New York Mets: 1986 Mets

Top 5s: Best Mets teams

January, 25, 2013
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Focus on Spot/Getty ImagesWe'll take the 1986 Mets above all others.

The last of this series of articles done in tandem with Buster Olney’s ESPN Insider stories ranking top 10s in baseball history involves picking the best teams in Mets history.

I’m going to handle this one a little differently than the other stories in that I’m only going to look at two teams, then provide the rest of the list in that box on the right.

The discussion about the best Mets team actually comes down to a rather simple debate for the top spot:

Does it go to the 1969 Mets or the 1986 Mets?

Here’s my pick:

1. 1986 -- What won out for me in comparing the top two Mets teams of all-time was that the 1986 team overwhelms the 1969 squad in terms of offensive output AND also features one of the very best pitching staffs their management has ever assembled.

The 1986 Mets were able to put out a lineup that featured the most potent 3-4-5 combo (Keith Hernandez/Gary Carter/Darryl Strawberry) in the league, and almost always featured at least seven above-average offensive players.

Their part-timers, such as Kevin Mitchell, Howard Johnson, and ace pinch-hitter Danny Heep, were better than most other team’s regulars.

The stat that best illustrates what I’m referring to is OPS+, which combines on-base percentage and slugging percentage, and adjusts it for your primary home ballpark and the era played. An OPS+ of 100 is average. The higher above 100, the better.

The 1986 Mets had 10 hitters with at least 200 plate appearances and an OPS+ of 110 or better.

No other team in major-league history can match that.

Likewise, the pitching staff excelled from from top to bottom, with three of the league’s top six starting pitchers in Bob Ojeda, Dwight Gooden and Ron Darling and All-Star Sid Fernandez in the No. 4 spot. That top three all had 30 starts and an ERA+ (similar to OPS+ except for ERA) of 125 or better. No group had done that in 25 years (the 1961 Tigers).

Like the 1969 team, the Mets had two pitchers who could ably close games: Jesse Orosco and Roger McDowell. They were only the second team to have a pair of 20-save pitchers since the save rule was enacted in 1969.

Any way you slice it, we can come up with a stat that shows how this team wasn’t just great, it was dominant.

And we can’t do that for any other Mets team.

2. 1969 -- There’s no shame in this team’s being second-best and we don’t begrudge anyone who wants to give this Mets team bonus props for its improbable turnaround after its first seven seasons of struggle.

The 1969 Mets may have been a miracle team, but they had some pretty good baseball players. They had the best 1-2 pitching combo in Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman and put the best defensive team behind them that the franchise has ever had. Behind the plate was Jerry Grote, and in the infield were Ken Boswell and Bud Harrelson, and in the outfield were Tommie Agee and Cleon Jones.

If you’ve ever listened to the highlight album from that season, what stands out about this team was how players raised their games to help the team win. Case in point would be someone such as Al Weis, who hit .215 that season, but made a memorable defensive play to save a regular-season win and was 5-for-11 with a home run in the World Series.

While the 1986 Mets were a team that ran into its fair share of trouble, the '69 bunch was one in which the good guys won.

Of the 51 teams that Mets fans have rooted for, this may not have been the best, but it definitely was the best story.

Top 5s: Mets lineups

January, 24, 2013
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Trying to pick the best lineups in Mets history is a task governed by limited selection.

The Mets have only had two periods in their history in which they ranked at or better than league average in runs scored, on-base percentage and home runs in the same season (1985-1990, with the exception of 1989, and 2006-2008).

That's what happens when you play home games in Shea Stadium, and hitter-unfriendly Citi Field for most of the team’s existence.

So it’s hard to justify picking a team from outside of those seasons. We made one exception in coming up with our choices.

Best Lineups in Mets history
1. 1986: In terms of raw numbers, the 1986 team pales against other Mets squads, but in terms of offensive success relative to other NL teams that year, the 1986 squad comes out best.

The '86 Mets were well-suited to face both left and right-handed pitching, simply changing up their No. 1 and No. 2 hitters (Len Dykstra and Wally Backman for Mookie Wilson and Tim Teufel) and plugging in super-sub Kevin Mitchell as needed. Their No. 3 hitter -- Keith Hernandez -- was the game’s best hit-and-run man and had the best eye.

Power hitters Gary Carter and Darryl Strawberry combined for 51 homers. Ray Knight (98 RBI and a penchant for big hits) may have been the best No. 6/7 hitter the team has ever had.

