“Last year should be remembered not for one inning or one game,” said veteran relief pitcher Joe Sambito, “but what for most of us was the best of times.”
The worst of times, of course, came in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 6 of the World Series, when the Boston Red Sox turned a 5-3, two-out, bases-empty lead into a 6-5 loss to the New York Mets. In order, Gary Carter singled, Kevin Mitchell singled, Ray Knight singled to score Carter and send Mitchell to third, Mitchell scored on a wild pitch as Knight went to second, and Knight scored the winning run when Mookie Wilson’s grounder went through Buckner’s legs. Though it has been used many times before, the first paragraph of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities truly does describe Game 6: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way….”
Game 6 has now taken its place with the other great World Series contests: Game 8 in 1912, Game 4 in 1947, Game 7 in 1960 and Game 6 in 1975. But in a way it stands alone as the greatest “bad” game in Series history. The Mets, who in 1986 won more games (116) than all but two teams ever, were facing the Red Sox, who hadn’t won a World Series since Babe Ruth pitched for them. For much of the Series, the two teams bumbled around like a couple of September cellar dwellers. And managers McNamara and Davey Johnson, otherwise sound strategists, often seemed to be off in other worlds.
I was in 10th grade when the Mets beat the Red Sox and was pulling for Boston all the way (I knew more Mets fans at school and even though the Red Sox beat my second favorite team, Reggie’s Angels, in the playoffs, I was an American League man first and foremost). I wasn’t crushed, of course, when the ball went through Buckner’s legs but I was furious thinking of all the mess the Mets fans would be talking at school the next day.