On October 12, it will be the 25th anniversary of the Boston Red Sox miraculous comeback in Game 5 of the 1986 American League Championship Series. It will also be the disintegration of one man's career and life.
Donnie Moore had just been coming off a great year in 1985 with a career high 31 saves, 1.92 ERA, and his first All Star appearance. In 1986, Moore had 21 saves and had arrived as the Angels closer. He was on top of the world, the Angels were playing the best baseball in franchise history. The Angels reached the American League Championship Series in 1986 and had built a 3 games to 1 lead over the Boston Red Sox. It seemed certain that the Angels would make the World Series.
During Game 5, the Angels had led the Red Sox 5-2 in the 9th inning before two quick runs made it 5-4. Donnie Moore came into the game to stop the Red Sox rally and clinch the Angels first pennant. Moore was one strike away from the save when Dave Henderson took a Moore forkball into the left field bleachers giving the Red Sox an improbable 6-5 lead. The Angels came back and forced extra innings, but Moore lost the game in the 11th after a Dave Henderson sacrifice fly clinched a 7-6 Sox win. The Angels were then blown out of Games 6 and 7 as Boston took the pennant. During the next two years of Moore's tenure with the Angels, the fans booed him every time he stepped on the mound as he became the pariah of Anaheim. What people didn't realize was Donnie Moore had been pitching Game 5 with pain. General Manager Mike Port was quoted as saying, "Instead of worrying about hurting his rib cage because of pitching three innings on the wrong night, he should have been out there earning his money, what do we pay him $1 million for? He's supposed to be in shape. We should be getting our money's worth." The fans were already relentless towards Moore, but Port's comments made things worse. Moore was overworked and playing through pain, but Port didn't know the situation.
In 1987, Moore only played in 14 games due to nagging injuries, and lost his closer role as the Angels finished last in the American League West. This was the beginning of the end for Moore, as he would only play one more season for the Angels. Donnie Moore signed a deal with the Kansas City Royals in 1989, but was sent down to Triple A affiliate Omaha. In June, the Royals released Moore and the hopes of a comeback faded. Nobody wanted a 35 year old pitcher with injury problems and loss of velocity, his career was all but done. Moore was having marital and financial problems, a drinking problem, and was battling depression.
Then on July 18, 1989, Donnie Moore went back to his home in Anaheim and had an argument with his wife after she had threatened to move out for her safety and her children's safety. That's when Moore turned the gun on his wife shooting her three times in front of his children, then shooting himself in the head as his daughter raced her mother to the hospital. Donnie Moore died that day. He was 35. Moore's wife, Tonya, thankfully made a full recovery from her wounds.
Would things have been different had the Angels monitored his health or if Mike Port hadn't made those comments without realizing what was wrong? Would things have been different had Donnie Moore gotten help for his depression and alcoholism? He might still be here today. He might have still had a career with the Angels if he wasn't overworked.
Life's funny, one day you have the world in the palm of your hand then next minute the world crashes down around you. Dave Henderson became a cult hero in Boston for his Game 5 heroics, while Donnie Moore became Anaheim's public enemy number one. It just goes to show you one man's glory is another man's pitfall.