Each week during the off-season, I will be selecting a random, former Met to highlight. This will be taking place of our usual Friday segment, Rising Apple Player of the Week, until the regular season starts back up in April. If you have a former Met that you’d like me to highlight, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and title your email: Rising Apple Off-Season Player of the Week suggestion.
I must say, although I’ve been thoroughly enjoying picking random Mets to highlight each week and listening to some of your suggestions this winter, I sure am glad I only have to pick a few more before we can once again watching baseball to determine who the player of the week is. This week’s honors go to long-time Met player and coach, Mookie Wilson. Obviously, he’s most well-known for hitting the ground ball that went through Bill Buckner‘s legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, but the fleet-footed center fielder also enjoyed a prosperous career in Flushing.
A native of Bamber, South Carolina, Wilson stayed local to play college baseball, as he first attended Spartanburg Methodist College before enrolling at the University of South Carolina. His professional career began when the Mets selected him in the second round of the 1977 amateur player draft, and it took him four seasons to rise through New York’s farm system before making his Big League debut in 1977. He showed a lot of promise during his time in the minors, never having an OBP of less than .332 and increasing his stolen base total each year from 23 to 50. After appearing in 27 games during the ’80 season, followed by 92 appearances in ’81, Wilson become a regular in center field, and was loved by the Shea Faithful.
Mookie wasn’t a very flashy player during his tenure with the Mets, but he always seemed to get the job done; he compiled a .276/.318/.394 triple slash in his 10 seasons for the Amazins. Before Jose Reyes came around town, he held the franchise records for most triples in a career (62), as well as most stolen bases (281). His best years as a base stealer came between 1981-1987, as he stole at least 21 bases in each of those seasons.
In the ’86 postseason, he struggled in the NLCS against the Houston Astros (like most of the lineup did), but did play a role in the World Series, as we all know quite well. He hit .269/.321/.308 with three stolen bases and three runs scored in one of the best Fall Classics of all time. I missed being alive for the 1986 World Championship season by a mere six months, but the ball went through Buckner’s legs happened on my brother’s 2nd birthday, so that counts for something, right? In case you forgot, that historic ball was sold in an auction last May for the huge amount of $418,250.
Unfortunately, Mookie didn’t finish his career with the Mets, as he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in 1989 in exchange for Jeff Musselman and Mike Brady. He spent the last three years of his baseball life North of the border, heading to the playoffs twice, but losing in the ALCS both times. As for all-time ranks, his 327 career stolen bases rank 130th best in MLB history, while he’s 77th best for his 1,067 games played in center field and his 2,682 putouts at the position. Here’s another stat that I enjoyed and felt was worth mentioning: he turned 21 double players in center during his career, which ranks 47th best all-time.
Wilson continued to stay involved with the organization that drafted him after his playing career was through, serving as the Mets bench coach from 1996-2002, while spending two seasons as manager of the Kingsport Mets and Brooklyn Cyclones, in ’03 and ’05, respectively. He came back to the Big League team in 2011 to once again serve as the first base coach, but was let go at the end of the season and replaced by Tom Goodwin. Mookie also saw his nephew play in the Majors, as Preston Wilson played 10 years of Big League ball, first coming up with the Mets in 1998.
Another cool tidbit is that my mother actually met Mookie back in the mid-’80s. She somehow was sitting in the dugout at Shea waiting to meet her favorite player (who was Lee Mazzilli, if you read last week’s article), but Mazzilli was hurt and not playing that day, so he never made an appearance on the bench, but Wilson sat down and chatted with my mom for a few minutes, and she’s always spoke very highly of him.
So, here’s to you, Mookie. Thanks for being a critical part of the ’86 championship team, and for giving most of your professional career (playing and coaching) to the Mets organization. And obviously, thanks for chatting with my mom, even though she was waiting for Lee Mazzilli to come walking through.