Sunday, September 2, 2012

1985 World Series: The Champions of Missouri

The Teams
American League: Kansas City Royals (91-71) - Second World Series
National League: St. Louis Cardinals (101-61) - 14th World Series (won in 1926, 1931, 1934, 1942, 1944, 1946, 1964, 1967, 1982)

What Happened
The Buckner Game. The Bartman Game. Merkle's Boner. Baseball history is full of games known for one disastrous event, an event that, while it may not have been the direct cause of a team's misfortune, it was still received most of the blame. Another such game was Game 6 of the 1985 World Series, now forever known as the Denkinger Game.

It's too bad that the Denkinger Game is what's remembered about this series, because it was a fairly good series. Both teams used speed and pitching as their primary weapons, with that strategy taken to an extreme by the Cardinals. St. Louis stole 317 bases in 1985, the highest total in the National League since 1912, and advanced to their second World Series of the decade.

Also playing in their second World Series were the Royals, who were a dynasty on the way down. After coming close to the World Series three times in the 1970s and making it - but losing - in 1980, the Royals started to sink down the standings as their key players started to age. With young pitchers refueling the roster, the revitalized Royals bounced back into the postseason for one last chance at a championship.

The Cardinals won the first two games in Kansas City, but only one won of the three home games, forcing a return to Kansas City. With a championship in their sites, St. Louis took the lead in Game 6 with a pinch-hit single by third-string catcher Brian Harper, his first hit of the postseason. That tlead was still in place in the bottom of the ninth when rookie Todd Worrell took the mound to try to nail down a championship. Kansas City pinch-hitter Jorge Orta lead off with a chopper down the first-base line. Jack Clark fielded the ball cleanly and flipped it to Worrell in what seemed like plenty of time to get the first out, but first-base umpire Don Denkinger inexplicably called Orta safe.

Looks out to me.
The Cardinals went ballistic, arguing in vain that Denkinger had blown the call. He didn't flinch. The call had been made, and it wasn't gonna change. Still upset about the call, the Cardinals melted down. The only out they got in the bottom of the ninth was on a failed sacrifice attempt, and the Royals won on Dane Iorg's two-run bases-loaded single.
After the game, the Cardinals acted as if Denkinger himself had cost them the game, even though his blown call meant there was a runner on first with nobody on base, a situation many teams had gotten out of with no problem. That didn't matter. The Cardinals were pissed, and they stayed that way through Game 7. With Denkinger behind the plate for the deciding game, St. Louis melted down. Manager Whitey Herzog was ejected in the third inning, while pitcher Joaquin Andujar - the Cardinals' fifth pitcher of the game - was kicked out in the fifth. By the time the carnage was done, Kansas City had won its first championship with an 11-0 pounding, and the Cardinals and their fans were left cursing Denkinger's name.

It has been said that Bret Saberhagen was a great pitcher only in odd-numbered years. Well, 1985 was an odd-numbered year. He went 20-6 to win the Cy Young Award that year, then continued his domination in the postseason, beating the Cardinals with a pair of complete-game gems. He only gave up 1 run in a Game 3 win, then shut out the Cardinals during their Game 7 meltdown.

(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

St. Louis 3413 110
Kansas City 126 06211

The List
I'm ranking all the World Series, from worst to best. Here are the ones I've done so far:

31. 1985 - Kansas City (A) def. St. Louis (N) 4-3
32. 1969 - New York (N) def. Baltimore (A) 4-1
33. 1935 - Detroit (A) def. Chicago (N) 4-2
34. 1934 - St. Louis (N) def. Detroit (A) 4-3
35. 1964 - St. Louis (N) def. New York (A) 4-3
36. 2003 - Florida (N) def. New York (A) 4-2
37. 1977 - New York (A) def. Los Angeles (N) 4-2
38. 1996 - New York (A) def. Atlanta (N) 4-2
39. 1921 - New York (N) def. New York (A) 5-3

Numbers 40-49
Numbers 50-59
Numbers 60-69
Numbers 70-79
Numbers 80-89
Numbers 90-99
Numbers 100-107

Game 7s
Simultaneously, I'll rank all the Game 7s. The ones that have appeared in my countdown so far:

12. 1979: Pittsburgh 4, Baltimore 1
13. 1955: Brooklyn 2, New York (A) 0
16. 1940: Cincinnati 2, Detroit 1
18. 1987: Minnesota 4, St. Louis 2
19. 1958: New York 6, Milwaukee 2
21. 1968: Detroit 4, St. Louis 1
22. 1931: St. Louis (N) 4, Philadelphia (A) 2
26. 1982: St. Louis 6, Milwaukee 3
28. 1965: Los Angeles (A) 2, Minnesota 0
29. 1964: St. Louis 7, New York (A) 5
31. 1967: St. Louis 7, Boston 2
32. 1945: Detroit 9, Chicago (N) 3
33. 1909: Pittsburgh 8, Detroit 0
34. 1934: St. Louis (N) 11, Detroit 0 
36. 1985: Kansas City 11, St. Louis 0

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