Is that Mariano Rivera? Why on earth would he and Bill Buckner be mentioned in the same article?
Having just finished Mike Vaccaro's deftly crafted history of "The First Fall Classic," I was inspired to revisit some of the most painful moments in baseball history—painful for the losers that is.
Rivera's slip is less remembered than Buckner's or Bartman's, but the greatest closer of all time nonetheless deserves his place among the greatest goats of all time—if only for a moment.
Let's revisit the top five most infamous errors in Major League history.
New York Giants v. Washington Senators
Game 7 of the 1924 World Series
The series is tied 3-3.
Down 3-1 in the game, the Senators rally to tie it in the bottom of the 8th inning.
In the bottom of the 12th inning, Senator third baseman Ralph Miller—who batted .133 in only 15 opportunities that year—predictably grounds out.
Senator catcher Muddy Ruel follows Miller with a towering popup behind home plate. Throwing off his mask, Giant catcher Hank Gowdy drifts slowly below the ball, one way and then another.
Leaning back toward home plate—the ball nearly within his grasp—Gowdy stumbles on his own mask. He misses the ball and is charged with the error.
On the next offering, Ruel doubles down the left-field line. Two batters later, a bad hop sends a base hit careening over the head of third baseman Fred Lindstrom.
Washington wins the World Series.
Perhaps a few hundred errors in their favor and the 2010 Washington Nationals can replicate that accomplishment.
Chicago Cubs v. Florida Marlins
Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS
The Cubs lead the series 3-2.
Fan error. It should exist.
It’s called fan interference, but fans like Steve Bartman should be immortalized in box scores just like players are.
It’s the 8th inning. Starting pitcher Mark Prior is dealing a three-hit shutout. The Cubs have a three-run lead. There is one out. Just five outs to go to a World Series berth.
The speedy Juan Pierre stands at second base. Luis Castillo steps into the batter’s box.
Castillo slices a pop fly toward the left field wall, where sits Steve Bartman. As Cub left fielder Moises Alou tracks the ball into the stands, leaping toward the ball, inches from recording the second out, a fan extends his hand.
Steve Bartman stands at the center of several fans reaching for the ball, and it is unceremoniously deflected away from Alou, who becomes irate, screaming at Bartman.
Castillo proceeds to walk. Pierre advances to third base on a wild pitch. Ivan Rodriguez singles to plate Pierre.
Miguel Cabrera reaches on a mishandled ball by shortstop Alex Gonzalez.
Derek Lee doubles. Game tied.
The Marlins go on to make it 8-3.
Now, to be fair to Steve Bartman, Alex Gonzalez’ error was far more damaging.
New York Yankees v. Arizona Diamondbacks
Game 7 of the 2001 World Series
The series is tied 3-3.
After going down two games to none to start the series, the Yankees had clawed back and won three in a row before getting pummeled in Game 6.
Now, after Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens have battled deep into the game, the Yankees own a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the 8th inning.
They bring in Mariano Rivera to shut the door and win the World Series.
Rivera fans the side in the 8th inning.
Mark Grace counters with a leadoff single for the Diamondbacks in the bottom of the 9th inning. When Damian Miller attempts to bunt pinch runner Dave Dellucci over, Rivera fields it cleanly and throws the ball into center field.
There are runners at first and second base with nobody out. It should be a runner at first with one away.
Jay Bell bunts hard to third, and Dellucci is forced out.
There are runners at first and second base with one out. It could be a runner at first with two away if the force had gone to second on the bad bunt.
Tony Womack doubles to right, and the tying run comes in from second. Again, it could have been second and third with two away.
A hit batsman later, the Yankee infielders play in. Now, they wouldn’t be playing in if there were two away, but there is only one out.
Luis Gonzalez bloops a single over the head of the drawn-in second baseman.
Diamondbacks win their first World Series, and the Yankees’ 27th World Championship will wait another eight years.
Boston Red Sox v. New York Mets
Game 6 of the 1986 World Series
The Red Sox lead the series 3-2.
It’s really too famous to discuss, but in case some curious 12-year-old kid reads this, here’s what happened.
The Boston Red Sox hadn’t won the World Series in 68 years, and they wouldn’t for another 18.
It’s the bottom of the 10th inning. There are two outs. The Red Sox are up by two runs and are only one out away from winning the World Series.
Three hits and a wild pitch later, the game is tied.
Mookie Wilson grounds to first base, where Bill Buckner and his bad knees await.
This should be the end of the inning, but the ball rolls right between Buckner’s legs and the winning run comes across the plate for the Mets.
To be fair, Buckner didn’t blow the lead. The Red Sox’ bullpen did that. And to be fair again, the Red Sox lost Game 7 as well.
Still, Buckner has long done the heavy lifting in this pivotal loss.
New York Giants v. Boston Red Sox
Game 8 of the 1912 World Series
The series is tied 3-3 with 1 tie.
It’s the bottom of the 10th inning in the deciding game of the 1912 World Series. The Giants have just taken a 2-1 lead during the top half of the inning.
A half-empty Fenway is silent as the Giants’ Christy Mathewson—one of the great pitchers of all time—toes the rubber for his 10th inning of work. Yep, Mathewson is that good.
Boston starting pitcher Joe Wood should be hitting, but he tore open his finger in the top of the inning, so the not-very-threatening Clyde Engle pinch-hits for him.
After drifting a lazy fly ball to right center field, Engle hustles around first in time to see poor Fred Snodgrass catch it…and drop it.
A walk and a hit later, the game is tied.
Tris Speaker—now that’s a name you know—comes up with the winning run just 90 feet away and only one out. Speaker singles, the Red Sox win the World Series, and tears stream down Fred Snodgrass’ cheeks.