It was time for a new season, but the question under discussion was from the old: Do you send Don Baylor up to bat for Bill Buckner?
Philadelphia manager John Felske and scout Ray (Snacks) Shore were standing behind a batting cage in Clearwater, Fla., early in spring training, reliving the night of Oct. 25, 1986. "I was sitting there in my den with two outs in the bottom of the tenth," said Felske, "and I turned to my wife and said, 'This is where I want to be someday.'
"Ten minutes later, I said to my wife, 'God, I hope I'm never there.' "
"I'm a John McNamara man," said Shore, who worked closely with McNamara when they were both with the Reds from 1979 to 1982. "But the one thing I'll never understand is letting Buckner hit against [Jesse] Orosco in the eighth."
April 5, 1987
"That's because you've never been a manager," Felske said. "Buckner had knocked in 102 runs. He helped get them there. A manager has to live with his players. As a manager, I understand. Why does McNamara have to listen to this crap after he took a team that was picked for fifth place all the way to Game 7 of the World Series?"
Felske paused, composing himself. Then, faster than you could say, "Greg Luzinski, 1977," he said, "But I will agree that he's got to get Buckner out of there for defense...."
The next morning, in Winter Haven, Fla., the manager in question, John McNamara, greeted the arrival of the full Red Sox squad with a closed-door, stern speech imploring them to forget what happened last October. Said one player afterward, "We became the first team in history to be told before the first workout of the spring not to think or talk about making it to the seventh game of the World Series."
"Last year should be remembered not for one inning or one game," said veteran relief pitcher Joe Sambito, "but what for most of us was the best of times."
The worst of times, of course, came in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 6 of the World Series, when the Boston Red Sox turned a 5-3, two-out, bases-empty lead into a 6-5 loss to the New York Mets. In order, Gary Carter singled, Kevin Mitchell singled, Ray Knight singled to score Carter and send Mitchell to third, Mitchell scored on a wild pitch as Knight went to second, and Knight scored the winning run when Mookie Wilson's grounder went through Buckner's legs. Though it has been used many times before, the first paragraph of Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities truly does describe Game 6: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way...."
Game 6 has now taken its place with the other great World Series contests: Game 8 in 1912, Game 4 in 1947, Game 7 in 1960 and Game 6 in 1975. But in a way it stands alone as the greatest "bad" game in Series history. The Mets, who in 1986 won more games (116) than all but two teams ever, were facing the Red Sox, who hadn't won a World Series since Babe Ruth pitched for them. For much of the Series, the two teams bumbled around like a couple of September cellar dwellers. And managers McNamara and Davey Johnson, otherwise sound strategists, often seemed to be off in other worlds.
"Answering questions about that game is something I'll always have to deal with," says McNamara. More incredibly, Johnson will always have to answer questions about screwing up a World Series he won. A month after the game, Larry Bowa, a friend who played with and for Johnson, called him and asked, "What in the world were you thinking?"
Regardless of the managing, there was still very little art to this game. Aside from a sinking Marty Barrett liner that Lenny Dykstra stabbed in the first, a long fly by the star-crossed Buckner that Darryl Strawberry ran down on the warning track in the second and Wade Boggs's dive into the stands in the fourth to catch a Keith Hernandez pop-up, there was small cause, defensively, for Vin Scully to raise his voice. The Red Sox' go-ahead run in the seventh inning and the Mets' tying run in the eighth came after wild throws, and the Mets' tying and winning runs in the 10th came on a wild pitch and the croquet shot through Buckner's wicket. The winning pitcher, Rick Aguilera, had a 12.00 ERA for the Series. And when you look at the box score, your eye immediately falls on the line that reads, "Stanley pitched to one batter in the 10th."
"We lost that game," said Barrett, the Sox' second baseman. "They won the seventh game, but we lost on Saturday night." That's why the game's legitimate heroes, players like Wilson and Orosco, seem to have played only supporting roles. And that's why you wonder if Buckner, McNamara, Bob Stanley and Calvin Schiraldi will forever be scarred, like Fred Merkle, Mickey Owen and Ralph Branca before them.
"Shots," Buckner calls media reminders of what happened. Ten days before spring training he told The Boston Globe, "I'm not going to talk about what happened anymore." But Buckner did point out that Stanley wasn't covering first when Wilson's grounder went through his legs. For his part, Stanley took some off-season shots at McNamara's decision-making process, and the pitcher's wife, Joan, was quoted as saying that Rich Gedman "blew it" because he had failed to stop Stanley's inside pitch to Wilson. Roger Clemens, the Boston starter, publicly wondered why McNamara took him out of the game with a 3-2 lead after seven innings, and Baylor privately seethed at not being used. "All season long we won as a team, and as soon as we lost, some of the guys started pointing fingers," says Baylor.
