1986 World Series
The New York Mets had what remains their best season in franchise history, with 108 wins against 54 defeats under manager Davey Johnson, a pure .667 winning percentage. They also held a large advantage over the American League pennant winners, the Boston Red Sox (95-66 under John McNamara) in that the Sox had a team ERA of 3.98 while the Mets ERA was just 3.11. The Mets had three starters under 3.00 – 18-5 Bobby Ojeda, 15-6 Ron Darling, and 17-6 Dwight Gooden. Boston had a couple, too, Bruce Hurst’s 2.99 just under the wire (he was 13-8) and Roger Clemens at 2.48 (and a spectacular 24-4 season in which he won both the Cy Young Award and the Al MVP. It was the first time since 1912 that a Boston team and a New York team had squared off against each other in the postseason. Sports Illustrated billed it as “Athens vs. Sparta”.
It was Hurst vs. Darling in Game One, at Shea Stadium. Although it had only taken the Mets six games to win the NLCS, the scheduling had both Boston and New York winning on October 15. And while the Red Sox rode momentum off their dramatic Game Five, the Mets had had to battle 12 innings and then – after flying to Houston) a grueling 16 innings to win their last two games, the very next day. Neither team scored for the first six innings, and each team had only managed three scattered hits. Darling walked Jim Rice to lead off the seventh; he took second on a wild pitch. After one out was recorded, a Rich Gedman ground ball skittered through the legs of second baseman Tim Teufel and Rice ran around the score, giving Boston one unearned run on no hits. It was all they needed. Hurst allowed a single (to Teufel) but no more, and reliever Calvin Schiraldi set down New York in the ninth.
Shea was somber after Game Two, as well. Boston grabbed a quick 3-0 lead off Gooden in the top of the third on a walk and three straight hits. Gooden himself singled in the bottom of the third and scored the second of two runs the Mets put across off Clemens, but then Dave Henderson hit a leadoff homer in the fourth and Dwight Evans hit a two-run homer off Gooden in the fifth. By the time the game was over, it was 9-3 Red Sox, with the win going to Steve Crawford because Clemens had been unable to complete the fifth.
Sox fans felt great. Their team had taken both games on the road and now had three games at home. It was Oil Can Boyd vs. Bobby Ojeda. Lenny Dykstra banged Boyd’s third pitch into the right-field seats. A single followed, then another single, and then a double. By the time the Red Sox came to bat, they were already down 4-0. Boyd coughed up a couple more later, for a 7-1 finish (Ojeda allowed just one run on a Marty Barrett single in the bottom of the third). In Game Four, the Red Sox sent out Al Nipper, who hadn’t pitched for 18 days. Sox batters faced Ron Darling who only granted four hits without a run through seven innings. By then, the Mets were ahead 5-0. Dykstra hit another homer and Gary Carter hit two. This one ended 6-2 Mets and it seemed as though neither team could win a home game.
The Red Sox did take Game Five, though, as Bruce Hurst went to 3-0 in the 1986 postseason with a complete-game four-hit win, 4-2, while Dwight Gooden dropped his second Series game, giving up all four runs in four-plus innings. Now all Boston needed to do is win either of the next two games back in New York.
The game started well from a Red Sox perspective, with Dwight Evans and the pesky Marty Barrett each driving in a run off Ojeda, one in the first and the other in the second. The Mets tied it up in the fifth. Boston took a 3-2 lead in the sixth. The Mets tied it back up in the bottom of the eighth on a Gary Carter sac fly off Calvin Schiraldi, who had taken over for Clemens, when Clemens had come out for a pinch-hitter in the top of the eighth.
Heading into extra innings, Dave Henderson hit a leadoff homer off reliever Rick Aguilera. He might have been the hero of the World Series as he’d been in the ALCS. Wade Boggs doubled, and Barrett singled him in for an insurance run. It was looking like a Red Sox championship and the Mets running the Shea control room began to get ready, as did the clubhouse crew. Schiraldi retired the first two batters in the bottom of the 10th. But then Carter singled and Kevin Mitchell. On a count of 0-2 (one strike away from a 5-3 Red Sox win), Ray Knight hit a line drive to right-center field scoring Carter and sending Mitchell to third. Bon Stanley came in to retired Mookie Wilson for the third out Schiraldi couldn’t seem to manage – and uncorked a wild pitch (or was it a passed ball?) allowing Mitchell to score the tying run. Mets fans were out of their minds, but then Wilson hit what appeared to be a game-ending routine grounder to first. And (as fans everywhere have seen 100 times) it went through Bill Buckner’s legs. What Buckner was doing playing first, rather than defensive specialist Dave Stapleton, who almost always spelled Buckner at game’s end) is a question apparently answered by manager McNamara’s sentimental feeling that Buckner should be on the field to enjoy the World Series win to cap a season he’d been so much a part of. Thanks a lot, Buckner likely told Mac later. The Mets won, as Knight scored easily. It was an unearned run – but who cares?
Bruce Hurst, already in line to receive Series MVP honors, had there not been a seventh game, was tapped to pitch Game Seven. The Mets asked Ron Darling to win it for them. Buckner singled in the first inning, but no one else on either team got on. Evans homered to lead off the second, and Rich Gedman followed suit. 2-0, Red Sox. Henderson walked and Boggs drove him in. 3-0. One might have thought momentum was on the side of the Mets but it wasn’t looking that way. After five innings, it was still 3-0. But Hurst tired in the bottom of the sixth. Two singles, a walk, another single, and a run-scoring groundout tied the game. Hurst finished the inning, but it was 3-3, just as the Series was 3-3 in games won. Calvin Schiraldi was called upon again. He’d been so good before, but he was snakebitten in the Series – and the Mets scored three runs off him in the seventh. Even though Boston clawed back with two of their own, they were still behind, 6-5. Al Nipper threw the bottom of the eighth, and the Mets iced their cake with two more runs – and a World Series to be remembered.By Bill Nowlin
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