Series Highlight: Red Sox Bill Buckner's Costly Error in Game 6
The 1986 World Series featured the Major Leagues’ best team, the New York Mets (108-54), who were seeking their second title in franchise history against the Boston Red Sox (95-66), who were making their first appearance since 1975 and seeking their first World Series title since 1918. The Mets, often the forgotten team in The Big Apple overshadowed by the mighty New York Yankees led the National League in nearly every major offensive category. They led in team batting average (.263), runs scored (783), hits (1,462), on-base percentage (.339) slugging percentage (.401) and RBI (730), and also led in team ERA (3.11). The Mets’ pitching staff included the 1985 Cy Young winner Dwight Gooden (17-6), Bobby Ojeda (18-5), Sid Fernandez (16-6), Ron Darling (15-6) and closer Roger McDowell who posted 22 saves and a 14-9 record. The offense was handled by young right fielder Darryl Strawberry, who tallied 27 home runs, former NL MVPs Keith Hernandez and George Foster, stout and fiery centerfielder Lenny Dykstra, multiple Silver Slugger winning catcher Gary Carter and future MVP Kevin Mitchell. The Mets hammered the National League East division as they beat the second placed Philadelphia Phillies by an alarming 21-1/2 games before dispatching the Houston Astros 4-2 in the NLCS. Boston was not without stars, also fielding two American League MVPs in Jim Rice (1978) and Don Baylor (1979), as well as the reigning 1986 Cy Young and MVP awards winner Roger Clemens. Rice (110) and first baseman Bill Buckner (102) led the team in RBI, while third baseman Wade Boggs won his third of five American League batting titles, batting .357. Clemens easily won the Cy Young award as he led the AL in wins going 24-4 with 238 strikeouts and a league leading 2.48 ERA in the regular season. Other key pitching staff members included Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd (16-10), Bruce Hurst (13-8) and Al Nipper (10-12) as well as Bob Stanley, Tim Lollar and Calvin Schiraldi, who combined for 37 saves. The Red Sox won the American League East over the New York Yankees by 5-1/2 games before they beat the California Angels 4-3 in the ALCS due to heroics of veteran slugger, Dave Henderson.
Game 1 proved to be quite the pitching matchup as Bruce Hurst faced Ron Darling, allowing only four hits over eight innings, while Darling only allowed a single run in the seventh. However, that’s all the Red Sox would need as they beat the Mets 1-0 while Hurst and Darling each struck out eight. Game 2 looked to be another pitching duel as 23-year old Roger Clemens faced 21-year old Dwight Gooden. However, both starters were driven from the game by the fifth inning as Clemens allowed three earned runs and Gooden gave up five including a solo home run from Dave Henderson in the fourth and a three-run shot from Dwight Evans in the fifth. Boston won 9-3 as reliever Steve Crawford took the win while Bob Stanley got the save. Bobby Ojeda then beat Oil Can Boyd 7-1 in Game 3 and Darling returned to beat Al Nipper 6-2 in Game 4 to even the Series. Gary Carter tallied two homers in Game 4 while Dykstra added his second home run of the Series as well. In Game 5, youngster Doc Gooden returned to the mound to face, this time facing Bruce Hurst, who again pitched well. With similar results, Gooden was ousted by the fourth inning having given up three earned runs while Hurst went to 2-0 with six Ks.
Game 6 proved to be the deciding game in more ways than one as the Mets and Red Sox battled hard into extra innings. Boston began the scoring with a run in the first and the second and the Mets tied the game in the fifth on an RBI single from Ray Knight and Danny Heep hit into a one out double play that still scored Knight. Boston grabbed the lead back in the seventh and Clemens continued to pitch well on the mound through the seventh when he was replaced with closer Calvin Schiraldi as Boston tasted victory with the 3-2 Series lead. With Boston leading 3-2 in Game 6, Schiraldi loaded the bases and then offered up a sacrifice fly to Gary Carter, scoring Lee Mazzilli and tying the game. Schiraldi contained the Mets for the remainder of regulation and Dave Henderson broke the tie with a solo home run in the top of the tenth and Wade Boggs then scored on a Michael Barrett RBI single extending the lead to 5-3. In the bottom of the frame, Schiraldi opened the inning notching two quick outs before Carter reached on a single. Kevin Mitchell then hits a single moving Carter to second. Ray Knight then knocked the third straight single off Schiraldi to score Carter and move Mitchell to third. With two men on, Bob Stanley came into relieve Schiraldi and promptly threw a wild pitch allowing Mitchell to score, tying the game and moving Knight into scoring position. Stanley fell behind the next batter, Mookie Wilson, 3-2 when the unthinkable happened. Wilson hit a slow rolling up the first base line, an easy putout for the normally sure-handed Bill Buckner, but he inadvertently closed his mitt causing the ball to dribble through his legs and thereby allowing Knight to score. The blunder is perhaps one of the most memorable errors in World Series history and perpetuated the "Curse of the Bambino." Sadly, because of the error, Buckner was vilified by Boston fans and virtually driven from the city as he was traded to the California Angels the following year. With the first World Series in 68 years firmly within their grasp, the Boston Red Sox now had to face the Mets with the momentum shifted heavily in the New York favor.
Game 7 was postponed one night due to heavy rain. With Bruce Hurst once again on the mound, Boston handed him an early lead with two solo home runs from Dwight Evans and Rich Gedman off Darling and added an RBI single from Wade Boggs. While Sid Fernandez replaced Darling in the fourth, Hurst pitched well through the sixth inning, posting three strikeouts. New York stormed back into the game in the sixth on a two-run single by Hernandez and a force play that scored pinch runner Wally Backman. The Mets then scored three more in the bottom of the seventh and two in the eighth. The BoSox also scored two in the eighth, but New York now had the game and the Series virtually locked up. They beat the Red Sox 8-5 in Game 7 to win the second World Series title in franchise history and first since the 1969 "Miracle Mets." Having batted .391 with one home run and five RBI, Ray Knight was named the World Series MVP. The New York Giants beat the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI to give New York two world championships in the same year.