Karma and the 1985 World Series

1985 World Series, Out at First

Even Royals fans know this is an out.

I do not acknowledge the supposed results of the 1985 World Series.

As far as I’m concerned, the series is still in game 6, bottom of the ninth, pending a review of a play at first base. Given that video replays clearly show the runner is out at first and umpire Don Denkinger made the wrong call, I believe that the game stands at one out with bases empty in the bottom of the 9th inning.

Now unlike many Cardinals fans, I’m not going to say that this call absolutely cost the Cardinals the World Series. They still had two more outs to go, and who knows what would have happened after that. It it certainly possible the Royals would have rallied regardless. However, in the same breath, with the correct call the Royals would have remained down by a run with no base runners and only two outs left. It doesn’t take a baseball expert to surmise that a team in the World Series two outs away from winning with their dominant closer on the mound has the odds clearly on their side. But just to emphasize the point, an article written by a self-professed Royals fan analyzing the percentages show that the Cardinals’ chances of winning the game would have gone from 81% to 89% if the correct call had been made. Instead, the Cardinals’ chances of winning changed to only 67% with the blown call. Many Royals fans will argue that the Cardinals still had the odds on their side and therefore “the call” can’t be blamed for the Cardinals losing, but the effects of such an unprecedentedly bad call on the psyche of a team can’t be ignored.

Denkinger-effectLet’s put a little perspective on the magnitude of the call made by Don Denkinger. Umpires make bad calls all the time to be sure. However, rarely are bad calls so irrefutably wrong. Rarely are bad calls made in a game and situation of such importance. Rarely do bad calls so directly affect the outcome of a championship. As I mentioned, all the TV replays showed the call was wrong. The announcers couldn’t believe the call. After the game, the commissioner of baseball told Denkinger that the call was wrong. The call was so bad that Denkinger himself later admitted he made the wrong call. This wasn’t just an ordinary bad call. It was an epically bad call in the tightest of games. This was a bad call of historic proportions. Given the situation, it is perhaps the worst call ever in the history of baseball. It is fairly obvious that the Cardinals just weren’t the same team after that call and it is hard to blame them given the unbelievable situation. Unfortunately we will never know what would have happened if the play had been correctly called and the game would have continued like business as usual.

I’m a big believer in Karma. I think Karma can even extend in ways that are hard for us to fathom. Therefore, I do not think it is coincidence that the Kansas City Royals, who had not played a postseason game since that fateful 1985 World Series, finally made it into the playoffs this year – the very year that instant replay was finally introduced into Major League Baseball. Had instant replay been available in 1985, Don Denkinger’s colossally bad call would have been easily reversed and the series would have wrapped up without controversy. Maybe baseball Karma was at work and the Royals were destined to not play in the postseason until instant replay could prevent a bad call from influencing a series like it did in 1985. Could be. Just maybe. Baseball is a strange sport like that.

Given we can't go back in time, this is the way it should be.

Given we can’t go back in time, this is the way it should be.

Like I said above, even with the odds squarely in their favor, I’m not going to claim that the Cardinals are the rightful 1985 World Series champions. Even if the call had been correctly made or reversed, they still had two outs to go and without the benefit of a time machine, we can not go back to find out if they would have closed out that game. However, it is a stretch to say that the Royals can rightfully claim the 1985 crown. The bad call and ensuing brouhaha gave them a significant unfair advantage. So how do we resolve the situation? It wouldn’t be right to strip the Royals of the title and give it to the Cardinals, but we can’t ignore the monumental umpiring error that possibly robbed a team of a championship . The best I can come up with is to acknowledge both teams as 1985 World Champions. In this year of instant replay, we should attempt to right what once went wrong. 29 years later we can’t apply instant replay and resume game 6 of the 1985 World Series, but we can retroactively acknowledge the egregiously bad call that completely changed a series.