This week, the Kansas City Royals are facing the San Francisco Giants in the 110th World Series. The two teams are tied at a game a piece after the Royals 7-2 victory on Wednesday night. This is the first time since 1985 that the Royals competing in the Fall Classic. But it is 28 years ago this Saturday that held host to one of the most famous errors in World Series history.
The Boston Red Sox led the New York Mets by games, 3-2 entering October 25’s game at Shea Stadium. The Red Sox took an early 2-0 lead after two innings, until the Mets tied the ballgame on a single and run-scoring double play in the bottom of the 5th. Boston scored in the 7th, but again failed to hold its second lead in the 8th, when catcher Gary Carter’s sacrifice fly allowed pinch hitter Lee Mazilli to score the tying run. That’s all the Mets would get in the 8th and 9th, leaving two runners on base in each inning.
The game was tied going to the 10th inning.
The Red Sox immediately, took the lead thanks to center fielder Dave Henderson, who hit an 0-1 pitch from Rick Aguilera deep over the left field wall for his second home run of the series. After third baseman Wade Boggs doubled to left, he was driven in on second baseman Marty Barrett’s single to center. The Red Sox failed to score any more insurance runs, but took a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the 10th inning, and needed just three more outs to secure their first World Series title in 68 years.
Red Sox pitcher Calvin Schiraldi had been pitching since the 8th inning, and manager John McNamara decided to let him continue on. He got Mets second baseman Wally Backman and first baseman Keith Hernandez to fly out on seven pitches, and the Mets were an out away from losing the Series. However, Carter singled to left and pinch hitter Kevin Mitchell singled to center.
The second pitch off the bat of Mets third baseman Ray Knight was a dribbler down the third base line that Boggs chose to let roll foul instead of risking another runner getting aboard via a close play at any base. The next pitch was hit to center, scoring Carter from second. With the Red Sox now holding on to a 5-4 lead with runners on first and third, left fielder Mookie Wilson stepped into the batter’s box. McNamara removed Schiraldi from the game and replaced him with Bob Stanley.
Wilson’s at-bat got to a 2-2 count after two balls were out of the strike zone and four were fouled off. The sixth pitch of the at-bat bounced off of catcher Rich Gedman’s glove and to the Shea backstop. Mitchell scored the trying run, and Knight moved up to second on the wild pitch. Wilson fouled off the next two pitches.
Then, Wilson hit a ball that bounced in front of his feet and chopped to first baseman Billy Buckner. Buckner put his glove down to field the ball, but it scooted under his glove. Knight scored from second, and the Mets won 6-5 on Buckner’s error.
Buckner became one of the most hated people in the city of Boston, receiving death threats in the years after the play. However, Buckner’s error is just one of the flaws of the Red Sox all series.
To say that Buckner was at fault for the Red Sox losing that game means forgetting about the rest of the team’s play. In the bottom of the 5th, for example, Knight only scored on the double play because he was able to go from first to third after right fielder Dwight Evans bobbled Wilson’s base hit before the double play. The Rex Sox may have been able to get out of the inning without an extra run scoring had the E9 not occurred. In that case, they would have gone to the 9th leading 3-2, assuming identical progression of the game.
In addition, Schiraldi allowed the tying and winning runs on base, and Stanley allowed the wild pitch and contact by Wilson to allow the ball to get by Buckner. Even had Buckner fielded the ball cleanly, Wilson was fast runner, and after hustling out of the box, there is no way of saying if he would have gotten Wilson out at first.
What is often forgotten is the fact that there was a game the next day: Another chance for the Red Sox, and now the first chance for the Mets, to win the World Series. In the next game, Schiraldi’s pitching again led to Red Sox woes, as he allowed three of the Mets’ 8 runs (compared to five for Boston) and suffered the loss. The offense is also at fault, as the Red Sox left a total of 20 batters on base in final two games, and 69 in the series, compared to 50 by the Mets.