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25 Years Ago: Angels Can’t Close Out Red Sox in ALCS 7

Posted on October 15, 2011 by Dan Flaherty

The Red Sox & Angels staged a historic battle for the AL pennant 25 years ago this October.

It’s League Championship Series time right now in major league baseball, a time the people of Boston were able to get very used to in recent years, with four appearances in six years from 2003-08. The Sox also made this round in 1999 and prior to that the legendary (or infamous, depending on your point of view) team of 1986 played for the pennant. With this being the 25th anniversary of the ’86 Sox, let’s take a look back on the epic seven-game war they waged with the then-California Angels for the American League flag.

Boston and California had each put away their division titles without drama (from 1969-93 the leagues were split into just two divisions with only the winners advancing straight into the LCS) and the Game 1 showdown of Roger Clemens and California’s Mike Witt was highly anticipated. Clemens had just completed a regular season that would win him the Cy Young and MVP award and Witt was easily the ace of the Angel staff. The series got off to a less than auspicious beginning as the Halos got four runs in the second inning. First baseman Wally Joyner, who’d already greeted Clemens with a double to right in the first, got up again in the second and doubled the other way to pick up two of the runs. Staked to a 4-0 lead, Witt never looked back and the Angels cruised to an 8-1 win. It gave California their goal of just taking one game at Fenway. The Red So were able to bounce back with a 9-2 win in Game 2. This game was closer than the score made it look, as Boston held a 3-2 lead after six and Fenway had to be a very jittery place, particularly when Bill Buckner missed a chance to put the game away early when he grounded into a bases-loaded double play. Ultimately though, three runs apiece in both the seventh and eighth opened the game up and sent the series west knotted at a game apiece.

The three games in Anaheim were all outstanding games, gradually building to the one that would ultimately give this ALCS a storied place in baseball lore. Boston’s Oil Can Boyd pitched very well in Game 3 and the Red So were holding a 1-0 lead, but this was another case where it could have been more. Second baseman Marty Barrett, dominant throughout the series with a record 14 hits (a record that still stands) missed a chance here and popped to first with the bases loaded. Thus when Joyner drew a walk and was moved to second, he was in position to score when Reggie Jackson singled him in to tie up the score for the Angels. Boyd finally lost it in the seventh and in the most maddening way—light-hitting shortstop Dick Schofield went deep, as did leadoff man Gary Pettis, generally a pure contact hitter. A three-run inning keyed California’s ultimate 4-3 win.

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