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The Task At Hand

In honor of what transpired 27 years ago tonight, here is the slightest taste of Game 252 among the 500 Most Amazin’ the Mets ever won, from the forthcoming The Happiest Recap: Second Base (1974-1986). This excerpt focuses on the task that threatened to devour the Mets as they headed to the bottom of the tenth inning.

Shea Stadium was built on the site of an ash heap, and as Saturday, October 25, morphed into Sunday, October 26, the locale’s original purpose seemed apropos. This Mets season…the greatest Mets season ever…was three outs from being what you bring to the dump. The 108-54 record wouldn’t matter. The three resurrection wins against the Astros wouldn’t matter. The National League pennant secured in sixteen grueling innings within the Astrodome din wouldn’t matter. Tying the series at Fenway Park wouldn’t matter. Withstanding Roger Clemens wouldn’t matter. Tying Game Six at 2-2 in the fifth and 3-3 in the eighth wouldn’t matter.

Not winning the World Series was all that was about to matter. Losing the World Series, too, for that’s what the Mets were on the verge of doing. The 1986 Mets were built to do everything but that. It was as if a mechanism had malfunctioned, as if Michael Sergio’s rip cord didn’t activate properly. Sergio’s message was GO Mets.

Going home — emptyhanded — seemed the more plausible response.

The Red Sox, despite stranding 14 runners in 10 innings, were two runs up and three outs away from a state of nirvana. Henderson’s home run loomed as a decisive blow for the ages, but the one-two double-single punch Boggs and Barrett threw at Aguilera was what set up the Mets’ mission as almost prohibitively daunting. Boston had every advantage. Schiraldi could afford to give up a run. McNamara could afford to give up a little defense, even if it meant going against his norm. In the three previous Red Sox wins, he inserted Dave Stapleton at first to tighten the infield perimeter. But here in Game Six, with his wounded solider of a starting first baseman having limped this far, the manager hesitated to make that move.

Thus, the same man who left Calvin Schiraldi in for a third inning of work decided Bill Buckner should take the field in the bottom of the tenth.

The rest of the story…coming soon.

And happy anniversary, greatest night that ever was!