SI Vault
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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In the Boston clubhouse, the champagne was laid out. Backman flied out to left. The NBC roadies set up the postgame riser as Peter Ueberroth, announcer Bob Costas and Red Sox owners Haywood Sullivan and Jean Yawkey began to get in position. The MVP trophy was going to Bruce Hurst. Hernandez lined out to center. As the last newspaper deadlines in the East approached, journalists typed out flash leads. Fred McMane of United Press International was about to send: "Dave Henderson, playing the hero Boston has sought for 68 years, homered in the top of the 10th inning Saturday night to give the Red Sox a 5-3 victory over the New York Mets and their first World Series title since 1918."

Hernandez disgustedly walked back down the runway to the clubhouse and joined Met scout Darrell Johnson—yes, the very same Darrell Johnson who had managed the Red Sox in the '75 World Series—in the manager's office for a beer.

Carter drilled a 2-1 fastball into left field. Next up, Mitchell. When Hernandez was at the plate, Mitchell was up in the clubhouse; he had taken his uniform pants off and was on the phone making a reservation for his flight home to San Diego. "I didn't think I'd be hitting," he told Dave Anderson of The New York Times this spring. "I hadn't hit against a righthanded pitcher all season in that situation. Heep was still on the bench. I figured he'd hit for me, so I went up to the clubhouse." That shows how closely some players follow the game, because Heep had pinch-hit for Santana in the fifth—and was out of the game. When Johnson read Mitchell's quote, he said, "Now I'm even happier about the deal [for Kevin McReynolds]."

Howard Johnson came running into the clubhouse. "Get out there, you're hitting," he hollered at Mitchell. "I hung up the phone, then I slipped my pants back on," said Mitchell, "but I'd taken off everything under them. My jock, my underwear." Mitchell wasn't totally disconcerted. He remembered that when he and Schiraldi had played together in Jackson, Miss., in 1983, the pitcher had told him that if he ever faced him, he would start him out with a fastball inside, then try to get him with a slider away. That's exactly what Schiraldi did, and Mitchell hit the slider for a single to center.

Schiraldi then got two strikes on Knight. "He was so excited," says McNamara, "that he just forgot how to pitch Knight. No big deal. He's human. He was a rookie." McNamara, who managed Knight in Cincinnati, had told his pitchers that when Knight gets behind in the count, he looks for the inside fastball and fights it off, so they should put the ball on the outside corner. But Schiraldi came up and in. Knight fought it off, dumping a quail into right center, and Mitchell raced around to third. McNamara then decided he'd better go to the veteran Stanley, who had struck Wilson out in Game 3.

Stanley, a $1 million-per-year pitcher, had been unhappy about his bullpen role since McNamara had made Schiraldi the closer in early August. He felt the manager had lost nearly as much faith in him as the Fenway Park fans, whom he blamed for his 6.00 ERA at home. This was what Stanley had foreseen in April, when he vowed, "They may boo me now, but they'll love me when I'm standing on the mound when we win the World Series."

Wilson fouled Stanley's first pitch to the screen, took two balls, then fouled another into the dirt to even the count at 2 and 2. For the second time that morning, the Red Sox were one strike away. Met third base coach Bud Harrelson told Mitchell to be ready to go on a wild pitch.

Wilson fouled off the next pitch, and the next one. What happened next is subject to debate. Stanley told friends that Gedman called for a fastball up and in, then set a target down and out. Gedman has refused any comment except to say: "I should have stopped any pitch." An infielder claims that Stanley misread the sign and that Gedman was in position for Stanley's best pitch—a sinker—out over the plate. Instead, the pitch took off, sailing low and inside. Wilson spun out of the way. The weary Gedman, who was so intense in the playoffs that he chipped three teeth by grinding them, couldn't get his glove on the ball. As it squirted to the screen, Mitchell danced across the plate. Knight went to second.

The score was tied, 5-5. For the third time the Mets had come from behind; the Red Sox, it should be noted, did not come from behind in the entire Series. With "eerie efficiency," as Costas describes it, the visiting clubhouse was cleared of the riser, the trophy, the champagne and the Red Sox owners in less than one minute.

Stanley then missed a chance to end the inning without another pitch, which would have left the Mets with a pitching choice of Doug Sisk or Randy Niemann. As Stanley took his stretch, Barrett signaled for a pickoff, sneaked over to second and waited for Stanley to whirl and throw. "We had Knight dead," says Barrett. While Barrett screamed from the second base bag, the oblivious Stanley delivered to Wilson, who fouled the pitch off.

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