The Teamwork to Make a Dream Work

It’s been a few months since I’ve written about the 1986 Mets.  Put simply, it’s been hard to find many memories of the regular season that really are worth the space I usually devote to an entry around here.  My most vivid memories–as I think is the case with most people–center around the postseason, although when I think hard I do remember a few great regular season moments.  For instance, there was a four-game series against the Braves in mid-July where I watched Darryl Strawberry charge the mound after Dave Palmer plunked him after Gary Carter launched one into the seats en route to an 11-0 win.  It was the first time I had ever seen a brawl in a baseball game live on TV, and I didn’t really understand why Straw charged the mound but it was cool to see a fight.

The Sunday game of that series featured a tribute to Rusty Staub, where the team came out during the pre-game ceremony wearing red wigs and a 2-0 victory which featured Gary Carter tagging out Ken Griffey, Sr. at home plate, a tag that was so awesome it wound up in promos for at least another year or so (it shows up in the music video at the 3:30 mark).  But aside from those and the whole mess in Houston where Tim Teufel, Ron Darling, Bob Ojeda, and Rick Aguilera were arrested for a bar fight, I spent the summer watching games and checking the paper whenever I could to see how far ahead the Mets were.  Then, as August started to drag on, I started checking their magic number and then learning what a magic number and “clinching” meant (I was nine and new to following baseball, so sue me).

There was no magic number in the daily news yet when we went to a game against the Expos on August 2, and I honestly don’t remember much about the game, except that Uncle Lou and Aunt Geri took us, it was the first time I had ever been to a night game at Shea Stadium, and it rained.  My aunt and uncle will at least be able to confirm that–it seemed like it rained every single time we bought a bunch of tickets to go as a family.  But still, sitting in the upper deck, watching the Mets win 4-2 under the lights was pretty cool.  Plus, my dad and I had tickets for another game a few weeks later, against the Cardinals, a team I had hated since last season when they downed the Mets en route to a World Series appearance.

However, by this time, the Cards were toast and the Mets’ magic number sat at 33.  We had tickets to the first game of an impromptu doubleheader (meaning that one of the games was a makeup of a rainout) and my dad took me and my “cousin” Vic (“cousin” meaning that our families were such good friends we might as well be related).  It was a 2-1 loss and made me concoct a theory that perhaps I’d go to one losing game and one winning game every season.  Anyway, it was a “down” time for the team–Gary Carter had just been placed on the DL the day before with a torn thumb and Ed Hearn hadn’t completely started to rise to the challenge of being the everyday catcher like he would.  Rick Aguilera started the game but wound up leaving with an inflammed right knee (I always thought Aguilera was a decent pitcher with the Mets but not as steadfast as Doc, Darling, and Ojeda … Aguilera would wind up hitting his stride with Minnesota years later), and it was one of those games that just sort of sputtered out.

We intended to leave between the games of the doubleheader (after all, we needed to beat the traffic), but we stuck around because between the games, a guy took the field and made the crowd do all sorts of shouting and cheering and even The Wave.  Yes, we did The Wave.  Why was the guy there?  Well, he was doing crowd shots for “Let’s Go Mets,” the official 1986 Mets music video, which premiered later in the season as the team was gearing up for its playoff run.  Unofficially titled, “Let’s Go Mets Go” (because of the “Let’s go Mets go!” shout throughout the song), the video features the team, its fans, as well as some highlights and is set to a tune written by Shelton Leigh (“Shelly”) Palmer, who lately more notable as a technology columnist for sites like and The Huffington Post, but composed several theme songs for television productions back in the 1980s.

It is, more or less, a huge PR piece with better production value than the local television promos.  We begin in one of the parking ramps of Shea where three kids are playing some game where you flip baseball cards and the winner keeps all the baseball cards, which is something I never knew how to do when I was a kid.  I’m pretty sure that a relative once tried to teach me but I never picked up on it.  The rules of the game didn’t matter in the video anyway, because after the two kids lose all of their cards to a bully-type who looks like a cross between Scut Farkus from A Christmas Story and Jason Hervey’s character in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Doc Gooden, Gary Carter, and Kevin Mitchell (because they couldn’t sober up Straw and who is rocking 1980s eyeglasses and a track suit that I can only describe as “Sharpton-esque”) show up.

Garysays, “Go ahead, Doc.”

Doc says, “Do it.” (more…)

An Amazin’ Era

The cover to An Amazin’ Era. The images were also used on the promo poster and the tape was also available in Betamax. Yes, Betamax.

When I decided to recount my memories of the Mets’ 1986 season, I thought that I would spend some time on various games I had either watched on television or attended and my experience of being a fan 25 years ago when the team won its last World Series.  It seemed to be going all right, or at least I had some memory of the first home game of the season.  But as I began to leaf through my ’86 Mets stuff, I began to realize that I actually don’t have a lot of memories of that year.

