Relive the best mid-1980s World Series performances
By Michael Bradley
Special to MLB.com |
The atmosphere throughout Kansas City was raucous back in 1985. Delirious Royals fans and players alike toasted the city's first-ever MLB championship -- an improbable seven-game triumph over their intrastate rivals from St. Louis, which had begun with the Royals losing their first two games at home.
Game 7 marked Bret Saberhagen's second World Series win. In 18 Fall Classic innings, he allowed just one run and 11 hits. If anybody had a right to tear the town apart after an incredible win, it was Saberhagen. Instead, he headed to the hospital to commemorate an even more personal milestone.
"It was the best time of my life, that's for sure," the 1985 championship MVP said. "We win the Series, and my first child is born. You couldn't write a better script."
Saberhagen may be right, but baseball's top contenders sure tried to write a fitting follow-up the next two seasons. The 1986 battle between the Red Sox and Mets featured the infamous Bill Buckner error that swung the momentum in Game 6; while in '87, Minnesota triumphed the Cardinals in the first Series in which all seven games were won by the home team.
"That was such an electric time," said Danny Cox, who pitched for the Cardinals in the 1985 and '87 Series. "No matter where we were, things were really cranking. The noise wasn't being pumped in over speakers. All the energy was created by the fans."
In 1985, Cox was in just his second full season with the Cards, and he had won 18 games. Throughout his 11-year career, the '85 team remained his favorite.
"That was probably my most exciting time in the Majors," Cox said. "We were energized to play Kansas City."
The Cardinals took the first two games of the Series, which included an impressive comeback victory in Game 2. But then came Saberhagen, who threw a Game 3 six-hitter in front of a wild Busch Stadium crowd to quell the St. Louis' momentum.
"I felt good," Saberhagen said. "I was confident. They hadn't seen me before. You can go over tapes, but until you see him, the situation favors the pitcher."
In Game 4, John Tudor threw a tidy five-hit shutout that gave the Cardinals a commanding 3-games-to-1 Series lead. Kansas City had similarly been behind against Toronto in the American League Champion Series, though, so the Royals weren't panicking.
"Our mentality was the pressure was on them, because they had to win," Saberhagen said. "Nobody expected us to do anything then."
Danny Jackson, a then-23-year-old lefty, got the call for Kansas City in Game 5, and he responded with a complete-game five-hitter in a 6-1 win, highlighted by Willie Wilson's two-run triple.
Game 6 was scoreless until the Cardinals took a 1-0 lead in the top of the eighth, but the Royals didn't back down. Pinch-hitter Jorge Orta led off the ninth with a grounder between first and second. The toss to Todd Worrell at first appeared to be in time, but umpire Don Denkinger called Orta safe, infuriating St. Louis Four batters later, with the bases loaded, Dane Iorg knocked a two-RBI single to tie the Series.
In the seventh game, the Royals scored two runs in the second and three in the third to chase Tudor early. Meanwhile, Saberhagen was outstanding, scattering five hits without allowing a run. The comeback was complete, and the proud father celebrated with his family.
"By far, Game 7 was the most nervous I have ever been," Saberhagen said. "Before the game, I was filled with adrenaline and butterflies. If we won, we would be champions. If we lost, we would finish second, and the season would be a disappointment.
"Having the distraction of welcoming a baby and spending time at the hospital [the day before] Game 7 helped me."
Even Game 6 of the 1985 Series couldn't compare to the historic moment that unfolded in the sixth game between the Mets and Red Sox a year later.
By now, just about every fan knows the story of the Mookie Wilson grounder that snuck under the glove and between the legs of Boston first baseman Buckner, allowing Ray Knight to score the winning run and tie the Series. But what few remember is that Wilson had fouled off four two-strike offerings from Bob Stanley with the Red Sox holding a 5-4 lead, and that a wild pitch during Wilson's at-bat plated Kevin Mitchell to knot the score. Then came Buckner's error.
Although Game 7 was postponed a day by rain, the Red Sox still couldn't shake the disappointment. Boston took a 3-0 lead in the second, but the Mets piled on eight runs to clinch their first title since 1969.
"In Game 6, we took Boston's heart," Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden told Newsday earlier this year. "I don't think they were comfortable with a 3-0 lead [in Game 7]. But Boston was done because of what we did in Game 6."
A year later, the upstart Minnesota Twins pulled off their own comeback, staving off elimination before securing a win over St. Louis in the finale. The Cardinals had won 95 games that year, and they held a 3-2 Series advantage going into Game 6. But the Fall Classic was heading back to Minneapolis's raucous Metrodome, where the Twins had won the first two games. The indoor venue with the trash bag outfield fences was also a den of noise pollution.
"It was overbearing," Cox said. "Afterward, it was like leaving a rock concert. My ears were ringing."
After taking an early lead, Minnesota blew the game open in the sixth when local boy Kent Hrbek hit a grand slam on the first pitch his saw from Ken Dayley. St. Louis took a lead in the second inning of Game 7, but Minnesota snuck back with runs in the second and fifth. In the sixth, Greg Gagne's bases-loaded infield hit gave the Twins a 3-2 edge, and Dan Gladden's eighth-inning RBI double provided some insurance.
Frank Viola notched his second win of the Series with eight innings of work, and Jeff Reardon shut the door in the ninth to give the Twins their first-ever World Series title.
The team that ABC's Al Michaels said was "out-everything'ed" against the mighty Cardinals had not only ridden its "Dome-field" advantage to the Series title, but the squad also concluded a three-year stretch of baseball history like none before it.
Michael Bradley is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.