It was a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon at Anaheim Stadium. I was working as a bus boy at the Stadium Club restaurant inside the stadium that day. I went for that job, so I could see the Angels, and Rams, games for free. I was only 17 and a huge Angels fan. I've been to game 3 of the 79 ALCS when the Angels won the only game of the series. I also went to game 2 of the 82 ALCS which the Angels won to go up 2-0. Everyone thought this was the year but they lost three straight to the Brewers.
Then, on this date in 1986, I finished work in the 5th inning, and a friend and I went into the stands looking for a place to watch the game. The Angels were playing the Red Sox and it was game 5 of the ALCS. We were in the outfield when Grich hit a two run homer to give the Angels a 3-2 lead. We were running up and down the aisle giving high fives. People were going crazy and it's the loudest I've heard it there. That was when the stadium was enclosed and sat almost 70,000 people and every seat was filled. The Angels added two more in the 7th and were up 5-2.
It was now the top of the 9th and we had made our way to the railing down the left field line right in the middle. We were ready to jump on the field and celebrate the Angels first AL pennant and a trip to the World Series. We were talking about what we were going to try to get: the resin bag, players hat, glove, anything. I think fans running on the field after their team won a pennant was great and should be allowed. It's a tradition.
Mike Witt was still in the game and looked like he could go all the way. Bill Buckner came up first and got a single. Jim Rice struck out on three pitches. Don Baylor, former league MVP with the Angels in 1979, was up and hit a bomb that made it 5-4. Witt was left in to face Dwight Evans and got him to pop up. There were 2 outs and nobody on base and Rich Gedman was coming up, and he had already hit a home run off Witt. Gene Mauch decided to take Witt out for a lefty named Gary Lucas to face the lefty Gedman. He hit Gedman with the first pitch. Mauch then brought in the closer, Donnie Moore, to face Dave Henderson, who took the count to 2-2 and the crowd going nuts on every two strike pitch thinking it would be the last out. Henderson battled and fouled off a few pitches. Then, Henderson made contact and the sound of the ball hitting the bat sounded like they do in batting practice, which means he hit it well, and gone. They were ahead 6-5 and we were devastated. We've had so many heartbreaks with the Angels. Moore got the next guy and was not very well liked at the time.
The Angels tied the game in the bottom of the 9th and had the bases loaded with one out with DeCinces and Grich coming up but could not get the winning run home. Boston finally scored in the 11th and the Angels lost when they only needed one strike to go to the World Series. It felt like the worst day of my life because my expectations got so high. I knew the series was over too because they had to go back to Boston for two games against Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd and Roger Clemens in game 7. I couldn't watch that game.
Everyone in southern California was blaming Donnie Moore for the loss, but it wasn't entirely his fault. I blame Gene Mauch mostly for taking Witt out even though Gedman already hit a home run off him. Moore's career didn't last much longer after that and was out of the league by 1988. The next year he shot his wife at their home in Anaheim Hills during an argument with his children watching. His wife and daughters got out of the house and then he shot himself fatally in front of his sons.
I wonder. Would Donnie Moore be alive today if he had gotten that last strike?