Sports History

In Praise of Game 6

I recently watched Game 6 of the 1986 World Series as I commuted to work on public transportation. I had downloaded it as an mp4 file from YouTube, it was a nice clear DVD rip. I was in my own little world of Metsville as I sat with commuters who were staring at their iPads or listening to their Bruno Mars mp3s.

Twenty-eight years has passed since the ball went “behind the bag” and Ray Knight scored perhaps the most miraculous run in baseball history. The “game” has changed-the country has changed- people have changed….but the basic joy created by a well played Major League World Series game has not.

Watching and making mental notes on this historic game I was struck by how well played and managed the game seemed- even with all of the mistakes. Davey Johnson came off as not-so-confident and even strayed from his normal pragmatic ways by calling off a sacrifice bunt in a tense 9th inning. this from a manager who had already won 114 games that year!

John McNamara, normally seen as boring guy, was stoic and focused, perhaps deeply regretting taking out Clemens as early as he did. Yes, Clemens pitch count was high…but this was the World Series…would Alston have yanked Koufax in ’65…..would anyone on the planet have contemplated removing Gibson in ’67…..or Lolich in ’68??? Yet that was the pragmatic move….bring in the closer.

And irony of ironies the man he chose was Calvin Shiraldi, who had been traded for the Mets game 6 starter Bobby Ojeda in a big trade the previous winter. Shiraldi had a bitchin’ ’86 with a nifty 1.44 ERA. Yet he entered the game timid…as he attempted to put his former team mates down and claim the World Championship.

The 10th inning embodied all that we loved in baseball at that point in time. There was clearly an American League Way of playing…and a National League Way…interleague play had yet to dilute the quality of style….McNamara was hoping to win with a strong outing from his ace..which he got…and some timely power hitting..which also got.

Johnson was hoping (and by the bottom of the 10th with 2 out and nobody on PRAYing) that his fiesty brigade had the where-withal to piece together a good ole NL rally…slap a few hits..good base-running...a little roller……Behind the Bag….here comes Knight and the Mets Win It!

I think Americans need to explain this game to foreigners of the 21st Century….to cricket lovers and World Cup afficianados…it would be like scoring 5 goals in the last 2 minutes of play….it never happens…..yet it did….at Shea…on a misty Saturday night…in October…28 years ago……thank You Vin Scully! ( need to explain Vin Scully to them too…) ;-D