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Game 6, worth revisiting

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  April 29, 2011 03:02 PM

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When I heard about the latest installment in the MLB Network's outstanding "MLB's 20 Greatest Games" series, I presumed that this particular storied ballgame would appeal only to those Red Sox lifers among us who inexplicably long for the pre-2004 angst while clinging to the shredded remains of their miserable fellowship.

Don't get it, never will, though I am oddly impressed by their dedication and durability in waiting on hold for an hour for a half-minute of airtime with their favorite caterwauling host after Carl Crawford goes 0 for 4. These are the same people, right?

As for the rational majority among us, I'm pretty sure we'd have all been cool with it had the last words we ever heard about Game 6 of the 1986 World Series -- which rolls in at No. 3 on the MLB Network's countdown of the best games of the past 50 years -- been Vin Scully's cruelly pitch-perfect ". . . and the Mets win it!" as New England collectively stared at the television, impossibly staggered by the moment.

During those 18 seasons, from '86 through the magic of 2004, ESPN and Fox rarely passed up a chance to show Mookie Wilson's slow roller up along first base getting through poor Bill Buckner whenever the fates (inevitably aided by a doofus manager) turned against the Red Sox. One of the great cathartic realizations after the Sox formally exorcised all ghosts, demons, and myths seven years ago was that all of that well-worn footage of Buckner, Bucky and Boone would no longer torment us.

That it no longer torments Red Sox fans alone makes watching the MLB Network's take on Game 6 tolerable. It is, despite the outcome, a compelling chapter in the franchise's history. (Can you imagine the Papi-like postseason legend Dave Henderson would be around here had they held on?) As always, the MLB Network does a terrific job of presenting it. But what makes it recommended viewing -- it debuts Sunday at 7 p.m., with Buckner, Wilson, and Bob Ojeda joining hosts Bob Costas and Tom Verducci to discuss the game over a condensed replay -- is that it provides new information and fresh anecdotes that in some ways run counter 25 years of lore and conventional wisdom.

A few, if you're still with me and not cursing Rich Gedman or Bob Stanley right about now:

ojedabob429.jpgOjeda, the Mets' starter, on Calvin Schiraldi coming in for Roger Clemens to start the eighth. [Ojeda had been traded to the Mets by the Red Sox in the previous offseason for Schiraldi, Wes Gardner, and LaSchelle Tarver]: "When Schiraldi came in – because they knew him as well as Boston knew me – they were fighting over the bat rack. No disrespect to Calvin Schiraldi, none meant, none intended, but these guys – getting Roger out and it happened to be Schiraldi – it was like the clouds had parted. They were ready."

Buckner, on the perception that Red Sox manager John McNamara blundered by not putting Dave Stapleton at first base for defensive purposes: "In McNamara’s defense, I was the best first baseman, defensively, that he had. Dave Stapleton, bless his heart, he wasn’t a great player by any means. He had his own issues. If I thought that Dave Stapleton was gonna do a better job than I was, then I’d have told McNamara. I wanted to win, so did everybody else. … I’d been in positions where my ankles were in better shape, where I could cover more ground but I wasn’t having an issue at this point. I was the best player we had to be out there. Was I Keith Hernandez? No. But I was the best that we had." (Video here.)

Buckner, on why he moved from Boston to Idaho: "The fans in Boston were great to me. … People ask me how I feel now about it, I feel very blessed. I played 21 years in the Major Leagues, I got to play in two World Series. Would I have liked it for things to change differently in the sixth game? Obviously. But it didn’t. Would I do it again, with the same results? Heck, yeah. I lived [in Boston] until 1993 and I moved to Idaho because that was a dream of mine since I was a little kid, since I watched “Bonanza” on TV. I wanted to buy a ranch in Idaho, which I did. People say I left Boston because of [Game 6]. That’s hardly the case."

Revisionist history? Maybe. But it's good stuff, though I should note there's still no definitive answer on whether Clemens asked out. (He totally did. You know he did.) Check it out. All those ancient scars have faded for good, right?.

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Today's media column, on Jack Edwards's connection between royalty and Canadiens divers, can be found here, if you're into that sort of thing.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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