31 January 2005 | baho-1
It's a Ballgame
Any good baseball fan will tell you exactly where he was during the sixth game of the 1986 World Series when Mookie Wilson's ground ball rolled through Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner's legs. The infamous error gave the Mets a dramatic come-from-behind victory in the game and ultimately the Series. Director Michael Hoffman and producer Amy Chamberlain made a movie around the event, which loses little of its luster after the Red Sox improbable World Series win this past October.
Michael Keaton stars as a successful playwright and lifelong Red Sox fan whose opening night of his latest Broadway play coincides with the fateful Game 6. These events serve as a catalyst for the exploration of love, marriage, sex, parenthood, friendship, hope, despair, values and much more. Of note, Keaton was one of the most entertaining stars I have ever seen at a Sundance Q&A.
Although it drags in parts, the movie has a lot of heart. Keaton, along with Griffin Dunne and Robert Downey Jr., provide fine performances that bring the script to life. This will be a must-see for everyone in Beantown, as well as all those perennially cursed Sox fans nationwide who found meaning in their collective suffering for so many years. My wife couldn't see what all the fuss was about; but I understood it perfectly.
I wasn't at any of the 1986 World Series games. But I vividly remember listening to Game 6 on the radio, and having to stop and collect myself after the Buckner error. (I've always liked underdogs, so the Sox are a perfect match for my affections.) I did, however, attend the nearly as legendary Game 5 of the American League Champion Series that year. The Red Sox were down 3-1 in the series, but battled back to beat the Angels at Anaheim with a dramatic ninth-inning two-out home run by Dave Henderson, who had been brought in as a defensive replacement. The Sox went on to win the AL Championship and meet the Mets in the Series.
Gene Mauch, the Angel's manager, was widely regarded as one of the best in baseball. But he'd never been to a World Series. He was one out away in 1986, but fate called the score. He retired in 1987 and went to his grave having managed 26 years and 3942 games without ever reaching the October Classic. The pitcher who gave up Henderson's homer was Donnie Moore, a 20-save reliever that year. Moore was never the same after that fateful at-bat. He retired shortly afterward, drifted into alcoholism and committed suicide in 1989.
Nearly 20 years later, I can recite these details with clarity and emotion. For those of us that grew up on baseball, it was never just a game. These events hold special meaning in our lives. When you understand that, you know that Game 6 is more than a movie. It is a homage to seasons that end in despair, but never fail to start again with hope. Such is life.