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”:

Shea Hello

Shea Stadium on August 25, 1985.

If you judge my love of the New York Mets by my first Shea Stadium experience, then it’s no wonder I’ve been a fan for twenty-five years now.  In fact, I don’t really know what it’s like to start following a team when they are really bad, considering that the three pro teams I’ve followed since I was a kid–the Mets, Giants, and Rangers–were all competitive in the mid-1980s. 

Then again, I hold certain members of my family and circle of friends responsible for my Mets fandom.  In the spring of 1985, I was wrapping up my time in Mrs. Holl’s second grade class at Lincoln Avenue Elementary, a class I did all right in even if my best memory is catching shit for zoning out, daydreaming, or getting easily distracted (how was I not labeled ADD?  Seriously …).  In my class was John Purcell, with whom I had spent kindergarten and who would truly be responsible for my love of the Rangers and much of my not-so-storied Swindon Row street hockey career.  But that’s a topic for another post, as he showed up in school one day having been to the previous night’s Mets game and did nothing but rave about how Gary Carter hit a home run and the Mets beat the Reds. 

I was intrigued.  I’d played for the Reds in tee ball and was playing real baseball that year–if you could call it that considering I couldn’t field for shit and spent my time at the plate dodging pitches–so I knew a little about how to play.  And I knew that there were professional baseball teams because my grandfather on my mom’s side was a die-hard Yankees fan.  But unlike my cousin Brian, I hadn’t been sucked into the Bronx vortex and after I expressed interest in the Mets, my Uncle Lou would help make sure that I definitely didn’t.


Catch the Rising Stars

Unfortunately, work’s been crazy this week and while I had several things I’ve thought about covering I haven’t had much time to sit down and watch them or write about them.  So, I’m going to tease next week a little bit by showing you a commercial for the WOR Channel 9’s coverage of the Mets’ 1985 season. 

The theme for that year’s series of promos was “Catch the Rising Stars,” which I guess meant that the Mets were on their way up to being contenders.  Considering how the year turned out, that’s probably a good slogan, just like “Baseball Like It Oughta Be” was a good one for 1986.

In addition to the promos, channel 9 produced a Norman Rockwell-esque poster of Gary Carter signing a kid’s baseball that you could special order with some of the proceeds going to the Leukemia Society of America, a charity Carter is heavily involved with.  My parents had the poster framed and it hung in their basement for years and I took it with me to Arlington, where I hung it in my first apartment.

Anyway, I’ll go more in-depth on the 1985 Mets and my first experiences at Shea Stadium next week.  For now, enjoy the promo.