Tuesday, June 11, 2002
Updated: June 24, 4:55 PM ET
Baseball losses that bring tears
From the Page 2 mailbag
Earlier this week, Page 2 listed our top 10 most painful losses in baseball history, and we asked you to send us your choices.
We hunted through nearly 500 e-mails, and here is how Page 2 readers ranked the heartbreakers. Be sure to vote in the poll at right to crown the most painful single-game loss in baseball's history .
1. Red Sox lose to Mets, '86 (86 letters)
I was 6. It was the only time I've ever seen my father cry.
In terms of the most choking compressed into shortest time frame, having the most air sucked out of a host-of-the-party's living room, the shortest time required to sober up and drive home, and the WORST possible time for so many high-level athletes to lose their nerve, it's absolutely got to be Game 6... and it's NOT even close for this Boston native. The fact is that the whole scenario NEVER should have come down to Buckner botching the squibber. Schiraldi got those first two outs and then GAGGED.
And that pitch from Stanley that got by Gedman should have been caught or a least blocked. Please don't bother me with the notion that Gedman was "crossed up" -- in hockey parlance, that was an unscreened 60-footer to which Gedman just did not react. I STILL can't watch the films of the 10th, or any portions thereof, without getting ticked off. What's just as bad is I (still) take grief and potshots about it from the folks here... in Sac-town! As if their home team has ever won anything. (No, the 49ers DON'T count!)
It has become a verb. A name is now an action... a term of derision, "to buckner". It is used frequently at Little League venues across the state by adults and children alike. Imagine the angst being passed down from generation to generation.
Why even hold this poll?? Every two weeks you drag out some new way to talk about the 1986 Series and/or the so-called "Curse." What's wrong with you people? You are sadists!
I recorded the entire '86 Series on video. I was going to savor it for years to come. I remember standing in Kelly's Bar with two hundred souls. Dead silence, all eyes on the big screen TV, watching Ray Knight jumping up and down on home plate. The bartender turned to his fellow Sox fans and announced, "The sons-of-bitches killed our fathers and now they're coming to get us." Couldn't watch Game 7. Never have.
2. Phillies to Blue Jays, '93 (50 letters)
I can't believe you guys left off the '93 Phillies. Game 6. Joe Carter. Mitch Williams. Ouch. Many a good piece of furniture was broken in Philly that night.
The most painful postseason ever was in 1993, when Mitch Williams put every Phillies fan through hell during the NLCS then, finally putting us all out of our misery in Game 6 of the World Series, (with a little help from Joe Carter). Mention of that game leaves every Phillies fan feeling like they just passed a kidney stone the size of golf ball.
After a fairy tale season for the "ugly cousin that no one likes to mention" team in Philly, the "Wild Thing" was just too wild to keep the game under control. Since then, most players on that team (save Curt Schilling) have disappeared into oblivion (John Kruk IS the hitting coach for the Reading Phillies, a AAA associate...) Since the days of Dutch, the Dude, Krucker, and the man with the perfect baseball name (Mickey Morandini), the Fightin' Phils have had just one winning season, and no postseason appearances. The loss of this one game has since doomed the team that brought the brotherly love back to Philly.
Huntingdon Valley, PA
3. Pirates to Braves, '92 (46 letters)
Many of us Pittsburghers have cried over the past decade when it has come to our Bucs, but when "Sid Slid," the waters overflowed into those three rivers. This has left just one dying question -- how can Barry belt the long ball 73 times but he couldn't throw out a aged vet with two bad knees. Barry, thanks for nothin'.
Bobby Thompson's home run hurt. Bucky Dent's home run hurt. Buckner's error was a Level 2 Stomach Punch. But for sheer, excruciating agony, nothing could top the '92 Pirates watching Sid Bream (Sid Bream!) score from second on a single to left. Walkoff homers? Can't do anything about 'em. Game-killing errors? That's your own fault. Your best outfielder grabbing a line-drive single, firing it home, towards the slowest runner in baseball's last quarter century and he still beats it out? That's God telling you to go home.
