There have been plenty of incredible games in Kansas City Royals postseason history. None is more famous, though, than Game 6 of the 1985 World Series. Here’s why.
(Editor’s note: This is one of several on-this-date posts that KoK will publish throughout the 2017 postseason. They will highlight the postseason success of the Kansas City Royals over the years with particular emphasis given to 2014 and 2015—given the strong ties to the current squad.)
It might not be the “best” game in Kansas City Royals history, but the sixth game of the 1985 World Series is the most well-known contest the franchise has ever played. Ask most baseball fans outside of Missouri about the 1985 Fall Classic, they are most likely going to mention the blown call at first base in the ninth inning of Game 6, which occurred exactly 32 years ago.
The number of details they remember will probably differ depending on how closely they follow baseball. However, they almost certainly will be familiar with the moment. It happened as Jorge Orta led off the bottom of the ninth in a 1-0 game. Todd Worrell and the Cardinals were three outs from winning the World Series.
Then, this happened:
The high-chopper fielded by Jack Clark led to a close play at first base. However, Clark’s throw to Worrell, particularly on replay, clearly beat Orta to the bag. However, Don Denkinger didn’t see it that way. The first-base umpire called Orta safe, much to the chagrin of Worrell, his teammates and St. Louis manager Whitey Herzog.
In hindsight, nobody can say that Denkinger made the correct call — even Denkinger himself. In an August 2015 video interview with the Kansas City Star, Denkinger discussed the play that ultimately defined his career and admitted his mistake.
As Denkinger mentions, there is now instant replay that protects umpires from becoming like him and Jim Joyce — synonymous with blown calls. It’s strange to think about what might have been if MLB had instant replay in 1985. While the video quality is not as advanced as it is now, this would have been one call that easily would have been overturned.
Contrary to the narrative surrounding the play, the call alone didn’t win the Kansas City Royals the World Series. It didn’t even win them Game 6. There was still a lot for the team to do against Worrell.
The Rest of the Inning
After Herzog retreated to the dugout, Steve Balboni followed with a single to place runners at first and second with no outs. Jim Sundberg attempted to bunt the runners over, but he only succeeded in getting Orta thrown out at third. (Most fans outside Missouri probably don’t remember the fact that Orta didn’t even end up scoring.)
Next came pinch-hitter Hal McRae. One of the franchise’s best players ever, McRae ultimately drew an intentional walk after a passed ball moved pinch-runner Onix Conception and Sundberg up a base. With still just one out, Dane Iorg pinch-hit for closer Dan Quisenberry. The 1985 team’s version of Christian Colon, Iorg had just two at-bats in the World Series.
He made his second one count with a hit to right field. Here’s what resulted from it:
Instead of relegating the blown call to a footnote, Iorg’s heroics forced Game 7 and pushed Denkinger into the national spotlight. The next night provided a somewhat anticlimactic winner-take-all, but we can discuss that some other time — like on Friday.
What do you think, fans? Is this 2-1 win the most memorable game in franchise history? If not, what is? Let us know in the comments and on social media.