (acquired from the Sox in '85) returned to Fenway Park for the third outing and pitched five hit ball over seven innings. Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd took the hill for the home team, but surrendered a home run to the first batter he faced in Lenny Dykstra. The opening blast was followed by three more runs (including two off designated hitter Danny Heep's single) for a 4-0 lead in the first. Boyd managed to hold off the scoring for five more innings but stumbled again in the seventh as the Mets connected for three more, completing the thirteen-hit, 7-1 derby.
New York managed to tie up the Series in Game 4 thanks to Gary Carter's two home runs and three runs batted in. Breaking a scoreless tie in the fourth, the All-Star catcher smacked a two run homer in the fourth (off Al Nipper) and a bases-empty shot in the eighth (off reliever Steve Crawford) while Dykstra added to his rapidly growing stats with an RBI blast of his own. Back on the hill, Darling managed to finish with a 6-2 decision despite walking six batters in seven innings. Gooden returned for the fifth meeting determined to save face for his poor debut in Game 2 (in which the entire Mets' rotation was unable to compete) but disappointed again as the opener's winner, Bruce Hurst, overcame a twelve-hit debacle to put the Sox ahead with a middle-of-the-road, 4-2 effort.
Like his struggling counterpart, Clemens was also looking for his first win and left Game 6 with a 3-2 lead. However his teammates were unable to finish the job, leaving fourteen men on base and committing one of the most devastating errors in World Series history. After Henderson led off the top of the tenth with a home run against Rick Aguilera breaking the 3-3 tie, Boston increased its lead to 5-3 as Wade Boggs doubled and Marty Barrett singled him home. Sox reliever Calvin Schiraldi (who yielded the tying run in the eighth) retired the Mets' first two batters in the tenth (Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez), moving Boston to within one out of the World Series title. Carter prolonged the anxious fans tension with a clutch single and Kevin Mitchell followed with another base hit. Schiraldi regained his composure and managed a no-ball, two-strike count on New York's Ray Knight, but the third baseman made contact on his next offering, scoring Carter and moving Mitchell to third. Anticipating a disaster, Bob Stanley was called in and matched Mookie Wilson in a ten-pitch duel that left fans on both sides hanging on the edge of their seats. Wilson fouled off a 2-1 pitch, then sent two more out of bounds. As the pressure continued to build, Stanley's seventh pitch went wild, and Mitchell raced home with the game-tying run with Knight advancing to second. With a full count of 3-2, Wilson finally connected fair on the tenth toss sending a short grounder along the baseline toward first baseman Bill Buckner. A collective sigh of relief fell over the Boston crowd in anticipation of a textbook out and a chance at redemption in the eleventh-inning. However their jubilation quickly turned to shock and disbelief as the ball somehow slipped under Buckner's glove and continued to roll. As Knight bolted home for the 6-5 victory, the home crowd at Shea Stadium erupted in celebration. The Mets were still alive with or without, a little help from "The Babe". For Buckner, the costly error became a defining moment and ultimately overshadowed the rest of his career.
While the Sox had found themselves in this predicament before (one strike away from elimination in the American League Series), many fans had already abandoned the team and Buckner was crucified in the papers for making the critical mistake. Luckily they would have twenty-four hours to regain their senses as Game 7 was postponed a day due to rain. Three time winner Bruce Hurst returned for the final outing and looked to make it right again with a little help from his friends. Dwight Evans and Rich Gedman both belted back-to-back homers and Boggs delivered an RBI single for a 3-0 lead going into the sixth. New York tied the game on Hernandez's bases-loaded single that scored Lee Mazzilli and Wilson while Carter's tee-shot to right brought Wally Backman home.
Schiraldi was sent in as relief in the seventh, but Knight tagged him again (as he had in Game 6) with a tie-breaking homer. Before it was over, Rafael Santana nailed a RBI single and Hernandez added a sac-fly for the 6-3 lead. Sid Fernandez had shut out Boston through the middle innings, but Roger McDowell replaced him and surrendered a two run double off Evans in the eighth. Jesse Orosco entered as the third reliever and managed to coax Gedman to line out, Henderson to strike out and Don Baylor to bounce out. As the Mets took their turn in the bottom of the eighth, Darryl Strawberry sent one into the seats for the 8-5 advantage and it was all over from there. Orosco returned in the ninth to finish the job and struck out the side (1-2-3) crowning the National League reps as World Champions. The heartbreaking loss in Game 6 still remains as the second darkest day in Beantown sports history. The first of course was a "certain trade" that haunted the Boston faithful for over eight decades.
While this episode explores Game 6 of the 1986 World Series and the infamous Bill Buckner flub, it's a show about so much more. It's an hour-long journey that explores the history of the curse of the Bambino, the perpetually tortured Boston fan, the brash, ego-driven Mets, the NLCS and ALSC (Donnie Moore), the series itself and of course the memorable Game 6. Further more, we will explore how the lives of so many people connected to this series would ultimately come undone.
Oct. 25, 1986: The Boston Red Sox are trying to rid themselves of the Curse of the Bambino. They have not won a World Series since trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees after the 1919 season, but it appears the curse is about to end tonight.
Boston is one out away from winning its first Series since 1918, holding a two-run lead with two outs and nobody on base in the 10th inning in Game 6. But the Mets get three consecutive singles to make it 5-4. Bob Stanley relieves and third-base coach Bud Harrelson tells Kevin Mitchell, the runner on third, "He might throw a wild pitch. Be ready." Stanley does, and the game is tied.
Mookie Wilson then hits a routine grounder to first base, but the ball goes under Bill Buckner's glove and into right field as Ray Knight scores to give the Mets an incredible 6-5 victory.
"I can't remember the last time I missed a ball like that," says the sore-legged Buckner, who usually is replaced for defensive purposes by manager John McNamara. "But I'll remember this one." So will all Boston fans.
Right fielder Dwight Evans says, "I don't believe in curses, or ghosts, or magic spells, but I'm beginning to." The Mets will win Game 7 two nights later.