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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How I cursed the Red Sox in Game 6... a 25-year admission

As I am writing this the clock reads 12:46 a.m.; almost exactly 25 years ago at this hour, on Oct. 26, 1986, the Red Sox did something that makes the last few awful weeks feel like a dip in an MDC kiddy pool. And ever since the horrific events of Game 6 unfolded, I have lived with the guilt that the Sox should have won the '86 World Series in six games instead of losing it in seven -- if only I had been thinking more sensibly.

It all started when my friend Scott and I heard about some tickets available for Game 5 of the Series at Fenway Park. The Mets and Sox were tied at two games apiece, and Game 1 hero Bruce Hurst was slated to go again for Boston. Scott and I were sophomores at Syracuse, located deep in the cold heart of Mets country, and we were anxious both to get to Fenway and get away from all the obnoxious New Yawkers back at our dorm. This being long before Craig's List, Stub Hub, and other Internet tickets options, we would have to drive to Boston to get our tickets -- knowing full well that our 300-mile journey would be for naught if something fell through.

It was certainly a chance worth taking, and with my girlfriend Wendy joining us in the old Cruising Vessel (see entry of July 14, 2011 at we took off for home and Kenmore Square. The vessel made it in one piece -- which we thought boded well for a successful overall journey. We were wrong. 

The tickets did indeed fall through, and although Scott and I went down to Fenway the night of the game, we found nothing in the starving colleague student price range available from scalpers. We wound up watching from a bar as Hurst threw another masterpiece at the Mets, and the Sox headed for Shea Stadium one win away from their first World Series title in 68 years.

Scott and I now changed our thinking. We figured we'd stay in Boston a few more days, (hopefully) watch the Red Sox win Game 6, and then join in the downtown parade. If the Red Sox lost Game 6, we'd also stay for Game 7 and the eventual victory celebration. When Game 6 got under way, Scott headed for a loud locale where he could scream with other Sox fans while I hunkered down with Wendy in the quiet den of my boyhood home to watch the NBC broadcast.

I certainly don't need to tell you what happened that evening at Shea, but I am now ready to explain my culpability. In the 10th inning, once the Red Sox took a 5-3 lead, I started thinking about how I would now be able to shut up Big Dave, Buddha, and the rest of the Mets crazies back on campus. 

"Go get my camera," I yelled to Wendy, and as I watched the first two Mets in the bottom of the 10th quickly make outs, Wendy arrived back in the doorway with my Cannon sure-shot and a devilish grin. She knew how much this meant to me, and we agreed the best picture for me to copy and distribute to Mets fans would be a blow-up of me standing beside the TV with my hand raised in a classic middle-fingered salute.

As Gary Carter came up for New York, I had Wendy get the camera ready. Only after Carter singled, and then Kevin Mitchell, and then Ray Knight (making it 5-4),  did I realize what was happening and scream for her to stop. But it was too late; moments later Mitchell scored on a wild pitch/passed ball to tie the game, and a moment after that Mookie Wilson hit the ground ball heard 'round the world to Bill Buckner at first. Like generations of Red Sox fans, I had mistakenly assumed victory was in the bag before the last pitch.

After a rainout the next day, I headed back to Syracuse without the 100 photocopies of my Game 6 victory photo originally slated for the doors of Mets fans. The wrong team had won, and back on campus I holed myself up with other Red Sox backers in a dormitory lounge for Game 7. Boston held a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning, and although we kept the cameras safely in our pockets, those of us without good sense began imagining again about how we'd celebrate our grand victory in enemy territory.

An hour later, I was running for my room with the taunts of Mets fans ringing in my ears; New York had come back to win the game and series, of course, and when I opened my door the next morning it was covered with streamers and front-page headlines from the Times, Daily News, and Post. Wendy and I didn't last much past Christmas break, and I would have to wait nearly 20 years for my revenge over Gotham.

On Oct. 20, 2004, only after the final out of the '04 ALCS, did I tell my wife it was OK to get the camera and shoot...

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