This Date In Royals History – October 26, 1985

85 WS Game Six - Sundberg Slide 1 of 5.jpgSaturday, October 26, 1985 – Game Six of the 1985 World Series at Royals Stadium in Kansas City. The ‘Miracle on I-70′ included great pitching, some interesting strategy, several key clutch hits (which were hard to come by in the series) and yes a missed call (or two).

We in Kansas City are just going to have to get over it and remember only the course of the game was influenced and not the outcome of the entire series. Umpires sometimes miss calls it’s as simply as that; they’re human and just because the World Series Championship is coming down to the wire doesn’t make them any more omnipotent.

Yes, with the naked eye I thought Frank White was out trying to steal second base in the fourth inning just like umpire Bill Williams. But when you look at the video Ozzie Smith missed tagging Frank’s leg and by the time he collided with his hip Frank’s foot had touch the bag. Of course had Frank been called safe then Pat Sheridan’s single would have probably scored him and the circumstances of the game may have been different. But the Royals needed to keep their composure and stay in the game because the game didn’t end with that play – let alone the series. No doubt few remember this play because there were several innings to go instead of being down to what might have been the last three outs of the series.

Nor did the game or series end with no outs in the bottom of the ninth on another missed call, despite a quarter century of revisionist history. But before we get to that let’s remember this was a great pitchers duel with Danny Cox and Charlie Leibrandt (him again) matching shutout inning for shutout inning until the top of the eighth.

It was the Cardinals Brian Harper who looped a clutch two-out pinch hit RBI single into center to drive it the game’s first run in the eighth. A frustrated and dejected Charlie Leibrandt then walked Ozzie Smith to load the bases for National League Batting Champion Willie McGee. Dick Howser countered with Dan Quisenberry who got McGee to ground into a force out to end the threat. The Cardinals had a chance to punch a hole in the game and the Royals bullpen ace turned them away as he did again in the ninth.

In the bottom of the ninth Whitey Herzog summoned his closer Todd Worrell to protect a 1-0 lead. Dick Howser then went to his bench (professional hitters is what he loved to call them) for some all-out clutch at-bats in the tightest of circumstances. The first up was Jorge Orta who bounced a ball to first base and reached on a missed call. The call was clearly missed, but the game did not end on that play. In fact here is exact sequence that followed:

  • Jack Clark misplays foul pop which should have retired Steve Balboni
  • Steve Balboni singles to left
  • Jim Sundberg lays down sac bunt attempt with two strikes; Orta is forced at third base

This would be the only out recorded in the inning. That is correct, Jorge Orta – called safe on a missed call at first – ended up being the only out the Cardinals put on the scoreboard in the tense ninth inning. Then came one of the most important plays of the entire sequence. With Hal McRae pinch-hitting Darrell Porter is charged with a passed ball allowing both the tying and winning runs to move into scoring position with only one out.

  • Hal McRae is walked intentionally
  • Dane Iorg lofts the clutchest of clutch hits into right
  • Pinch Runner Onix Concepcion scores the tying run
  • Jim Sundberg makes the perfect slide to score the winning run

With a combination of strong relief pitching, luck, opportunity, strategic managerial chess moves and some veteran at-bats the Royals had the series tied at three games apiece.

Luckily for both teams no single missed call ever ended a game in the series – there was always a chance to persevere and win. All of which led to baseball’s ultimate big game opportunity for the Cardinals and Royals, Game Seven of the World Series.

Just A Bit More: Over the last three games of the 1985 World Series the Cardinals scored two runs on 15 hits – total. And the Royals only used four pitchers over those 27 innings of play: Danny Jackson, Charlie Leibrandt, Dan Quisenberry and Bret Saberhagen.

The pitching was the ultimate difference in the series and perhaps the most important and overlooked performance was Quisenberry. His ability to stall the St. Louis offense at one eighth inning run in Game Six was crucial. The veteran came through for the Royals where the Cardinals rookie struggled ever so slightly with the game on the line.

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

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