Welcome to a special pre-Game Six 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, because sometimes it’s imperative that you go on short rest, is one of them.
Stupid Grape Nut Flakes. I’m never eating them again. What the hell was I thinking? Ten minutes ago, we were tied. We had momentum. It was 3-3, just like the Series was going to be. I followed my father into the kitchen. I couldn’t believe how into it he is. A couple of years ago neither he or my mother cared about baseball at all. Not anymore. He started reading a Wall Street Journal from the other day with the TV in the background when the tenth started. He decided that by not paying attention, he was going to change the Mets’ luck. He’s the sanest person I know and now he’s like the rest of us.
Me? I poured myself a bowl of Grape Nut Flakes. I don’t even like cereal that much. It was just nervous eating. But there I am with my bowl and my spoon and there’s Aguilera giving up a home run to Dave Henderson. Him again? We’re down 4-3 and I blink and we’re down 5-3.
So this is it, huh? This is the way it ends. It has been such a great season. Such an unbelievable season and we’re about to lose the fucking World Series to the fucking Boston Red Sox. Dad’s still in the kitchen. Mom’s in their bedroom. Me, I’ve come upstairs to watch the end of 1986 by myself in my office.
I can’t take Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola anymore. It’s like they’re rooting for the Red Sox. I’m turning down the TV and blasting WHN. If I have to go down, it’s going to be with Bob Murphy.
C’mon Mets! C’mon! You’ve got to have two runs in you. You definitely have the right guy coming up.
Wally Backman. I love Wally Backman. There’s nobody I’d rather have come up in this spot than Wally Backman. Wally Backman never lets me down. He’s the most dependable guy on this team. Who got on base in Game Three against Houston to set up Dykstra? Wally, that’s who. Wally is not going to allow the Mets to go down. He’s going to get on. We can still do this.
WALLY! Lousy fly ball to left field. Jim Rice catches it. One out.
That’s OK. It’s just one out. We’re not dead yet. Keith Hernandez is up. Keith is only the most clutch hitter in all of baseball. We’ve seen it all of this year and last year and the year before. Keith is the reason we’re any good at all. God, I love Keith Hernandez. There is nobody I’d rather have up with everything on the line. Keith can get on. There’s only one out. We can still do this.
Home run swing! Deep! But it’s dying. Of course it is, it’s Shea. That annoying Dave Henderson catches it. I hate that guy. Two out.
Oh that’s it. We are so fucking doomed. Fuck! We won 108 games! We were in first place all year! We won the greatest playoff series ever against the Astros! We came back from being down 2-0 at Fenway on Tuesday and Wednesday. And we came back from being down in this stupid game against Roger Clemens of all people. Maybe we should have won it in the ninth, but I didn’t think we wouldn’t win it eventually. It took 16 innings in Houston. I thought we’d win it here in the tenth. But Aguilera gives up those runs — the homer to Henderson and then Boggs doubles and Barrett singles him in — and now we’re screwed. The two guys I wanted up, Backman and Hernandez, made out. That’s it.
Schiraldi’s unhittable. And the last out is gonna be Gary Carter.
This is not who I want up. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that caller to One On One on ‘FUV, that really whiny Red Sox fan who predicted weeks ago that it was going to come down to Schiraldi versus Carter in the seventh game and Schiraldi was going to strike out Carter to end it. He was off by a game but he had everything else right.
Fucking Carter. He’s the last guy I want up there. Who made the last out last year against the Cardinals? Carter. Who hit .255 this year? Carter. Who is not going to come through in a situation like this? Carter. Can you picture him actually getting a hit here?
Carter got a hit.
Oh why bother? Stop teasing me. I’ve lived through this too much as a Mets fan, all these false rallies, all this false hope in ninth innings and extra innings all my life. Carter gets a hit. Big deal. We’re still losing by two and look who’s coming up.
Kevin Mitchell. Damn it, I don’t want him up there. Mitchell had a nice start this year when he was playing all those positions but has he done a damn thing since they went to Wrigley and he decided he was going to hit it onto Waveland Avenue every time up? I read his father was there and he wanted to impress him. Seems all he did was go into a seasonlong slump. Wasn’t he hitting like .349 and what did he wind up at? .277, I think. Geez, he’s a rookie who swings at everything now. This is no time for Kevin Mitchell.
Mitchell got a hit! Carter’s on second!
Oh goddamn it. Now I have to take this seriously. Why can’t they just get this over with? It’s as good as done anyway, probably. I hope we win, but I can’t believe we will.
