If you’re a Met fan – and if you’re reading this, I can safely assume that you are — today is one of those dates you remember. Like a space shot, hearing a classic hit song for the first time or a political assassination. From this modern day perch, I can see October 25, 1986 clear as a bell. I can see where I was sitting, who I was with, what I was eating, what I was wearing. I had waited so long for the moment – nine years: it’s funny how short that seems now – it was beyond my apprehension that there was the slightest possibility that things might not go the way they were “supposed” to. That realization wouldn’t come upon me until I grew older and more grizzled. Of course the Mets would win. They’d won all year. They were the most dominant team since the Big Red Machine of ’76, and they had needed a squad full of Hall-of-Famers or nearly so to dominate. It was in the bag – had been since September…
Such was my post-adolescent bravado. I had turned 21 the previous spring. I spent what I liked to call “the last great summer of my misspent youth” jobless and at home with my parents, watching in fascination as the Mets Just. Would. Not. Lose. They won on freak double-plays in San Diego. They won before bar fights in Houston. They won squeakers, they won howlers. A hundred and eight times, they won. And as my Yankee-fan friends stuck pins in their little Davey Johnson voodoo dolls and cheered the news of knee problems for Gary Carter, as they jeered “Coke Is It!” whenever Keith Hernandez batted and called into question Darryl Strawberry’s qualifications for husband-of-the-year, I didn’t care and the Mets kept on winning.
I headed off to Ohio for my last year at Antioch College in early September and into the playoffs, the wins kept coming, if only more dramatic and implausible. Mike Scott filed down the Mets’ confidence pitch-by-pitch, but karmic favor continued to smile on the boys from Queens, right up through the reenactment of War and Peace known as NLCS game six. In the World Series, there was very little to choose between the Mets and the Boston Red Sox – who were trying desperately to shake off demons of their own, of course. Neither team had won a home game until game five. For the Mets to return to Shea at a 2-3 disadvantage was uncomfortable. Not necessarily nerve-wracking – that would come later – but uncomfortable. I sat in a crowded common room, divided approximately 40 per cent for the Mets, 35 percent for the Sox and 25 per cent for the beer.
The game ebbed and flowed as games do. Runs were scored, three in regulation for each team. Managerial moves were loudly debated and loudly derided. When extra-innings loomed, my confidence was at an all-time high.
Until the tenth, when Dave Henderson happened. And another run happened after that. I was inconsolable. I was horrible to be around. Over and over again, all I could say was, “Don’t nobody say nothin’ to me.” When Wally Backman skied to left and Hernandez touched the track in center, I was ready to turn off the TV. Then Carter singled and pinch hitter Kevin Mitchell did the same– the Mets put six runs on the board in this game without one extra-base hit – I put on my own personal rally-cap: an empty Budweiser 12-pack box. Then Ray Knight knocked Carter home and Mitchell crossed to third. Mookie Wilson then leapt out of the way of an errant fastball and 500 miles west, so did I. Mitchell scored the tying run. And when the denoument came, when 1986 World Series Game #6 became “the Buckner game,” I was on my feet howling.
Vin Scully: “Wilson…a little roller up along first, behind the BAG! It gets though Buckner! Here comes Knight and the Mets win it!”