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Original Issue

Goats of Octobers Past

With the World Series in full swing, SI reconsiders the Fall Classic's most painful moments with an eye toward exculpation

1946 GAME 7

BLAME JOHNNY PESKY The way some tell it, the Red Sox shortstop hesitated while taking a relay from centerfield in the bottom of the eighth, allowing the Cardinals' Enos Slaughter, who had started on first base ("a run to certain death," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote), to race home with the game—and Series—winning run.

BUT WAIT ... The throw to Pesky was more likely at fault. The Sox had lost seven-time All-Star CF Dom DiMaggio to injury earlier that inning and had subbed in reserve Leon Culberson. Slaughter later admitted that if DiMaggio had been in center, he never would have attempted the run home.

1985 GAME 6

BLAME DON DENKINGER Replays are clear: With the Royals trailing the Cardinals 1--0 in the ninth, and 3--2 in the Series, K.C. pinch hitter Jorge Orta was out by a half-step on a grounder toward first. But 1B ump Don Denkinger emphatically called "safe," and the hit spurred a Royals rally—first in the game, then in the Series.

BUT WAIT ... Yes, Denkinger's bad call helped extend the game, but St. Louis's production at the plate—or lack thereof—ultimately cost them the championship. The Cards' entire lineup batted just .185 for the Series (and failed to score in Game 7, getting pummeled 11--0 on the road).

1986 GAME 6

BLAME BILL BUCKNER So seared into the collective consciousness of Beantown fans is the image of the first baseman letting Mookie Wilson's ground ball in the bottom of the 10th go through his legs, allowing the Mets' winning run, that an entire episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm was based on it—25 years after the fact.

BUT WAIT ... Larry David—and everyone else—seems to have forgotten Bob Stanley's wild pitch earlier in Wilson's at bat. That miscue allowed the tying run to score and moved Ray Knight to second. Two days later the Sox jumped out to a 3--0 lead in Game 7—but that one slipped through their grasp too.

1991 GAME 7

BLAME LONNIE SMITH Seemingly faked out by rookie 2B Chuck Knoblauch's sleight of hand, the Braves OF slowed while rounding second. Instead of scoring, Smith held at third and never made it home, which stung after the Twins went on to win the decisive game 1--0 in the 10th.

BUT WAIT ... Even with the misstep, the Braves still had runners on second and third with no one out—that is, until Ron Grant grounded out, David Justice took an intentional walk and Sid Bream grounded into an inning-ending double play.

1997 GAME 7

BLAME TONY FERNANDEZ For the Indians, ground balls to second were considered automatic with the four-time Gold Glove winner on the job. But he misplayed a potential double-play ball in the bottom of the 11th, giving the Marlins runners on the corners with one out. Three batters later the Series was over.

BUT WAIT ... Fernandez was doing more than his part toward bringing Cleveland its first championship since 1948: His two-run single in the third had given the Indians their only runs of the game. But Jose Mesa blew a save in the ninth, surrendering a one-run lead, which should earn him at least a share of the blame.


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