30 years ago today, Bill Buckner’s error extended the Red Sox curse

WP

The ball that trickled through Bill Buckner's legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets felt as if it would carry a never-ending stigma.

In reality, the pain lasted 18 years … until 2004, when the Red Sox finally shattered the “Curse of the Bambino” and won their first World Series since 1918. But Buckner's error, which handed Game 6 to the Mets, was for nearly two decades the defining image of the team's 86-year title drought:

History proved to be most unkind to Buckner, but the Game 6 collapse was hardly all on him. The Red Sox had a 3-2 lead in games and a two-run lead heading into the bottom of the 10th on Oct. 25, 1986 at Shea Stadium.

After Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez were retired to start the inning, Gary Carter put off the seemingly inevitable with a hard single to left. That brought up Kevin Mitchell, who singled to center. Still, the Red Sox needed just one lonely out to end the pain of Bostonians.

Ray Knight came to the plate and was able to handle a Calvin Schiraldi pitch, sending it to center field for a base hit that scored Gary Carter and chased Mitchell to third. Suddenly, the championship that seemed destined was 90 feet away from having to wait.

Red Sox manager John McNamara called for pitcher Bob Stanley to face Mookie Wilson. Stanley was ahead in the count, and the Red Sox were one strike away. Then, a pitch was inside and catcher Rich Gedman was unable to corral it. The ball sailed to the backstop as Mitchell raced for home to tie the game.

Now the issue for the Red Sox was to survive the inning, forget trying to figure out how to pop champagne.

But they couldn't even do that. Wilson hit the 10th pitch of the at-bat down the first-base line. Buckner awaited it but the ball rolled through his legs and into baseball infamy as Knight raced home to give the Mets a 6-5 victory.

The pain would be extended beyond the following day, as Game 7 was rained out. The Red Sox took a 3-0 lead in the final game on Monday only to see the Mets rally and officially extend the curse, winning 8-5.

At that point, Boston Red Sox fans had to think it was never going to end.

The victory in Game 6 proved priceless for the Mets. However, the ball that went through Buckner's legs did have a price … in 2012 it was sold at auction for $418,250.

You can watch two other teams try to end their respective World Series curses this week. Game 1 of Cubs-Indians is Tuesday night on FOX.