I feel bad that Bill Buckner was made an outcast after Game 6, but I can’t say I’m sorry it happened to him. I’m a Mets fan. Most people see the Buckner Play and say, “awww.” I’m part of the baseball population that sees the Wilson Play and bounces off the walls. “YES! WE WON THE GAME!”
Game 6 has taken on a mythology of its own in the 27 years since the 1986 World Series. And not just for Mets fans: when Red Sox fans see the ball, and the series, slip between Buckner’s legs, it’s as if reliving the fall from Eden. The Sox fans in my generation will have heard stories from their parents of where they were and what they were doing the night of October 25, 1986. As for Mets fans, well, if you’re reading this blog, you have an idea of that mythology.
I was five years from being born when Mookie Wilson hit that little roller BEHIND THE BAG – my memories of that historic night come from a tape of the game my dad has (more on how he got that tape later) and the timeless VHS classic A Year to Remember, which may need to be replaced soon, as it has been wound many a time. And let’s not forget reading of Gary Carter screaming about “no way I’m making the last f—ing out of this World Series” in The Bad Guys Won. The story I tell tonight is that of my father, except he tells it like the Resurrection. An appropriate comparison for such a baseball comeback, no?
Our story picks up in 10th inning (for a recap of the first nine innings, turn to this great piece by Rich Sparago). Dave Henderson had just smashed his two-run homer. Dad is sitting at home in Lafayette, Indiana, trying to console himself. When the Mets had two outs and no one on, he attempted to take consolation in other great teams to never win the World Series. Sure, we wouldn’t be the ’27 Yankees or the ’75 Reds, but we’d be the ’06 Cubs, the ’53 Dodgers, the ’54 Indians – great teams who came up just short (is it any wonder where I get my patience?). But then Gary Carter singled. Then Kevin Mitchell. Then Ray Knight plated Carter and sent Mitchell to third. Dad got his hopes up – hope can be powerful, especially knowing it could end at any second. I don’t know how he stood all the foul balls. Then Bob Stanley’s wild pitch, and Mitchell scores. Huge relief – we would live to play another inning. Then Mookie’s grounder to first…can he beat it out…BEHIND THE BAG! Oh my God, we won! We won! He jumped up and down celebrating with my mom (they had been married only two years at the time, but Dad knew she was the one for him when she recognized Jesse Orosco by his cheekbones from the upper deck of Busch Stadium).
He didn’t record the game on his VCR, but some time later his friends Dan and Maryanne sent him a videotape. It was the last half inning. Turns out, Dan and Maryanne were Red Sox fans. They stuck the tape in to relive the Sox’ first championship in 68 years. They ended up burning their caps in the fireplace.
Like me, Dad watches replays of the moment over and over again, and he can’t get enough. Except his memories are authentic ones. What I wouldn’t give to live such a Mets moment in my lifetime.
Some final thoughts. One of our writers, Sam Maxwell, compared Game 6 to the excitement of watching Back to the Future: “No matter how many times you see it, you’re always on the edge of your seat wondering whether Marty McFly will make it to the lightning in time.” The Wilson Play is still lightning in a bottle (or clock tower). But I wonder what it says about the New York Mets that the finest moment in franchise history came on a wild pitch and an E3. But that’s a myth for another day.