Welcome to Flashback Friday, a weekly feature devoted to the 20th anniversary of the 1986 World Champion New York Mets.
Twenty years. Forty-three Fridays. This is one of them.
So you’ll be hanging out Monday afternoon, thinking, “Labor Day…holiday…Mets game!” Rethink it. Mets are scheduled for Monday night. You’ll have nothing important to do all day long.
But now you will. Because I’m here to remind you that Monday is the perfect time to haul out your nine-disc Mets World Series box that you bought the moment it was released in March.
What? You haven’t bought it? Well get out before the weather gets too bad and pick one up. There’s no time like the present to lose yourself in this particular past.
Confession: I did buy my box on March 28 but except for the extras, I haven’t watched much of it. A little something called the current season got in the way. I can think of a few years when this boxed set would made nice midseason replacement programming. Who wouldn’t have rather watched Roger McDowell instead of Roger Cedeño in 2003? Unfortunately, it wasn’t available in 2003.
Fortunately, this isn’t 2003.
Still, since the extras are smokin’ — mic’d up Mike Piazza asking Mookie Wilson about Bill Buckner during batting practice in 2000 and going “dude!” this and “dude!” that like he’s Lenny Dykstra’s illegitimate nephew is priceless — and since Flashback Friday comes around every seven days, it seemed a good idea to pop in one of the eight games and tell you what’s great about it.
Ah, but which one? The set includes all seven World Series contests plus the clincher from Houston. Since we’re all familiar with the biggies — the Sixes, the Seventh — and I hadn’t much desire to sit through the three World Series losses (why are they here exactly?), that narrowed down my choices to Game Three and Game Four of the World Series. I went with Game Three, one I hadn’t seen in any meaningful form since 1986.
Just one inning for now. First I’ve got a season to finish. Then a nice, long, rewarding postseason, then all the commemorative 2006 product they can churn out. Winter will be endless enough.
Things that struck me:
• Fenway Park was “the dowager queen without a hair out of place,” according to Vin Scully. “And at least for tonight, she goes to the ball like a young lady once again.” Take that, Joe Buck. Vintage Vin was awesome, very evocative of the Harry Shearer impression in the final episode of last season’s Simpsons: “And if you’re scoring at home, that saddens me.”
• The Green Monster was green. Not a speck of advertising. Fenway wasn’t a metaphor or an experience. It was a park. A slightly shabby one at that, but lifesize. I know it’s small now, but it appeared tiny then.
• Joe Garagiola said Oil Can Boyd has six pitches. Does anybody have six pitches anymore?
• The 23 on Boyd’s back practically enveloped his front. Were the numbers bigger then or was Boyd — “built like the hour hand on your watch,” according to Scully — that thin? No wonder he came apart so easily.
• Tip O’Neill threw out the first pitch from a box seat with little fuss. He was cheered. A politician cheered? Vin explained he was retiring.
• Lenny Dykstra’s leadoff home run rated one replay. ONE! And it was a reaction shot, Lenny pumping his fist when he saw it was gone. Foul pops get three replays these days.
• The homer was the Mets’ first extra base hit of the Series. Two games, no doubles, triples or homers to that point. No wonder we were down two-zip.
• No promos for new NBC shows. Any talk of 227 relates to the Mets composite average, not the hilarious Saturday night sitcom. There are also almost no graphics. Those there are are too big, but they’re not torrential and they’re not intrusive. I like the score boxes of today, but you can keep most everything else.
• When a bat split, Vin said it was like “that old song”. What old song? Why, “Celery Stalks at Midnight”. Vin and Joe, a duo I really didn’t care for back in the day, are rather comforting 20 years after the fact. They don’t overwhelm you. They’re older men explaining baseball to you. If not just like Lindsey, Ralph and Bob, then close enough.
• The early 1986 equivalent of “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” was, noted Scully, “Clemens and Boyd and fill the void.” I’ll bet it wasn’t.
• With Boyd in trouble, McNamara got up Sammy Stewart. Sammy Stewart was a Red Sock? I knew that then, hadn’t thought about him since.
• The Sox bullpen, in right field, was in the area that “will forever be known as Williamsburg,” Vin said. He told a story about Ted Williams and 1940. For all the nationally televised October games I’ve seen in Fenway Park the last few years, I don’t think there’s been a single reference to Williamsburg or 1940. So much for forever.
• Darryl struck out for the 17th time in the postseason. Now it’s commonplace for the LDS, the LCS and the WS to be lumped as a single entity. Then it was unusual. And depressingly visionary.
• Dykstra’s homer notwithstanding, the signature play of that inning and that game came with Keith on third and Gary on second, one out. Knight bounces to Boggs. Boggs throws home to Gedman. Hernandez is in a rundown. Gedman throws to Boggs. Boggs tosses to the shortstop Owen, covering third, where Carter is approaching. Hernandez slips back into third. Owens turns around. Starts to chase Carter back to second. Turns around to make sure Hernandez doesn’t take off for home. Carter retreats successfully to second. Knight? He’s on first with a 5-2-5-6-4 fielder’s choice. Bases loaded, one out. Then Heep singles home Hernandez and Carter. Mets 4 Red Sox 0.
• Owen was the goat. If you’re him, Joe said, “you ask for the salt and pepper and take a bite out of it.” Huh? He means ’cause you have to eat it. Vin tut-tutted how sloppy rundowns have become.
• We got two entire replays of one of the oddest, sloppiest rundown —in the World Series, no less — you’ll ever see, one before Heep came up, one in the bottom of the first.
• Just before the bottom of the inning commenced, you could hear organ music. Baseball fans were otherwise left to talk amongst themselves between frames.
• As Ojeda began throwing, Scully referred to the 33-inning game he pitched in in 1981 as a Pawtucket Red Sock. “Rather than send you to the history books,” he gave us some details. I had the same reaction to “history books,” as I did when I watched Good Night and Good Luck and Murrow’s boys waited for the early editions to come out: “Why not just go online?”
• “Buck” was “hobbling” but “playing and playing well.” Buck was first baseman Bill Buckner. It’s impossible to look at Bill Buckner in a Red Sox uniform four days before Game Six and not think of the gleaming ship at the beginning of Titanic. A watery doom awaits both, they just don’t know it. The Queen of the Ocean sank the same week as the dowager queen of Boston opened, no?
• Most of all, as I watched this DVD (or any Mets Classic), I responded to every Met move like one of Pavlick‘s Dogs. Yes, I know the night ends 7-1 and the Series ends 4-3. So what? A Met bats, I tense up. A Met hit falls in, I raise my arms. A Met makes an out, I groan. What’s the point of reliving 1986 if you’re not going to relive 1986?