And the Mets? "We had accomplished so much and had come from behind in such dramatic fashion in the playoffs that the sixth game just seemed like a good bounce that gave us the chance to win what we believed we should win," says Wilson. But even Hernandez, who went to the manager's office and popped open a beer after he made the second out in the 10th inning, admitted, "I couldn't believe what I was watching on TV." Says Bobby Ojeda, who was traded from the Red Sox to the Mets the winter before, "Even though we knew we deserved it, we know we won because of Stanley's wild pitch and Buckner's error."
Unlike Game 6 of the '75 World Series, which was about as lively as a Lennon Sisters Special until Bernardo Carbo's eighth-inning, three-run home run tied the game for the Red Sox, this game was filled with might-have-beens from the outset. Especially in the first inning. Ojeda was working on three days' rest—a problem because he is an emotional, combative sort whose best pitch, a changeup, is even more of a strain on the arm than a fastball. "I was working on adrenaline," he says. He also did not have his usual control. After the game began, appropriately enough, with a one-hopper by Boggs that slapped off the glove of Knight at third, Ojeda survived two shots to the outfield, the second by Buckner, whose at bat was interrupted by the arrival of a parachutist. Ojeda walked Jim Rice. Dwight Evans then hit a towering drive off the fence in left center, and Boggs scored easily. True, Dykstra did make a fine play on the carom and rifled a quick, accurate throw to cutoff man Rafael Santana, but....
How could Rice not have scored from first with two out? "I couldn't believe it," admits Ojeda. Recalls Red Sox third base coach Rene Lachemann, now a coach for Oakland, "I had to watch Dykstra and the relay, and when I turned to pick up Jimmy, he was barely around second." Rice to this day claims, "The ball was hit too hard to score on." But there were two outs. Did he get fooled, assume the ball was out of the park and go into a trot, as he did in the third inning of the seventh game when he hit the ball off the wall and was thrown out at second on what should have been a double? Despite a knee operation in the fall of '85, Rice is not that slow. But the Red Sox run the bases as if they're guiding golf carts around a retirement community, and Rice—of whom Charles Scoggins of The Lowell Sun once wrote, "He stops at each base to scrape the gum off his shoes"—is particularly cautious. So four singles, a walk and a double in the first two innings produced only two runs.
Through four innings Clemens had a no-hitter and that 2-0 lead. To his credit, Ojeda battled for his life, and his survival is particularly amazing considering that—as he found out later—the Red Sox knew practically everything he was throwing at them. "I was tipping my changeup," Ojeda says. "Since I'm primarily a fastball-changeup pitcher, it didn't take much to figure what was coming if it wasn't going to be my changeup."
Clemens, finally recovered from the flu that had so weakened him in the playoffs and the second game of the Series, struck out six Mets the first time through the order and had retired eight straight entering the fifth. Neither Clemens nor any succeeding Boston pitcher noticed the big woman in red behind home plate who was trying to distract him by continually rolling her arms, much like one of Gladys Knight's Pips. Whoever she was, she was persistent, because she kept it up until the baseball went through Buckner's legs.
Despite his impressive numbers, it hadn't been an easy game for Clemens. Carter, Strawberry and Santana had fouled so many pitches that his four innings seemed more like seven; he had already thrown 73 pitches. "I was throwing hard," says Clemens, "but I wasn't putting the ball where I wanted." Clemens walked Strawberry to lead off the fifth, and Strawberry did for the second time in the game what the Red Sox did only once in their 14 postseason contests: He stole second. Knight fouled off three pitches, then Clemens threw a "bad" slider that Knight hit through the middle for an RBI single.
Then came a Wilson at bat that would have nearly as much importance as the one five innings later. After Clemens threw two fastballs past him and the count reached 2 and 2, Mookie fouled off two pitches. Clemens then tried to get a slider in. The slider to Knight had hurt Clemens, but this one hurt him twice as much. Not only was the pitch out over the plate, but Clemens also released it in such a way that it popped a blister that had been developing on his index finger. Wilson pulled a ground-ball single into right. The ball took a final, fidgety hop in front of Evans and bounced off his chest. Knight, a slow runner who never would have challenged Evans's rifle arm, dashed to third base.