4. Cubs to Padres, '84 (44 letters)
Cubs lose Game 5 to the Padres. Easily the most painful sports moment of my life. For Cubs fans, brought up on Harry Carey, green ivy, and Ryne Sandberg heroics, you may have heard about '69, but this was different. Sandberg's two homers off Bruce Sutter earlier in the year on the Game of the Week gave them an air of destiny. Sutcliffe's dominance coming in a trade from Cleveland seemed too perfect. Coming home from school to see that he, a pitcher, had actually hit a home run in Game 1 to demolish San Diego made it all seem easy. Well sometimes you learn the hard way. No team can make your heart ache like the Cubs, and '84 was the ultimate heartbreak. Another Old Style, please.
The scene was set. A scenic Sunday in Southern California. The Cubs, who had made the post season for the first time since 1945, were one game away from facing the Tigers in the World Series -- the same team they were beaten by in 1945. There was no June swoon that year. There was no 1969-like fold. They won the first game 13-0. Talk about unloading years of frustration. They win Game 2. All they have to do is win once in San Diego. Just once. The Cubs take the early lead and seem headed to the promised land. And then that ball finds it's way through Leon Durham's legs. You just knew it was over. The game was not yet over, but it was over. An ex-Cub broke Red Sox fans' hearts a few years later with a similar gaffe. But for Cub fans, this hurts most, and keep in mind that this team has a lot of losses for us to pick from.
5. Yankees to Diamondbacks, 2001 (37 letters)
The year that proved neither the Yankees nor their enigmatic New York was invincible. The Yankees were a bright spot for a lot of people in the city that year, and when the pressure was on, they stepped up. They came from behind an 0-2 game deficit to beat an A's team that was arguably better than them. Then they went on to beat the winningest team in regular-season history in the Seattle Mariners. In an encore, they provided New Yorkers and Americans alike with two of the most amazing victories in World Series' history. This all led up to the best relief pitcher in baseball (and perhaps in history) with the game in his hands (Mariano Rivera). It was set for a storybook ending. Before you knew it, a throwing error gave up the lead, and ultimately, the Series. Truly one of the most painful losses in baseball history.
I know that no one wants to show any sympathy for the Yankees. And with all of their rings, I can understand. But Game 7 of last year's World Series has to be included... bottom of the 9th, Game 7, that's the absolute worst!
Whether or not you are a Yankee fan, you would have to agree that losing to the flash-in-the-pan expansion Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 7 of the World Series is pretty painful. Watching the best closer in the game botch a throw to second makes me cringe. However, watching him give up a duck-fart single to Luis Gonzalez to win the game is like having red hot pokers jabbed into my eyes... while getting a colonoscopy.
6. A's to Dodgers, '88 (33 letters)
How didn't this make the list? I'm a Dodger fan, it's the best baseball memory I have, unless you include the SlimFast commercials. I've got to believe it was a very painful night for Oakland. Dennis Eckersley was unhittable that year, Gibby was hurt -- but so it goes. (By the way, what a great call by Scully.)
I still change the channel when the replay of that fated pitch comes on. It was in the bag. Eck was a mortal lock. Kirk Gibson could barely even walk to the plate. One pitch, boom, game one and, for all intents and purposes, the Series, was over.
I remember vividly how my friend and I sat there in front of the TV dumbfounded, just completely speechless until my friend, so caught up in the moment, (no joke) actually called 9-1-1. With pain obvious in his voice, he commanded the 9-1-1 operator to, "Help Dennis Eckersley!" and then hung up.
To add insult to an already gaping injury, the 9-1-1 operator called right back -- I had the good fortune of answering the phone and spend some time explaining why, even though we were incredibly heartbroken, nothing was wrong in a 9-1-1 sense. Needless to say, it was a night I will never forget.
Ben Lomond, Calif.
