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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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1986: Know the Score

Wednesday afternoon in Oakland, the Mets did something for the 26th time in their history: they won a ballgame by the score of 8 to 5. This iteration of that same old song was as pleasing as 24 of its 25 predecessors in the sense that a win is a win is a win. An 8-5 win on August 20, particularly in a season where little is left on the line, fits that description well. Some nice hitting early (five in the third, paced by homers from Eric Campbell and Lucas Duda), some solid relief work (Jeurys Familia, in particular, holding the fort late) and a clutch defensive play (from adequate-fielding shortstop Wilmer Flores) all contributed to a day that ended in a W.

Good stuff. But hardly the best 8-5 win the Mets have ever put in the books, let alone on videotape and, with a little late-inning lightning hopefully coming soon, film.

Twenty-five of the 8-5 Mets wins were of the regular-season variety. A few stand out as noteworthy. Jerry Buchek launched a pair of three-run homers — one in the eighth, one in the tenth — to spark an 8-5 Mets win on September 22, 1967. John Stearns set the National League record for most steals by a catcher in an 8-5 Mets win on September 3, 1978. Roger Clemens was clobbered as a Blue Jay in an 8-5 Mets win on September 2, 1997. Oliver Perez struck out eleven Brewers over six innings in an 8-5 Mets win on August 1, 2007.

The other 8-5 Mets win came in the postseason. The score was Mets 8 Red Sox 5. It was the seventh game of the 1986 World Series. It gave the Mets their most recent world championship.

So that’s probably the biggest 8-5 Mets win that will ever be…just like 1986 was the biggest Mets year that ever was.

Is it a coincidence that the Mets won 8-5 yesterday just as a concerted effort to preserve and further the legacy of the most important 8-5 win in Mets history was rounding third and heading for home? Probably. But still, as Karl Ehrhardt would tell you, you gotta pay attention when you see a sign.

At this writing, the Kickstarter drive to fund ’86 Mets: The Movie is achingly close to achieving its first-round victory. Filmmaker Heather Quinlan is less than 90 financial feet from the plate — that’s not quite a thousand bucks in dollars and cents. In addition to interviewing players from and eyewitnesses to the greatest Mets season of all time, she’s been beating the bushes, like the Mets were beating everybody in sight in 1986, to raise the $50,000 necessary to produce the documentary like it oughta be, replete with MLB clips that doesn’t come cheap.

This was our last championship (not forever, hopefully) and our grandest team. 1986 was a year like no other and it deserves an impassioned retelling. Having met and spoken to Heather, I am confident that she will tell the story in a fashion almost as compelling as the season itself. I’d say “just as compelling,” but that might be asking for a miracle.

I asked for one of those a little after midnight on October 26, 1986, when it was two out, nobody on and the Mets were down by two. I got my miracle that night. I don’t want to get greedy.

Heather Quinlan doesn’t need a miracle. She just needs a touch more support. By 9:58 AM EDT on Friday, August 22, she needs to have collected pledges totaling $50,000 in order to receive her Kickstarter funds and put them to good Met use. She’s a shade over $49,000 right now. If you can find it in your heart and your wallet to help build this final winning run, you’ll be doing Metkind an eternal favor. You’ll be helping to tell the most spectacular Mets story ever told. You’ll be keeping alive a rally that wouldn’t die then and deserves to live forever now.

The past stays static. History’s always evolving. The historical arc of the 1986 Mets after the fact has done its share of bending over 28 years. Once it was over, there was a tendency to see it as over. There were other seasons to play. The shadow cast by 108 wins and a pulsating October was enormous. “Turn the page” was the message by 1987. “You can’t stand pat” was the guiding principle of Met baseball by 1988. The Mets tried to repeat without staying the same. It might have looked good on paper, but it didn’t work.

Later, 1986 was an inconvenient truth. Those Mets won, but they weren’t model citizens in doing so, so the organization turned its back on its achievement and downscaled its image of itself. The Mets decided not to be larger than life. That didn’t work, either. 1986 was sort of shoved into the closet for a few years, invoked only as a touchstone of what might have been, as if winning one championship was a source of shame.

It’s understandable in a sense. Every generation (every season, really) has to make its own way, but in the moving forward, the Mets left behind a story as inspiring as any in their catalogue. Mets from 1986 who were still playing by 1996 were still winning, though not for the Mets. The grandeur that was 1986 was allowed to fade in New York and be absconded with by Boston. The story centered less on what winners we had to what cursed luck they had. 1986, in the popular non-Met imagination, somehow turned into a Red Sox thing. Oh, those poor bastards.

The Mets went about reclaiming 1986 as they closed in on its 20th anniversary. Alumni became entrenched on the Shea and later Citi Field scene. Maybe they weren’t making decisions for the organization but at least their faces were familiar again. Their highlights speckled the nightly airwaves. Their memory regained traction. The Red Sox franchise found success and let go of their side of the story. Disappointment at not achieving other championships may have lingered for the long-tenured denizens of Flushing, but it was no longer the overarching theme. This was, it could be agreed by 2006, a fantastic Mets team that had done unprecedented — and since unmatched — Mets things.

The next step is to enshrine it the way a dedicated documentarian like Heather Quinlan is dedicated to doing. She’s closing in on her magic number. If you can, please consider making like Dave Magadan in the division-clincher and helping her get there. Met posterity will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

To learn more and contribute to ’86 Mets: The Movie, please click here.

6 comments to 1986: Know the Score

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Believe it or not I was actually thinking to myself after yesterday’s finish, “8-5 seems to me a fairly unusual score for a Met Win”. I had somehow forgotten the final score of Game 7. and although I was around in 1967, the fact the Jerry Buchek hit 2 3-Run home runs in 3 innings, let alone in an 8-5 Mets win must have been buried very very deep in my memory.

    Thanks for the 8-5 Rundown, that was great.

  • Barry F.

    And the Yankees lost 5-2, which was the score we lost Game 7 vs. the A’s in 1973. Of course the Yankees lost to the Astros…our 86 NLCS foe.

  • Lenny65

    Everyone remembers Game Six but it seems that few remember that we needed one of those patented ’86 Mets late inning eruptions to win Game Seven. Not that there was ever a moment of doubt, winning Game Seven was all but etched in stone.

  • Barry F.

    Sid the Squid held the fort, Lenny. :)