The Mets won the second world championship in franchise history on October 27th, 1986
I was fortunate during the 1986 postseason. I was working with someone who was friends with a Mets scout. As such, my colleague and I had tickets for all postseason home games that year (sweet seats in the Loge behind third base).
It was a great year to be a Mets fan. The team was so good that the regular season took on a pro forma feel — a mere formality until October baseball began.
After all, the Mets were the best team, right? They mercilessly beat up on the rest of the National League all year, both figuratively and literally (as seen below).
But when October came, it wasn’t so easy. The Astros put up a great fight in the NLCS. The Red Sox won the first two World Series games at Shea, and we all know about the 10th inning heroics it took to stave off elimination in Game 6.
Now, it was the game for all the marbles. The rainout the day before gave us more time to think about Game 6, and await (or fear) game seven. The Mets had to win, right? There’s no way the Red Sox could come off the deck and win — nope, no way was that happening.
But all day on that Monday I thought “these are still the Mets. They can still find a way to lose.” The nervousness was almost unbearable all day. We left at 2 p.m. to make a one-hour drive for an 8 p.m. game, because that’s reasonable, isn’t it?
Upon arrival in a satellite parking lot, there was chatter about how losing was not an option. The Sox were dead. They were showing up because they had to.
That question was answered when, in the top of the second, Darling surrendered three runs, two of which came on home runs (Dwight Evans and Rich Gedman). And the Mets looked stiff at the plate, mustering nothing off Bruce Hurst, who had stymied them twice before in the series.
Darling struggled through the early innings, then gave way to Sid Fernandez in the fourth. Fernandez held the Sox right where they were through the top of the sixth, in scintillating fashion. But the Mets were still being shut out.
The Mets scored three to tie in the bottom of the sixth, on a rally started by Lee Mazzilli, and that featured a key hit by Keith Hernandez. The Mets scored three more in the bottom of the seventh (I lost my voice screaming after the Ray Knight home run), and all signs pointed to the trophy landing in the Mets’ locker room.
But, these were still the Mets. Before you could blink in the top of the eighth, Boston had two runs in, and the tying run at second with no outs. I had to be alone. I was having heart palpitations, and began walking around under the Loge stands, peeking in a different portal for every pitch. Somehow, Jesse Orosco stranded Dwight Evans at second, and the Mets came to bat in the eighth still leading by a run.
After adding two runs (one via a Darryl Strawberry home run — when it took him seemingly ten minutes to circle the bases), the Mets took the field for the ninth, three outs away from nirvana. I stood on the Loge stairs in the aisle, away from my friend who had so graciously brought me to all the games. I needed solitude. I stood there, squirming on every pitch.
The first out was a mile-high pop near the plate. Hernandez, Gary Carter, and Knight converged. It seemed that it would drop. I screamed, “No, no, no” as loudly as I could. Hernandez stuck his glove out and caught it. Boggs hit a chopper to Wally Backman, who caught it with his glove pointing downward. I gulped, but Boggs was out.
Then came Marty Barrett, the thorn in the Mets’ side. When Orosco struck him out, it was a moment of relief, followed by a love fest among 55,000 people. There was champagne in the parking lot. There was a ticker tape parade the next day. The world was a wonderful place.
As I have written on this blog before, I hope all Mets fans are able to experience the feeling I had on 10/27/1986 (minus the anxiety). If you’re a devoted fan, few things rise to the level of that type of jubilation.
Let’s hope your (and our) day is in the near future. We have many reasons to believe that it is.