2. 1999: By raw numbers, this is the best Mets offensive group. It scored a club record 853 runs, and .797 OPS (also a franchise record). It excelled relative to the league at getting on base, with a .363 on-base percentage in a year in which the NL average was .342.

The Mets were strong at the top whether they opted for Rickey Henderson or Roger Cedeno. When the Mets went with a 1-5 of Henderson, Edgardo Alfonzo, John Olerud, Mike Piazza and Robin Ventura, it gave them five straight hitters whose OPS+ (OPS compared to league average, with an adjustment for home ballpark) was 125 or higher. It’s the only time in their history that the Mets have had five hitters with an OPS that high.

3. 2006: This (and the 2007 lineup) might be the best combination of power and speed that the Mets have ever had. The 2006 lineup set a club record for homers with 200, powered by the 41 from Carlos Beltran, 38 from Carlos Delgado and 26 from David Wright. It also stole 146 bases in 181 attempts, with Jose Reyes nabbing 64, Wright 20 and Beltran 18.

4. 1988: The numbers from this team -- a .256/.325/.396 batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage slashline -- are hardly overwhelming until you realize that they hit 30 more home runs than any other team in the NL, had four players with 20 or more steals and scored 33 more runs than any team in the league.

This was a down year for some of the team’s big stars. Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez began to show their age.

But Strawberry and Kevin McReynolds had what were considered big years at the time (a combined 66 home runs and 50 stolen bases). Dave Magadan proved to be a capable fill-in for Hernandez (.393 on-base percentage)

And Gregg Jefferies (.321 batting average, six home runs in 109 at-bats) had the best September call-up stint of any player the Mets have ever had.

5. 1990: It took me almost an hour to fill in this spot, because I wanted to do it in a smart way. I could have picked the 1987 team, but I’ve previously noted my disdain for that juiced-ball season. I could have picked the 2000 team (and won’t quibble if you do), but it feels disingenuous to pick a team that had the sixth-highest OPS and seventh-most runs scored in the NL that season.

I’m settling for the 1990 Mets in this slot, a team of transition that would mark the last of the seven-year run of contention in which every game for the Mets was a meaningful one. Darryl Strawberry had quite the last hurrah (.277 batting average, 37 home runs). Dave Magadan (.328 batting average, .874 OPS) may not have been what Mets fans wanted, but he was better than they knew at the time. Even Kevin McReynolds in a down season (.269 batting average, 24 homers) was better than most.

One of the primary lessons from this exercise is this: The Mets don’t have a lot of impressive from which to pick.

Top 5s: Mets infields/outfields

January, 23, 2013
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Getty Images/AP PhotoThe 1999 Mets had an Amazin' defensive infield.
Continuing our series on the best units in Mets history, today's focus is on the Mets' best infields and outfields.

The five best infields in Mets history
1. 1999: This is the easy one, as it’s the one that Sports Illustrated touted as the best infield ever. The Mets had three infielders who won Gold Gloves at various points in their careers (John Olerud, Rey Ordonez, and Robin Ventura) and a fourth who should have (Edgardo Alfonzo).

They could hit too. Olerud and Alfonzo were ultra-clutch (each hit .300 or better in “high-leverage situations”) and Ventura (.301 BA, 32 HR, 120 RBIs) was almost as potent as Mike Piazza.

For those who like advanced stats, consider this tidbit. Only two NL teams since 1900 have had three infielders finish a season with five Wins Above Replacement (five WAR is considered All-Star caliber): The 1927 New York Giants (with Hall of Famers Bill Terry, Rogers Hornsby, and Travis Jackson) and the 1999 Mets (Olerud, Alfonzo, Ventura).

2. 2006: Mets fans currently pine for the days of this group, which featured Jose Reyes (.300 BA, 17 triples, 64 stolen bases) and David Wright (.311 batting average, .912 OPS, 26 home runs) jointly reaching superstardom on the left side of the infield, and veterans Carlos Delgado and rejuvenated second baseman Jose Valentin on the right side.

This was the most powerful infield in Mets history, the only one in which four members hit at least 18 home runs.

3. 1986: We’re plugging the champs in here, though the numbers indicate both the teams I’ll put below them were a little bit better. The Mets got the usual greatness from Keith Hernandez on both sides of the diamond, had a nifty second base platoon with Wally Backman and Tim Teufel, a steady (albeit offensively-challenged) shortop job from Rafael Santana, and big hit after big hit from Ray Knight (.357 with runners in scoring position). Mix in utility man Kevin Mitchell in his only full season with the team, and Howard Johnson off the bench and you had the perfect fit for a World Series winner.

