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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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A Plaque for El Sid

At the end of Absence of Malice, the great 1981 newspaper movie, the reporter played by Sally Field finds the tables have turned on her, and sits numbly while a colleague runs through everything that’s happened for the story she’s been told to write. Her account is a proper recitation of the facts, but one that says nothing about intentions or bad luck or missed chances, and you see this play out on Field’s face as she listens.

“That’s true, isn’t it?” the other reporter asks.

“No,” Field says, then pauses, trapped. “But it’s accurate.”

That scene went through my mind when I read about the denouement of the affair of the plaque outside Citi Field commemorating Game 7 of the 1986 World Series. The plaque is part of a series that’s been added to the Fan Walk, our greatest moments set amid the expressions of belief purchased by fans. It’s a nice juxtaposition — official recitations of great events echoed by a surrounding chorus of fan memories. And it’s welcome evidence that Year 2 of Citi Field may see the addition of a lot of what was missing in Year 1, starting with a healthy dollop of Mets’ history in their own home.

So what’s the problem? As originally worded, the Game 7 plaque told us that “first baseman Keith Hernandez and third baseman Ray Knight delivered key hits, and Sid Fernandez earned the win with exceptional relief work.”

Well … not quite.

Sid relieved Ron Darling with two outs in the fourth and the Red Sox up 3-0. Dave Henderson was on second and Wade Boggs was due up. Sid walked Boggs — the only baserunner he would allow — and got Marty Barrett to fly to right. He then shut down the Red Sox in the fifth and again in the sixth, after which Lee Mazzilli pinch-hit for him with one out in the bottom of the inning. Maz singled. So did Mookie Wilson. Tim Teufel walked. Keith Hernandez drove in Maz and Mookie to make it 3-2, and Gary Carter’s RBI groundout tied the game. Roger McDowell worked a scoreless seventh; Ray Knight led off the bottom of the seventh with a home run, and the Mets were on their way.

The win, of course, goes to McDowell. And that’s what the updated plaque will say.

Kudos to Ken Belson of the New York Times for an excellent rundown of the plaque on the Times’ Bats blog — and for giving our blog pal Shannon Shark of the Mets Police center billing for his work calling attention to the issue and driving the awareness that helped get it fixed posthaste. As Shannon told Belson, this is about “making sure we teach our children correctly.” Amen to that.

But if ever there was an understandable mistake, it’s this one. Those of us who watched the Mets claw their way back into Game 7 remember that it was El Sid who calmed the waters and allowed a better story to emerge. Boston had battered Darling around; Sid’s deceptive deliveries and sneaky speed disrupted the Red Sox’s’s’s’s’s timing and got them thinking about lost momentum and missed chances. McDowell followed his spotless seventh with a ghastly eighth, yielding two singles and a double to make the score Mets 6, Red Sox 5 and bring Jesse Orosco in to face a raging conflagration.

Wins can be silly things. Starting pitchers sometimes get them when they give up runs by the bushel but last five innings because their mates are scoring runs by the double bushel. And relievers sometimes get them not because they were particularly competent, but because they were in the right place at the right time.

It’s unassailably accurate that Roger McDowell was the winning pitcher in Game 7. (Heck, you could look it up.) But is it true? That’s a little murkier.

(Speaking of the Times, Greg and I discussed the 2010 Mets this morning on the Bats blog, along with MetsBlog‘s Matt Cerrone and Amazin’ Avenue‘s Sam Page. Check back in tomorrow for Part 2 of the discussion. Thanks to Justin Sablich for including us!)

Update: And here’s Part 2.

13 comments to A Plaque for El Sid

  • When I first read it on Mets Police (being too young to have real memories of it and knowing I would have had to look it up if i was writing the plaque) my guess was that it had to have been written by a Mets fan. It’s one thing to make a mistake, but to incorrectly award the W to the pitcher that may actually have deserved it isn’t a mistake someone who doesn’t remember the game makes. So even though I was annoyed they didn’t fact check properly, it did make me feel good knowing that whoever wrote them probably was a Mets fan.

  • Exactly. You said it better than I did and a lot quicker!

  • Jodie

    Brilliantly written, Greg. The ‘Absence of Malice’ analogy was spot-on.

  • Joel Lugo

    On the bright side, the plaque could have been written by the Texas Board of Education and noted Ronald Reagan’s contribution to the victory and how the free enterprise system and Jesus were as instrumental as Jesse Orosco in securing the victory. But I digress…

  • M.

    Good point. Maybe Sid F. should be the pitching coach for Oliver Perez. Who either doesn’t get the “psychological” aspect of the game, or just can’t capitalize on it.

  • Sid “earned” the win. Roger, as he did 14 times in the regular season, did a nice impression of a vulture. Then again, Roger threw five of the greatest relief innings in postseason history in the sixth game at Houston and the win went to Jesse, who gave up the game-tying homer and had to stand by as Keith and Gary exhibited their plumage while he was trying to think. Yeah, W’s are great for the team, murky for the individuals.

    But what a team.

  • shea73

    Though Sid didn’t get the actual W for game 7, his performance stood out that day and I can easily see why some thought he earned the win. The truth is, he did earn the win just not technically. I remember watching him mowing down the Red Sox at the time and was absolutely convinced that he took the team on his shoulders and there was no way they would lose that game. Which turned out to be accurate.

  • […] we’ve heard about a new museum, a dozen “great moments” commemorative bricks (many of them accurate), player banner after player banner…all the stuff that — as the cliché goes — makes a […]

  • ian

    in the early days as I have heard the scorer was allowed to award the win to the pitcher they thought pitched the best regardless of what the score was when they left the game. I’ve always thought that would be more just though obviously it’s highly problematic.

    • That was the case in one of the most famous games in Mets history, one that got a plaque among the bricks that didn’t need correcting. Technically, the pitcher of record on June 30, 2000 figured to be Eric Cammack, who was the pitcher most recently used when the Mets made their remarkable 10-run comeback against the Braves. But Cammack, who entered when the score was 5-1 Braves, pitched one inning (top of the eighth) and gave up three runs. He left for a pinch-hitter during the 10-run bottom of the eighth. The official scorer disregarded Cammack’s presence and gave the win — not the save — to Armando Benitez, who entered in the top of the ninth with an 11-8 lead and preserved it despite bringing the tying run to bat by giving up a single and a walk.

      The win that night, of course, should have gone to Mike Piazza.

  • […] than getting an easily confirmed fact wrong. This is worse than the Game Seven “win” with which the Mets temporarily credited Sid Fernandez on the Fanwalk. Sid’s middle relief really was the key to victory in 1986, Roger McDowell’s […]