There are catch phrases, buzz phrases, and words that are meaningful to Red Sox fans. They invoke all sorts of emotion and angst. For example, Game Six, “67“, “04″ bring smiles and warmth. But there are others that bring well, let’s just say not warmth. The top of that list is simple, just say the word, eighty-six!
There is no reason to talk about the season. Safe to say that, led by the emergence of this man as the premier pitcher in the American League, the Red Sox won the AL East.
Roger Clemens won the 1986 American League Cy Young Award and MVP.
Clemens went 24-4 and along the way became the first player in baseball history to strikeout 20 batters in a nine inning game.
Winning the East pitted the Sox against the California Angels for the American League pennant and that’s where the fun began! Well, wait a minute, the first four games were not exactly a whole lot of fun for the Fenway Faithful. You see in game four in Anaheim, our beloved BoSox had entered the ninth inning ahead 3-0 and were one out away from tieing the series and then, well they didn’t. Instead they went down three games to one. Then came game five and there, there is where the fun started.
It was the top of the ninth inning, one out, Angels ahead 5-2, Bill Buckner on first and DH Don Baylor up. Baylor launched a home run to bring Boston to within a run.
And then….Two batters later with two outs, a man on first and the Sox still down a run, Dave “Hendu” Henderson stepped to the plate.
And his two run homer put the Red Sox ahead 6-5. The Angels tied the game in their half of the ninth but eventually succumbed in the eleventh. The series shifted back to Fenway Park where the Red Sox trounced them 10-4 and 8-1 to win the American League pennant. It was on to the World Series and the New York Mets.
The New York Mets won 108 games in 1986 and they were heavily favored to win the Series. However, the Fenway Faithful were buoyed when Bruce Hurst won game one of the Series in New York 1-0.
And when the bats of Wade Boggs, Jim Rice, Dwight Evans and Dave Henderson pummeled Dwight Gooden for a 9-3 victory in game two, the Fenway Faithful began to sense that their 68 year wait for a World Series Championship, may soon be over.
Wade Boggs had nine hits and hit .290 in the 1986 World Series.
They had no way of knowing what the baseball gods had in store for them. They had no way of knowing that in one weeks time they would endure the most excruciatingly painful loss in the history of the franchise!
The Mets won games three and four at Fenway Park but behind Bruce Hurst again, the Red Sox prevailed in game five and they headed to Shea Stadium needing just one more win. Then came the 1986 version of Game Six!
Often forgotten in the anguish of the 1986 World Series is Marty Barrett’s recording tying 13 hit performance.
The game was tied in the top of the tenth inning when Dave Henderson struck again. He led off the frame with yet another clutch home run to give the Red Sox the lead. Before the inning ended, Marty Barrett had an RBI single and the Boston Red Sox had a two run lead. They were three outs away from a World Championship and the Fenway Faithful were three outs away from release from sixty-eight years of anguish!
Red Sox reliever Calvin Schiraldi got the first two Mets out in the tenth and the Red Sox were now but one out away from the joy which had eluded them and their “Faithful” for 68 years. The scoreboard at Shea Stadium flashed a congratulatory message to the Boston Red Sox 1986 World Champions and also to Red Sox pitcher Bruce Hurst who had been named the Series MVP.
But then…..Three singles and a wild pitch later, the score was tied. The Mets had a man on second base and Mookie Wilson stepped in and hit a dribbler toward first base and Bill Buckner.
The ball bounded past Bill Buckner and into history while Ray Knight raced around from second giving the Mets an astonishing come from behind win which tied the Series. The following night the Mets completed their inexplicable comeback but every member of the Fenway Faithful who lived this will tell you the 1986 World Series eluded the Red Sox when that baseball eluded Buckner.
The New York Mets cashed $86,254.00 World Series checks that fall, the largest in history! The record purse of $74,985.65 each that went to the Boston Red Sox could, in no way, assuage the pain, the anguish, the torment of the World Series loss which gave birth to “the Curse”.
And so it was at this time in Fenway Park history, October 1986,
World Series time.