I would think that, the older I get, the more blasé I would become about the World Series and the Superbowl and all the other sports playoffs. It’s only a game. And it has nothing to do with me. But I find that the games are getting harder and harder for me to watch. Because the stakes are so high for the players. And they are people too.
I blame 1986. People in my neck of the woods remember the 1986 baseball playoffs mainly for the Bill Buckner error in Game 6 of the World Series. Here’s a guy who had an illustrious career ruined because he had a bad back and couldn’t make a routine play when it mattered the most, so the Red Sox had to wait another 18 years to win the World Series. That’s bad enough. But then there’s Donnie Moore. In the ALCS, the Angels were within one strike of defeating the Red Sox and advancing to their first World Series. And then:
The pitch…To left field and deep, and Downing goes back, AND IT’S GONE! Unbelievable! Astonishing! Anaheim Stadium was one strike away from turning into Fantasyland! The Red Sox lead 6-5! You’re looking at one for the ages here. The Red Sox get four runs in the ninth on a pair of two-run homers by Don Baylor and Dave Henderson. —Al Michaels, ABC-TV
Donnie Moore, an All Star that year, made that pitch. He stayed in the game and eventually lost on a Henderson sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 11th. I remember watching that game. What a thrill! The Red Sox then went on to win two more games back at Fenway and advanced to the ill-fated World Series.
Moore was never the same pitcher after that. Angels fans booed him every time he took the field. Three years later, out of baseball after 14 years in the Major Leagues, he shot his wife in front of his children and then killed himself.
This is serious stuff. I no longer remember the names of the Tiger relief pitchers who threw the pitches that Ortiz and Victorino hit for the grand slams in the ALCS. I just hope those pitchers survive to enjoy the kind of reception that Bill Buckner had on Red Sox opening day in 2008: