Must-click link: Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS isn’t what killed Donnie Moore


For those old enough to remember Donnie Moore, the usual story is “oh yeah, he gave up that homer to Dave Henderson in Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS.” Followed briefly after with “and then in 1989 he killed himself.” That has morphed, over the past 25 years, into a story in which giving up the homer in the 1986 ALCS is what eventually caused him to commit suicide. And after that part of the story is re-told, everyone moves on, forgetting that there was any more to Donnie Moor’s story worth telling.

But there was more, much more, going on with Moore. And that story is told by Michael McKnight at Sports Illustrated in harrowing fashion. The story of Moore’s abusive and depressive personality. About his loneliness and secretiveness and about his violence. About a man who was in no way prepared to deal with life after baseball and, frankly, was not at all prepared to deal with life outside of baseball while he was still playing.

Through interviews with Moore’s teammates and few friends and, more significantly, with his wife and daughter, McKnight makes it clear that Moore’s life was defined by and ended by much, much more than a home run on a sub-par split-finger fastball in October 1986:

In the end, Henderson’s home run had about as much to do with the gunshot Moore fired into his own head as it did with that loss in Game 5, that is, not as much as most people think. Moore’s suicide was more comparable to the way the shoulder pain he felt after learning the split spread cancer-like to his back and then his ribs and later to his elbow until it had no more parts of his upper body to infect. All the while Donnie kept compensating, masking, numbing …

No one can be reduced to their worst moment. And hell, most of the time the moment people reduce them to is nowhere near their worst.