But while this generation of Sox fans has a difficult time imagining a more painful moment than last year’s, the old fogies of Red Sox Nation like to point out that Game 6 of the 1986 World Series was about as low as it gets.
That infamous year, the Sox were up three games to two against the Mets. They had a two run lead with no men on and two outs in the bottom of the 10th—and still managed to lose the game. On the banks of the Charles, one student suffered the sports heartbreak of a lifetime.
Providence native and Sox fan Mark M. Robbins ’89 was in a room full of fellow Winthropians that night. The Red Sox were seemingly a lock for the win when Robbins recklessly opened his mouth. According to several of the students present, Robbins said the unthinkable at the most crucial of moments in the game. Following the second Mets’ out in the 10th, Robbins turned to self-described “die-hard Yankees fan,” Dr. John V. Heymach ’89, and screamed, “You’ll never be able to call us chokers again, Heymach!” The room fell silent.
“Everyone turned to him and said, ‘What did you just say?’,” Heymach remembers, which then prompted Robbins—now a Rabbi in the Philadelphia area—to repeat the doomsday prediction. He concluded, “‘What do I care? There are two outs. We’re going to win!’”
Robbins was not alone in speaking too soon for the Sox, who promptly gave up three straight singles to score the first run; a wild pitch to plate the second and tie the game at five a-piece; and a flubbed ground ball by first-baseman Bill Buckner that drove in the winning run for New York. This series of errors ended the Sox chances, even though they could have won the series the following night in Game 7.
“It was such a foregone conclusion that we were going to lose [after Game 6],” says Daniel H. Gerstein ’89, a Hartford native who now works as a political consultant in New York. “I have very vivid memories of where I was for Game 6, but I don’t remember a thing about Game 7.”
According to fellow Sox fan and Newton South grad Matthew L. Ranen ’89, he and Robbins immediately left the room following the Buckner muff without saying a word to anyone else, or pretty much to each other, except for a couple of swear words now and again.
“Then we just started walking,” says Ranen, who lives in San Francisco now. “We walked through Harvard Square…then to some party in North House [now Pfoho], and immediately grabbed some beer.”
Though the temptation to drown one’s sorrows in Beast has probably hit many a man in depression at one time or another, it was Robbins’ next actions that really propel the saying, “taking one for the team,” to new heights.
According to Heymach, Robbins was not to be seen for the next three days. Finally, he called all of Robbins’ friends, eventually reaching his roommate’s parents down in Rhode Island.
“They said, ‘Yes Mark is okay, yes we know where he is and no he doesn’t want to talk to you,” Heymach says.
Despite his seeming disappearing act, Robbins says that like a true Yankees fan, Heymach’s perception of reality is a bit skewed, and that he was in fact around campus the entire time, and even watched Game 7 from his own room.
Still, Ranen and another friend in Winthrop, Thomas T. Perkins ’89, were unable to say with any great certainty that Robbins did not in fact take off without informing his roommate.
“[Heymach] was at the lab a lot, so I suppose I could have just missed him,” Robbins says.
But no matter what New England state Robbins may have been in, the hurt from the game was so bad that it was a topic Robbins had trouble bringing up in the presence of someone from the Evil Empire.
“They had been ragging on me all season, because the Yankees were pretty bad that year,” Heymach said. “But you could tell that after [Game 6], the hurt was just too deep…I couldn’t even talk about it until I saw him at a function at our 10th year reunion.”
Robbins still appears to have had a difficult time recovering from that night. While Ranen proudly proclaims that, “This is the year,” Robbins is more reserved. He somberly declares the Sox “will lose in tragic fashion.”
Well, at least in this year’s playoffs they won’t have to face the Mets again.