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Buckner's blunder dooms '86 Sox

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Wednesday, November 19, 2003
If only they could have a do over
By Larry Schwartz
Special to ESPN Classic

ESPN Classic looks back at some of the biggest World Series managerial blunders.

1960 - Yankees manager Casey Stengel decides not to start Whitey Ford in Game 1 against the Pirates. Instead, he waits until Game 3 to use his star lefthander. Ford pitches a shutout, and then another one in Game 6. But Stengel's decision means Ford gets only these two starts in the Series instead of three. With Ford unavailable for Game 7, the Yankees lose 10-9.

1975 - Jim Willoughby might have been Boston's most effective relief pitcher in the Series. After retiring Johnny Bench with the bases loaded in the seventh and hurling a 1-2-3 eighth, he has pitched 6 1/3 innings against the Reds without allowing an earned run. But with the score 3-3 and two outs and nobody on base in the bottom of the eighth, manager Darrell Johnson pinch-hits for him with Cecil (1-for-18) Cooper, who is retired. Johnson's choice to replace Willoughby on the mound in the ninth is Jim Burton, a rookie lefthander who had one win and one save in 29 appearances during the season and had pitched just one inning in the Series. Burton gives up the winning run - and somewhere Babe Ruth is laughing, even if Johnson isn't.

1984 - In Game 5, with the Tigers leading 5-4 and runners on second and third with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Padres manager Dick Williams signals Goose Gossage to intentionally walk Kirk Gibson, who had homered earlier. But after conferring with his relief ace, Williams changes his mind. Gibson belts a 3-run homer and Detroit wins 8-4 to capture the Series.

1986 - In Boston's seven postseason victories, manager John McNamara had replaced sore-legged first baseman Bill Buckner with Dave Stapleton when the Red Sox led in the late innings. But in Game 6 of the World Series, with Boston leading the Mets by two runs and three outs from winning its first Series in 68 years, McNamara keeps Buckner at first in the 10th inning. After the Mets tie the game, Mookie Wilson's routine grounder goes under Buckner's glove and into rightfield, allowing Ray Knight to score the winning run. Two days later, the Mets will win Game 7.

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