The Mets still trailed 2-1, but they had runners at the corners with none out. Santana, a .218 hitter during the season, was due up, followed by Ojeda. Here came the first of Johnson's second-guessed maneuvers. He had Danny Heep bat for Santana, who had had two hits off Clemens in Game 2. That meant Johnson's only remaining shortstops were Kevin Elster, a nervous rookie with 22 games of big league experience, and Howard Johnson, a utilityman who is considered a defensive liability.
"How could you be pinch-hitting that early?" Bowa asked.
"I thought it might be our one shot to get Clemens out of there," Johnson replied.
Johnson was subscribing to the strategy Earl Weaver had taught him: Use your guns whenever you think your time has come, no matter what inning. But as another manager puts it, "He was only going to use Ojeda one more inning, so why not keep Santana in the game and bat for the pitcher?" Heep hit into a double play that tied the score at 2-2, and Ojeda grounded out. He pitched one more inning, keeping the Sox at bay in the sixth.
Clemens's blister prevented him from throwing his slider, and because he didn't have a particularly good curveball in the late season, he decided simply to move his fastball around and change speeds. Wally Backman and Hernandez singled with one out in the sixth, but Clemens struck out Carter with a perfect pitch on the outside corner. He then held his breath as Barrett snapped up Strawberry's sharp grounder.
In the top of the seventh Roger McDowell walked leadoff hitter Barrett. Rather than sacrifice him over—the Red Sox were 1 for 4 trying to bunt in the game—McNamara removed the bunt sign for Buckner and sent Barrett. Buckner grounded out, moving Barrett into scoring position. When Knight fielded Rice's routine grounder and threw the ball over Hernandez's head, Boston had runners at first and third with one out and Evans up. On a 3-and-2 count, McNamara sent Rice. Sure enough, Evans hit a perfect double-play ball to Backman. However, Rice beat Backman's flip to Elster, and though Elster's throw got Evans at first, Barrett had scored to give the Red Sox a 3-2 lead.
The Red Sox had a chance to make it 4-2 when Gedman punched a two-out single through the shortstop hole into left-field. With two outs in a big ballpark, and considering Wilson's weak arm, Lachemann naturally waved Rice around third. However, Rice cut the bag like a 16-wheeler turning into a McDonald's, while Wilson charged the ball and released it quickly. The ball arrived in Carter's mitt on a fly, and Rice was out. "How we didn't score and put the game away in the first eight innings is just as much the story as what happened in the 10th," Barrett said later.
Clemens held the lead in the bottom of the seventh, retiring the side on 17 pitches—giving him 135 for the game. But while pitching to Wilson—naturally—he tore the fingernail on his middle finger, and when he got back to the dugout, he was bleeding from two fingers. McNamara and pitching coach Bill Fischer approached him.
"Does it sting?" McNamara asked.
"Sure, it stings," said Clemens.
"I told them I couldn't throw any sliders, but I could get them out with fastballs and forkballs," Clemens now says. "They told me that if the first couple of hitters got on, they might hit for me."
At the postgame press conference, McNamara clearly implied that Clemens asked out of the game because of the blister. "My pitcher told me he couldn't go any further," said McNamara. When George Grande of ESPN later asked Clemens off-camera what McNamara had said, Clemens got upset and started off to confront McNamara.
"Fischer stopped me and told me it was a misunderstanding, that Mac didn't mean it," recalls Clemens. "I wanted to pitch the eighth inning, then turn it over to Calvin with three outs to go."
Despite that minor imbroglio and the other questions that besieged McNamara over the winter, this fact remains: Through seven innings that October night the manager had looked like a genius. By starting Al Nipper in the fourth game, on a night no Boston pitcher could have beaten Ron Darling, McNamara had given his ace—Clemens—a full five days of rest. And Clemens had given the Red Sox the lead with just six outs to go.
In the top of the eighth, Dave Henderson reached base courtesy of the first of two boots by Elster. Spike Owen sacrificed Henderson to second, then McNamara had rookie Mike Greenwell bat for Clemens. Interestingly enough, McNamara's defense for not sending Baylor up to hit for Buckner three batters later was: "We wouldn't pinch-hit with a lead."