Look who’s up. Knight.
Fantastic. Ray Knight. Perfect ending to a perfect year. Ray Knight was the WORST player on the 1985 Mets. If he had been any good at all, or if Davey had benched him and put HoJo in like he should’ve, we would’ve beaten the fucking Cardinals last year. Instead he batted .218. I never booed a Met before but I couldn’t help myself. Ray Knight was just so fucking awful! It was nothing personal. It was more directed at Davey for sticking with this stiff.
So this year Ray Knight makes us think everything is fine. He hits six homers in April and he hits that game-winner against the Astros on Fireworks Night and suddenly Ray Knight is a good player again. But y’know what? I don’t believe it. This is all a setup. Ray Knight is going to revert to form right now. He’s going to pop up or ground out or swing through one of Schiraldi’s fastballs. We are so fucked and now it’s worse because they’re getting our fucking hopes up.
KNIGHT SINGLED! CARTER SCORED! 5-4! MITCHELL’S ON THIRD!
I can barely breathe.
Looks like Schiraldi’s coming out. Who is McNamara bringing in? Bob Stanley…didn’t he used to be their closer? Is he still any good? Don’t Red Sox fans hate him? Didn’t he have lots of saves at some point?
They’ve gone to commercial. What can I do? What can I do?
I know! Let me run into my room and put on “Let’s Go All The Way”. Here we go, first track, side A. That’s my song, that’s my slogan, we’re going all the way now. At least I hope so.
OK, song over, radio back on, I’m running back to the television. Bob Murphy’s nice and loud. Mookie Wilson’s up.
Oh this sucks.
Mookie. Of all fucking people, Mookie. Has Mookie EVER gotten a big hit for us? Mookie has been nothing but unfulfilled promise for us since 1980. Mookie has never been a good leadoff hitter or a good clutch hitter. Mookie doesn’t know how to take a pitch. Mookie strikes out all the time. This is how it’s gonna end, isn’t it?
C’mon Mookie! Don’t swing at everything.
Y’know what would be great right now? A wild pitch. I’m always saying that and it never happens. But man, a wild pitch would score Mitchell and tie the game.
Oh shit! Mookie’s gonna get hit! Wait! He jumped out of the way! IT’S A WILD PITCH! OH MY GOD, THAT’S NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE! I ASKED FOR IT AND IT CAME!
WHERE’S MITCHELL? SCORE! SCORE!!!
He scored! He scored! Game tied! 5-5! We’re not gonna lose! We’re not gonna lose! Mitchell scored! And Knight’s on second!
COME ON MOOKIE! COME ON!
Ground ball. That looks like three out but at least it’s tied. Sisk is coming in, I guess. Better than nothing.
IT WENT THROUGH HIS LEGS!
IT WENT THROUGH HIS LEGS!
I DON’T FUCKING BELIEVE IT!
I DON’T FUCKING BELIEVE IT!
OH MY GOD! THE BALL WENT THROUGH BUCKNER’S LEGS! KNIGHT SCORED! WE WIN! WE WIN! IT’S 6-5! WE WIN! THE SERIES IS TIED! WE DIDN’T LOSE! WE WIN!
IT WENT THROUGH HIS LEGS!!!
I DON’T FUCKING BELIEVE IT!!!
How did I get downstairs? I swear I don’t remember running. It’s like I took all 13 steps in one leap. My father’s standing dumbfounded in the kitchen. My mother’s telling me she videotaped the last half-inning, that she caught it all. I told her not to bother unless it looks like we’re going to win the World Series and the only thing that could have happened was the Series was going to end the wrong way but she taped it. Wow!
The phone’s ringing. It’s Larry. He’s calling me from his car again with his new “portable telephone,” whatever that is. Him and his gadgets. Said he was at a wedding and decided to leave so he could listen to the game. He wants to know what exactly happened. He wants me to explain. He knows we won but he’s trying to grasp it. He’s not even a Mets fan and he’s going crazy. I’m going crazy. My parents are going crazy. Shea Stadium is going crazy. Larry’s coming over. I can show him the tape. Hell, I’ve got to see it again for myself.
Oh my god, I can’t believe it! We were about to lose. I mean it was over. Two outs. Nobody on. I had absolutely no faith that this team was going to come back. But just like that they did. They won. We won. Three hits, a wild pitch and Mookie’s ball going through Buckner’s legs. Just like that, the Mets won. There’s going to be a seventh game tomorrow night. Oh my god.
I swear this has to be the best day of my life.