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In Your Wildest Dreams
Posted By Greg Prince On October 20, 2006 @ 7:59 am In Main Page | Comments Disabled
Welcome to Flashback Friday , a weekly feature devoted to the 20th anniversary of the 2006 National League Eastern Division Champion New York Mets.
Twenty years. Countless Fridays. This is one of them.
As I recall my beloved 2006 Mets here one more time from the vantage point of two decades on — just as I’ve been doing at the end of every week throughout this 2026 season — I thought it appropriate to draw a parallel and dig up something I did with regularity way back when.
With all my excitement over this being the 20th anniversary of 2006, you might be interested to know that another 20th anniversary provided an undercurrent to ’06. That year we made a big deal about it being 20 years since 1986.
I did, anyway.
Well, it wasn’t just me. The Mets honored the 1986 team in 2006. Brought back the players and coaches (most of ’em…one was in jail and a couple held grudges) and gave them a long overdue reunion, what used to be known as Old Timers Day, except it took place at night and nobody called them old timers. It’s a phrase that’s gone out of circulation which I suppose I’m grateful for, having looked in the mirror recently and discovering I’m 63. But hey, 63 is the new 43.
That would make me 43 back in ’06. Funny, I didn’t even feel that old then. I think it was baseball keeping me young all those years, especially in my late 30s and early 40s. That and blogging.
There was a time when if you wanted to write about something, even baseball, you had to find a job with a newspaper (it was like a printout of a whole bunch of Web sites if you’ve never seen one) or maybe submit an article to a magazine editor. It put me in a funny position. I liked to write about baseball, except I didn’t have an audience. I had other jobs when I was entering my “middle age” years (seriously, we used to think of 40 as some kind of maturity milestone) and I wasn’t a “sportswriter”. But I loved the Mets and I loved typing my thoughts on a computer. For a while, I’d e-mail friends of mine and that was sufficient. Then blogging came along and me and Jason gave it a shot and the rest is history. We were only available in English when we started in 2005 and some of the screens that were used to read us were actually more than a couple of inches wide, but it wasn’t all that different.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, 1986 and 2006 and the Mets. When Faith and Fear in Flushing was in its infancy, we were coming upon the 20th anniversary of ’86 and I thought it would be splendid to commemorate that year, which up to then had been the most recent world championship in Mets history, by writing something about it every Friday all that year. It was dumb luck that the 2006 Mets themselves were on track to replicate the ’86ers’ achievement. Every week I’d have to take a moment from writing about the fortunes of the current team and indulge my nostalgic impulse — the same way I’ve been doing the 20th anniversary of 2006 this year.
Now that I’m wrapping up the ’06 retrospective, I thought I’d give you an idea of how each season ended. They had some things in common yet they sure were different.
Forty years ago, in 1986, the Mets played a seventh game of a World Series. You might not have heard much about it considering all that’s happened to the franchise in the last couple of decades. Shoot, you probably don’t think the Mets winning one World Series is that monumental an achievement. Believe it or not, it was. And the seventh game, while not as famous as the legendary Mookie play in the sixth game, was quite exciting.
Even by 2006, some of the details had faded for me, but the highlights remained fresh and still do to this day. Though it would be said the Red Sox (the Mets’ opponents) didn’t have a chance, so demoralized were they when Wilson poked that grounder through the Boston first baseman’s legs (his name escapes me; senior moment, I guess), I remember they jumped in front three-nothing off Ron Darling. Yes, the same Ron Darling you’ve seen on TV! (He wasn’t a much better big-game pitcher than he is announcer, but that’s just my opinion.) I wasn’t thrilled, but because the 1986 Mets were so good, I didn’t think it was over.
It wasn’t. Sid Fernandez, a starting pitcher, came into relieve (this was before starters were generally limited to three innings like they are today) and shut down the Red Sox. Eventually the Mets got some runners on base and Keith Hernandez — yes, the insane talk show host — was up and I knew somehow he’d get a big hit and he did. He made it 3-2 and about a minute later it was tied and then Ray Knight, the third baseman, hit a home run to give them the lead. It gets a little foggy from there. I remember Darryl Strawberry walloping a homer and the relief pitcher Jesse Orosco singling a run home and before you knew it, he was throwing a third strike past some Red Sock and the Mets were champs.
That was a great seventh game and everything that immediately followed was great. I don’t know why, but it’s the little things that have stayed with me, how a few days after they won I stopped into this store at Rockefeller Center and bought a World Champions pennant, how I turned on a basketball game and saw Strawberry and another player (McDowell, a pitcher) toss up a ceremonial jump ball, how RC Cola issued soda cans with blue and orange stripes on them, same as the Mets uniforms had.
It was great being a Mets fan at the end of 1986 and we thought it would be great for years to come. But 1987 wasn’t so good and 1988 was kind of disappointing and within a few years the Mets were playing like they did a few years before 1986. Funny how that works with them, or at least how it used to.
