Year
1986
Month Day
October 26

Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner lets ground ball roll through his legs

In the wee hours of the morning on October 26, 1986, Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner lets an easy ground ball dribble between his legs and roll down the right-field line. It was just a routine fielding error, but it was a disaster for the Boston Red Sox: It was the 10th inning of the sixth game of the World Series; the game was tied; and, thanks to Buckner’s mistake, the runner on third had time to score, winning the game for the Mets and forcing a tiebreaking seventh—which, in the final innings, the Mets also won. Even though Game 6 was tied because Boston’s pitchers couldn’t hold a two-run, two-out lead, and even though the Sox managed to fritter away a three-run lead in Game 7, people still blame Buckner for losing the championship. “I can’t remember the last time I missed a ball like that,” he said, “but I’ll remember this one.”

Ever since team owner and Broadway producer Harry Frazee sold the great Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920, the Sox had been tragically unable to win the World Series. People said that the team was cursed. Before 1920, the Sox had won five championships; after the Babe left, Boston’s well ran dry. Over and over, the hapless Sox almost won—and over and over, they didn’t. In 1946, they were winning Game 7 with two outs in the eighth—until shortstop Johnny Pesky held onto a relay throw just long enough for Enos Slaughter to score the winning run (from first base). They lost in 1967 and 1975. Three years after that, in a one-game playoff for the AL championship, they lost when Yankee shortstop Bucky Dent, not exactly a reliable slugger, cranked one over the Green Monster with two men on base. The Bombers won the game and went on to win their 22nd World Series.

And then, just one out away from the championship in the sixth game of the 1986 series against the Mets, the Sox defense managed to bungle a series of easy plays so badly that they lost the game. At the bottom of the 10th, Boston had a 5-3 lead. Pitcher Calvin Schiraldi retired the first two Mets who came to the plate. But then Gary Carter hit a single; so did Kevin Mitchell; and then Ray Knight did, too. The score was 5-4. Bob Stanley came in from the Red Sox bullpen and immediately fired off a wild pitch. Mitchell scored, and the game was tied. Then outfielder Mookie Wilson stepped to the plate. On the 10th pitch of the at-bat, after he’d knocked six pitches foul, Wilson poked a ground ball right to Buckner at first. Buckner bent to field the ball, but it bounced right over his glove and kept rolling down the right-field line. Knight headed gleefully for home. The Mets had won.

Two nights later, the Sox weren’t any luckier: They were winning 3-0 until the sixth, when the Mets tied the game. In the seventh, New York scored three more runs. With that, the Mets were the champs. The Curse of the Bambino, it seemed, would never die.

Buckner tried to stay in Boston, but fans heaped so much abuse on him and his family that he decided to move to Idaho. The Red Sox would not win the World Series until 2004. Buckner died in May 2019, at the age of 69.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Whitney Houston earns her first #1 hit with “Saving All My Love For You”

Whitney Houston was the daughter of soul singer Cissy Houston and niece of pop star Dionne Warwick, and she parlayed her vocal gifts and the professional nurturing of her well-connected family into superstardom of a kind rarely matched before or since. A near-unknown prior to the ...read more

Erie Canal opens

The Erie Canal opens, connecting the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean via the Hudson River. Governor DeWitt Clinton of New York, the driving force behind the project, led the opening ceremonies and rode the canal boat Seneca Chief from Buffalo to New York City. Work began on ...read more

Infant receives baboon heart

At Loma Linda University Medical Center in Loma Linda, California, Dr. Leonard L. Bailey performs the first baboon-to-human heart transplant, replacing a 14-day-old infant girl’s defective heart with the healthy, walnut-sized heart of a young baboon. The infant, known as “Baby ...read more

Shootout at the O.K. Corral

On October 26, 1881, the Earp brothers face off against the Clanton-McLaury gang in a legendary shootout at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. After silver was discovered nearby in 1877, Tombstone quickly grew into one of the richest mining towns in the Southwest. Wyatt Earp, ...read more

George W. Bush signs the Patriot Act

On October 26, 2001, President George W. Bush signs the Patriot Act, an anti-terrorism law drawn up in response to the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The USA PATRIOT Act, as it is officially known, is an acronym for “Uniting and ...read more

“Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak is born

On October 26, 1946, Patrick Leonard Sajdak, who will one day be known to millions of game-show fans as the Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak, is born in Chicago. Wheel of Fortune, which debuted in 1975, became the longest-running syndicated game show on American television, ...read more

An Ozzy Osbourne fan commits suicide

Nineteen-year-old John McCollum is found shot to death on his bed in Indio, California. Although it was quickly determined that the fatal wound was self-inflicted, McCollum’s parents believed that singer Ozzy Osbourne was actually responsible because their son had been listening ...read more

“Bloody Bill” Anderson killed

On October 26, 1864, the notorious Confederate guerrilla leader William “Bloody Bill” Anderson is killed in Missouri in a Union ambush. Born in the late 1830s, Anderson grew up in Missouri and moved to Kansas in the late 1850s. Arriving to settle on his father’s land claim east ...read more

King George III speaks to Parliament of American rebellion

On October 26, 1775, King George III speaks before both houses of the British Parliament to discuss growing concern about the rebellion in America, which he viewed as a traitorous action against himself and Great Britain. He began his speech by reading a “Proclamation of ...read more

Benjamin Franklin sets sail for France

On October 26, 1776, exactly one month to the day after being named an agent of a diplomatic commission by the Continental Congress, Benjamin Franklin sets sail from Philadelphia for France, with which he was to negotiate and secure a formal alliance and treaty. In France, the ...read more

Japanese planes destroy the U.S.S Hornet

On October 26, 1942, the last U.S. carrier manufactured before America’s entry into World War II, the Hornet, is damaged so extensively by Japanese war planes in the Battle of Santa Cruz that it must be abandoned. The battle for Guadalcanal was the first ...read more

Brazil declares war on Germany

On October 26, 1917, Brazil declares its decision to enter the First World War on the side of the Allied powers. As a major player in the Atlantic trading market, Brazil—an immense country occupying nearly one-half of the entire South American continent—had been increasingly ...read more