I Forgive You, Don Denkinger

Saturday, October 26, 1985 7:25 pm (CT) at Royals Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, a date and time which, to steal the words of FDR, will live in infamy. At least in the minds and memories of Cardinal fans.

Allow me to set the scene in case there might be one person out there unaware of this tragic event. Game six of the World Series between the perennial winners the St. Louis Cardinals and the upstart Kansas City Royals was, to say the least, a pitcher’s duel. The score was 1-0 in favor of the heavy fan favorite Cardinals going into the bottom of the ninth. Cardinals manager, Dorrel Norman Elvert Herzog, better known as “Whitey,” from New Athens, Illinois, brought in rookie reliever Todd Worrell to close out the game… and he would have if not for a series of unfortunate events. A series of events strange enough to have been made into book fourteen of the set by author Daniel Handler.

You may ask, “Who is Don Denkinger and how does he fit into the series of unfortunate events?”

I will explain. Denkinger (insert extraneous biographical information here*) was the crew chief and working as the first base umpire on the night of this infamous event. The first batter of the inning, pinch-hitter Jorge Orta, chopped a ball to the right of first baseman Jack Clark, whose normal position was in right field. Clark fielded the ball and flipped it to Worrell covering first base. The ball clearly beat the runner to the bag. Everyone in the stadium could see it. My great-grandmother who was legally blind could see it. Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and Helen Keller saw the play and agreed the runner should have been called out. Peter Ueberroth, the commissioner of MLB, was in attendance and (most likely**) gasped at the blown call.

Everyone knows what happened next, so I will not go over the details etched in the mind of even the most casual fan of baseball. People who would not normally watch an inning of baseball, people who would rather have their eyes poked by a dull needle, people who… I apologize. I was getting carried away. My point is if you ask ten million people in Wuhan, China, who won the 1985 World Series, 99.9999% of them will say the Cardinals were robbed. (They can also tell you the price of tea)

Am I bitter toward Don Denkinger? Not after 36 years. If he lived next door would I engage in small talk about baseball with him? Never. Denkinger is human. He made an error in judgment. Unfortunately for him it was seen by billions of Cardinal fans all over the galaxy. I will never forget how a series of unfortunate events robbed the Cardinals of a well-deserved World Series title, but I forgive him.

** I was not sitting next to Ueberroth, but persistent rumors over the years claim he gasped audibly at the blown call and whispered these words, “The Cardinals were robbed!” Just a rumor!

* I omitted the extraneous biographical information because Denkinger is still alive and no doubt the subject of scorn from baseball fans from all over the world. I did not want to enable people to keep piling on the abuse. After all, I forgive him.

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