6. GAME 5, 1986 ALCS, BOSTON AT CALIFORNIA
The most underrated, underappreciated moment in the history of Boston sports. Everyone remembers how 1986 ended for the Red sox, and, granted, the world Series loss left your average New Englander with more emotional scars than Rose Kennedy. but don't forget that the Red sox were down 1) three games to on to the Angels in the American League playoffs, and 2) 5-2 in the ninth inning of the fifth game at California. And they still won. The tanned bandwagon California fans were on their feet, the fireworks were ready to explode, the Champagne was on ice — and the Red Sox fought back. Huh? With one out, Don Baylor socked a two-run homer; 5-4, Angels. With two outs, catcher Rich Gedman was hit by a pitch. California brought in closer Donnie Moore. Two balls, two strikes to Boston's Dave Henderson. Angels fans rose to their feet. One strike away. Hendu fouled off the next pitch. Angels players rose to the top step of the dugout, waiting to run to the mound. The pitch . . .
There are those all-too-frequent times in sports when you want something improbably to happen and it never does. Deep down, the child inside you wishes and hopes, but you've seen too many games and too many plays to believe that anything except what's supposed to happen is going to happen. And yet here was Dave Henderson keeping the Red Sox alive. A two-run homer. A 6-5 lead for Boston. A reprieve.
The fun didn't stop there. Boston's worn-down bullpen blew the lead. Little-used Denny Galehouse look-alike Steve "Shag" Crawford came in with the bases loaded, the game tied, and only one out. With veterans Doug DeCinces and Reggie Jackson coming to bat, this game looked like it had a big salad fork in it. Of course, Shag got both of them out. After Boston rallied for two runs in the 11th inning, Sox closer Calvin Schiraldi finished the Angels off in the bottom of the 11th (redeeming himself for blowing Games 3 and 4). Boston had survived. When the series resumed in Boston two days later, the stunned California team had a collective deer-in-the-headlights look, and the Sox cruised for two wins and a date in the '86 World Series.
POSTSCRIPT:Even feel-good red Sox moments have a dark side. Donnie Moore killed himself a few years later. His wife told reporters that Henderson's home run had broken Moore's heart.
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