Two days ago, I wrote about the twenty-third anniversary of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Miraculous as that game was, all it did was force a seventh and deciding game. Do you remember seeing the replay of Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk waving for the ball to stay fair in the 1975 World Series? That home run gave the Red Sox a thrilling 12-inning victory over the Cincinnati Reds in Game 6.
That’s right. It happened in Game 6. Just like the Mets’ dramatic Game 6 victory in the 1986 World Series, the home run by Fisk did not give the Red Sox the World Series trophy. All it did was force a seventh game, a game won by the Reds to give Cincinnati the championship.
Had the Mets followed up their Game 6 heroics with a loss the following night, the miracle comeback would have been for naught. The Mets had to win Game 7 to validate their season. The stage was set at Shea Stadium for the final game of the 1986 baseball season. It was up to the Mets to make the dream come true for their fans.
Game 7 was originally scheduled for Sunday, October 26. However, a steady rain forced the postponement of the game until the following night. Red Sox starter Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd was supposed to start the seventh game against Ron Darling. However, with an extra day of rest, the Red Sox chose to bypass Boyd (who had given up six runs to the Mets in his Game 3 loss) and gave the ball to Bruce Hurst.
Hurst had already defeated the Mets in Game 1 and notched a complete game victory against them in Game 5. Although he was pitching Game 7 on three days rest, the Mets were still wary about Hurst. His performances against the Mets in the World Series were reminiscent of Mike Scott’s outings in the NLCS. If the Mets were going to beat Hurst, Ron Darling was going to have to match him pitch for pitch. Unfortunately, that was not the case in the early innings.
Bruce Hurst was his usual strong self in the early innings, keeping the Mets off the scoreboard. Ron Darling? Not so much. After a scoreless first inning, he gave up three runs in the second inning, including back-to-back home runs by Dwight Evans and Rich Gedman. By the time the fourth inning rolled around, Darling had already given up six hits and walked a batter. He then hit Dave Henderson with a pitch to lead off the fourth inning. After facing two more batters, Darling was relieved by fellow starter turned reliever Sid Fernandez. The score was still 3-0 in favor of the Red Sox and the game was slipping away from the Mets. It was up to El Sid to stop the fire from spreading.
In perhaps the guttiest (no pun intended) performance by Fernandez in his Mets career, he shut down the Red Sox. After walking his first batter (Wade Boggs), Sid retired the next seven batters he faced, with four of them coming via the strikeout. Fernandez did everything he could to keep his team in the game, but his efforts would go in vain unless the Mets could finally solve the puzzle that was Bruce Hurst.
With time running out on the Mets and their dream season, Davey Johnson was forced to make a difficult move in the bottom of the sixth inning. After Rafael Santana grounded out to start the inning, the Mets were down to Sid Fernandez’s spot in the batting order. Would Johnson take Sid out for a pinch hitter, hoping that the Mets would start a rally or would he leave him in the game, possibly giving up on another inning in which to mount a comeback against Bruce Hurst? Johnson chose to pinch hit for Fernandez and it ended up being one of the best managerial decisions he ever made.
Lee Mazzilli stepped up to the plate in lieu of Fernandez. He greeted Hurst with a single to left. Game 6 hero Mookie Wilson followed Mazzilli with a hit of his own, followed by a walk to Tim Teufel. The base on balls loaded the bases for Keith Hernandez and brought the crowd of 55,032 to its feet. The cheering rose to a crescendo when Hernandez delivered a two-run single to center, scoring Mazzilli and Wilson and sending Teufel to third. Since Teufel represented the tying run, Davey Johnson sent in the speedier Wally Backman to pinch run for him as Gary Carter stepped up to the plate. Carter came through as he drove in Backman with a ball that would have been a base hit to right had a confused Hernandez not been forced out at second base when rightfielder Dwight Evans rolled over the ball. Hernandez had to freeze between first and second until he knew that the ball had not been caught. Despite the out being recorded, the Mets had tied the game at 3. They had finally gotten to Bruce Hurst and hope was alive at Shea. That hope became greater when Ray Knight came to bat in the seventh inning against a familiar face.
Calvin Schiraldi had been brought in by the Red Sox to start the seventh inning. Schiraldi was the losing pitcher in Game 6, having allowed Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell and Ray Knight to deliver hits off him in the tenth inning. This time, he was facing Knight with no one on base, trying to erase the bitter memories from his previous outing. Knight would not provide him with the eraser. On a 2-1 pitch from Schiraldi, Knight got under a pitch and launched it to deep left-center, barely clearing the outfield wall. A jubilant Knight celebrated as he rounded the bases. The Mets finally had their first lead of the game and they were going to make sure that they weren’t going to give it back. The hit parade continued in the seventh inning, as an RBI single by Rafael Santana and a sacrifice fly by Keith Hernandez gave the Mets a 6-3 lead. The Mets were in front, but the Red Sox weren’t going to go away quietly.
