Silver anniversary: the Donnie Moore-Dave Henderson game

25 years ago, one of the most famous (or infamous) games in baseball history occurred. On Oct. 12, 1986, the greatest pair of LCS of all-time were underway. In the ALCS, the Angels appeared to be on the verge of their first pennant in franchise history.

They’d already won three of the first four contests against the Boston Red Sox, and Game Five appeared to be well in hand. Entering the ninth inning, the California Angels (as they were then known) led 5-2, just three outs from the World Series. The team turned to relief ace and 1985 All-Star Donnie Moore to close it out in the top of the ninth.

You know how this one ended, right?

Moore didn’t have it. With one out and a runner on first, he surrendered a home run to Boston’s Don Baylor. Now it was suddenly a one-run game. That’s OK—Moore recovered, coaxing a pop up from Dwight Evans. Boston was down to its last out.

Then Moore hit Rich Gedman to put the tying run on, putting Dave Henderson at the plate. Moore quickly got ahead one ball and two strikes—now just one pitch from the pennant. After a ball, Henderson showed some guts, fouling off two pitches.

Then came the seventh pitch of the at bat. Henderson swung—and this one didn’t go foul. It went over the fence for a 6-5 Boston lead.

This being the greatest postseason ever, it couldn’t end that easily. California rallied with a run in the bottom of the ninth sending it into extra innings. In the top of the 11th with no outs and the bases loaded, Dave Henderson again played the hero, bringing in the winning run on a sacrifice fly. The pitcher? Still Donnie Moore. Times have changed in the last 25 years and so have patterns of relief pitcher usage.

The Red Sox won the next two games to clinch the pennant. The Angels would have to wait another 16 years to feel that joy.

There’s a sad coda. On July 18, 1989 Donnie Moore shot his wife and then turned the gun on himself. She lived, but he was a suicide. The report said Moore never recovered from the Henderson home run.

That said, I read a convincing counter-argument several years ago based in part on interviews with one of Moore’s kids saying that Henderson homer didn’t cause the suicide. It had a more basic argument—the problems of 1989 caused his suicide, not 1986. Moore was freshly out of baseball, broke, and his marriage was falling apart. He argued with his wife, shot her, and then blew his own brains out. His kid said Moore was fine after the Henderson homer. Losing his career was another matter.

Regardless of what caused the suicide, the Henderson game came exactly 25 years ago today.

Aside from that, plenty of other events have their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event occurring X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you just want to skim:


2,000 days since Albert Pujols gets his 1,000th hit in just his 806th game.

2,000 days since Alfonso Soriano, then a National, belts three home runs in one game.

2,000 days since Cub first baseman Derrek Lee breaks two bones above his right wrist in an on-field collision with Rafael Furcal.

A comparative study on an unwritten rule of baseball.

2,000 days since Manny Ramirez joins Jimmie Foxx, Mark McGwire, and Rafael Palmeiro as the only batters to belt 200 home runs with two different franchises.

2,000 days since Morgan Ensberg homers in the sixth straight game, a Houston Astros record.

6,000 days since high school star Sean Gallagher goes hitless, ending his hitting streak at 61 games. In his last at bat of the day, the teen from Wilmington, NC receives an intentional walk.

6,000 days since the big league debut of Ugueth U. Urbina.

6,000 days since Rickey Henderson connects for a walk-off pinch-hit three-run home run off of Ron Villone for a 7-5 Oakland victory over Seattle. It’s the best WPA Henderson ever had from one swing: 0.796 WPA.

6,000 days since the Indians score eight runs before making the first out of the game.

10,000 days since the Cubs trade Bill Buckner to the Red Sox for Dennis Eckersley.

25,000 days since Phillies pitcher Schoolboy Rowe belts a pinch-hit grand slam in the sixth inning of a game Philadelphia will win 6-5 in 12 innings.

30,000 days since the Cubs purchase hurler Lon Warneke from Alexandria in the Cotton States League for $100. Good purchase.


1889 200-game winner Bob Caruthers surrenders a home run to the opposing pitcher for the only time in his career. Mark Baldwin belts it.

1890 Hank Gastright tosses a no-hitter in a shortened game (eight innings only).

1892 Harry Stovey, the all-time home run king at the moment, hits the only over the fence grand slam of his career.

1904 There will be no World Series this year, as John McGraw refuses to let his pennant-winning NL club square off against the AL.

