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GAME 6
Peter Gammons
April 06, 1987
It was time for a new season, but the question under discussion was from the old: Do you send Don Baylor up to bat for Bill Buckner?
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April 06, 1987

Game 6

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"Answering questions about that game is something I'll always have to deal with," says McNamara. More incredibly, Johnson will always have to answer questions about screwing up a World Series he won. A month after the game, Larry Bowa, a friend who played with and for Johnson, called him and asked, "What in the world were you thinking?"

Regardless of the managing, there was still very little art to this game. Aside from a sinking Marty Barrett liner that Lenny Dykstra stabbed in the first, a long fly by the star-crossed Buckner that Darryl Strawberry ran down on the warning track in the second and Wade Boggs's dive into the stands in the fourth to catch a Keith Hernandez pop-up, there was small cause, defensively, for Vin Scully to raise his voice. The Red Sox' go-ahead run in the seventh inning and the Mets' tying run in the eighth came after wild throws, and the Mets' tying and winning runs in the 10th came on a wild pitch and the croquet shot through Buckner's wicket. The winning pitcher, Rick Aguilera, had a 12.00 ERA for the Series. And when you look at the box score, your eye immediately falls on the line that reads, "Stanley pitched to one batter in the 10th."

"We lost that game," said Barrett, the Sox' second baseman. "They won the seventh game, but we lost on Saturday night." That's why the game's legitimate heroes, players like Wilson and Orosco, seem to have played only supporting roles. And that's why you wonder if Buckner, McNamara, Bob Stanley and Calvin Schiraldi will forever be scarred, like Fred Merkle, Mickey Owen and Ralph Branca before them.

"Shots," Buckner calls media reminders of what happened. Ten days before spring training he told The Boston Globe, "I'm not going to talk about what happened anymore." But Buckner did point out that Stanley wasn't covering first when Wilson's grounder went through his legs. For his part, Stanley took some off-season shots at McNamara's decision-making process, and the pitcher's wife, Joan, was quoted as saying that Rich Gedman "blew it" because he had failed to stop Stanley's inside pitch to Wilson. Roger Clemens, the Boston starter, publicly wondered why McNamara took him out of the game with a 3-2 lead after seven innings, and Baylor privately seethed at not being used. "All season long we won as a team, and as soon as we lost, some of the guys started pointing fingers," says Baylor.

And the Mets? "We had accomplished so much and had come from behind in such dramatic fashion in the playoffs that the sixth game just seemed like a good bounce that gave us the chance to win what we believed we should win," says Wilson. But even Hernandez, who went to the manager's office and popped open a beer after he made the second out in the 10th inning, admitted, "I couldn't believe what I was watching on TV." Says Bobby Ojeda, who was traded from the Red Sox to the Mets the winter before, "Even though we knew we deserved it, we know we won because of Stanley's wild pitch and Buckner's error."

Unlike Game 6 of the '75 World Series, which was about as lively as a Lennon Sisters Special until Bernardo Carbo's eighth-inning, three-run home run tied the game for the Red Sox, this game was filled with might-have-beens from the outset. Especially in the first inning. Ojeda was working on three days' rest—a problem because he is an emotional, combative sort whose best pitch, a changeup, is even more of a strain on the arm than a fastball. "I was working on adrenaline," he says. He also did not have his usual control. After the game began, appropriately enough, with a one-hopper by Boggs that slapped off the glove of Knight at third, Ojeda survived two shots to the outfield, the second by Buckner, whose at bat was interrupted by the arrival of a parachutist. Ojeda walked Jim Rice. Dwight Evans then hit a towering drive off the fence in left center, and Boggs scored easily. True, Dykstra did make a fine play on the carom and rifled a quick, accurate throw to cutoff man Rafael Santana, but....

How could Rice not have scored from first with two out? "I couldn't believe it," admits Ojeda. Recalls Red Sox third base coach Rene Lachemann, now a coach for Oakland, "I had to watch Dykstra and the relay, and when I turned to pick up Jimmy, he was barely around second." Rice to this day claims, "The ball was hit too hard to score on." But there were two outs. Did he get fooled, assume the ball was out of the park and go into a trot, as he did in the third inning of the seventh game when he hit the ball off the wall and was thrown out at second on what should have been a double? Despite a knee operation in the fall of '85, Rice is not that slow. But the Red Sox run the bases as if they're guiding golf carts around a retirement community, and Rice—of whom Charles Scoggins of The Lowell Sun once wrote, "He stops at each base to scrape the gum off his shoes"—is particularly cautious. So four singles, a walk and a double in the first two innings produced only two runs.

Through four innings Clemens had a no-hitter and that 2-0 lead. To his credit, Ojeda battled for his life, and his survival is particularly amazing considering that—as he found out later—the Red Sox knew practically everything he was throwing at them. "I was tipping my changeup," Ojeda says. "Since I'm primarily a fastball-changeup pitcher, it didn't take much to figure what was coming if it wasn't going to be my changeup."

Clemens, finally recovered from the flu that had so weakened him in the playoffs and the second game of the Series, struck out six Mets the first time through the order and had retired eight straight entering the fifth. Neither Clemens nor any succeeding Boston pitcher noticed the big woman in red behind home plate who was trying to distract him by continually rolling her arms, much like one of Gladys Knight's Pips. Whoever she was, she was persistent, because she kept it up until the baseball went through Buckner's legs.

Despite his impressive numbers, it hadn't been an easy game for Clemens. Carter, Strawberry and Santana had fouled so many pitches that his four innings seemed more like seven; he had already thrown 73 pitches. "I was throwing hard," says Clemens, "but I wasn't putting the ball where I wanted." Clemens walked Strawberry to lead off the fifth, and Strawberry did for the second time in the game what the Red Sox did only once in their 14 postseason contests: He stole second. Knight fouled off three pitches, then Clemens threw a "bad" slider that Knight hit through the middle for an RBI single.

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