In the Oakland clubhouse, the Athletics were grateful indeed for this one.
"That was one of those great confrontations," LaRussa said. "Eckersley against Boggs. Stewart against Boggs. Canseco against Hurst. This series is going to be filled with these kind of confrontations. That's what the playoffs are all about."
The Canseco-Hurst matchup gave Oakland an early 1-0 advantage when Canseco stroked a prodigious home run over the 37-foot-high wall in left-center.
The Athletics greeted the feat with high-fives in their dugout. Red Sox fans greeted it with mocking chants of "Ster-oids! Ster-oids!" a reference to Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell's recent assertion that Canseco's 40-40 talents are not 100% natural.
Canseco, who angrily denied the accusation last week, chose this time to respond with humor, teasing the crowd with good-natured flexes of his right arm.
"I was just having fun with it, fooling around," Canseco said. "By now, basically, I've learned to ignore it. My first priorities are to my ballclub."
Same with Henderson, although his priorities are now with a different ballclub.
In 1986, his home run against Angel relief pitcher Donnie Moore saved Boston from elimination in Game 5 of the playoffs. The Angels never recovered from Henderson's homer--still haven't, in fact--and the Red Sox went on to the World Series that fall.
Before the next World Series, however, Henderson was forced out of Fenway, released and later signed by the San Francisco Giants. During the off-season, he moved across the bay and contributed a .304 average and 94 RBIs to the Athletics' 104-win season.
Wednesday, Henderson contributed to playoff win No. 1, too, by singling home Lansford to break a 1-1 tie in the eighth.
No big deal, Henderson insisted.
"I just expect to do the things I've done all year, and that's drive in runs," he said. "I'm not out to do anything special or abnormal.
"Today, I was just trying to get the man over. Textbook baseball. I do that every other day. That home run in Game 5, I do that every other 100 years."
That was one for the ages, as they say. Boggs vs. Eckersley had that same kind of potential Wednesday, or so the faithful at Fenway had anticipated.
Now, they can only hope that Clemens and a few dozen fastballs can purge that at-bat from the Boston consciousness tonight.