Greenwell struck out, and Johnson had McDowell walk Boggs intentionally. But then McDowell also walked Barrett to load the bases. Johnson had little choice but to bring in Orosco, who would retire 16 of the 18 batters he faced in the Series and should have been the MVP instead of Knight. Here is where Johnson committed his primary strategical boo-boo. The pitcher was scheduled to lead off the bottom of the inning, so with his best reliever in the game and the Red Sox one inning away from a world championship, Johnson should have made a double switch in order to keep Orosco in the game for at least the ninth inning. He could have put Lee Mazzilli or Mitchell in left and put Orosco in Wilson's spot, thus letting the new leftfielder lead off the bottom of the eighth. "Davey forgot," says one manager. "This wasn't one of my better games," Johnson admitted later.
It's far too easy to criticize managers, and very often the critics can't see the forest for the trees. While Johnson can sometimes be an unorthodox strategist, he is usually borne out in the long run by his players' performances. But in this case, he did forget. An inning later he would compound the situation by double-switching Strawberry out of the game, which led to Strawberry's pouting, which led to Strawberry's hotdogging it around the bases in Game 7 to show his manager up, which led to Nipper—who gave up the home run—hitting Strawberry in the back in spring training.
So this was the situation: bases loaded, two outs in the eighth and the lefty Orosco on the mound. The scheduled batter was Buckner, who showed great fortitude—some said folly—by playing on his battered legs. But he was also 10 for 55 in post season play and 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position for the Series. A lefthanded swinger, Buckner had hit .218 in the regular season against lefty pitchers. And Orosco is, in the words of Dodger scout Jerry Stephenson, "the toughest pitcher in the league on lefties," an opinion supported by the fact that lefthanded hitters batted .187 against him during the season.
Clearly, McNamara had a decision to make. He thought about using Baylor, who was on the bench because the Red Sox couldn't use a DH in the National League park. McNamara and Buckner later denied it, but other players sitting on the bench claim the manager approached Buckner to tell him he was taking him out. But before McNamara could say anything, Buckner talked him out of any move. "When Johnson came out of the dugout, Mac started to tell Buck, 'If they go to the lefthander....' " says one of the players. "Buck argued, 'I can hit the guy.' He said something else and that was that. It wasn't like a bullying thing. It was as if Mac thought to himself and said, 'Hey, the guy's done this much with all those problems....' "
"I was in the clubhouse swinging a bat and was never told that I was going to bat," says Baylor. "Although I did hear that [McNamara was talked out of the move] from another player."
McNamara contends that he didn't want to pinch-hit for Buckner with a lead and that previously he replaced Buckner with Dave Stapleton at first only after Buckner had been removed for a pinch runner. But, in fact, Stapleton had gone in for defense in several postseason games. "We didn't hit for Buckner during the season," said McNamara. "Why then?"
But he also didn't have Baylor on the bench all season. While Baylor had batted only .230 against lefthanders, he was a major reason the Red Sox were there. His homer preceding Henderson's in the fifth game of the playoffs against the California Angels was the biggest hit of the season, and he had transformed the "me" mood of the clubhouse to a "we." Baylor certainly believed he should have batted. When a reporter said after the game, "I guess Buckner doesn't get hit for there," Baylor replied, "Why?"
"It's stupid to even debate about my hitting there," insists Buckner. "I hit the ball pretty hard, too." He did, and Dykstra ran it down in left center. It was still 3-2. Orosco was done, and so was Clemens. And Buckner was still in the game to play defense.
For all of Boston's weeping and teeth-gnashing over the 10th, the Red Sox were fortunate to get that far. In the bottom of the eighth, Mazzilli batted for Orosco and pulled Schiraldi's pitch into right for a single. Then the black flies—Dykstra and Wally Backman—went to work. Dykstra laid down a perfect bunt, and Schiraldi picked it up and bounced a throw to second in the dirt. Backman laid one down, too, and Schiraldi fielded it again, cautiously throwing to first for the out. But the tying run was on third and the go-ahead run on second. Schiraldi walked Hernandez intentionally to load the bases.
Schiraldi went to 3 and 0 on Carter, and as the NBC camera homed in on his face, Calvin looked exactly like a 24-year-old rookie who has suddenly realized that half the nation is watching him. "It just so happened that when I screwed up, it was the World Series," he said.
Johnson gave Schiraldi a break. He flashed Carter the green light to swing, and Carter, ever the hero, swung at a waist-high fastball, hitting it hard to Rice in leftfield. Mazzilli scored easily from third, and the game was tied 3-3. With two outs and Dykstra on third, Strawberry fried out to end the inning.
