Friday, February 24, 2006

1986 Topps #345

Baseball has the power to mortalize men as much it can do the opposite. Herb Score, Dickie Thon and Tony Conigliaro had promising careers derailed when they were struck by balls, either pitched or lined. Ray Chapman was famously killed by a pitch thrown by Carl Mays in a 1920 game. In 1940, Willard Hershberger filled in for an injured Ernie Lombardi. Though he played rather well, his teammates whispered that a particular game versus the New York Giants would not have been lost if Lombardi were playing instead. Two days later, after Cincinnati lost again to an inferior Braves team in extra innings, Hershberger slit his throat and wrists in a Boston hotel. Lombardi himself would attempt the same in his old age.

In Game 5 of the 1986 American League playoffs, Donnie Moore came in the ninth inning of a 5-4 game with two outs to shut down a rally against Boston. Literally one strike away from sending the Angels to the World Series, Dave Henderson promptly smacked a home run for the lead and the Red Sox were able to win the game and eventually the pennant. Two years later, the former All Star was out of baseball and in 1989, he shot his wife three times during an argument before turning the gun onto himself.

By many accounts, Donnie Ray Moore was not a happy person. He battled depression, alcoholism and drug abuse and it would be irresponsible of us to single out that one pitch to Hendu as the source for all his misery, however tempting it may be after seeing the devasted look on his face in the locker room afterwards. But since athletes are sometimes branded by their crushing failures more than they are by accomplishing feats the rest of us can only name, there are those who say that Moore was simply never able to put the incident all the way behind him. For some, the boos they hear as the result of one game can completely negate the rush of cheers they heard in the 375 games before.

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