The 2015 postseason has been one of the most exciting in recent years. On the American League side of the house, the Kansas City Royals defended their pennant against a strong Toronto Blue Jays squad that had comeback on their minds, while the New York Mets, picked by none to even make the playoffs, let alone roll through the Los Angeles Dodgers, a pair of Cy Young winners, and then defeat America’s Cinderella in the Chicago Cubs and most likely THIS year’s Cy Young winner, find themselves in the Fall Classic for the first time in fifteen years. But with the idea of baseball history in mind, these two franchises have adversity and a backs-to-the-wall mentality in their October past.
With the 2015 World Series opening tonight, it’s a bit ironic that two of the most important events in both franchise’s history occurred on this date, one year apart. Thirty years ago tonight, the Royals, as the American League representative of the “I-70 Showdown Series”, took on the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals. It was the Royals’ first appearance in the Fall Classic since 1980, when Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt and Tug McGraw led the Phillies to their first-ever championship. For the Cards, it had only been three years prior, when Whitey Herzog and the go-go Redbirds knocked off Harvey’s Wallbangers in the ’82 series.
The culmination of the ’85 series came as the Royals came back from a 3-game-to-1 deficit, and a pair of controversial umpiring calls, to annihilate the Cards behind a epic performance by brand new dad, Bret Saberhagen. During the fourth inning of Game Six, Royals second baseman Frank White, was called out on an attempted steal of second, when replays showed he was clearly safe. The most memorable controversy of the series however, came in the ninth inning of the same game, with the Cardinals clinging to a 1-0 lead, and mere outs away from their tenth World Series crown, umpire Don Denkinger called Jorge Orta safe on a flip play from Jack Clark to Todd Worrell, that again, showed the wrong call had been made. The inning fell apart for the Redbirds, the Royals came back to win, and would go on to win 11-0 in Game Seven to clinch their first and only World Series title.
The Mets know all too well about being on the brink of elimination during the 1986 campaign. After steamrolling through the NL East, the Houston Astros gave the Mets everything they could handle, including an epic 16-inning affair in the Astrodome during Game Six that was the clincher for the Mets. They took on the seasoned Boston Red Sox, who had the likes of Wade Boggs, Jim Rice, and Dwight Evans in their arsenal, along with Bill Buckner and Cy Young winner and MVP, Roger Clemens.
Much like the Royals a year prior, the Mets looked as if they would fall to the Red Sox, falling behind in the series 2-games-to-none, and then again 3-games-to-2. However, the Mets fought back, and even being down to their final outs before the Sox broke the “Curse of the Bambino”, somehow, some way, New York was able to fight through adversity and make a comeback in the now famous Game Six. For whatever reason, Red Sox skipper John McNamara went for a two-inning save, and that would lead to disaster in the ninth inning. A blown save, some timely hitting, and one of the most infamous blunders of all-time–a ball hit by Mookie Wilson, a missed grounder by Buckner, and the Mets had new life. They won the game in 10 innings, and on this day, 29 years ago, would see the Mets come back one more time, after trailing 3-0. The game had been delayed one day due to pouring rain, and it didn’t bode well for the Sox.
The Mets would rally, again with timely hitting, the Red Sox falling apart, and at the end of the night, the final score of Game Seven was New York 8, Boston 6. The Mets would win their first World Series title since the Miracle Mets of 1969, and the long wait to break their curse for the Red Sox would not happen for another 18 years.
These franchises know adversity, and it should be interesting to witness this year’s Fall Classic as it unfolds, especially if one team jumps out to a two or three game lead early in the series. Can the team that is down pull some magic from the past? Sit back, and enjoy!