Former California Angels pitcher Donnie Moore took a lot of heat for something many pitchers do – surrender a home run. Moore’s came during the 1986 American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox. One out away from going to the World Series, Moore gave up a home run to Dave Henderson that gave Boston a 6-5 lead in the ninth inning of Game 5. Although the Angels came back to tie the game in the bottom of the inning, the Sox went on to win the game and then the next two. Moore took the blame. and when his career was over in 1989, he shot himself in the head. Did Moore take his own life because of that home run?
Dave Henderson’s home run
The California Angels held a 3-1 series lead against the Boston Red Sox and had a 5-2 cushion in the top of the ninth inning of Game 5. Mike Witt, the Angels ace, went out for the ninth inning and gave up a single to Bill Buckner before retiring Jim Rice for the first out. Don Baylor homered to cut the Angels lead to 5-4 and Witt then got Dwight Evans to pop out for the second out. The Angels were one out away from the World Series.
Left-hander Gary Lucas came in to face Rich Gedman, but hit him with a pitch, bringing Dave Henderson to the plate representing the go-ahead run. Angels manager Gene Mauch called for closer Donnie Moore to face Henderson, who was hitting .189 in the ALCS. Moore got two strikes on Henderson, who then launched a two-run homer to left field to give the Sox a 6-5 lead.
After the Angels came back to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, Moore hung around through the 11th. In that 11th, Henderson struck again with a sacrifice fly that held up for Boston’s win. The Red Sox returned home to win the next two games in convincing fashion and earn a trip to the World Series.
Donnie Moore accepted the blame and took a lot of heat
After that final out in Boston that sent the Boston Red Sox to the World Series, Donnie Moore was still dwelling on the home run he gave up to Dave Henderson in Game 5. “I’ll shoulder the blame. Somebody’s got to take the blame, so I’ll take it…I threw that pitch. I lost that game,” Moore said, according to The Atlantic.
Fans booed Moore and the Angels released him before the 1988 season was over. In 1989, the Kansas City Royals released him and his career was over at the age of 35. One month later, Moore shot himself in the head. Moore’s former teammate, Brian Downing, blamed the fans and the media for coming down so hard on Moore. “You destroyed a man’s life over one pitch,” he said in The Atlantic. “The guy was just not the same after that.”
Moore’s agent, Mike Pinter, said Moore struggled mentally after that home run. He took all of the blame. “I think insanity set in,” Pinter said. “He could not live with himself after Henderson hit the home run. He kept blaming himself. That home run killed him.”
Donnie Moore was also battling demons
Donnie Moore and his wife Tonya were high-school sweethearts. Throughout the years, their relationship ran hot and cold. According to The Atlantic, Moore was very jealous and possessive. He was also aggressive and abusive toward his wife.
Tonya tried to leave Donnie after his playing days were over. On the day Donnie Moore took his own life in July of 1989, he shot Tonya in the neck and chest. She managed to escape and make her way to the hospital as her 17-year-old daughter drove. Back home, in front of his young children, Moore put a gun to his head and killed himself.
“The last thing I remember about my dad was him feeling lonely,″ his daughter Demetria told The Associated Press in 2002. “He was quiet. I wish he would have talked to somebody.″