Baseball fans never forget past goofs

Each October brings the annual assault by television’s unstoppable World Series announcers upon the eardrums of baseball fans everywhere. Past heroes are exhumed for applause, heroes such as Joe Carter and Bill Mazeroski. Both had ninth-inning home runs to end a Series-Carter for the Blue Jays over the Phillies in 1993 and Pittsburgh’s Maz over the Yankees 21 years earlier.

Time, too, for reflection upon World Series goats, such as Bill Buckner of the Boston Red Sox, myopic ump Don Denkinger and third-base ump Bob Davidson, whose goof cost the Toronto Blue Jays the immortality of a Series’ triple play.

Remembering Rogers
And maybe it’s time to resurrect memories of Steve Rogers. He’s the guy who threw the pitch that took the Expos out of their only real shot at a World Series in the 32 years they’ve been in Montreal.

It was 1981, the deciding game of the best-of-five playoff for the National League pennant, the Expos against the Los Angeles Dodgers and their tubby 20-year-old rookie sensation, Fernando Valenzuela. For the Expos, it was veteran Ray Burris, who had won Game Two on a five-hit shutout.

After eight innings, they wereocked 1-1. In the ninth inning, Expo manager Jim Fanning replaced Burris with Montreal’s ace, the cerebral Steve Rogers. He set down Steve Garvey and Ron Cey, and then served a home-run pitch to Rick Monday for the shot that ended the Expos 2-1.

Ruth’s curse
Five years later, in 1986, the Boston Red Sox were about to exorcize the Curse of Babe Ruth. They hadn’t won a World Series in 68 years-ever since they’d traded Ruth to the Yankees. But now they led New York’s other team, the Mets, three games to two and needed only one more out to wrap up the series.

They were ahead 5-3 as the Mets batted in the bottom of the 10th, nobody on base. Incredibly, they couldn’t get that third out. Three singles and a wild pitch tied the score.

Then Mookie Wilson poked a routine grounder to first base and poor Bill Buckner allowed it to roll between his legs while the winning run crossed the plate.

Royals win call
In 1985, umpire Don Denkinger contributed mightily as the hometown Kansas City Royals nipped St. Louis when it appeared the Cardinals had the Series locked up. They led three games to two and were ahead 1-0 in the ninth.

Now, Jorge Orta led off for Kansas City and grounded to first baseman Jack Clark, who flipped the ball to pitcher Todd Worrell. One out.

Oops one moment please. Denkinger, at first base, called Orta safe when clearly he was out, as the sports columnist Jim Coleman used to say, “by as far as a strong country boy can throw a big red apple.” Television confirmed the chorus of hoots.

And KC didn’t stop there. Another single, a wild pitch and a base hit by pinch-hitter Dane Iorg scored both runners, sealing a 2-1 Cardinal defeat. Next night, the dispirited Cards folded 11-0, ending the Series.

Blue Jays sing
Nine years ago in Toronto, Devon White made his stunning, you-had-to-see-it-to-believe-it catch when the Blue Jays won the first of their back-to-back World Series pair. It was Game Three and the catch must have temporarily blinded umpire Bob Davidson. A couple of Atlanta base runners, Terry Pendleton and Deion Sanders, were on first and second base when David Justice drilled a liner to straightaway centre field, extra bases earmarked.

White turned, fleeing deep with characteristic grace, turned again to make the catch. He threw the ball to the infield, turned a third time as momentum plastered him against the high fence, a fly on the wall. One out…

Meantime Pendleton, convinced the ball would fall safely, had taken off for second base and had run past Sanders. Automatic out.

Gruber’s tag
The ball was relayed to third baseman Kelly Gruber as Sanders tried for third, then reversed toward second, Gruber in hot pursuit. Near the bag, Gruber dived and tagged Sanders to complete the startling triple play.

“Nope,” said Bob Davidson, the third-base ump. “Ya missed ’em.”

Television replays confirmed the blown call. Next day Davidson, seeing the replay, agreed he may have been a teensy bit inaccurate.

Just like the other goats.