Well, you don’t want to listen me prattle on about 1986, I’m sure. I think I exhausted the patience of our readers with that in 2006. And that’s the year I’m supposed to be looking back on today.
Like I said, there was a seventh game in 2006. Alas, it wasn’t the same as in 1986, certainly not in terms of who won. It wasn’t the Mets. Seemed so strange to realize it then. Even 20 years later, it’s strange.
You know what I’ve been saying every Friday throughout 2026. I’ve been telling you what a special year that was. I hope you believe me. I mean when you look at all the World Champions banners at Shea…I’m sorry, I keep calling it that because I just can’t keep up on the “new” ballpark’s corporate name…when you look at all the World Champions banners at Whatchamacallit Field, all the ones we won over the past two decades, you must be wondering why I raise such a fuss over 2006.
Well, for the last time, I’ll say it again:
That was a wonderful team. And it was a wonderful time.
Oh I hear you thinking, “there he goes again, rambling on like the latter-middle-aged 63-year-old coot that he is,” but I swear it’s true. By all rights there should be a World Champions banner at Whozits Park for ’06.
Hmm. That makes it sound like somebody stole it from the Mets or something and that’s probably not fair. That year ended when the Mets lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in that seventh game I mentioned, in the National League Championship Series. Cardinals earned it, but it was a tough beat. In many ways it was one of the most scintillating games in the 65-year history of the franchise. Oliver Perez threw a gem. You may be wondering what’s the big deal in that, Oliver Perez threw a slew of gems for the Mets during his career. Yeah, I know, but when he came to the Mets he was actually considered “erratic”. You couldn’t read or hear about him without somebody using that pejorative.
So you might be asking whether I’m making any sense at all. If Ollie wasn’t any good yet and the Mets were so great, why was he pitching? Even nowadays, with the ERA leader routinely just under 5, you don’t use your worst pitchers in your biggest games, and you’re saying this was a seventh game? Have you lost your mind, relatively old man?
Wait. Let me explain. The Mets really were good. And they even had really good pitchers. They had Pedro Martinez. I know he went into the Hall of Fame with a Red Sox cap but he was a Met. Same for Tom Glavine. He’s in Cooperstown as a Brave (they used to be a big team) but he was also a Met. There was another fellow, a Cuban pitcher they called El Duque. Not a Hall of Famer but a real clutch performer.
But get this: Martinez got hurt and Duque got hurt and the Mets were down to Glavine, who was already kind of old for baseball, and just about anybody else they could find. Oliver Perez wasn’t considered the hot stuff he’d turn into and John Maine was almost as unknown. But Maine won the sixth game (I was there in old Shea) and Perez started the seventh and gave up only a run to the Cardinals over six innings. Nobody thought he’d last more than two.
Only problem for Perez was the Cardinal pitcher, Jeff Suppan, lasted longer and pitched a little better. The Mets had a great offense that year but for whatever reason, they stopped hitting in that seventh game. It was 1-1 all night. We waited and waited for them to put up some runs. We thought we had a marvelous chance in the bottom of the sixth because in the top of the sixth the Endy Catch took place.
We knew instantly that people would still be referring to it for years and here we are, 20 years later, and I don’t even have to elaborate. I say “Endy Catch” and you can still see it (I mean in your mind as well as on those ads for the Chavez Defensive Instructional Download). Anyway, we thought we had some momentum. The Mets had a long history of sensational postseason moments and the Endy Catch was surely one of those. We usually won when those happened.
This time we didn’t. The Cards flat outplayed us. Their catcher, whom my wife said was a little too pretty for his own good, hit an unlikely homer in the top of the ninth and they led by two runs going to the bottom of the ninth. We mounted a rally, even loaded the bases, but for one of the only times in his whole Met life, Carlos Beltran didn’t come through. With all the info on his Hall plaque, it’s no wonder his rare failure doesn’t get mentioned much.
I still remember the night that seventh game happened. It was hard to fathom that we weren’t going to the World Series to play the Detroit Tigers. We had only been to one World Series since 1986 and we lost it to the American League team they used to have in New York. It seemed only right and fitting that our Mets get there and win the darn thing in 2006.
Gosh that was a good team. Wright and Reyes were just kids then. Heck, they were no older than I was in 1986, except they were playing ball and getting paid pretty well for it. In ’06, I found myself wearing shirts with their names on the backs even though I was a young man of 43 then. Seemed a little incongruous, but with all the children who’ve grown up in the New York area named David and Jose, it seems perfectly normal now.
You have to understand that those Mets had such fun playing. We didn’t see that much in professional athletes, especially from the Mets before 2006. But oh that team. Reyes was always smiling. Everybody sang a song for him. Adopted it from a soccer chant or something. Wright was on the cover of every magazine, very happy to do it. Neither one of them came up huge in that seventh game but it didn’t detract from the gleam about them and it sure didn’t stop from getting better when 2007 and 2008 and the 2010s came along.
