Lists. That’s a great thing about sports; about baseball. You can come up with Top 10 lists about anything, from Top 10 pitchers of all-time to the Top 10 hitters of all-time to the Top 10 Yankees teams of all-time. There are lists about Hispanic players, the hotness of players’ wives; lists of brothers who’ve played the game and lists of top baseball websites (like NY Sports Day). So, in order to stay cool and hip and with-it, here’s a list of the Top 6 Most Shocking MLB Events of All-Time: The Games. You should treat the list like a jigsaw puzzle. If you’re from Chicago, make the Bartman game (currently #2) #1. If you’re from New York, make the Jeffrey Maier game (#3) or 1986 Game 6 (#6) your #1. The great thing about a list is it can be criticized, torn apart and added to over and over again.
So, in no particular order, here are the first three of Jimmy Scott’s Top 6 Most Shocking MLB Events of All-Time: The Games:
1. 1989 World Series Game 1
Pre-game, Game 3, San Francisco, 1989 World Series. The Oakland A’s were up two games to none. Then, the ground shook.
The Bay Bridge collapsed. More than 2000 buildings were toppled. 63 people were killed and 3,757 were injured. Game 3, scheduled for October 17th, wouldn’t be played for 10 days. The A’s would sweep, the first World Series sweep since 1976.
Other than the natural disaster, this was not one of baseball’s most interesting Fall Classics. Sweeps are never as fun to experience as a 7-game series (think 1991 Twins/Braves), unless your team is doing the sweeping. It’s unfortunate for both the sweeping Athletics and swept Giants that this World Series is best known for what took place off the field.
2. 1986 World Series Game 6
One could call this game The Bill Buckner & Mookie Wilson Future Card Show Appearance Game. In other words, it was Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Note this followed Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS, in which the Angels Donnie Moore gave up a game-tying home run to Dave Henderson of the Red Sox. Moore would eventually commit suicide, partially because of his pitching error (he pitched the following inning without the Sox scoring). But compare Moore’s fate to Bill Buckner’s. Buckner, a very good hitter, was hobbled and usually replaced for defense. But on the field in the bottom of the 10th at a packed Shea Stadium with two outs in Game 6, Buckner “let” a ground ball hit off the bat of Mookie Wilson go past his glove and through his legs. Ray Knight scored the winning run from second base, the Mets came back from the brink of a long and cold winter to win not only Game 6 but Game 7 as well.
But like the famous Steve Bartman Game in the 2003 NLCS, fans forget other circumstances. Buckner wasn’t the only man to blame. Boston manager John McNamara, to this day, is criticized for not making the defensive switch, like he did in the regular season. And while Calvin Shiraldi got two quick outs in the bottom of the 10th, he then gave up consecutive singles to Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell and Ray Knight. Bob Stanley relieved and promptly threw a wild pitch during the Wilson at-bat, which led Kevin Mitchell to score the tying run from third and Ray Knight to get into scoring position at 2nd base. Buckner made the error and Game 6 was won by the Mets.
It was a swift victory, completely surprising. And because it involved a New York team, because Vin Scully was doing the play-by-play for NBC, and because it was against Boston, one of baseball’s most storied franchises, Game 6 goes down as one of the most shocking games of all-time.
3. The Pine Tar Game
Just a regular game in 1983. Reliever Mike Armstrong got the win. Dan Quisenberry got the save. Game-winning home run by George Brett in Yankee Stadium. Only Brett got ejected after the home run, as did manager Dick Howser, coach Rocky Colavito and pitcher Gaylord Perry. Why was Perry ejected? For giving Brett’s home run bat to a bat boy and telling him to hide it. Why did they hide the bat? Pine Tar.
What is Pine Tar? It’s a sticky substance that’s source is pine tree stumps and roots that, after an intensely high-heating process, “has a long history as a wood preservative, as a wood sealant for maritime use, in roofing construction and maintenance, in soaps such as Packer’s Pine Tar Soap and in the treatment of skin diseases, such as psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea (pronounced roh-ZAY-sha).” [source: Wikipedia]
Pine Tar is also used on baseball bats to give hitters a better grip. The rules state Pine Tar is allowed on a bat from the knob up to 18 inches. In the Pine Tar game, Brett was accused by Yankees manager Billy Martin that the Pine Tar on Brett’s bat exceeded what the rules allow. Brett was ejected and his home run disallowed after the umpires discussed the rule. Famously, Brett stormed out of the dugout and had to be restrained. If you read his lips as he erupted, you can see his choice of language was not appropriate for too many churches or mosques.
The Pine Tar Game is most famous for Brett’s eruption, Martin’s protest, and the resumption of the game 25 days later after the umpire ruling was overturned by the American League office. Approximately 1,200 fans showed up to watch the final four outs of the game, one in which the Royals would win 5 to 4.
For an interesting viewpoint by winning pitcher Armstrong, read THIS.
Coming Soon: Shocking Games Numbers 4-6.
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