The 1986 World Series. The Boston Red Sox vs the New York Mets. The red Sox had FINALLY made it back to the World Series. Since their last win in 1918, they had only made it to the series three other times, the last being in 1975, when I was two years old, and they lost that one to the Cincinnati Reds, who were led by Pete Rose. What a story that guy had. A few months ago I was in Las Vegas and walked past a memorabilia store and he was there signing autographs. The shop was completely empty, except for the people working there. It reminded me on the record store appearance fro Spinal Tap, except this was even more sad. When are they gonna let Pete back into Baseball? HE should be in the Hall of Fame already, dammit. Charlie Hustle!!!
So, 1986 World Series. All that believing was looking like it was finally going to pay off. The Red Sox took a commanding lead bye winning the first tow games, both in New York. The series then moved to Boston for a couple of games, where the Red Sox took both games at Shea Stadium.
Game 5 found the teams back in Boston for the oh-so-important rubber match. Boston took that one and with that, moved to within one game of the World Series. They went back to Shea Stadium in Queens to try and close out the series, and close out the Curse of the Bambino. That’s the name sports fans gave to the Red Sox inability to win a World Series since their team owner had sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees back in 1919. Closing out the series in New York wasn’t going to be easy, but they had already beat the Mets twice on their home turf earlier in the series, so, well, we had to believe that they could do it again.
It was a see-saw game, and tense as all hell. Boston scored a run in the first inning and another in the second to jump out to an early 2-0 lead. They held the Mets scoreless until the 5th inning when they scored a couple to tie it up. That’s when the dread and tension really set in. THEY CAN’T MESS THIS UP!!!!!
I remember watching this game, clear as day. We were all gathered in our family room. Watching on our 19” RCA color TV set. I was sitting on the red shag carpet right in front of the TV. Hoping, Praying, Cajoling, BELIEVING. Hoping against hope.
Boston scored again in the 7th to take the lead 3-2 and my house, my block, me neighborhood, damn the entire city and STATE basically exploded. It felt like there had been an earthquake. No joke.
Then in. The bottom of the 8th The red Sox walked Keith Hernandez to load the bases and Gary Carter caste up to bat. Carter hit a deep fly to left field, that was caught, but it was deep enough to score Lee Mazilli. As much as we had all celebrated when the Red Sox took the lead, equal was the amount of despair that filled the entirety of New England when the Mets ties the game. In retrospect, I guess we should have known at that moment. That the Red Sox couldn’t keep a good thing going. That they would end up letting us down. But we kept believing.
We kept believing right up through the end of the regulation 9 innings, where the game was locked in a stalemate at 3 runs a piece. So now we were off to extra inning. And oh boy this was NOT a good feeling. Back in those days, we were told to believe, but nobody ever did. Everyone around me, especially the adults, who had lived trough this their entire lives, exuded not confidence, but panic, when things got tight. And this moment was boo different.
And then it happened. The top of the tenth. Dave Henderson knocked the second pitch of the inning out of the park to give the Red Sox a 3-2 lead. Then Wade Boggs doubled and was knocked in by second basemen Marty Barrett. ANOTHER EARTHQUAKE. The whole of New England was fired up again. TWO RUNS IN THE TENTH. SURELY, they couldn’t muck this one up, right?!?!?!
But these were the Boston Red Sox we were talking about. And if there was a way to lose, these guys would find it, or die trying. What happened next though, was almost literally unbelievable. The Red Sox retried the first two batters of the inning and were only ONE OUT AWAY from a World Series Championship. Another earthquake hit and we were all on the edge of our shag carpet perches waiting for the final out. And then it started to unravel. Gary Carter lined a single into left field which was followed by a single by Kevin Mitchell. Ray Knight singled, scoring Gary Carter and bringing <Mitchell to third base. The tying run was on rd. HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN!?!?!
But it was OK, because awe had an ace in the hole. The Red Sox brought in their lights out reliever Bob Stanley, who hadn’t allowed an earned run in the entire series. Nothing could stop us now!!!!
Until Mookie Wilson stepped to the plate. The typically unflappable Stanley threw a ball in the dirt which allowed Mitchell to score and advanced Ray Knight to third. Not it was tied. In. Extra innings. The bottom on the 10th. How in the hell did we get here. The Red Sox had just been within a whisper of winning there. world series, and now they were about to give the game away.
To see what happened next, you’ve just got to watch… It defies words at this point…
Bill Bucker let the game roll right between his legs. A decorated veteran of the Major Leagues. A complete pro. Failed in the biggest moment of his career. And the Red Sox lost the game. And along with it, all of their Mojo. The Mets rolled to victory in game 7 and took the World Series. It was a foregone conclusion at that point. Sure, there was gonna be a game 7, but none of us believed, any longer, that the Red Sox had a chance.
Nothing was ever the same again for me. I lost all respect for the red Sox, and for the City of Boston, in that one moment. And that’s why Im a New Yorker now…
To Be Continued…