Roger McDowell had come into the game in the seventh inning once Sid Fernandez had been pinch hit for. He continued where Sid had left off by retiring the Red Sox in order in the seventh. However, things went a little differently for McDowell in the eighth inning. Bill Buckner led off the inning with a single. Jim Rice followed Buckner with a single of his own. After Dwight Evans doubled into the gap in right field, scoring both Buckner and Rice, the lead had been cut to a single run. The Red Sox were down 6-5 with the tying run on second base and nobody out. It was time for Davey Johnson to make one last move, with the World Series on the line.
Jesse Orosco came in from the bullpen, hoping to shut down the Red Sox to preserve the lead for the Mets. His first batter, Rich Gedman, had homered earlier off starting pitcher Ron Darling. This time, he hit the ball hard again, but in the direction of second baseman Wally Backman. Backman caught the line drive in the air, holding Evans at second base. The next batter was Dave Henderson. He had given the Red Sox the lead with a home run in the tenth inning of Game 6. Now he had a chance to duplicate the feat, as a home run would have given Boston the lead. This time, the only thing he made contact with was the air. Orosco struck him out on four pitches and then induced Don Baylor to ground out to short to end the threat. The Mets were now three outs away from a championship, but they weren’t finished scoring yet.
The Red Sox called upon Al Nipper to face Darryl Strawberry to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning. Nipper was trying to keep the Mets’ lead at one so that the Red Sox could make one last attempt in the ninth inning to tie the game or take the lead. It didn’t take long for that one run lead to grow. Strawberry greeted Nipper with a towering home run to right field that almost took as long to come down as it did for Strawberry to round the bases. After Darryl finally finished his home run “trot” (To call it a trot would be putting it mildly. It was more like a stroll and it led to a bench-clearing brawl the following season in spring training when Nipper and the Red Sox faced Darryl Strawberry and the Mets again.), the Mets had a 7-5 lead. After a hit, a walk and an RBI single by Jesse Orosco on a 47-hopper up the middle (how appropriate since 47 was Jesse’s number), the Mets had regained their three-run lead. After being held scoreless by Bruce Hurst for the first five innings of the game, the Mets had exploded for eight runs in the last three innings to take an 8-5 lead into the ninth inning. Orosco was still on the mound, hoping to throw the season’s final pitch.
With the champagne ready to be uncorked in the Mets clubhouse, Orosco went to work on the Red Sox batters. Ed Romero popped up to first base in foul territory for the first out. That was followed by Wade Boggs grounding out to second base for the second out. The Mets were one out away from a championship. Nothing was going to stop them from winning this game. Well, nothing except for the pink smoke bomb that was thrown onto the field.
That did not matter to Jesse Orosco or the Mets. After the smoke cleared, Marty Barrett stepped up to the plate. Barrett had already collected a World Series record-tying 13 hits, trying to set the record and keep the season alive for the Red Sox. However, that was not to be. We now turn the microphone over to the late Bob Murphy for the final pitch.
“He struck him out! Struck him out! The Mets have won the World Series! And they’re jamming and crowding all over Jesse Orosco! He’s somewhere at the bottom of that pile! He struck out Marty Barrett! The dream has come true! The Mets have won the World Series, coming from behind to win the seventh ballgame!”
The Mets had completed their dream season with a World Series championship. After 108 regular season victories and a hard-fought six-game NLCS against the Houston Astros, the Mets were able to bring the trophy home. At times, it seemed as if the season was going to come to a screeching halt, but through determination, perseverance and perhaps an extra pebble or two around the first base area during Game 6, the Mets came through for themselves, for their fans and for the city of New York.
In 1986, the Mets owned New York. They were a blue (and orange) collar team for a blue-collar city. Twenty-three years ago today, the Mets became the World Champions of baseball. Victory never tasted so sweet.
One final postscript on the whereabouts of Jesse Orosco’s glove: I’m sure many of you who watched Game 7 remember Jesse Orosco flinging his glove up in the air after striking out Marty Barrett to end the World Series. Have any of you wondered what happened to that glove? Now it can be told!
If you have the 1986 World Series DVDs, watch the final out of Game 7. After Orosco throws the glove up in the air and falls to his knees, he gets up just as Gary Carter and the rest of his teammates mob him at the pitcher’s mound. If you slow it down a little, watch closely as Bud Harrelson (wearing #23) runs around the crowd of players to the left of them. He has nothing in his hands as he goes around the pile of ecstatic players. Right before he goes off-camera, you can see him start to bend over. When he comes back a split second later to celebrate with the team on the mound, he has a glove in his left hand. That’s Jesse Orosco’s glove!
I hope you enjoyed these recaps of the final two games of the 1986 World Series. The memories I have of those classic games remain vivid in my mind as if they had happened yesterday. I wish I could have blogged about them at the time they happened, but Al Gore hadn’t invented the internet yet.
Stay positive, Mets fans. Our dreams of another World Series will come true again. Whether it be next season or a number of seasons from now, always remember to keep the faith alive and keep rooting for the orange and blue. Let’s Go Mets!