It has been nine years since Chris Chambliss launched a home run in the ninth inning of the fifth game of the Royals' first American League Championship Series to give the New York Yankees the 1976 pennant. Since that moment, the Kansas City bunch has been as futile and frustrated in postseason play as a baseball team can be.
Today, they added another bizarre chapter to that record. On an eerie afternoon in Exhibition Stadium, with the temperature dropping by the inning and rain threatening throughout, the Royals made almost every mistake imaginable and gave the Toronto Blue Jays Game 2 of this year's ALCS, 6-5, in 10 innings.
The victory gives Toronto a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, with the next three games to be played in Kansas City beginning Friday night.
"We can't just roll over and die," said Willie Wilson, who hit a two-run home run early and scored the go-ahead run late. "We just gave them too much today. We should have won the game."
The game had just about everything a baseball game can have -- except good baseball. The Royals led, 3-0; trailed, 4-3, in the ninth, tied at 4; led, 5-4, in the 10th and finally lost when Al Oliver grounded a single into left field to score Lloyd Moseby.
Moseby had driven in Tony Fernandez with the tying run a moment earlier and then taken second when Steve Balboni couldn't handle losing pitcher Dan Quisenberry's pickoff throw -- a lob toss that glanced off Balboni's glove and rolled away.
It was also Moseby who was involved in the game's strangest play in the top of the 10th. With two out and Wilson on second, Frank White hit a sinking line drive to center. Moseby charged the ball and appeared to pick it right off his shoetops.
The ball almost came out of Moseby's glove but he came up holding it to show he had made the catch. Second base umpire Ted Hendry, right near the play, spread his hands to indicate he couldn't make a call and pointed toward crew chief Dave Phillips, who was working the right field foul line. Phillips ran over and gave the safe sign, indicating the ball had been trapped.
All the while, Moseby was holding the ball and Wilson was scoring for the 5-4 lead.
"I know I caught the baseball," Moseby said. "With the wet field, if I had trapped it, you would have seen it hit the turf. The ump on the play said he missed it, that he couldn't see the ball. Then the other guy comes running and says I missed it by a mile."
Moseby smiled. "We won. I think the umpires are all great guys."
The Blue Jays won because the Royals kept giving the game away. Coming in, Kansas City had lost its last 10 postseason games since the 1980 World Series. Under Dick Howser, it was 0-7, had never had a lead and had never hit a home run. Now the Royals' streak is 0-11 and Howser is 0-11, counting three losses when he was the Yankees' manager.
Wilson erased the other two nevers in the third, driving an 0-2 pitch from Toronto starter Jimmy Key deep into the left field seats for a 2-0 lead, Buddy Biancalana having led off the inning with a single.
It grew to 3-0 in the fourth. Key walked Darryl Motley and Jim Sundberg hit a screamer to right-center for a double, scoring Motley. After Biancalana sacrificed, Lonnie Smith smashed a pitch into the left field seats -- about three feet foul.
That was enough for Manager Bobby Cox. He yanked Key and brought in Dennis Lamp. It was his best move of the day. Lamp got Smith on a grounder, holding Sundberg at third, and Wilson on a pop to right. He then pitched three more perfect innings while the Blue Jays chipped back.
"Dennis gave us a chance to get back in the game," Cox said. "It was typical of the way he's pitched all season. He isn't 11-0 for nothing."
For a while, it didn't seem Lamp's performance would matter. Royals starter Bud Black didn't give up a hit during the first three innings. In the fourth, he gave up his first hit and first run with help from his third baseman, George Brett.
Brett, who was zero for four today after a three-for-four opener, was handcuffed by George Bell's one-out hopper to him at third. He backed up on the ball, booted it and Bell was on. A moment later, Cliff Johnson hit a ground ball past third into the left field corner. Bell ran through third base coach Jimmy Williams' stop sign and scored to make it 3-1.
"He gave me a stop?" Bell said. "I never saw it. I was flying. We needed runs."
They got two more in the fifth and Bell was in the middle of it again. Black had two men out and an 0-1 count on Bell when he plunked him with a curve ball that got away. Bell started toward Black, pointing and gesturing as if he wanted to start something.
"He hit me once before and I wasn't going to take it," Bell said. "I got two kids, I don't let anybody mess with me. I don't like the guy. He's really stupid."
Intentionally hit a man to bring up the tying run. "Why would I do that?" Black asked. "Why would I hit him with a curve? I didn't even listen to what he said. I just wanted to get the next guy."
The next guy was Johnson. He singled. That brought up Jesse Barfield. Black then did something really foolish. He threw a wild pitch, moving both runners up. With Johnson in scoring position, Cox sent out Lou Thornton to run for him.
Good move. Barfield sent a seeing-eye single up the middle and both runners scored to make it 3-3. "If he didn't hit me, they win the game," Bell said.
Probably correct. Except the Royals find ways to lose these games. By the eighth, each manager had his ace reliever in the game, Quisenberry for Kansas City, Tom Henke for Toronto.
And the game began to get strange.
Moseby, linchpin for all the weird late-inning goings-on, began it all with a single to left. With Bell hitting, Moseby stole second and kept right on going to third when catcher Sundberg's low throw skipped past both second baseman White and shortstop Biancalana into center field.
Bell brought Moseby home with a fly to the warning track in right: 4-3, Blue Jays.
Howser sent Pat Sheridan up to hit for Darryl Motley leading off the ninth. He slammed a hanging breaking pitch from Henke over the right field fence: 4-4.
They went to the 10th.
Add to all that Moseby's catch/noncatch and Hendry freezing on the play.
"Ted was closer but couldn't make a call," Phillips said. "I'm sure Lloyd believes he caught the ball but I'm certain he didn't. I had a good angle on it, I saw it well and he trapped it." Replays seemed to indicate that Phillips was wrong, but they were not definitive.
Perhaps no one was happier than Hendry and Phillips when the Blue Jays rallied. The normally docile Toronto fans were throwing things at Phillips, booing and yelling America's favorite obscenity as the bottom of the extra inning started.
But that changed quickly. Fernandez led off with a grounder to shortstop. Onix Concepcion, playing there because Biancalana had been hit for in the ninth, botched the play. He double-clutched on the throw and Fernandez beat it. Scratch hit.
Damaso Garcia grounded out, Fernandez taking second. Up came Moseby.
Solid single to right. Fernandez scored easily and it was 5-5. A moment later, Quisenberry made his routine toss to first and Balboni turned it into an adventure. Moseby landed at second. Now, the question was whether to pitch to Oliver and/or play the percentages and pitch to the right-handed Barfield.
"It really didn't matter to me," Quisenberry said. "I got ahead 0-2, I threw a good pitch. He hit a ground ball. That's what I do, ground balls. It went through."
Oliver, now 38, hit a three-run home run for Pittsburgh 14 years ago in a National League playoff. He compared this emotional hit to that one.
"It ranks right up there," he said.