Welcome to a special Saturday edition of Flashback Friday, a weekly feature devoted to the 20th anniversary of the 1986 World Champion New York Mets.
Twenty years, 43 Fridays. This, give or take a day, is one of them.
I woke up Friday morning feeling as if Mike Scott had scuffed my insides. The only thing I could cogently flash back to was the decision to eat those onion rings Thursday afternoon and how innocent it seemed at the time. They and the rest of that lunch came flashing back on me like a nasty split-finger fastball all day yesterday. Just as with the Mets facing Mr. Scuff two decades ago, it wasn’t pretty.
Seems to have been a 24-hour thing, but, having just reconquered the act of sitting down without falling over, I don’t have much more than an inning in me. That’s OK, though, because we’re lucky enough to have an excellent guest 1986 Flashback, courtesy of reader Geoff Hayton.
Geoff was moved to write us after last week’s riff on misery indexes. A bad decision with implications far more far reaching than my opting for onion rings haunts him still.
Yesterday I felt my pain. Today we’ll all feel his. Take it away, Geoff…
Here’s why I rate my own baseball misery index quite high compared to other Met fans:
In 1986 I was 10 years old, in a remote cowtown in upstate NY, and I was a Met fan cause everybody else seemed to love the Yankees. It was a foregone conclusion, which was rude and presumptuous. I gotcher Yankees right here, friends — I’m for that other team.
Half my family lived on Long Island and one of them, an uncle, was a cameraman for SportsChannel. He went to Fort Lauderdale to cover every spring training, and correctly thought he’d firmly establish himself as my favorite relative in March 1986 by bringing back his 10-year-old nephew a baseball signed by all of the ’86 Mets, including Davey Johnson. Gary Carter was in the sweet spot. There was very, very little white remaining on the thing.
He was absolutely wasting his breath with, “now you know, this isn’t the kind of baseball you take out in the yard and bat around.” No shit you don’t — this is the greatest object I’ve ever seen, me never actually having attended a ballgame before, never having met any Mets or anyone famous for that matter, but I held in my hands proof that my heroes were real people! I’ve never been as floored by a gift since, and I expect to die being able to claim as much.
And then, 1986 turned out to be a fairly notable year.
So then, fast forward to 1992ish. I’m an angry, misunderstood skatepunk. If it didn’t have an ad in Thrasher or Transworld I didn’t want anything to do with it, and the Mets got lumped into the rest of my hate targets, indivorceable from the jocks that gave me a hard time in high school that I’d in turn go write angry songs about. I probably didn’t even admit to a half-dozen people during that time that I’d ever been a Mets fan. I was a Ministry fan now. I was a Descendents fan, a Santa Cruz fan, a 4XL flannel shirt fan.
Sometime this year, the hobby shop downtown starts carrying skateboard gear. I was always broke since working was absolutely out of the question for someone as punk and righteous as me. Let’s see, I want skateboard gear and the hobby shop takes things in trade…what do I have to trade? Anything? Hmmm…
Aha! What about that ball my uncle got me when I was a kid?
I dug it up and brought it down to Mr. Jarvis at the hobby shop (by the way, Mr. Jarvis — if you ever see me on the street, you’d best start running the other way right quick) who proceeded to give me what I know now to be the biggest bullshit story imaginable, about how this ball was actually worth less than it would be if only one person signed it in the sweet spot, and no, the fact that all of the 1986 Mets were on this ball and it’s probably the only one of it’s kind in the world doesn’t necessarily mean it’s valuable. What were you looking for in trade? You don’t know? Well, tell you what I’ll do. How about those wheels I saw you looking at? You will? It’s a deal? Super!
I left without that ball, and with a set of Santa Cruz dots (skateboard wheels). 92a, 56mm, probably bragging to all my friends what a deal I just got and what a sucker Mr. Jarvis was.
By the time I came back to baseball and the Mets, it was too late. I’d done some halfhearted searching trying to find that ball again, but of course it was gone by now, there’s no finding that thing again. Somebody somewhere was now as lucky as I had been.
Not a day passes now when I don’t freeze dead in my tracks, cringe, and take a minute to contemplate what surely is the dumbest thing I ever did.
Thanks to youthful angst, thanks to an opportunistic jerk at the hobby shop teaching me a hard lesson, and thanks to the 1986 Mets being the greatest team in the history of ever, my misery index is through the roof.
And I don’t care if they win the next 10 Series. That’s where it’s gonna stay.