On October 26, 1985, one of the most controversial moments in sports history took place. It was on this day that Game 6 of what was called the "Show Me State" or "I-70" World Series between the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals took place at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. Danny Cox was the starting pitcher for the Cardinals facing left-hander Charlie Liebrandt for the Royals.
Both pitchers pitched well with no one scoring until the 8th inning. In fact, Liebrandt had a no-hitter thru five innings until it was broken up with a single by Cesar Cedeno leading off the top of the 6th inning for St. Louis. Cox had allowed seven hits and no runs in seven innings of work for the Cardinals.
In the bottom of the 4th inning, second baseman Frank White got a one-out single. White then attempted to steal second base, and was called out when replays showed he was clearly safe. Rightfielder Pat Sheridan then singled which possibly costed the Royals a run after Cox pitched his way out of the inning.
In the 8th inning, third baseman Terry Pendleton got a one-out single for St. Louis followed by a walk to Cedeno. After Darrell Porter struckout, Brian Harper came onto pinch-hit for Cox, and delivered a RBI single that brought Pendleton home to score. Closer Dan Quisenberry came on for Liebrandt to close out the 8th inning.
Still trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the 9th inning, the Royals had to face rookie reliever Todd Worrell. Jorge Orta was the first batter he faced, and he hit a ground ball to first baseman Steve Balboni. Balboni flipped the ball to Worrell covering the bag, and first base umpire Don Denkinger ruled Orta was safe. Replays clearly showed that Worrell had covered the first base bag safely. The series of events that followed would send the Cardinals to an ultimate collapse.
With Orta on first, Balboni came to the plate. During the at-bat, Balboni hit a routine foul pop-up near the first base dugout that catcher Darrell Porter had seemingly called for. Porter then claimed he didn't have it, and the ball had fallen harmlessly in foul territory with first baseman Jack Clark not making the play either to keep the at-bat alive for Balboni. Balboni took advantage of the miscue, and singled to leftfield moving Orta to second. Catcher Jim Sundberg was the next batter, and he bunted to try and advance the runners on base. Instead, Worrell fielded the bunt perfectly, and threw out Orta at third base as pinch-runner Onix Concepcion moved to third and Sundberg was on first.
However, Porter allowed a passed ball that went to the backstop which allowed Concepcion to third base and Sundberg to second base. Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog then had no choice but to walk pinch-hitter Hal McRae in order to hopefully intice the Royals to hit into a double-play. Dane Iorg came to the plate to face Worrell next.
Iorg blooped a single into rightfield which scored Concepcion and Sundberg on the hit. Rightfielder Andy Van Slyke made a great throw trying to get out Sundberg, but Porter made an attempt to tag him which allowed Sundberg to score safely. The Royals won the game 2-1, and had tied the series 3-3.
The Cardinals were absolutely livid about the call Denkinger made on Orta at first base to start that inning in which they blamed him solely for the team's loss. Denkinger was the home plate umpire the following night for the series finale. To say the Cardinals self-destructed in the final game is an understatement.
The Royals dominated the Cardinals in Game 7 by winning 11-0 on the heels of World Series MVP Bret Saberhagen's pitching performance. The Cardinals completely collapsed as a team in the 5th inning when the Royals scored six times in that frame. In that inning, pitcher Joaquin Andujar was ejected after challeging Denkinger when he attempted to charge after him because of a not liking some of the calls made. Herzog was also ejected, and he told Denkinger that they wouldn't be here playing Game 7 had he made the right call at first base in Game 6. Andujar ended up serving a 10-game suspension to start the 1986 season because of his conduct in Game 7 which included him destroying property in the clubhouse. The Cardinals lost complete composure in the series, and the Royals erased a 3-1 deficit to capture their first title in franchise history.
There are no disagreements about Denkinger's call being wrong, but he's not entirely to blame for the loss considering the Cardinals could have still won Game 7. First, let's not forget the call that went against the Royals when White was called out trying to steal second base before Sheridan hit a single afterwards which put Kansas City in a hole. Also, there were other key plays by Porter that weren't made in the final inning that could have changed the outcome. Furthermore, the Cardinals only scored 13 runs in the entire series with lead-off man and Rookie of the Year speedster Vince Coleman not playing because of a pre-series injury he suffered. The Cardinals' 13 runs scored is the lowest in any World Series lasting seven games. They would have still been outscored 15-13 had they won this game by a 1-0 score.
Denkinger was the target of hate mail and death threats for the call he made in Game 6. This continued for at least two years until MLB Security was in touch with the FBI over the matter. Two Cardinals fans in particular revealed his home address and phone number. Denkinger was crew chief for the 1991 World Series, and retired in 1998 after 30 seasons as an American League umpire.
The Cardinals would return to the World Series in 1987 when they lost to the Minnesota Twins in seven games in which the home team won every game for the first time ever. They wouldn't return to the World Series again until 2004 while losing to Boston. In 2006, they beat the Detroit Tigers in five games to secure their first pennant since 1982.
The Kansas City Royals have not been back to the playoffs since they won the 1985 World Series. In fact, their troubles as a franchise are also due to being in a small market with attendance that has dwindled for the last several years. They've been one of the most unsuccessful teams the last several years, and the future of the franchise is unclear.
This is part 1 of 2 for today's FSD History Flashback. The other will be coming later today.
Photo shows the bad call at first base made by Denkinger.
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