On the 10th pitch of his at bat, Wilson topped a ground ball toward the first base bag. Buckner was playing deep behind the base. He hustled over to the line, but there was no way he could have made the play himself. Stanley was racing to the bag, but to this day Buckner believes Wilson would have beaten Stanley on the play. "I would have been there," insists Stanley. As Buckner reached down to corner the ball, it skittered between his legs. McNamara has a ready answer for those who felt Stapleton would have made the play. "If the question had been range, that would have been justified criticism," McNamara argues. "But the one thing Buckner has is a soft pair of hands. He catches what he gets to."
As the ball trickled onto the outfield grass, Knight raced home with the winning run—and the Mets had miraculously survived. "When you get within one strike and don't win, you don't deserve to win," Red Sox pitcher Tom Seaver said later.
After a day of rain they played Game 7, and at first it seemed that the Red Sox had suffered no ill effects from the disaster. They jumped off to a 3-0 lead over Darling in the second inning on back-to-back homers by Evans and Gedman and a run-scoring single by Boggs. Hurst, meanwhile, was pitching so well that he allowed only a single base runner in the first five innings. But then the Mets tied the score at 3-all on three singles, a walk and a fielder's choice. Schiraldi replaced Hurst in the seventh, and Knight greeted him with a home run to give the Mets a 4-3 lead. Two more runs scored on an RBI single by Santana and a sacrifice fly by Hernandez. Although the Red Sox closed the gap to 6-5 in the eighth, the Mets came right back with two more runs, on Strawberry's in-your-face homer off Nipper's and Orosco's fake bunt. Orosco set the Red Sox down in order in the ninth. It was a game that was fairly exciting unto itself, but following Game 6, it was an anticlimax.
McNamara, Buckner, Stanley and Schiraldi will try to put Game 6 back in the closet, but it will be no easy task. McNamara acknowledged that by holding his little spring training meeting.
"The Mets were a great team," Buckner insists, and he is right. "We had a great year. Last March, was there anyone in this country who thought we'd make it to the seventh game of the World Series? Remember the fifth game of the playoffs, Clemens's 24 wins, all the teams that made runs at us during the season. Forget one game."
Forget it? New Englanders haven't let .307 lifetime hitter Johnny Pesky forget he held the ball in the '46 Series—and he wasn't even at fault. Forget it? When the Today show observed Fred Merkle Day a while back, it wasn't because "Bonehead" had a good rookie year in 1908. Forget it? At the New York Baseball Writers Dinner last January, Ralph Branca was introduced to Clemens as "the guy who gave up Bobby Thomson's homer." That happened only 36 years ago.
There are just some things you never forget.