Then Johnson pulled the double-switch, putting Aguilera in Strawberry's spot and keeping Mazzilli in the game in right. Afterward, while the rest of the Mets rejoiced, Strawberry blasted the manager. "I didn't notice him doing anything spectacular," Johnson said.
The Met manager wasn't off the strategic hook yet. The Mets had runners on first and second with no outs in the ninth after Schiraldi walked Knight and Gedman misplayed Wilson's bunt. The next hitter was Elster. "That's a tough place to ask a rookie to get down a bunt against a guy like Schiraldi," explains Johnson. "A .167-hitting backup shortstop had better be able to bunt," says another manager. But Johnson wasn't taking any chances, especially after Elster had already messed up two balls at shortstop. So he sent up Howard Johnson to bunt. HoJo's stab at the first pitch looked like a pelican diving for a fish. "I didn't like the looks of that," says the manager, "so I took off the bunt. I did the same thing with Orosco in the eighth inning of the seventh game; he singled up the middle for the final run and no one said anything." When Johnson tipped strike three into Gedman's glove for the first out, the second-guessers howled. Mazzilli lined out. Dykstra flied out—and it was on to the 10th.
At precisely 11:59 p.m. Henderson, leading off, rifled an Aguilera pitch off the leftfield scoreboard. "Hendu" might have achieved cult status in Boston, what with his home run in the fifth game of the ALCS, and now this one. With two outs Boggs doubled to left center and the redoubtable Barrett singled him home to give the Red Sox a 5-3 lead. All the Red Sox needed were three outs. Schiraldi may be considered a once-around-the-order short reliever, but he had closed out two of the last three playoff wins, as well as the Series opener, and the Red Sox were going to stick with him.
In the Boston clubhouse, the champagne was laid out. Backman flied out to left. The NBC roadies set up the postgame riser as Peter Ueberroth, announcer Bob Costas and Red Sox owners Haywood Sullivan and Jean Yawkey began to get in position. The MVP trophy was going to Bruce Hurst. Hernandez lined out to center. As the last newspaper deadlines in the East approached, journalists typed out flash leads. Fred McMane of United Press International was about to send: "Dave Henderson, playing the hero Boston has sought for 68 years, homered in the top of the 10th inning Saturday night to give the Red Sox a 5-3 victory over the New York Mets and their first World Series title since 1918."
Hernandez disgustedly walked back down the runway to the clubhouse and joined Met scout Darrell Johnson—yes, the very same Darrell Johnson who had managed the Red Sox in the '75 World Series—in the manager's office for a beer.
Carter drilled a 2-1 fastball into left field. Next up, Mitchell. When Hernandez was at the plate, Mitchell was up in the clubhouse; he had taken his uniform pants off and was on the phone making a reservation for his flight home to San Diego. "I didn't think I'd be hitting," he told Dave Anderson of The New York Times this spring. "I hadn't hit against a righthanded pitcher all season in that situation. Heep was still on the bench. I figured he'd hit for me, so I went up to the clubhouse." That shows how closely some players follow the game, because Heep had pinch-hit for Santana in the fifth—and was out of the game. When Johnson read Mitchell's quote, he said, "Now I'm even happier about the deal [for Kevin McReynolds]."
Howard Johnson came running into the clubhouse. "Get out there, you're hitting," he hollered at Mitchell. "I hung up the phone, then I slipped my pants back on," said Mitchell, "but I'd taken off everything under them. My jock, my underwear." Mitchell wasn't totally disconcerted. He remembered that when he and Schiraldi had played together in Jackson, Miss., in 1983, the pitcher had told him that if he ever faced him, he would start him out with a fastball inside, then try to get him with a slider away. That's exactly what Schiraldi did, and Mitchell hit the slider for a single to center.
Schiraldi then got two strikes on Knight. "He was so excited," says McNamara, "that he just forgot how to pitch Knight. No big deal. He's human. He was a rookie." McNamara, who managed Knight in Cincinnati, had told his pitchers that when Knight gets behind in the count, he looks for the inside fastball and fights it off, so they should put the ball on the outside corner. But Schiraldi came up and in. Knight fought it off, dumping a quail into right center, and Mitchell raced around to third. McNamara then decided he'd better go to the veteran Stanley, who had struck Wilson out in Game 3.