4. 1987: This is a weird season, one in which the ball was juiced and offensive numbers were inflated. The composition is similar to the 1986 team, but the results are different (Johnson had his first monster offensive season, and Teufel was tremendous in his platoon role).

5. 1973: Fellow Mets historian Greg Prince talked me into putting this infield ahead of 2008, labeling the 1973 unit a "sum of its parts group." First baseman John Milner was the best hitter of the four, playing alongside the terrific double-play combo of Felix Millan and Bud Harrelson, and third baseman Wayne Garrett. The latter three all lifted their games considerably in September when the Mets made their late miracle push to the NL East title.

The five best outfields in Mets history
1. 1988: The Mets had two MVP-caliber players in this outfield in Darryl Strawberry, who placed second to Kirk Gibson in the NL MVP voting, and Kevin McReynolds, who finished third. That duo combined for 66 home runs and 200 runs batted in.

Throw in the platoon tandem of Len Dykstra and Mookie Wilson (16 home runs and 45 steals) and you have an understanding why the team led the majors in runs scored, home runs, and OPS.

2. 1969: Center fielder Tommie Agee hit 26 home runs, made a host of memorable World Series catches and finished sixth in the MVP voting. Left fielder Cleon Jones placed one spot behind Agee for his best season, one in which he hit .340 and had the fifth-highest WAR among position players. Ron Swoboda didn’t have the numbers of those two, but offset that by hitting .400 in the World Series, with the great catch in Game 4 and clinching hit in Game 5. Art Shamsky (.300 BA) was a super-sub who allowed Gil Hodges to manage with platoons.

3. 1987: We feel a little better about putting the 1987 Mets outfield on our list than we do about the infield, because all four of the primary participants replicated their numbers in 1988. They get the nod ahead of the 1986 team because of the presence of McReynolds, whose acquisition from the San Diego Padres gave the team a right-handed power hitter to pair with Strawberry.

4. 1996: We’re going to sneak this one in, because though this was a mediocre team, it had two of the most Amazin’ seasons any team has ever seen.

We’re talking about those of Bernard Gilkey and Lance Johnson. Johnson hit .333 in the leadoff spot with 21 triples and 50 steals (the first player to hit both those plateaus in a season since Ty Cobb!).

Gilkey had a .317/.393/.562 slashline with 30 home runs, 44 doubles and 17 steals.

This was a unique occurrence in baseball, one of only three times since 1900 that a team had a pair of outfielders with seven-WAR seasons. The other two were the 1961 Tigers (Rocky Colavito and Al Kaline), and the 1961 Reds (Vada Pinson and Frank Robinson).

5. 1999: The name of the game in baseball is to reach base without making outs, and the 1999 team did that at a better rate (.375 OBP) than any other Mets squad (shout-out to the 1979 combo of Lee Mazzilli, Steve Henderson, and Joel Youngblood whose .367 rates second).

The Mets had two of their best basestealing threats -- Rickey Henderson and Roger Cedeno -- combine for 103 steals. This team also had a vast supply of outfield reserves with Benny Agbayani, Darryl Hamilton, and late-season add Shawon Dunston filling in gaps when needed.

Agree/disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Top 5s: Mets' best rotations/bullpens

January, 22, 2013
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Focus on Sport/Getty ImagesThis quartet made up the Mets' best-ever starting rotation.
Buster Olney has begun a weeklong series on ESPN Insider in which he is ranking top 10s of all-time. He’s assessing starting rotations, bullpens, infields, outfields, lineups and teams.

With that in mind, I thought I’d offer up my top five for the Mets in each. We’ll do both starting rotations and bullpens today, since Buster has already done those two.

Top 5 Mets starting rotations
1. 1986: It’s a three-team race for the top spot, and we’ll give the narrowest of nods to the 1986 team. The depth of this rotation has never been matched in club history.

Three pitchers (Bob Ojeda, Ron Darling and Dwight Gooden) finished in the top five in the National League and top eight in the majors in ERA, and a fourth (Sid Fernandez) was an NL All-Star.

The combined numbers of the starters: 78-33 with a 3.16 ERA.

2. 1969: The Tom Seaver-Jerry Koosman combo from that season was a combined 42-16 with a 2.24 ERA, making them the best 1-2 punch in team history. The 3-4-5 lacks the sizzle of the 1986 team, but one of the primary reasons the Mets excelled late in the season was a six-start run by Don Cardwell (0.80 ERA) and a 2.19 ERA in September/October from rookie Gary Gentry. Also of note: the 1969 starters had the lowest opponents batting average in Mets history at .221.