But it wasn’t just them 20 years ago. There was Beltran, so quietly excellent at bat and in the field. He had a friend, Delgado — same first name — who had a bit of a reputation for surliness when he came over but emerged as this great clubhouse leader, a real wise man. And it wasn’t just stars. There was a catcher who redefined gritty. Italian guy…no, not Piazza. I’ll think of it (senior moment again)…Lo Duca! That was it. Boy was he a hothead sometimes! But he gave it everything he had. I still have this image of him leaving the seventh game in the ninth inning after walking to fill the bases for Beltran. Willie Randolph (when he was still managing and before he became commissioner) removed him for a pinch-runner because Lo Duca was the potential tying run and he didn’t have much speed. He looked so disgusted with himself for not doing more, maybe for not being born faster.
You know who else was on that team? The second baseman, Valentin. Nobody expected anything of him and he produced all year. And Green, the rightfielder who they got because of a bunch of injuries and he had a few big hits that year and the next. Cliff Floyd was practically on his last legs, but to see him come up in that ninth inning and think that he might hit the kind of monster home run he had when he was healthy and in the lineup…well, he tried anyway.
Oh and that bullpen! Not so much that night in that seventh game, but they were constantly bailing out the starters. Heilman was just developing. He shook off that homer to the catcher who was too pretty for his own good and became a star. Wagner, too. He made us nervous but boy could he throw. He had a whole routine when he came in. They played a very loud song for him. The Mets had a whole bunch of songs. It was really very exciting.
I know, I know. I’ve told you this before all year. I’ve told you how we figured the Mets were going to be better than they were in 2005 but that they really surprised us with a big start, how they buried Atlanta and Philadelphia, how they won a bunch of those “walkoff” games in May, how they went on the road in June and won like they never won before, how they plugged in players here and there and they all seemed to work.
I know I’ve mentioned how gratifying it was to be at old Shea the night they clinched their division title against the Marlins (before they were contracted, obviously) and how thrilling it was for me to attend both games of the series against the Dodgers that put the Mets in the NLCS and the first three home games against St. Louis. It was so loud, so raucous. On the night of the sixth game, with Maine pitching, I sat in the upper deck with Jason and the place literally shook. Literally! I told him it had been nice knowing him. He reassured me we’d live because we’d no doubt fall on the levels below us. Jason really hated how decrepit Shea Stadium was, but I sure do miss that place now and then.
Anyway, I’ve spent a year of Fridays telling you how successful those 2006 Mets were and I’ve given you an idea of how much we liked those players, each and every one of ’em. So maybe after 20 years I tend to repeat myself. And maybe after 40 years I still idealize 1986 since it sat so alone, it and 1969 (57 years ago; don’t get me started) for so long, right up through 2006.
But here’s a key difference. As great as 1986 was — and I’d put it up against any of the championships the Mets have won since just missing in 2006 — I shared it with a relative few. Ironically, everybody was a Mets fan but I didn’t know that many people. I loved watching those playoffs and that World Series with my folks and talking about it with my friends from high school and college and a couple of people I worked with, but in the end it felt like it was just me.
That wasn’t the case in 2006. It hadn’t been the case for the decade before then, really. The e-mailing I mentioned brought a lot of people, Met people, into my world. In the late 1990s, just as Bobby Valentine (when he was still managing and before he became prime minister of Japan) was bringing the Mets back to temporary prominence, it became my habit and custom to write to people I didn’t even know. A lot of them became my friends. And then, as I recollected earlier, Jason and I started the blog. We found a few readers our first year, 2005, but then kind of exploded in 2006. It had a little something to do with the Mets being as good as they were (oh like maybe 99.99%), but whatever the reason, a stunning number of Mets fans flocked to Faith and Fear in Flushing as the season wore on.
Unlike in 1986, it wasn’t just me talking to myself. In 2006, my favorite thing was turning on my computer and writing about the games and the players and reading what our readers said. We would do that all season (205 days in a row; I kept count). As the Mets showed us they were for real, we just got more and more into it. It reached a point that by October, when the Mets were playing the Dodgers and then the Cardinals, it was second nature for everybody who was part of our blog family. Twenty years on, I may be a little hazy on whether it was Bradford or Feliciano who relieved Perez, but I won’t forget how during those series it was so imperative that I jump on my ancient (even for the early 21st century) iMac and rally the troops or fire up the base. They in turn got me going. It was like I was watching every Mets game with dozens or hundreds or thousands of friends even if I was just on the couch with my wife and our cats.
More than the 97 wins, more than the division title, more than any moment in the postseason, more even than the pride I took in being a Mets fan even as my team came up a bit short, I think that was my favorite thing about 2006. Knowing those Mets fans were out there ready to read us and write to us again and again made me feel warm all over in the face of that disappointing seventh-game defeat…and I knew I’d never forget feeling that way.
I don’t think I ever will.
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