7. Braves to Twins, '91 (32 letters)
I don't know how you could leave off Game 7 of the '91 World Series. In Atlanta, we'd seen the Braves stink up baseball for nearly 25 years. Then came the miracle season and an unbelievable World Series. The Braves went up 3 games to 2, then lost Game 6 on Kirby's round tripper. Then came Game 7 -- the greatest game in World Series history and a painful one for Braves' fans. Bases loaded with no one out and the Braves can't score. Lonnie Smith on first and Pendleton rips a double and the Braves don't score! When the Twins finally won it in the 10th, I felt an awful pain I can still remember to this day. It was not only that we'd lost the World Series, it was that the miracle season was over and somehow Cinderella had come up short. Oh sure, the Twins had gone worst to first, but they'd been to big dance in '87. People forget just how bad Atlanta baseball was until 1991. Sure we'd have ten straight playoff appearances, five pennants and a championship. But that loss still hurts.
The Braves should have won Game 7, but Chuck Knoblach's fake throw and Lonnie Smith' bad baserunning prevented a scoring on a hit and run double by Terry Pendelton. The inning would end on an improbable double play, the game would be lost in the 10th inning and the Twins would take home the crown. If it wasn't for the '95 Braves who finally won it all, Atlanta would stand with the Buffalo Bills and the likes as the biggest chokers in sports history. This was the game that started that fury.
8. Cardinals to Royals, '85 (28 letters)
The most painful loss in baseball history is the Cardinals losing Game 6 of the '85 Series. All other teams on this list got beat by the other team. Not the Cards. They got beat by a terrible umpire. His missed call is worse than the officiating in the Lakers-Kings series this year. A weak grounder to Clark and an easy toss to Todd Worrel. That should have done it, but a terrible call invites disaster. There was almost no way the Cards could have beaten Sabes the next night, even with John Tudor and his 1.93 ERA going on short rest. If only Whitey would've let Joaquin Anjduar go after Denkinger in game 7...
The history, the tradition, nor the pride of the Cardinals could get past Mr. Denkinger's decision. The entire state still remembers. Restaurants walls across I-70 have pictures of "the call" on their walls. This marks the biggest disappointment for St. Louis fans -- worse than Rams loss to the Patriots. What a call. Its a conspiracy.
9. Indians to Marlins, '97 (19 letters)
We here in Cleveland need a championship of some sort. The Browns lose how many times to the Broncos? The Cavs and the memory of Michael Jordan's double-clutch, eliminating buzzer-beater. Then the Indians... they blow a lead in the 9th inning of game seven of the '97 World Series. As if to tease us like they actually might win. Nope, not in Cleveland. And to make it worse, they lost to the Florida Marlins. Are they still a team now? How much can we be expected to take? Why does Cleveland build good teams that fall apart...one step short?
10. Yankees to Mariners, '95 (18 letters)
You guys know the story. 11 innings. Big Unit brought in to face the Yanks, Black Jack McDowell to face Ms. Griffey who scores the winning run on Martinez's double. The Yanks had 22 championships at the time, but were in their biggest drought since they won their first. A whole generation of fans had never seen them win big, and they hadn't gotten to the Series since '81. At the time, Yanks fans were still getting over being screwed by the strike of '94 -- I'm sure the 20 Expos fans are still recovering, I sympathize. Sure, the Yanks went on to win 4 of the next 5 World Series, but the footnote of the game is the most heartbreaking thing about it. Don Mattingly, Donnie Baseball, The Captain, the most beloved Yankee since Mantle, the heart and soul of the team from 1984 on, would never play another game. His first post-season appearance would be his last.
Also receiving votes (10 or more letters)
Giants lose to Dodgers, '93
Astros lose to Mets, '86
Dodgers lose to Giants, '51
Orioles lose to Yankees, '96
Expos lose to Dodgers, '81
Angels lose to Red Sox, '86
Yankees to Pirates, '60