3. 1988: The 1988 team ranks a hair below the 1986 squad in my book, though it did have the best baserunners per nine innings rate as a group (10.32) and allowed the fewest home runs per nine innings (0.52). This was as durable a staff as the team ever had -- with Gooden, Darling, Ojeda, Sid Fernandez and David Cone combining for 156 of their 160 starts. Cone’s 20-3, 2.22 ERA season ranks arguably among the top five pitching seasons in Mets history.

4. 1985: Notice a trend here? I didn’t want to overload by picking three teams within a four-year span, but this team belongs on the list. It had the third-best staff ERA and second-best winning percentage of any starting rotation in Mets history. It also featured the best pitching season the franchise has ever had (Dwight Gooden’s 24-4, 1.53 ERA, with 276 strikeouts).

5. 1973: The Seaver-Koosman-Jon Matlack trio was the one group of Mets that stayed healthy in what was a very unusual run to the NL East title. This wasn’t the best year for any of those three, but each was at a prime stage in his career. This group also gets bonus points for its postseason run. In the NLCS and first six games of the World Series, Mets starters allowed 13 earned runs in 70 innings.

Best bullpens in Mets history
1. 1988: The effectiveness of the back end of this bullpen is hard to match. Mets relievers that season had the best save percentage (85 percent) in club history, and the team’s 19 percent rate of allowing inherited runners to score was the best for the 39 years for which we have data.

Randy Myers was a “game-over” closer and Roger McDowell was as solid as he was in the Mets' championship-winning season two years prior. If we’re debating 1988 vs. 1986, the difference is a small one. I’d take Terry Leach as the middle/long man over the always-unnerving Doug Sisk.

2. 2006: The lasting memory of this Mets bullpen is Aaron Heilman giving up the game-winning home run to Yadier Molina in Game 7 of the NLCS, but our choice is based on the overall body of work. Mets relievers had a 3.25 ERA and .239 opponents’ batting average in a season in which the NL averages were 4.17 and .258. This is a group that was a solid six-deep, with Billy Wagner (40 saves), and Duaner Sanchez (pre-taxicab injury), Chad Bradford, Pedro Feliciano and Darren Oliver all filling their roles more than capably. One pitch should not ruin six months of work.

3. 1999: Similar to 2006, there’s an unhappy ending here (two blown saves in Game 6 of the NLCS) that wipe out an impressive run of success. For all that Mets fans dislike Armando Benitez, you have to be impressed with his 128 strikeouts and 40 hits allowed in 78 innings. John Franco, injured for two months, was his usual adventurous self the rest of the season. The Mets also had what was probably their most reliable righty-lefty setup combo in Turk Wendell and Dennis Cook, as well as long-man Pat Mahomes.

4. 1969: The collective ERA for this group (3.49) doesn’t do it justice. The Mets' bullpen was integral to the team’s success. Once the team got rolling, so did its top relievers, Ron Taylor and Tug McGraw.

A cool stat on McGraw's value: He made a dozen relief outings that season of three innings or more. In them, he pitched 46 1/3 innings and allowed four runs. The Mets won 10 of those 12 games, seven by two runs or fewer.

5. 1971: I could have taken the easy way out and gone 1986 here, but wanted to go a different way. The numbers steer me the way of the 1971 pen, two years removed from a championship. McGraw basically replicated his 1969 relief efforts (1.63 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, eight saves in 50 relief efforts) and was joined in tandem by the underrated Danny Frisella (1.99 ERA, 12 saves in 50 games). The 1971 Mets bullpen also had the best runners per nine innings rate in club history.

What's your take? Share your thoughts in the comments.

This date in '86: Champions!

October, 27, 2011
10/27/11
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Over the last three weeks, Mark Simon has reminisced here about the 1986 postseason. The 1986 Mets won the World Series in an exhilarating fashion. Here's a look at Game 7 of the 1986 World Series, a game played 25 years ago today.

Every person I’ve spoken to about attending Game 7 of the World Series said that there was a sense of inevitability in Shea Stadium that the Mets would prevail over the Red Sox in the decisive final game.

As the late sportswriter for the New York Daily News, Vic Ziegel, wrote in making his prediction for the series, “Life is Easy, the World Series is hard.”

Game 7 was indeed hard for the Mets, but in the end, they would come out on top. Let’s review it from start to finish.