Stanley, a $1 million-per-year pitcher, had been unhappy about his bullpen role since McNamara had made Schiraldi the closer in early August. He felt the manager had lost nearly as much faith in him as the Fenway Park fans, whom he blamed for his 6.00 ERA at home. This was what Stanley had foreseen in April, when he vowed, "They may boo me now, but they'll love me when I'm standing on the mound when we win the World Series."
Wilson fouled Stanley's first pitch to the screen, took two balls, then fouled another into the dirt to even the count at 2 and 2. For the second time that morning, the Red Sox were one strike away. Met third base coach Bud Harrelson told Mitchell to be ready to go on a wild pitch.
Wilson fouled off the next pitch, and the next one. What happened next is subject to debate. Stanley told friends that Gedman called for a fastball up and in, then set a target down and out. Gedman has refused any comment except to say: "I should have stopped any pitch." An infielder claims that Stanley misread the sign and that Gedman was in position for Stanley's best pitch—a sinker—out over the plate. Instead, the pitch took off, sailing low and inside. Wilson spun out of the way. The weary Gedman, who was so intense in the playoffs that he chipped three teeth by grinding them, couldn't get his glove on the ball. As it squirted to the screen, Mitchell danced across the plate. Knight went to second.
The score was tied, 5-5. For the third time the Mets had come from behind; the Red Sox, it should be noted, did not come from behind in the entire Series. With "eerie efficiency," as Costas describes it, the visiting clubhouse was cleared of the riser, the trophy, the champagne and the Red Sox owners in less than one minute.
Stanley then missed a chance to end the inning without another pitch, which would have left the Mets with a pitching choice of Doug Sisk or Randy Niemann. As Stanley took his stretch, Barrett signaled for a pickoff, sneaked over to second and waited for Stanley to whirl and throw. "We had Knight dead," says Barrett. While Barrett screamed from the second base bag, the oblivious Stanley delivered to Wilson, who fouled the pitch off.
On the 10th pitch of his at bat, Wilson topped a ground ball toward the first base bag. Buckner was playing deep behind the base. He hustled over to the line, but there was no way he could have made the play himself. Stanley was racing to the bag, but to this day Buckner believes Wilson would have beaten Stanley on the play. "I would have been there," insists Stanley. As Buckner reached down to corner the ball, it skittered between his legs. McNamara has a ready answer for those who felt Stapleton would have made the play. "If the question had been range, that would have been justified criticism," McNamara argues. "But the one thing Buckner has is a soft pair of hands. He catches what he gets to."
As the ball trickled onto the outfield grass, Knight raced home with the winning run—and the Mets had miraculously survived. "When you get within one strike and don't win, you don't deserve to win," Red Sox pitcher Tom Seaver said later.
After a day of rain they played Game 7, and at first it seemed that the Red Sox had suffered no ill effects from the disaster. They jumped off to a 3-0 lead over Darling in the second inning on back-to-back homers by Evans and Gedman and a run-scoring single by Boggs. Hurst, meanwhile, was pitching so well that he allowed only a single base runner in the first five innings. But then the Mets tied the score at 3-all on three singles, a walk and a fielder's choice. Schiraldi replaced Hurst in the seventh, and Knight greeted him with a home run to give the Mets a 4-3 lead. Two more runs scored on an RBI single by Santana and a sacrifice fly by Hernandez. Although the Red Sox closed the gap to 6-5 in the eighth, the Mets came right back with two more runs, on Strawberry's in-your-face homer off Nipper's and Orosco's fake bunt. Orosco set the Red Sox down in order in the ninth. It was a game that was fairly exciting unto itself, but following Game 6, it was an anticlimax.
McNamara, Buckner, Stanley and Schiraldi will try to put Game 6 back in the closet, but it will be no easy task. McNamara acknowledged that by holding his little spring training meeting.
"The Mets were a great team," Buckner insists, and he is right. "We had a great year. Last March, was there anyone in this country who thought we'd make it to the seventh game of the World Series? Remember the fifth game of the playoffs, Clemens's 24 wins, all the teams that made runs at us during the season. Forget one game."
Forget it? New Englanders haven't let .307 lifetime hitter Johnny Pesky forget he held the ball in the '46 Series—and he wasn't even at fault. Forget it? When the Today show observed Fred Merkle Day a while back, it wasn't because "Bonehead" had a good rookie year in 1908. Forget it? At the New York Baseball Writers Dinner last January, Ralph Branca was introduced to Clemens as "the guy who gave up Bobby Thomson's homer." That happened only 36 years ago.
There are just some things you never forget.