Sunday, October 21, 2012

1986 World Series: The Error

The Teams
National League: New York Mets (108-54) - Third World Series (Won in 1969)
American League: Boston Red Sox (95-66) - Ninth World Series (Won in 1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918)

What Happened

Everybody remembers the error. And really, it's understandable. It wasn't just an error, after all. It was 68 years of a franchise's pain and torture, the full-fledged belief in a curse wrapped up in one simple slow roller to first.

The entry in the box score is simple enough: M. Wilson reached on E3 (ground ball), Knight scores (unearned). But it meant so much more. The fact that "Knight scores" was the game-winning run of Game 6, so Red Sox fans had that final image of the ground ball going through Bill Buckner's legs to haunt them into the night. Since rain pushed Game 7 back an extra day, that was just more time for Red Sox fans to stew.

And so they did, and when they lost the next day, the 1986 World Series became all about Buckner's error, the details getting lost in the haze. Details like the wild pitch one pitch before Buckner's error, the one that brought home the tying run. Details like the three straight hits the Mets got with two outs in the ninth, including Knight's run-scoring single when he faced an 0-2 count. Details from earlier in the series were forgotten, too, like the two times the Red Sox pounded Mets phenom Dwight Gooden, the 1-0 thriller in Game 1, and so on. All forgotten because of one ground ball.

The Red Sox could have overcome this, of course. They still had a Game 7 to play. But the damage had been done. Immediately before Buckner's error, there was champagne on ice in the Red Sox' clubhouse, where the lockers were covered with tarp. Roger Clemens was shown in the dugout clean-shaven, as he had shaved off his playoff scruff during the game in anticipation of post-game interviews. Hell, even the Shea Stadium scoreboard had flashed, if only for a moment, the words "Congratulations Red Sox." That was a lot to overcome, and it proved to be too much. Boston took a 3-0 lead in Game 7, but that lead was gone in a flash after a three-run sixth. The Mets piled on with three more in the seventh, and that was that. It was just a matter of counting down the outs after that.

There were so many things to remember about the 1986 World Series and postseason in general. Dave Henderson's continuous dramatic home runs, seemingly whenever the Red Sox needed one;  Boston coming back from 3-1 down to beat the Angels; the Mets winning 106 games, then surviving two tense playoff series that took the luster off their "greatest team of the 80s" claim; the Mets-Astros NLCS, which was one of the best postseason series ever played.

None of it mattered. It didn't matter because Bill Buckner couldn't field Mookie Wilson's grounder, and the Red Sox lost a game they should have won, and the Curse lived on.

It wasn't how many hits Ray Knight got in the series - though he got plenty of them - but when he got them. In Game 6, he got an rbi and scored a run as the Mets scored twice to tie the game in the fifth, and he drove in the first run of the Mets famed 10th inning rally, then scored the winning run on Buckner's error. In Game 7, his home run provided the go-ahead run in the seventh, and he scored the final run of the series in the 8th.
Scores (Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

Boston19 12455
New York 03762 6 (10)8

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

11. 1986 - New York (N) def. Boston (A) 4-3
12. 1962 - New York (A) def. San Francisco (N) 4-3
13. 1926 - St. Louis (N) def. New York (A) 4-3
14. 1995 - Atlanta (N) def. Cleveland (A) 4-2
15. 1960 - Pittsburgh (N) def. New York (A) 4-3
16. 1952 - New York (A) def. Brooklyn (N) 4-3
17. 1997 - Florida (N) def. Cleveland (A) 4-3
18. 1993 - Toronto (A) def. Philadelphia (N) 4-2
19. 1956 - New York (A) def. Brooklyn (N) 4-3
Numbers 20-29
Numbers 30-39
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:

3. 1960: Pittsburgh 10, New York (A) 9
5. 1997: Florida 3, Cleveland 2
7. 1946: St. Louis (N) 4, Boston (A) 3
9. 1925: Pittsburgh 9, Washington 7
10. 1926: St. Louis (N) 3, New York (A) 2
11. 1962: New York (A) 1, San Francisco 0
12. 1979: Pittsburgh 4, Baltimore 1
13. 1955: Brooklyn 2, New York (A) 0
14. 1952: New York (A) 4, Brooklyn 2
15. 1971: Pittsburgh 2, Baltimore 1
16. 1940: Cincinnati 2, Detroit 1
18. 1987: Minnesota 4, St. Louis 2
19. 1958: New York 6, Milwaukee 2
20. 1986: New York (N) 8, Boston 5 
21. 1968: Detroit 4, St. Louis 1
22. 1931: St. Louis (N) 4, Philadelphia (A) 2
23. 1973: Oakland 5, New York (N) 2
24. 2002: Anaheim 4, San Francisco 1
26. 1982: St. Louis 6, Milwaukee 3
28. 1965: Los Angeles (A) 2, Minnesota 0
29. 1964: St. Louis 7, New York (A) 5
30. 1957: Milwaukee 5, New York (A) 0
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 
35. 1985: Kansas City 11, St. Louis 0
36. 1956: New York (A) 9, Brooklyn 0

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