The Mets had cause to be jubilant. Although they were overwhelming favorites to win the Series, they did it the hard way, losing the first two at home, just as last year's champion Kansas City Royals had. And though the Mets were undisputed winners, they were never exactly America's team. Their aggressive play, general cockiness and habit of high-fiving and showboating before their home fans—who expect it of New York teams—made them decidedly unpopular around the league, as four bench-clearing brawls during the season would seem to attest. But so what? They won. They were what they had been saying all along—the best team in baseball. And when the mayor of their city walked into their roaring clubhouse after the final out, the gangling Strawberry did a very Metsian thing. He kissed hizzoner, Ed Koch, on the top of his bald head.
"No one," said Carter, "can take the world championship away from us now, regardless of envy, hatred or jealousy."
The Sox? Well, they came close again, just as they did in '75 and '67 and '46, but they haven't won one of these things since Babe Ruth was their best pitcher, and the frustration of such a sorry history is beginning to sink in. "I don't believe in luck," said a melancholy Evans. "I don't believe in history, either, but maybe I'm starting to." And so what got off to a good start for destiny's stepchildren had a sorry ending. But there were some memorable moments along the way.
On Saturday, after a run of desultory yawners, the Series got the game it deserved, an improbable melodrama, wild and ragged, desperate and fierce, heartbreaking and heart-lifting. Somehow, in all the confusion and excitement, the Mets won 6-5 in 10 innings and tied the Series. This was hardly World Series play at its most efficient. There were five errors (and no more only because the official scorers were uncommonly charitable) and the two managers, bent on outsmarting each other, actually outsmarted themselves. But this game must be considered one of the most thrilling in Series history, one that combined equal parts of the famous Game 6 at Fenway in 1975 with its Carlton Fisk homer and Game 4 of 1941 when that Hugh Casey spitter and a Dodger win got away from catcher Mickey Owen in the ninth. Until Saturday, Owen had been rated the World Series' top goat. Alas, now there is a new kid on the block. The tone for this one may have been set in the very top of the first when a parachutist in canary yellow, carrying a placard that said LET'S GO METS, dropped from the skies above Shea onto the infield with Bill Buckner at bat. Before the night was over, Buckner must have felt as if the sky itself had fallen in on him.
Roger Clemens started the game for Boston against Bob Ojeda, the Game 3 winner. Ojeda was pitching with only three days' rest while Clemens had had five, and during this, his wonder season, Clemens had been unbeaten in the eight starts he had had with five or more days' rest. After winning the first two Series games, John McNamara had decided, undeterred by the loss of Game 3, to throw a fourth starter, Nipper, to the wolves in the fourth game so that Hurst, Clemens and, if necessary, Boyd could finish up strong and well-rested. There had been so much talk in this Series about the therapeutic values of rest that one half-expected the participants to be wheeled, lap robes in place, to their positions by white-jacketed attendants.
Though neither he nor Ojeda finished, Clemens did indeed come on strong at the start. His fastball reached 95 miles an hour or better 27 times in the first two innings, when he struck out four. The trouble was, he was throwing too many pitches. By the sixth he had thrown more than 100, and a blister was developing on the middle finger of his pitching hand. He had reached 137 pitches after seven, so McNamara took him out in favor of Schiraldi, the Sox' ace "closer" since arriving in midseason from Pawtucket. Schiraldi immediately got into trouble, throwing a bunt away when he had a sure out at second base and finally giving up the tying run on a sacrifice fly by Carter, who swung with the count 3 and 0. And that was that until the 10th, an inning the likes of which the Series may never see again.
Dave Henderson led it off for Boston by clubbing an 0-and-1 fastball over the leftfield fence off Rick Aguilera. There's your story right there. It was Henderson after all, who got the Red Sox into the Series in the first place, rescuing them with a saving homer in the fifth game of the league playoffs, when they were all but dead, and then winning it for them with a sacrifice fly in the 11th. Henderson had started the season with Seattle and was not traded to Boston until August, when Mariner manager Dick Williams decided he was dispensable. He had hit only one homer for the Red Sox throughout the rest of the season, but the would-be Series winner on Saturday was his third of the postseason, as well as his ninth RBI. Presumably, Boston fans were even at that moment erecting his monument in Kenmore Square. Henderson was moved to lyricism by his own accomplishments. "I thought it was the closing chapter of a fairy tale," he said. Just for good measure, the Sox got another run on a double by Wade Boggs and a single by Barrett. Normally fatalistic Red Sox fans began to smile.
Schiraldi quickly got two outs in the bottom of the 10th, the second on a long line drive to center by Hernandez that Henderson—who else?—caught up with after a heroic run. Hernandez flung his batting helmet onto the turf in disgust and repaired to the clubhouse for a contemplative smoke and to plan what was left of his ruined evening—"I was going to go out and get drunk and stay up all night." Two outs now, two runs up. The Red Sox were on their feet in the dugout. Boyd was doing an amusing dance. Their first World Series championship since 1918 was there for the taking. No more talk of Johnny Pesky holding the ball, of Joe Morgan hitting that blooper, of Bucky Dent lofting that damn homer into the screen. Now there was only Henderson and champagne. But hold on....
Carter, the would-be final out, hit a single to left on a 2-and-1 count. No big deal. Then Kevin Mitchell, a righthanded hitter who had to be fetched from the clubhouse because he thought his season was over, came in to hit for Aguilera, who was batting in Strawberry's fifth spot, the result of a soon-to-be-controversial batting-order double switch that had been arranged by Davey Johnson. Aguilera was watching in misery from the bench. He would soon be, he thought, the losing pitcher of the final game of the 1986 World Series. "My heart was breaking," he said. But Mitchell fought off an inside fastball and looped it to center for another hit. Red Sox coach Bill Fischer trotted out to the mound to still Schiraldi's nerves. Hey, kid, only one out to go. Schiraldi quickly got two strikes on Knight. Then Knight singled to center and Carter, arms flailing, crossed the plate. Five to four. Mitchell made it all the way to third on the play. That was it for Schiraldi. McNamara replaced him with Bob Stanley.
This has not been a banner season for the 31-year-old Stanley, once the million-dollar ace of the Bosox bullpen. Some lackluster performances, coupled with his high salary, made him seem overpaid and overrated to the Fenway cynics. His every move was booed. One day last summer when he was driving to the ballpark, a car pulled up alongside, and the driver stuck his head out the window to berate him. Stanley's assailant became so exercised by the mere sight of the despised pitcher that in the next block, still distracted, he crashed his car into the rear end of another. Stanley is untroubled by such abuse. "That's O.K.," he said of his unpopularity. "When I'm on the mound in the World Series, they'll cheer me."