The Angels were still underdogs in the league championship series against the Red Sox. Besides Buckner, a former batting champion, Boston boasted
future Hall-of-Famers Wade Boggs and Jim Rice, American League most valuable player and Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens, and other all-stars such
as Dwight Evans, Bruce Hurst, Don Baylor, and Rich Gedman. All of Boston was so certain it was at last their year that, on the eve of the playoffs, the
Boston Globe ran a special literary supplement featuring John Updike, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Stephen King, David Halberstam, George Will, and
others mulling over why all good literati were Red Sox fans.
Then the games began, and things began to happen to the Red Sox, as they usually do. Mike Witt outpitched Clemens in the series opener in Fenway, and
the Angels won going away, 8-1. Back in Anaheim, Clemens surrendered a 3-0 lead in the ninth when Jim Rice turned the wrong way on a flyball, and
rookie reliever Calvin Schiraldi hit Angels catcher Brian Downing with a pitch to force in the tying run.
California won the game in 11 innings, and took a three-games-to-one lead in the series. The Sox ace would be unable to pitch again until the seventh
game, while the Angels had their best pitcher, Witt, going in the fifth game of the series, at home in Anaheim. Surely California would wrap up the
first pennant in its 26-year history—and the first for manager Gene Mauch, "the Little General," who through many heartbreaks of his own had set a
record for wins by a major-league manager without ever making it to the World Series.
That afternoon, everything continued to go the Angels' way. Boston centerfielder Dave "Hendu" Henderson almost made a brilliant, leaping catch of a
ball hit by Bobby Grich against the centerfield wall...only to see the ball tip out of his glove when it hit the wall, and fall over for a two-run homer.
Witt looked dominant again in the lazy, Southern California sunlight, carrying a 5-2 lead into the ninth. He surrendered a lead-off single to Buckner,
of all people, but then froze Rice with a wicked curveball for strike three. Two outs to go. The 64,223 fans filling the Big A were now leaning over
the railing, pounding on anything they could find, making an incredible racket. In the Angels' dugout, Reggie Jackson carefully pocketed his sunglasses
and went over to congratulate Gene Mauch.
"It isn't over yet," Mauch reminded him.
Almost on cue, Don Baylor gulfed another, sharp-breaking Witt curveball over the fence in left-center. Now the score was 5-4, the standing, chanting
crowd abruptly hushed, but Witt responded by inducing Dewey Evans to pop out weakly to third.
One more out. The crowd revived, and security guards began filling up the outfield bullpens. Smirking, helmeted, California Highway Patrol officers
crowded the Red Sox into a corner of their own dugout, telling them, "C'mon, boys. There's going to be a party here."