1905 Rick Ferrell, Hall of Famer catcher who doesn’t belong in Cooperstown, is born.

1905 Christy Mathewson tosses his second complete game shutout of the World Series, guiding the Giants to a 9-0 thrashing of the A’s in Game Three. He’ll have a third SHO coming up, too.

1906 Hall of Fame shortstop Joe Cronin is born.

1906 The Cubs win Game Four of the World Series over the White Sox, tying the all-Chicago series up two games apiece. Mordecai Brown tosses a two-hit complete game shutout for a 1-0 win. So far in the World Series, losing teams have hit four, one, two, and two hits in each game. The Sox will win the last two to claim the world title.

1907 The Cubs win their first World Series, as Mordecai Brown tosses a shutout to defeat the Tigers, 2-0 in Game Five to end it.

1911 Hall of Fame caliber shortstop Bill Dahlen plays in his final game.

1912 The Cubs release Mordecai Brown.

1912 In Game Five of the World Series, the Red Sox top the Giants in a game featuring only eight hits. Boston gets five of them, winning 2-1.

1914 The Miracle Braves are just one win away from a world championship after defeating the A’s 5-4 in 12 innings in Game Three of the World Series. It’s 2-2 after nine innings, but when the A’s score two in the top of the 10th, the Braves match them.

1918 Former major league outfielder Alex Burr dies fighting in France, the third big leaguer to die in World War I.

1920 Stan Coveleski tosses a five-hit shutout for a 3-0 Indians win over Brooklyn to win Game Seven and end the best-of-nine World Series with a Cleveland world title.

1922 The Yankees send pitcher Lefty O’Doul to the Red Sox as a player to be named later completing a July 24 trade. He’ll later switch to outfielder and become a star at the end of the decade with the Phillies.

1923 The Giants top the Yankees 1-0 in Game Three of the World Series. A Casey Stengel home run in the seventh inning (one of only four Giants hit) is the only run.

1929 It’s the greatest comeback in World Series history. With the Cubs leading 8-0, the A’s explode for a 10-run inning, guiding them to an unexpected 10-8 win in Game Four of the World Series. Cub outfielder Hack Wilson badly misplayed two balls in the outfield because he forgot his sunglasses. The A’s are now just one win from their first world title in 16 years.

1935 Tony Kubek is born.

1938 The Dodgers name Leo Durocher their manager for the next season.

1940 Glenn Beckert, second baseman, is born.

1948 The Yankees make a surprising hire to manage their club—Casey Stengel, who never finished better than fifth with the Braves and Dodgers. Turns out to be a pretty good move.

1960 The Yankees for a Game Seven, by winning in Game Six 12-0 behind a complete game shutout by Whitey Ford; his second SHO of this World Series.

1962 Houston purchases future managerial great Dick Williams from Baltimore.

1962 Sid Fernandez, Mets pitcher, is born.

1963 The last game at the old Polo Grounds is a Hispanic All-Star Game featuring Minnie Minoso, Juan Marichal, Tony Oliva, Roberto Clemente, Luis Aparicio, and Vic Power. The NL stars beat their AL counterparts, 5-2.

1963 Luis Polonia is born.

1964 The Cardinals beat the Yankees 5-2 in 10 innings in Game Five of the World Series. The Yankees tied it in the bottom of the ninth on a Tom Tresh home run, but it was all for naught.

1965 Curt Davis, the best pitcher to get his first big league appearance after his 30th birthday, dies.

1965 The Phillies sign amateur free agent Larry Bowa.

1966 The Pirates trade knuckleballer Wilbur Wood to the White Sox for Juan Pizarro. The Sox win this trade.

1967 In Game Seven of the World Series, Bob Gibson does what he does best—dominate in October. He fans 10 and belts a home run as the Cardinals top the Red Sox 7-2 for the world title.

1969 Jose Valentin, shortstop, is born.

1969 The Miracle Mets surprise the heavily favored Orioles with a 2-1 win in Game Two of the World Series. The Mets plate the winning run in the top of the ninth inning.

1972 In the winner-take-all Game Five of the ALCS, the A’s top the Tigers 2-1. Reggie Jackson injures himself stealing home on a delayed double steal. He gets the winning run, but won’t play in the upcoming Series. Before this game, the A’s hadn’t won a pennant in 39 years, the longest drought in the majors at the time. By winning it, the longest drought title falls to the Cubs.

1975 The Reds beat the Red Sox 3-2 in Game Two of the World Series win Cincinnati scores a pair in the top of the ninth.

1976 The Big Red Machine stuns the Phillies in Game Three to finish their sweep in the NLCS. The Phillies led 3-0 at the seventh inning stretch, and 6-4 heading into the bottom of the ninth, but the Reds win 7-6. The Reds begin the bottom of the ninth with back-to-back homers by George Foster and Johnny Bench, and then manufacture the winning run on two singles, two walks, and a sacrifice. This gives the Reds their second straight pennant and fourth of the decade.

1977 The Cubs release their veteran catcher, Randy Hundley.

1980 The greatest best-of-five LCS of all-time comes to an end as the Phillies top the Astros 8-7 in 10 innings. The fun really comes in the inning and a half after the seventh inning stretch. Houston scores three in the bottom of the eighth to take a 5-2 lead, only to see the Phillies rally with five runs in the top of the eighth. That doesn’t daunt Houston, to plate a pair in the bottom of the eighth for a 7-7 tie.

1985 In Game Four of the ALCS, Toronto scores thrice in the top of the ninth for a 3-1 win over the Royals. Kansas City get merely two hits all game, and now trail three games to win. They’ll win the next three for the pennant, though.

1986 In Game Four of the NLCS, Mike Scott dominates the Mets to even the NLCS at two games each. He allows three hits in a 3-1 win with no walks.

1986 Stormin’ Norman Cash, former Tigers first baseman, dies.

1986 San Diego signs amateur free agent Jose Valentin.

1988 In Game Seven of the NLCS, the Dodgers complete an unlikely upset, topping the Mets 6-0. Orel Hershiser tosses a complete game shutout on only five hits. The Mets lose the NLCS despite taking 11 of 12 regular season games from LA.

1990 In Game Six of the NLCS, the Pirates get only one hit and commit three errors, losing 2-1 to Cincinnati. Barry Bonds draws three walks and scores when teammate Carmelo Martinez doubles him home. With this win, the Reds clinch their only pennant since 1976.

1997 The Indians top the Orioles 8-7 in a back-and-forth contest in Game Four of the ALCS. The Orioles blow a 5-2 lead and Cleveland fumbles a 7-5 lead, but score a run in the bottom of the ninth for the win.

1997 The Marlins beat the Braves 2-1 in Game Five of the NLCS. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Eric Gregg beats the Braves, as his super-wide strike zone causes Atlanta batters to flail wildly all game long at outside pitches. There are only eight hits between the two teams all game long.

1998 The Mets top the Cardinals 6-5 in Game Two of the NLCS. Its 3-3 after seven innings, and 5-5 after eight frames.

2001 Longtime Twins manager Tom Kelly announces his retirement.

2003 Former Padres owner Joan Kroc dies.

2003 In Game Five of the NLCS, Florida’s Josh Beckett tosses a two-hit shutout for a 4-0 win over the Cubs. This keeps Florida’s hopes alive and sends the LCS back to Chicago and Steve Bartman’s unwanted fame.

2005 The White Sox top the Angels 2-1 in Game Two of the ALCS. Chicago scores the winning run in memorable fashion in the bottom of the ninth. Catcher A. J. Pierzynski appears to strike out swinging at a pitch in the dirt. Then, after a half-step back to the dugout, he decides to run for first as it was a swinging strike three in the dirt – a possible wild pitch. Anaheim catcher Josh Paul has already rolled the ball away, so A.J. makes it safely and then scores the winning run.

2006 Johnny Callison dies.

2006 The Mets beat the Cardinals 2-0 in Game One of the NLCS. Tom Glavine and the bullpen combine to allow just four St. Louis hits.

2007 In Game Two of the NLCS, the Rockies top the Diamondbacks 3-2 in 11 innings. Arizona tied it in the bottom of the ninth, but Colorado gets their winning run on a bases-loaded walk to Willy Taveras by reliever Jose Valverde.

2009 In Game Four of the NLDS, the Phillies lead the Rockies 2-1 in the middle of the eighth, when a flurry of scoring erupts. Colorado gets three in the bottom of the eighth and then Philadelphia matches that in the top of the ninth for a 5-4 win to end the NLDS.

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Chris J.
Chris J.

Tom – thanks for the correction.

Tom Hanrahan
Tom Hanrahan

Witt started the 9th for CAL. And they brought in a lefty to face (and hit) Gedman. Moore came in after that.