John McNamara came oh so close to being a hero in Boston. Had it not been for that fateful night in New York, he would have been the manager that helped the Red Sox erase what would have been a 68-year World Series drought.
Of course, that didn’t happen. Instead, Game 6 and all of its misery for Red Sox fans happened, and two nights later, the Mets finished the series with a come-from-behind-win.
So if anyone could relate to what happened to the Texas Rangers in this year’s World Series, it would have to be McNamara.
He recently spoke with the New York Times about this year’s World Series and how it related to his team’s collapse in 1986.
“Good Lord,” McNamara told the Times, “Texas was one strike away from it twice. That’s tough to conceive.”
McNamara has been doing a lot of talking about the ’86 Fall Classic, as he’ll be part of a show on MLB Network that will air Wednesday night in which he and other members of the ’86 Sox will recall that World Series.
In that program, McNamara sheds some light on some of his managerial decisions from Game 6, decisions that have been second-guessed over and over again for the last 25 years.
No decision, however, has been revisited more than the one to leave first baseman Bill Buckner in the game late in Game 6, setting the veteran first baseman up to make the infamous error that gave the Mets the win.
Over time, fans and media alike have questioned whether or not Dave Stapelton should have been in the game over Buckner. McNamara, after all, had been making that switch throughout the playoffs late in games. Yet, he still stands by his decision to leave Buckner in during Game 6, and the former manager says it wasn’t a decision born out of sentimentality.
“Buckner was the best first baseman I had,” McNamara said on the MLB Network show. “And Dave Stapleton had taken enough shots at me since he didn’t get in that ballgame, but Dave Stapleton’s nickname was Shakey. And you know what that implies. I didn’t want him playing first base to end that game, and it was not any sentimental thing that I had for Billy Buck.”
McNamara also seemed to take solace in the fact that a hobbled Buckner did get to the ball and that his balky knees were not the reason he made the error.
“If the ball was hit to either side of him and he couldn’t get in front of it, yeah, I would have questioned myself,” McNamara told the Times. “But he got the ball.”
McNamara also talks about the decision to pull Roger Clemens from Game 6 after seven strong innings. McNamara has said for years that it was Clemens who said he could not go on after finishing seven, a claim that he stood by on the MLB Network special.
“He came off the mound in the bottom of the [seventh] inning and we were waiting there at the steps to congratulate him you know, getting out of the seventh and he came down the steps and he said, ‘That’s all I can pitch.’ Quote unquote,” McNamara said.
“And my answer to him was, “You gotta be s***ting me.” And he said “No,” and he showed us his finger … where he had the start of a paper tear on his middle finger and — well, correct this right here and now – he had no blister whatsoever, and how that got started I don’t know. But it spread rapidly and it continued over the next two years [that] the blister took him out of the ball game. And that is not the case. As sure as I’m sitting here.”
The former skipper’s claims have been refuted by Clemens on multiple occasions, McNamara insists on the show that he’s not lying.
McNamara also confirmed the rumor that the reason Sox pitcher Oil Can Boyd didn’t pitch in the deciding Game 7 is because he was too drunk to do so.
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