Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wild World Series 29 years ago


I can't be sure but it sounds like Al Michaels doing the play by play.





As a baseball fan I was looking into the last time The KC Royals were in the World Series. It was 1985 and their opponent was the St. Louis Cardinals, so that's an all Missouri event. Both ends of the state were represented, St. Louis is on the Mississippi in the far east, within sight of Illinois, and KC is on the far west, right before you enter Kansas on Interstate-70.

The '85 World Series is classic in my memory because the Royals had finally refused to be denied. Starting in 1978 the Royals, with 3rd year star 3rd baseman George Brett leading them on, had finished 1st, then 2nd, then 1st, then the messy strike season of 1981 which I won't count, then 2nd, 2nd, 1st in 1984 (losing the ALCS to the Tigers) then again in 1st place in 1985...finally beating the Blue Jays in 7 games to advance to the World Series. This is back when there were only two divisions to each league, East and West. The Central Division was added 20 years ago in 1994 to make the post season more interesting with a wild card team allowing a divisional playoff in addition to the league championship, which is ironic because 1994 was also the year the season ended in August due to Communist tendencies in the player's union so there was no post season.

It's nice to win a World Series like the Red Sox did in 2013, magically beating the better team in the Tigers, overcoming awful calls and playing above themselves to win it all in Fenway Park for the first time in about a century. But to then go immediately back to the basement is a sign of inconsistency. "Oh, the Red Sox took the season off. Ok." The Royals were consistently good, like the modern St. Louis Cardinals. They didn't have a stinker season for a whole decade and in 1985 they met the Cardinals for an I-70 Series with the Cardinals being the favorite.

East Division 1985

Tm
W L W-L% GB
Toronto Blue Jays TOR 99 62 .615 --
New York Yankees NYY 97 64 .602 2.0
Detroit Tigers DET 84 77 .522 15.0
Baltimore Orioles BAL 83 78 .516 16.0
Boston Red Sox BOS 81 81 .500 18.5
Milwaukee Brewers MIL 71 90 .441 28.0
Cleveland Indians CLE 60 102 .370 39.5

West Division 1985

Tm
W L W-L% GB
Kansas City Royals KCR 91 71 .562 --
California Angels CAL 90 72 .556 1.0
Chicago White Sox CHW 85 77 .525 6.0
Minnesota Twins MIN 77 85 .475 14.0
Oakland Athletics OAK 77 85 .475 14.0
Seattle Mariners SEA 74 88 .457 17.0
Texas Rangers TEX 62 99 .385 28.5


I won't break down the entire 1985 Post Season. After watching this Game 6 bottom of the 9th inning
I do want to point out a few things:

Cardinals won Game 1 and Game 2. They Lost Game 3. Then won Game 4 and could clinch it in St. Louis in Game 5. They needed one win in 3 games. They lost Game 5 so the Series went back to KC.

The Cardinals lead the series 3-2 so they could win it with 3 outs. It's a 1-0 game in favor of Cardinals playing in KC. Dominant pitching made the '85 series very tense. It's easy to think it's boring but the tension comes from who will keep up the domination and who will blink first. Any asshole can analyze a 10-3 blowout. But hardcore baseball historians start to drool when they see a 1-0 game go into the bottom of the 9th and the home team finds a way to win 2-1. The details make me want to chew leather they are so juicy with grief and nostalgia. It almost always plays out exactly like a good western where the dog barking, the tumbleweed tumbling, the whiskey bottle being 3/4 empty, the losing poker hand being three Jacks. All of these things suddenly loom large. All of the following events have taken place countless times during regular season games and are never mentioned again. Put the same events in the bottom of the 9th inning of Game 6 with the away team 3 outs from clinching the championship and everything becomes a dramatic stage. The intensity of Postseason baseball is the best and Game 6 of the 1985 Series is a good example.

Jorge Orta grounds a 0-2 pitch to Jack Clark, who feeds it to Todd Worrell and Worrell makes the grab with his foot on the bag, a little awkward, but he's out...NO WAIT, the ump, Denkinger, calls him safe. He's totally out of position to make the call but he calls him safe. Ouch! It's a brutal memory considering MLB now has review policy that would've called him out. I guess I don't understand why Denkinger is in the wrong position. He makes the call in the one place on the field he can't see the ball enter the glove. The first out of the inning is the only the first out, but it's a big out. The Red Sox proved only one year later that you can still lose big time after making not only the first out, but the first two outs. So, it is what it is. An error by the ump. I wonder if another ump could've helped him.

Clark then misplays a foul ball by Balboni, who then singles to Left. The foul ball is catchable, must be caught, but Clark was a right fielder normally and wasn't used to balls going straight up with no way to reference direction of drift. Pete Rose would've caught that ball.

Sundberg bunts on a two strike pitch, after two foul bunts, and Orta is thrown out at third for the first out. Men on First and Second again.

Worrell then throws a breaking ball when the catcher Porter was expecting a fastball. It rolls away and the runners advance. With first base open and that run being meaningless, they intentionally walk McRae to load the bases. This wild pitch is horrible because it put the winning run in scoring position.

Dane Iorg pinch hits and could easily end the game and the series with a double play ball. The Right fielder's throw was only trying to preserve a tied game and it was an incredible throw, in the air knee high about 80 yards on target, but Porter must catch it about two feet too far away from the plate. The ball beats the runner but because it was about to land Porter must catch it and then turn, which takes longer than catching it where the runner is. See? He can't short hop it so he must catch and turn...and that instant of motion costs him the run, and the game. KC crushed the Cards in Game 7 to win the championship. And they haven't been back since, after those 7 or 8 years of domination they never threatened again.

It's interesting that all this was done with the 5,6,7,8,9 hitters. Brett, Wilson, Smith, White were on the bench the whole time.
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