Remembering a great Met moment a quarter century ago

 

by Jim Hague

follow him on twitter @ogsmar

As everyone under the sun knows, I am a diehard Met fan. I’m a long-time season ticket holder who bleeds orange and blue. I try to evolve historical moments in my life and tie them to some sort of Mets moment.

Well, a great moment took place 25 years ago today. In Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, Oct. 25, 1986, the Mets staged perhaps the most dramatic comeback in the history of baseball, scoring three runs in the bottom of the 10th inning to defeat the Boston Red Sox and stave off the Red Sox capturing the World Series. Two days later, the Mets won the Series.

But on this date, as I’ve heard Vin Scully say thousands of times over the last 25 years:“slow roller up the first base line…behind the bag..it gets by Buckner…..here comes Knight and the Mets win it.”

I was just listening to Mike Francesa on WFAN with Darryl Strawberry, talking about that night. Francesa said that everyone remembers exactly where they were the night thatMookie Wilson’s little dribbler got past Bill Buckner.

I will never forget that night.

Earlier that Saturday, my good friend from high school, Dave Viggiano, called me and asked me if I wanted to go out to watch the game together and have a few beers. But Vigg had one request.

“Hague, you can’t wear any of your Met shit,” he said. Vigg was a Yankee fan and hated the Mets. “I want you to get somewhat dressed up and we’ll go to have a few, then go somewhere else after. So get dressed.”

That included wearing shoes. Now, as anyone who knows me, I don’t wear shoes. I’m sneakers 365. Unless it’s a really formal affair, like a wedding or a funeral (even that’s not a given), I don’t for the life of me wear dress shoes.

And yes, to my friends in the Midwest, they are sneakers, not tennies. One of those quirks about my time in Milwaukee that I never understood, like ”pop” instead of soda, and ”bubbler” of all things instead of a drinking fountain.

So anyway, I put on a pair of nice slacks, a collared dress shirt, a new sweater and yes, shoes to go out that night with Vigg. Why? Because he asked me. No Met hats, T-shirts, wristbands, underwear, nothing. I left my Met allegiance and paraphernalia home on the night of the most important game of the 1986 season.

I met Vigg in a place in Secaucus called El Torito, a Mexican restaurant/cantina that had great tap beer, good snacks, TVs all over the place. It was a fun place. It’s now Red Lobster in Secaucus, for historical purposes. But El Torito was a popular stop back then. It didn’t hurt that two of my friends bartended there and gave me excellent drink prices. I won’t dime them out, but they were giving away the joint and I wasn’t a pretty girl.

The beers were fine. Vigg and I started talking to two pretty girls. The cost was perfect, like zero. It was the start of a good night and no reason to go anywhere else.

As the game was about to begin, some clown wearing a T-shirt that stated “American League Supremacy: Three Years in a Row” came up to me.

“Your team is going down tonight, fat boy…they’re going down….going down.”

I have no idea how this moron knew I was a Met fan, because I hadn’t cheered a lick at all. I didn’t want to piss off Vigg and I certainly had no idea what team the pretty girl I was trying to hit on (unsuccessfully of course) was rooting for. But he came up to me of all people and issued his taunt.

The game is going on. Dwight Gooden looked like crap and was getting knocked around. He was in a cold soaking sweat and it was like 35 degrees out. It was also the second inning. It was the first time that there was some question about him doing cocaine. It was a totally unfathomable idea at that point. I mean, he was Dr. K, the greatest pitcher in the game. Cocaine? No way, I thought. Naive? Oh, yeah, as I’d find out only a couple days later.

So we’re losing, come back to tie the game at 3-3, then Rick Aguilera
gives up a homer to Dave Henderson and another run and we’re now losing heading into the bottom of the 10th inning, 5-3. The Red Sox are three outs away from their first World Series championship since before World War I and the Mets were on the verge of being a team with 108 wins and nothing to show for it.

Wally Backman pops out for the first out. Keith Hernandez flies out for the second out. We’re doomed. The people are preparing the Red Sox clubhouse for a champagne celebration. Marv Albert is standing outside the clubhouse to interview Series MVPBruce Hurst. Even “Congratulations, Boston Red Sox, World Series Champs” appears on the Diamond Vision scoreboard.

With that, my friend with the T-shirt rears his ugly head once again. He proceeds to pour his beer on my head. Don’t forget, I’m dressed nice.

“It’s not champagne, fat boy, but it will have to do,” he said.

That was it. I grabbed the guy, threw him to the ground, put my knee in his chest, ripped that T-shirt off his body and blew my nose in it as I had my fat knee still embedded in his chest. I threw the shirt in his face, then turned to the TV screen and pointed at my beloved team.

“You guys won 108 games this year,” I yelled. “Don’t you dare go down without a fucking whimper.”

The crowd at El Torito’s roared in approval. Sorry, Vigg, it was time for me to be what I did best, be a Met fan.

With that, Gary Carter lined a single. There was life. Kevin Mitchell lined another single, moving Carter to second. More life. Ray Knight, who would become the REAL Series MVP, singled home Carter to make it 5-4 and moved Mitchell to third.

With that, Red Sox manager John McNamara took out beleaguered closer and former Met Calvin Schiraldi and brought in Kearny native Bob Stanley to face Mookie Wilson.

One of Stanley’s first deliveries almost hit Wilson, went to the backstop and the wild pitch scored Mitchell with the tying run and moved Knight to second base.

What ensued was baseball history. Wilson fought off pitch after pitch from Stanley, in some instances swinging like an old lady with a fly swatter at a summer picnic. But Mookie stayed alive, fouling seven different Stanley offerings and sending those foul balls all over the place.

Wilson then managed to get wood on another Stanley sinker and hit a slow roller to first base. I still believe to this day that even if Buckner fielded the ball cleanly, Wilson would have beaten him to the bag to keep the rally alive.

But we’ll never know. As we do know, Buckner booted the ball and it rolled into short right field. Knight raced home and the Mets had the improbable, impossible 6-5 victory, sending the World Series to a seventh game and sending the Red Sox into a complete state of shock.

Back in El Torito, there was bedlam. In my dress shoes, I don’t think I ever jumped higher. White men can’t jump. Fat white men can’t jump even worse. But I certainly got up there as Knight was racing home.

I turned to look for Vigg. He was gone. He left without even saying goodbye.

As for the guy with the T-shirt, he was getting absolutely pummeled by about seven Met fans. One asked me if I wanted to get in a punch. There was no need. I was celebrating too much to want to get involved with that.

Beer was flying all over the place. The place felt like it was shaking. The management had to announce that the place was closing, strictly for safety purposes. It was a madhouse.

I then headed to my home away from home, the Park Tavern, to continue the revelry. Two of my best friends joined me there. Glenn Gardner and John Matsikoudis were at a party in Bayonne, but once the Mets won, they headed to the PT to partake in the joy.

Two nights later, all three of us celebrated winning the World Series together.

And incredibly, 25 years after the fact, we’ve never enjoyed that kind of celebration since. There were close calls in 1988, 2000 and 2006, but nothing like what we had in 1986.

So when Francesa said most people remember where they were on this night 25 years ago, there’s my memory. And it won’t go away anytime soon, especially now since the Mets are a mere shell of what they were 25 years ago. It’s a great memory that will never diminish and will stay with me until the Mets get another World Series trophy, if that ever happens.

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You can read more of my stuff at http://www.hudsonreporter.com, http://www.theobserver.com and http://www.dailyrecord.com. I promise you it’s not as entertaining as writing this blog was.

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Posted on November 4, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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