It’s not that I wasn’t a fan or didn’t watch the team on television.  It’s just that I was nine years old and when I wasn’t spending my days playing with He-Man and the Masters of the Universe toys, I was watching maybe one or two cartoons each night before going to bed at 8:00.  I got to stay up later on Friday nights, but that was probably until about 9:00 or 9:30, which meant that if Channel 9 was showing a Mets game, I’d only get a few innings in before I was sent off to bed.  There were quite a few nights when I was rushed off to bed in the middle of the fourth with runners on base and Ed Lynch or Dough Sisk trying to get out of yet another jam (Doug Sisk, btw, was one of those pitchers you tried to imitate because he had this crazy overhand delivery … it was the polar opposite of Dan Quisenberry, and every time you tried to “Sisk” a pitch in baseball or wiffle ball, the ball landed a mile behind the catcher). Sure, there were Sunday games, but only if my mother wasn’t making me go outside and do something.

I did, however, have my fair share of Mets merchandise by this point, including a video that would prove as important as the 1985 pennant race in cementing my love for the team.  An Amazin’ Era is a one-hour documentary created to commemorate 25 seasons of Mets baseball, telling the story of the team from its very humble beginnings in 1962 to the anticipated title run in 1986 (it took me a while to figure that out, by the way, because the 25th Anniversary logo said 1962-1986 and if you do the math, that’s 24 seasons but considering that there is no “season zero” that’s actually correct).  It was released in early 1986 and I am pretty sure that I got it for my ninth birthday from either my parents or my Uncle Lou along with Donald Honig’s 25th Anniversary book and the Amazin’ Era poster that had been hanging in the video store and my dad had purchased and had mounted and framed (this poster, btw, would hang on the wall of my bedroom all the way up until the time I left home when I was 22 … it may be in my parents’ attic or basement, I’m not sure). (more…)

Unlucky 13th

The back of the Daily News from April 15, 1986. Taken from the Daily News's Scrapbook History of the 1986 Mets.

I have to admit that I didn’t realize that the 1986 baseball season had started.  But I feel that since it was my second year following the Mets and the first year that I actually followed them from beginning to end, I have an excuse.  That March, I’d watched a little bit of spring training (after finding out what spring training actually was) and my cousin Brian and I had what would be the first of numerous arguments over the years about which team was better, the Mets or the Yankees.  Opening day was set for April 8 in Pittsburgh and by the time that Monday rolled around, the team was 2-2 and facing the St. Louis Cardinals in their home opener.

A year earlier, Gary Carter had hit a home run to beat the Cardinals on opening day and the two teams chased one another throughout the late summer, with the Cards winning the NL East and then going to the World Series (where thankfully they lost to the Royals).  So with all of that baggage going into this first game at Shea, I’d say that it was definitely going to be one that set the tone for the year.  If the Mets ever were going to compete for the division, they knew they were going to have to go through St. Louis to get there.

It was a day game, as were most of the home openers, and I was at school when it started at 1:35.  But with any luck I would be able to catch part of the ending on WOR, which is how at least a few of the games that season would wind up.  I can’t be sure, but I am pretty positive that I wound up going over to my neighbor Matt’s house to watch it, even though I could have watched it at my house.

When I got there, the game was in extra innings with the teams tied 2-2.  With Bruce Berenyi on the mound in relief and the bases loaded, Tito Landrum hit a ground ball to Howard Johnson at third.  It was, for all intents and purposes, a routine ground ball and HoJo should have been able to field it cleanly and get an out or two.  But that’s not how it went.  “I was playing in,” he said to the Daily News, “I was ready for the ball.  When I reached down, it seemed like all of a sudden the ball wasn’t there.  I was shocked as anybody.”

Two runs scored as the ball trickled through his legs and then Ozzie Smith doubled home two more to make the score 6-2.  The team didn’t recover and fell below .500 for the first time in nearly three years.  Having reading scrapbooks, yearbooks, and other works about the season, it seems like the press pushed the early panic button–although I am sure that if 1986 had happened in today’s media that sucker would have been slammed–but I don’t remember worrying.  Yes, it sucked that the Mets lost but even at the age of eight, I knew that the baseball season was long and a 2-3 start didn’t mean that the team was going to finish 2-160 (well, unless it’s, say 1993, but that’s not today’s topic).

I took away three things from that game.  First, my not being afraid was validated when the Mets went on a huge winning streak, which included a sweep of the Cardinals in St. Louis, one that shut the door on their arch-rivals and had the Mets looking to “wrap up” the pennant early, which they’d do more or less by the summer.  Second, the ground ball error would become crucial and almost symbolic of 1986 season so it’s almost fitting that it began like that.  Finally, every time the Mets have lost their home opener, I’ve taken it as an omen that things are going to do well because they won the series in 1986.

I know that sounds silly, especially considering it’s been 25 years since that game but I think that very often you view a team the same way you did when you first started following them, and considering the lack of innocence of that team (as I’d find out), I think holding on to a little bit of innocence isn’t a bad idea.

Baseball Like it Oughta Be

I figured that since it’s been 25 years since the Mets won the World Series, I’d spend at least one entry a month about the 1986 season:  game memories, memorabilia, etc.  I know it’s not the most original thing but I always find it fun whenever I get the chance to reminisce about my favorite team.

Anyway, this first entry isn’t going to be very long because I don’t have much time on my hands right now, so I thought I’d post the WOR-9 promo for the 1986 season.  I remember seeing these promos a lot and really looking forward to them each year when I was a kid, although I remember it being less cheesy than this.  Seriously, what’s with the guy playing the trumpet?

So without further ado, “Bring it Home”: