Boston Red Sox Memories: Remembering the 1986 ALCS
After watching all seven games of this series, the biggest and most noticeable thing was the pace of play. The games had a pleasing, quicker pace of play that was in stark contrast to how the game is played today. I didn’t really pay attention growing up because that’s just the way it was, but going back and watching older games and comparing to these days, it’s like night and day.
Hitters stayed in the box, pitchers stayed on the mound, and both teams just got on with the game. Because of that, the five nine-inning games in this series took an average of around two and a half hours. Even the two extra inning games in this series barely surpassed the three hour mark. It was also nice to see several nearly extinct baseball things like contact hitters, bunting to move runners over, hit and runs, and other elements of the game that are sorely missing in 2020.
The other major difference was in the pitching. Starters routinely went seven or more innings, even when they were losing (as long as the game was still close), and managers didn’t worry about pitch counts but rather kept an eye on how effective the pitchers were as the game went on. Most games either had a pitcher going the distance or pitching seven or eight innings before a reliever was brought in.
It was even pointed out multiple times by Jim Palmer (one of the broadcasters) that Clemens “only” threw ten complete games that season in his 33 starts. Contrast that with, for example, Chris Sale who has only thrown 16 complete games in his entire career. (For reference, Clemens led the league with 18 complete games in the 1987 season). It was a different world back then.
That was also brought out to me with all of the takeout slides at second base and the several collisions on plays at the plate. That’s how I grew up watching and playing baseball and those two things are sorely missing in today’s game.
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As for the announcers, the legendary Al MIchaels called the games alongside the then-recently retired future Hall of Famer Jim Palmer. Michaels was as great as he’s always been and it was comforting to hear him sound pretty much exactly the same in 1986 as he does now calling Sunday Night Football games. Palmer was more of a mixed bag; he clearly knows the game but he tended to ramble and say many nonsensical things (granted, it was early in his broadcasting career).
The Red Sox kept the same lineup and batting order for the entire series (other than Henderson replacing the injured Armas in the last two games) whereas the Angels used a different lineup and order in every game. The Angels loved to try and steal bases, but I had forgotten how great a defensive catcher Rich Gedman was (the tenth inning of Game Six of the 1986 World Series notwithstanding). He threw out four of the five steals the Angels attempted in the series and had thrown out 50% of base stealers during the 1986 regular season.
This was the closest Angels manager Gene Mauch ever got to a pennant. It was his twenty-sixth season as a manager and he came one agonizing strike away from the World Series. He would manage one more season before retiring, never winning a pennant.
Finally, going into re-watching the series knowing the extent of Donnie Moore’s injury and what happened to him after this series, it was more than a little poignant watching him give up that home run to Dave Henderson yet again and getting booed by the home fans.