Vin Scully has said before each post season he would pray…not that the Dodgers would win but that no one on either team would become a goat that would be so hard to live down. After what happened to Kershaw against the Nationals it made me think of some unfortunate players/spectators/umpires failed at the wrong moment.
A few of these people got reminded of these plays the rest of their life…as if their life boiled down to this one moment.
These are in no order
Bill Buckner – Probably the poster boy for scapegoats… Bill’s misfortune happened in the 1986 World Series. I always thought he was unfairly treated. The Sox were leading the Mets in the 10th inning 5-3 with TWO outs. All they needed was one out to win the World Series. After a single, single, single, walk, passed ball… let’s stop here for a second…now they are tied because they cannot get one out. Mookie Wilson is up next and dribbles one down the first baseline and Buckner…who usually was taken out of games because of defensive reasons…misses the ball and the Mets win 6-5. That tied the series up at 3 games apiece.
Game 7 belonged to the Mets after winning 8-5 and they won the World Series.
Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams – This one I felt when they put him in to pitch. Joe Carter took him long to win the World Series in the 9th inning for the Toronto Blue Jays. I remember Curt Schilling always hiding his head under a towel when Mitch pitched which didn’t go over well with the reliever. Williams does have a sense of humor about it anyway.
Willie Davis – Some will remember the day in 1966 when he made three errors in one World Series game. On Oct. 6, 1966, against the Baltimore Orioles, Davis lost three fly balls in the sun at Dodger Stadium. According to reporter Charles Maher’s account in The Times the next day, Davis came back to the dugout after the inning and told pitcher Sandy Koufax, “I’m sorry, I just lost them in the sun.” Koufax said: “Don’t let it get you down.” Pitcher Don Drysdale said: “Hell, forget it. … You’ve saved a lot of games for me with great catches.”
It wouldn’t have mattered much in the long run in all probability. The Dodgers were swept by the Orioles in 4 games.
Fred Merkle – “Merkle’s Boner” In the bottom of the ninth, the Giants and Cubs were tied at 1–1 with two men on base and two outs. Giants outfielder Moose McCormick stood at third base, while Merkle was the runner on first. Giants shortstop Al Bridwell took the first pitch from Cubs southpaw Jack Pfiester and got the ball past second baseman Johnny Evers for a single into center field. McCormick scored and the pennant appeared to belong to the Giants. Fans stormed out of the stands in celebration as Merkle made his way to the dugout, assuming that the game was over.
One problem: Merkle never touched second base… Evers noticed the error and headed over to beat Merkle back to the bag, which would void McCormick’s run for the final out. But this is where it gets even weirder: Evers didn’t have the ball, which was hit and lost in the shuffle of people. Some re–tellings of the play say that Giants pitcher Joe McGinnity, who also served as a first base coach that day, tossed the ball into the stands to a fan, who bolted with his new souvenir. In this version of the story, police officers stopped the spectator and the ball made its way back to the field with a throw from Joe Tinker to Evers. The umpires saw Evers on the bag, and Merkle was called out. Charles Dryden, the Chicago Tribune‘s writer on-site, talked to multiple players that day and tallied 18 assists on the final play.
People never let him forget this through his life. This is what helped The Cubs win their final World Series in the 20th Century in the year 1908.
Steve Bartman – Ok not a player but he caught hell after leaning over to make a catch that a lot of fans will do. People forget that there was actually baseball played after the incident and a few errors that had an effect on the score. One of the biggest came from Alex Gonzalez, his bobble of a routine double-play ball that would’ve ended the inning with a 3-1 Cubs lead ended up turning into an eight-run inning for the Marlins. So, Bartman was an overzealous fan going after a fair ball but the man moved out of Chicago because of the furor of Cubs fans.
He was rewarded with a WS ring in 2016 but when you have a Halloween mask modeled after you…is that really enough?
Scott Norwood – I’m cheating here because this is football but man did I feel bad for this guy! I was watching this Superbowl and will never forget Al Michaels saying “Wide Right” after Norwood’s missed field goal attempt for the Bills that let the Giants win the Superbowl on January 27, 1991 .
Don Denkinger – He blew a huge call during Game 6 of the 1985 World Series. The Kansas City Royals were down one to the St. Louis Cardinals in the bottom of the ninth inning. If the Cardinals win the game, they would have taken the series. Jorge Orta came to the plate and hit a grounder to first. The throw beat Orta to the base, but Denkinger inexplicably called Orta safe. Kansas City went on to score two runs in the inning and tied up the series…..The Royals won Game 7 and the World Series, partially as a result of the blown call.
Frank Pulli – Oh how I disliked this man in 1978. The 12-year-old me learned quickly that life was not always fair.
It was 1978 and the Dodgers were leading the Yankees 3-1 in the 6th inning. The Yankees had runners on 1st and 2nd when Piniella hit a line drive at Bill Russell, who dropped the ball, picked it up and stepped on second for the force out. The ball wound up in right field after he attempted to turn the double play with a throw to first. At that moment Jackson stuck his hip out to deflect the throw, and run was scored on the play. This helped the Yankees tie it with a run in the 8th after which they won in the 10th. All of that helped them even the series. The momentum went to the Yankees after this… Reggie should have been called out for interference. The Dodgers would have had a 3-1 lead in the series and heading back to LA for games 6 and 7.
The Dodgers finally got revenge in 1981 against the Yankees and Reggie Jackson.