Sunday, February 15, 2009
One Strike Away and One Swing of the Bat. The Tale of Donnie Moore
Every baseball fan remembers the 1986 World Series, when the New York Mets' Mookie Wilson rolled a ground ball through the legs of Boston first baseman Bill Buckner, giving the Mets, who were baseball's best team during the season but were down to their last gasp in the Series, extra life and denying the Red Sox their first world's championship since 1918. Most fans also remember New York's playoff win that year against the Houston Astros, when their sixteen-inning win in Game Six of that series pushed the Mets into the World Series without their having to face Houston pitcher Mike Scott, to whom they had already lost twice in that set, in a loser-goes-home Game Seven.
What most fans do not remember, though, is the other playoff series that year, Boston's win over the California Angles in the American League Championship Series.
The Angels opened the 1986 season having won just two division titles in their 25 seasons of existence and had never been to the World Series. After having finished in second place in the AL's Western Division the prior two years, the Halos were sluggish at the start of '86, and woke up the morning of June 16 just a .500 ball club through the season's first sixty-two games. But they started a five-game winning streak that day, propelling them to a 61-39 finish and they won the West by five games over Texas. On October 7 they opened the best-of-seven AL Championship Series against the East champ, the Boston Red Sox. The two teams split the first two games in Boston's Fenway Park, then headed to Anaheim Stadium for the next three. The first two of those three were tight ones: California got a couple of seventh-inning home runs to turn a 1-1 game into a 5-3 win in Game Three, then the next day scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings before winning in the eleventh. The win put them up three games to one in the series, a lead only a small handful of teams in the game's history had ever blown.
Then came Game Five, about which, more later.