NEW YORK — Unless Bruce Hurst can find a way to beat Ron Darling (0.00 ERA in 14 World Series innings) in Game 7 tonight, then Saturday, Oct. 25, 1986, is a day that will live in Boston Red Sox infamy. The names of Bob Stanley and Bill Buckner will be immortalized alongside those of such renowned Red Sox anti-heroes as Johnny Pesky and Mike Torrez.
Torrez served up Bucky Dent's game-winning home run in the 1978 sudden-death playoff against the Yankees, and Pesky, a shortstop, held the ball, allowing St. Louis' Enos Slaughter to score the decisive run in Game 7 of the 1946 World Series.
Pesky is 67 now and a special assistant to Red Sox General Manager Lou Gorman. The passage of 40 years hasn't helped his case among Red Sox fans, according to Pesky.
"To this day," Pesky told the Boston Globe, "I still get asked about my hesitating with the ball while Slaughter was scoring from first with the winning run for St. Louis in the eighth inning of the seventh game. For the first few years, I was very sensitive about it. But I figured if I couldn't get over it, I should get out of baseball."
Pesky played 10 years in the major leagues, compiling a .307 batting average. But his moment of indecision continues to overshadow a career that included three straight 200-hit seasons.
"I guess I'm now in the World Series goat category to stay," Pesky said. "Unfortunately, that's the way I'll be remembered as a ballplayer. It's a tough way."
Buckner's gimp, helped little by his high-top cleats, has been an enduring image of this World Series. Before his legs and ankles went bad, Buckner was a base stealer of some note--stealing 31 bases for the Dodgers in 1974 and 28 in 1976. As recently as 1985, Buckner led the Red Sox with 18 stolen bases.
"When I could run, I was pretty fast," Buckner said. "If I hadn't hurt my ankle, I could've averaged 30 stolen bases a year. I could've gotten up to 60.
"I stole 18 last year. I get a jump and a great lead. Even at my age (36), without my ankle problems, I could probably steal 40 bases in a season."
Reggie Jackson apparently ran up a hefty phone bill after Boston's 6-5 loss in Game 6 Saturday.
Jackson called Don Baylor, Buckner and John McNamara to offer encouragement--for all anyone knew, he might have called the Red Sox equipment manager, too.
"He explained to me how the Angels felt after Game 5 of the playoffs," said Baylor, referring to Boston's extra-inning win over the Angels after trailing, 5-2, with one out to go in the ninth.
"He told me, 'Just don't let the guys get down.' . . . He told Buck that what happened last night was just part of the game."
Someone asked McNamara if Angel Manager Gene Mauch had called, too.
"No," McNamara said, smiling.
Times staff writer Gordon Edes contributed to this story.