We have seen Game 6 heaven and Game 6 hell.
Game 6 gave us Carlton Fisk’s 12th-inning moon shot off the left-field foul pole and a video for the ages. Peter Gammons wrote a book titled, “Beyond the Sixth Game,” and a couple of kids named Affleck and Damon used the story line to win an Oscar.
Game 6 also gave us a little dribbler by Mookie Wilson, Vin Scully exclaiming, “Behind the bag . . . !’’ and Bill Buckner riding a Train They Call Infamy all the way to a featured role in an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.’’
Wednesday night is Game 6 of the World Series, and the Red Sox have a chance to win the championship on the Fenway lawn for the first time since 1918. Anything is possible. Game 6 is the one you never forget.
The 1918 Red Sox won the World Series at Fenway in Game 6. With Woodrow Wilson in the White House and the Great War winding down in Europe, Carl Mays tamed the Cubs, 2-1, and the Red Sox were world champs for the fifth time in 15 years.
The Sox have played in four World Series Game 6’s since Babe Ruth and friends ran wild at the Hotel Buckminster just before Prohibition. The heavily favored 1946 Red Sox blew a chance to close out the Series against the Cardinals in Game 6, then lost Game 7 two days later. The 1967 Sox hit a barrage of homers in an 8-4 Game 6 win over the Cardinals at Fenway. Bob Gibson beat them a day later in Game 7.
The Fisk Game and the Buckner Game are part of local folklore. Game 6 giveth, and Game 6 taketh away.
The Fisk Game is one we recite like “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.’’
The Red Sox were magical in 1975. They were blessed with the Gold Dust Twins, rookie outfielders Jim Rice and Fred Lynn. Rice (who suffered a late-season broken wrist and missed the Series) made it all the way to Cooperstown, along with teammates Carl Yastrzemski and Fisk, but Lynn was the bigger deal in ’75. Lynn was Rookie of the Year and MVP.
The ’75 Sox also featured cigar-smoking, mound-gyrating Luis Tiant, the most lovable hurler the Sox had until Pedro Martinez came on board at the end of the century.
The ’75 World Series is on everybody’s list of top five Series. The Cincinnati Reds were one of the great teams of the 20th century and countered Boston’s roster with Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, and manager Sparky Anderson. They also had Pete Rose, the man who got more hits than any other player in the history of the game.
The ’75 Series went a lot like the one we have unfolding in front of our eyes. The Sox won Game 1 easily at home, lost a close one at Fenway in Game 2, then went on the road and lost a one-run game in part because of a strange interference play.
Both series were 2-2 after four, but now we have a departure from the path. In ’75, the Sox lost Game 5 and came home for Game 6 trying to extend the Series.
It wasn’t easy. The Sox trailed, 6-3, with two on and two out in the eighth and it looked like they were going down. Then pinch hitter Bernie Carbo smashed a three-run homer to center off Rawley Eastwick and the game morphed into a classic.
Denny Doyle thought third base coach Don Zimmer was saying, “Go, go,’’ when Zim was actually saying, “No, no,” and Doyle was gunned down at the plate in the ninth. Dwight Evans made a sensational catch in the 11th inning.
And then came the shot heard ’round New England. At 12:34 a.m., as Fisk galloped around the bases and John Kiley played the “Hallelujah Chorus,’’ Gammons put a new sheet of paper into his Olivetti Lettera and typed, “And all of a sudden the ball was there, like the Mystic River Bridge, suspended out in the black of the morning.’’
There was no poetry in ’86 when the ball went between Buckner’s legs. It was an event that would have been best chronicled by Stephen King. The 1986 World Series video was stocked in the sci-fi/horror section of a Newton video store.
The Sox did not play Game 6 at home in ’86, but as now, Boston had a chance to close out the Series. The Sox had won the first two games at Shea Stadium, then came home to lose two of three. They returned to New York with two chances to win their first World Series in 68 years.
Given the respective cities and the star power involved (Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, Rice, Gary Carter, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Keith Hernandez), the Series was a relatively tame event until it went off the rails in Game 6 late Saturday night at Shea.
The Red Sox were leading, 5-3, in the bottom of the 10th and the Mets had two outs and nobody aboard. This thing was over.
But it was not over. Calvin Schiraldi surrendered three straight singles, and Bob “The Steamer” Stanley came out of the bullpen and uncorked a game-tying wild pitch before surrendering the weak grounder hit by Wilson.
“I don’t want to hear about history or choking or any of that crap,’’ said manager John McNamara.
To this day, many people think the Buckner error was the final play of the 1986 World Series. But like Bogey saying, “Play it again, Sam,’’ in “Casablanca,’’ and Danny Ainge biting Tree Rollins in the 1983 NBA playoffs, it did not happen the way folks remember. The 1986 Red Sox had a chance to win Game 7 after the unspeakable events of Game 6, but they never recovered.
Game 6. Wednesday night. At Fenway.