If you were to play word association with any fan of the Boston Red Sox, “1986” would be answered with every negative word in the English language. Before the end result, though, there was a lot of positive moments to look back in 1986. Unfortunately, for one of their opponents (one pitcher, in particular), the events of this day ultimately led to a tragic end.
If the Boston Red Sox had any hope of capturing their first American League pennant in eleven years, they certainly had their work cut out for them. Down 3-1 in their American Championship Series against the California Angels, the Sox had to win in Anaheim and then hope to win Games 6 and 7 back in Boston.
Despite opening things up with an early 2-0 lead, the Angels fought back and took the momentum into the ninth inning where they were up 5-2 and just three outs away from their first World Series berth in franchise history.
With one away in the ninth, Angels’ starter Mike Witt was looking for the complete-game when Don Baylor smacked a two-run homer to pull the Sox to within a run. As a result, Witt was replaced by Gary Lucas who had a history of striking out Rich Gedman (Boston’s next batter). Unfortunately for Lucas, he hit Gedman with his first pitch. Lucas one and done as Donnie Moore came in to replace him.
Moore retired the next batter and brought his Angels just one strike away from the AL pennant. Boston batter Dave Henderson, however, had other plans. He took Moore’s next pitch and walloped it over the fence in left-center to give Boston the lead. Then, the boos rained down on Moore.
The Angels got out of the inning without suffering any further damage and even tied the game in the bottom-half of the inning. Then, in the eleventh, Dave Henderson hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly that proved to be the game-winner. The Red Sox won and beat the Angels by a combined score of 18-5 in the final two games to take the series and break the hearts of Angels fans everywhere.
As impressive as the win was for the Red Sox, though, it was a far worse pill to swallow for the Angels. They were just one strike away from the AL pennant when it all slipped away. As terrible as the Calfornia Angels and their fans felt about the collapse, however, it paled in comparison to the effect it had on closer Donnie Moore, who surrendered that nearly-decisive two-run shot to Dave Henderson.
Despite remaining with the Angels for the next two years, Moore was never as effective again as by August 1988, he was out of baseball altogether. Whether it was the impact of the home run, the chorus of boos raining down or just what could have been, Game 5 of that ALCS would forever change Donnie Moore. He became haunted by the results of one afternoon.
On July 18, 1989, Donnie Moore shot his wife to death before turning the gun on himself and taking his own life. October 12, 1986 symbolized a devastating loss for the California Angels franchise – but not as crippling as the loss they would have to endure nearly three years later.