Though the New York Mets only have nine postseason appearances in their history, which trails many of their MLB counterparts, they have been historically dominant on Opening Day. The Mets hold the current MLB record for highest winning percentage on Opening Day, winning their first games of the season at a .661 clip since they came into the league in 1962.
Opening Day is, for many baseball fans, a national holiday. The Mets have been fortunate enough, for all of their in-season failures over the years, to start off strong nearly all of the time. Mets fans always feel like they can conquer the world after witnessing their team win yet again on Opening Day, even if they are quickly brought down to Earth after a loss the following day.
Amidst these many Opening Day wins have been a few particularly memorable games. In no particular order, here are a few of the best Opening Day wins in Mets history.
Opening Day 1985: Gary Carter’s walk-off home run in his Mets debut
By 1985, the Mets’ years-long rebuilding program was nearly complete. It began when general manager Frank Cashen took over in 1980. Then, star draft picks Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden turned into star players at the major league level. The blockbuster trade of acquiring Keith Hernandez for pitchers Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey in 1983 further set the Mets up for success throughout the rest of the decade.
But when they acquired Gary Carter via a trade with the Montreal Expos on December 10, 1984, he became the last big piece of the championship-winning puzzle. Carter was coming off of a Hall of Fame-worthy pedigree in Montreal, the city that he would later have inscribed on his Hall of Fame cap. He had just built a house with his wife, Sandy, near Montreal and was very much entrenched there. Nonetheless, he quickly became a beloved figure in the Big Apple, starting with his very first game.
On Opening Day 1985, the Mets squared off against the St. Louis Cardinals, Hernandez’s former team. Carter was hitting cleanup, a lineup spot that he hit in more than he did anywhere else in his baseball career. His first hit as a Met came in the 6th inning, when he doubled to send Hernandez to third base and was later stranded by a fly ball from Strawberry.
Four innings later, Carter was due up second in the bottom of the 10th inning with the score tied 5-5. Hernandez had led off the inning ahead of Carter by striking out against his former trade partner, Neil Allen. Carter then strode up to the plate. In front of 46,781 of the Flushing Faithful who were chomping at the bit for some heroics, he delivered by launching a breaking ball over the left field wall for a home run. His new teammates mobbed him at home plate, his new fans cheered, and his Mets legacy had officially begun.
“I learned right away that New York was going to be different,” Carter said of that game in a later interview. “I was now playing for a special breed of fans. If hitting a walk-off home run in your first game with a new team is not special, I don’t know what is.”