Longtime American League umpire Don Denkinger, best known in St. Louis for blowing a call in the sixth game of the 1985 World Series that opened the door for a Royals rally and the Cardinals eventual loss, was on hand for the St. Louis Baseball Writers dinner Monday.
With the 1985 Cardinals on hand to be honored, who would have guessed that Denkinger wouldn't be involved in the most uncomfortable moment of the night?
That honor would go to NBC broadcaster Bob Costas, who recently interviewed Mark McGwire about the former Cardinals sluggers' use of steroids. Costas mocked McGwire's contention that steroids didn't help him hit home runs by claiming he took steroids as a broadcaster -- but only to stay healthy -- it was God given talent that made him a success.
The remark, and several more in the same vein, drew a tepid response from the crowd. But they earned Costas a lengthy glare from Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, especially when Costas said it was impossible not to know McGwire was using performance enhancing drugs especially when you not that Big Mac and the diminutive Costas are "now about the same size."
Denkinger did take his lumps. When a highlight video was shown of the 1985 season, it included the infamous footage of the umpire calling Royals baserunner Jorge Orta safe and of the argument that followed. Denkinger took it all graciously, he signed autographs, posed for pictures and when it was his time to speak he said the blown call in game six was the worst mistake of his career. He stopped short of apologizing saying that, even though the call was wrong, he did his best to call an accurate game.
Former Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog was recognized for his election to the Hall of Fame at the dinner and he had several of his 1985 Redbirds there in support including Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Danny Cox, John Tudor, Todd Worrell, Vince Coleman, Ken Dayley, Tito Landrum and Curt Ford.
Worrell, who made the 1985 play that Dinkinger disallowed, sat next to the umpire at the dinner. He allowed that he didn't care for Dinkenger much since there first meeting. But he said the ump turned out to be "a good dude."
I'll post some more from the writers dinner tomorrow.