There's no relief to Bambino curse

Ken Rosenthal

September 27, 1991|By Ken Rosenthal

Thought this wouldn't happen? Thought the Curse of the Bambino would simply disappear? Step into Boston manager Joe Morgan's office. "Speak up," shoeless (and sockless) Joe says, leaning back in his chair, one leg resting on his desk. "Don't be bashful."

And so the autopsy begins. "We had 100 chances to win," Morgan says. Now he faces 100 questions. This is how it has been for every Boston manager since the Red Sox last won the World Series in 1918. This is how it will be for eternity, or the next Sox championship, whichever comes first.

Thought this was the year? Thought that 32-12 run would turn the trick? Step closer to Jeff Reardon's locker. He's all dressed now, and he's picking up his black satchel. Picking it up and wincing. A pain in the neck experienced by all New England. Orioles 6, Red Sox 5.

Game 6 of the '86 World Series it wasn't, but Game 2 of yesterday's doubleheader marks the official return of the Red Sox as we know them and love them. No way they lose this one. No way, until Mike Devereaux's elusive popup, until Cal Ripken's RBI single, until the consecutive walks to Randy Milligan and -- oh my heavens -- Dwight Evans.

Welcome to the pennant race. Blow Jays and the Dead Sox. Rowan and Martin. Abbott and Costello. Step closer to Greg Harris' locker. Eight straight balls to Milligan and Evans. Three previous walks in the seventh. And now the familiar and tired refrain:

"The sucker didn't call any strikes," Harris says, the sucker being plate umpire Vic Voltaggio. "He'd been calling them all day, but I was getting squeezed. If they didn't swing, he wasn't calling it. I'll probably get screwed for saying it, but he was squeezing me."

My, my. Harris says his troubles began after Voltaggio ejected the Orioles' Joe Orsulak for arguing a called third strike to end the sixth inning. We are to believe Voltaggio spent the rest of the day evening the score. "He [Harris] didn't get much help with some of those pitches," Morgan adds. "Man, he had to work hard."

Maybe the Sox would have preferred Terry Cooney. It's almost soothing, hearing them complain about umpires again. They're still 2 1/2 games back, and it should have been 1 1/2, but Voltaggio killed them, just killed them. Maybe Morgan should have warmed up another pitcher. Nope, nope, nope. Had to be Harris.

Thought this would make sense? Harris entered the game with one out in the sixth, after starter Joe Hesketh succumbed to tightness in his left elbow. The Sox had won the first game 2-1. They began the sixth leading 5-1. Harris figured no problem, a couple of easy innings, then Reardon in the ninth.

Little did he know, Reardon wasn't available. The Boston closer injured his neck against the Orioles last week, then gave up a game-tying, two-run homer to Roberto Kelly in New York Sunday. He tested himself again yesterday playing catch with fellow reliever Tony Fossas. After 10 tosses, he knew he couldn't pitch.

Yet, Harris knew nothing of this. "He's the best I've got, and I'm staying with him all the way," Morgan explains later. "That's why he was in the sixth inning to start with." But Joe, 73 pitches? After the eighth Harris thought he was finished. After the ninth he said he was "dead."

It's not like the Boston bullpen was exhausted, not after two straight rainouts, not after a complete game by Roger Clemens in Game 1. Morgan could have used Dennis Lamp against the primarily righthanded Orioles' lineup. He could have used Dan Petry. Nope, nope, nope. Had to be Harris.

Walpole Joe almost wiggled out of it too, for the Sox still led 5-4 with two outs and an innocuous Chris Hoiles on first in the ninth. One out to go. Sweep at hand. Blue Jays frantic. And now here's Devereaux's game-ending flyball in the air to shallow center. In the air. In the air. In the air . . .

Thought this would be easy? "Wind killed that ball," Morgan mutters later. "No way he was going to catch it." But centerfielder Steve Lyons is the guy who once dropped his trousers at first base. One way or another, he's always in the middle of something. This time, he should have called fair catch.

"It was just a bleeder, like the first ball I hit," Lyons says, referring to his single in Boston's four-run second. "It's tough sitting here talking about this, but it would have been a lot tougher if the guy had hit the ball off the wall. Everyone would ask why weren't you back there."

Devereaux -- heh, heh -- never imagined the ball would be caught. "Hell no, I hit it too hard," he jokes afterward. Seriously, he adds, "No, I thought it would be caught. Then I saw [second baseman] Jody [Reed] look at Lyons. I said, 'Ooh, I've got a chance for a knock.' "

A chance? Did Mookie's groundball to Buckner have a chance? Hoiles to third. Ripken single to left. Four balls to Milligan. Four balls to Evans. And so the autopsy begins.

Somewhere, the Bambino is smiling.

Somewhere, Simon and Garfunkel are singing.

Hello darkness, my old friend.

2& I've come to speak with you again.

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