Welcome to Flashback Friday: Tales From The Log, a final-season tribute to Shea Stadium as viewed primarily through the prism of what I have seen there for myself, namely 399 regular-season and 13 postseason games to date. The Log records the numbers. The Tales tell the stories…including this one, which appeared as part of an earlier Flashback, but felt appropriate to excerpt today. It was the first time I went to the last scheduled game of a Shea Stadium season.
10/6/85 Su Montreal 1-2 Latham 1 14-24 L 2-1
Joel and I, getting better at planning, had bought tickets in advance for the final Sunday. This, we figured, could be even bigger than the Gooden-Tudor matchup we missed out on. This could settle the division.
Of course it didn’t, but it was something else.
It was chilly. It was, after all, October 6. But it was warm, too. We were playing the Expos. Hubie Brooks, the third baseman we traded to get Gary Carter ten months earlier, was Montreal’s shortstop. He had 99 RBI. When he got his hundredth against us, making him the first shortstop since Ernie Banks in the late ’50s to do so, we all gave him a big ovation.
The Expos took a lead, but so what? We were seeing a pretty obvious B-team. Gooden would’ve started on short rest had it mattered, but it didn’t. So we got Bill Latham. It was his last game as a Met. Time would reveal that it was also the last Met appearance for the likes of Bowa, Gardenhire, Tom Paciorek, John Christensen, Ronn Reynolds and an outfielder named Billy Beane. It was the first for Randy Myers. And with two out in the ninth and the Mets down a run, Davey Johnson sent up, as a pinch-hitter, Daniel Joseph Staub, Rusty. Rusty was a hero in the field on my Graduation Day. We knew this was it for him. He said so. It was his 23rd season. His first was 1963, the first season I was alive for. Ten years after that, he played in the last World Series at Shea Stadium.
Rusty hit a sharp grounder to second. The ball was too sharp. The batter was too slow. A long career and an eternal season ended with a one-run loss.
The Mets finished 98-64, three games behind the Cardinals. That should’ve been that, but 1985 was too good to let go of so quickly.
Our attention was directed to DiamondVision where a highlight montage set to Frank Sinatra’s “Here’s to the Winners” unspooled. The whole season literally flashed before our eyes. We couldn’t help but applaud the immensity and the texture of the thing. Blue and orange balloons went up into the Queens sky. The 1985 Mets — Doc, Darryl, Mex, Kid, Wally, Lenny, Mookie, Roger, Jesse, Rusty…the whole bunch of ’em — stepped out of the dugout and on to the field to wave once more. It was a group curtain call demanded for finishing a close second.
Then they threw their caps to the fans in the nearby field box seats.
Now we could go home.
Note: The final Tale From The Log will appear on the Friday following the final-ever game at Shea Stadium, whenever that should happen to be.