I really wanted to feature the Opening Day no-hitter that Bob Feller threw today. I have tried to track down anything that would help me reconstruct the scorecard. I have sent out emails to various museums to see if they have any information. I have found nothing so far, but it is not a total loss. The game that takes its place is a pretty good one too. Game five of the 1986 ALCS will always stick in my mind. I was going to to this one early in the process anyway, but after the strikeout on Feller info and the MLB special I saw this week decided to just do it now.
I watched this game live back in 1986. I was a ten year old kid home alone watching baseball. There are a few sports games that help me remember moments of my childhood, and this is one of them. We were building a house at the time, and staying in an older house in the meantime. Whenever I think of that house I think about this game for some reason. That may be wrong on many levels, but it is the truth. I have no idea why it is like that, but it is. As much as it is etched in my mind I went years thinking that this was the clincher. I was shocked to learn that they played two more games. Maybe that is because the next two were played on a weeknight when I should have been doing work. It is funny how the mind of a ten year old works.
Of course we all know that the hero of the game was Dave Henderson. Dave had played his entire six year career with the Mariners before coming to the Red Sox. He was a very late season acquisition being traded for on August 19th. That means that he had to claim waivers before coming to the Red Sox. How crazy is it that someone who spent most of the season far away from a pennant race found himself in some of the crucial moments in the 1986 playoffs. The ironic thing is that he spent just over a year with the Red Sox before being traded to the Giants for a utility player.
This was a game of reversals. The night before Bobby Grich had his a won the game in the 11th inning with a single. At one point it looked like he would be the hero again as he hit a ball deep to center field. Dave Henderson who had just came into the game drifted back to get the ball. The ball hit the pocket of his mitt just as he hit the wall, and the ball bounced out of the mitt and over the wall. Watching the replays I would think that the ball would never have gone out of the park if Dave had not touched it. It was a great effort by Henderson, but it looked like the game was over in the sixth inning after the home run. Al Michaels who was calling the game said just after the catch that it “could be one of the most memorable plays of the 80’s.”
The Red Sox came up in the top of the ninth down three runs, and facing elimination from the playoffs. Bill Buckner (yes that one) started the inning off with a single. With one out pitcher Mike Witt who had pitched a brilliant game up to this point gave up a home run to Don Baylor to bring the Red Sox to within one run. Earlier in the season I saw the Red Sox play at old Comiskey Park. Baylor hit a ball to almost the same spot helping the Red Sox to the win. With one out and the bases loaded Witt then got Dwight Evans to pop up to third. The Angels were now one out away from going to the World Series. California manager Gene Mauch brought in left handed pitcher Gary Lucas to face the lefty catcher Rich Gedman who was 3-3 on the day so far. Lucas then hit Gedman to put a man on first with two outs. If this was a play by Shakespeare the script would say:
Enter Donnie Moore
Donnie came into the game with the chance to be the hero. He quickly got two strikes on Dave Henderson making him look really bad doing so. Henderson barely got a piece of the next two pitches to stay alive. Then something both remarkable and tragic happened. Dave Henderson hit the seventh pitch of the at bat over the left centerfield wall to put the Red Sox up by one. It was remarkable because Henderson hit a very good pitch for the home run. It was tragic because this was yet another in a series of events that led to Donnie Moore taking his own life less than 3 years later.
The Angels would come back to tie this game in the bottom of the ninth when Ruppert Jones scored on a single to right field. Dewey Evans made a great throw to the plate, but Jones made an equally great slide to beat the tag. The next batter Gary Pettis hit a ball that appeared to be out of the park, but Jim Rice who was playing very deep for the singles hitter caught it at the wall. If Rice did not get the ball it would have been gone, and the Angels would have played the Mets in the World Series.
The 11th inning started with Donnie Moore still in the game. Don Baylor is well known for his knack for getting hit by the pitch. He led off the inning by getting hit again. That was followed by consecutive singles by Dwight Evans and Rich Gedman. That set up Dave Henderson again. Hit hit the ball to center allowing Baylor to tag up and score the winning run. Calvin Shiraldi who was the goat the night before pitched the bottom of the 11th for the save.
The Red Sox would go on to the World Series. There they would find themselves withing one out of a championship much like the Angels did in this game. A freak situation led to a loss for Boston, and Bill Buckner forever being known for an error. Ironic how they got to the Series by breaking the hearts of the Angels with two outs only to get theirs broken just the same.
This game is so great because of the guys who stepped out of the shadows to perform. Obviously Dave Henderson was the hero, but where did he come from before October 12th? Because of injuries Steve Crawford was used, and pitched a great inning and two thirds for the Red Sox. Bobby Grich who was the hero the night before could have been again in the bottom of the ninth. He came up with the bases loaded and nobody out, but Crawford snagged a liner back up the middle. Grich would never play another game again.
The ultimate story of the game has to be Donnie Moore. He was trying to pitch through injuries that game, and was not himself. The Angels fans booed him for the next two years every time he set foot on the field. The Angels released him after the 1988 season, and he signed with the Royals for the ’89 season. He played in the minors with the Royals before being released in June of ’89. In July he shot his wife in front of their three kids. His oldest daughter escaped the home with the mother. In full view of one of his sons he fatally shot himself. He went from being an all star in 1985 to being out of baseball just a few years later. That compared with trouble at home led to his breakdown and death. This is one of the truly sad stories in sports.
The scorecards that I have made only go to ten innings. I had to just use the at bat column to score the 11th inning. It was great to watch this game again knowing how everything would turn out. Seeing the joy on the faces of the Red Sox players knowing that the joy would quickly be taken away. The Red Sox won this series in seven games, but you could argue that neither ream really won. They both ended the season on a terrible note.