AP Photo/Richard Drew World Series MVP Ray Knight's go-ahead home run made it a great night for the world-champion Mets
Game 7, Shea Stadium: Mets 8, Red Sox 5
With rain having postponed the contest by a day, the Mets were able to start Ron Darling on his regular four days rest, but Red Sox manager John McNamara changed his starter from Oil Can Boyd, who got clobbered in Game 3, to Bruce Hurst, who won both Games 1 and 5. Hurst would be starting on three days rest.

After a scoreless first inning, it was Darling who looked tired.

In the second inning, Darling got ahead 1-2 on Red Sox rightfielder Dwight Evans, then had two pitches just miss and two more get fouled off, one barely, before Evans hit a mammoth home run to left center field.

Darling got ahead of Gedman, 1-2, then was forced to wait through a three-minute delay after fans knocked over some temporary stands down the right field line.

When play resumed, Gedman hit the next pitch to right center field. Right fielder Darryl Strawberry jumped, got the ball in his glove, than watched the momentum of his elbow hitting the fence jar the ball loose and over the wall for a home run.

The Red Sox tacked on another run to go up 3-0 on a walk to Dave Henderson, a sacrifice by Hurst and a smoked one-hop single by Wade Boggs past diving shortstop Rafael Santana.

From the second through fifth innings, the Mets bats slumbered, starting with when cleanup hitter Gary Carter failed in his try for a bunt hit. Hurst faced 13 batters and retired 12 of them, averaging 12 pitches per frame to get closer to victory.

The Mets needed a jolt and got it, first from Kevin Mitchell, who threw Jim Rice out attempting to get a leadoff double in the third inning, and then from Sid Fernandez, who came on in relief of Darling with a man on second and two outs in the fourth inning.

After walking Boggs, Fernandez got the leading hitter in the series, Marty Barrett, to fly to right, than retired the next six hitters over two innings of relief.

Hurst had retired 11 in a row by the time Lee Mazzilli pinch hit with one out in the sixth. A midseason pickup after the release of George Foster, Mazzilli reached out and pulled a single in the shortstop-third base hole. Then, Mookie Wilson hit a line drive that whizzed past Boggs for a hit. Wilson almost got picked off first by the catcher, Gedman with Tim Teufel up (Wilson jarred his shoulder against Buckner’s knee and there was an intriguing moment where Buckner checked to make sure Wilson was ok).

Teufel walked on a 3-1 pitch to load the bases for Hernandez, who was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position to this point in the series. After taking a nasty curveball for a strike, Hernandez lashed a fastball up and away into left center for a hit that scored both Mazzilli and Wilson and made it a 3-2 game.

Carter than poked a fly ball to shallow right that Evans smothered, but couldn’t catch, and though Hernandez got thrown out at second base, Backman, pinch-running scored to tie the game, 3-3. Rice’s diving catch of Strawberry’s fly to left ended the inning, but the teams were now even through six innings.

Reliever Roger McDowell made quick work of the Red Sox in the top of the seventh, throwing seven straight strikes to retire the side in order.

McNamara called for Calvin Schiraldi to relief Hurst, a gamble considering that Schiraldi blew the save in the eighth inning, then couldn’t finish the Mets off in the 10th inning of Game 6.

Schiraldi went to a 2-1 count on Ray Knight, the hitter he was a strike away from retiring to end Game 6, then threw a belt-high fastball that Knight crushed over the fence in left center for a go-ahead homer. Vin Scully noted it was the first home run hit by the home team in the whole series. It also meant that this was the first time all postseason that the Mets would be pitching with a lead at home.

It was a lead that got extended when Schiraldi gave up a hit to pinch-hitter Lenny Dykstra, wild pitched him to second base on an errant pitchout attempt, then gave up an opposite field shot down the first base line to shortstop Rafael Santana that Buckner couldn’t reach. A successful two-strike sacrifice by McDowell chased Schiraldi for reliever Joe Sambito, who walked two and gave up a sacrifice fly to Hernandez.

AP Photo/Paul BenoitThe Mets enjoyed their moment as World Series champions


The Mets led 6-3 heading to the eighth, but now it was the Red Sox turn to come back, as police on horseback settled in the bullpen to defend against overzealous fan celebration.

Buckner and Rice each singled, and Evans doubled them both in with a shot into right center field. That necessitated a pitching change, with Jesse Orosco replacing McDowell. Orosco got Gedman to softly line to Backman at second base, struck out Dave Henderson swinging on a curveball, and got pinch-hitter Don Baylor to ground to shortstop, with Santana perfectly positioned to make the play.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Mets padded their 6-5 lead against Game 4 starter Al Nipper when Strawberry homered to right on an 0-2 hanger (his stroll around the bases was timed at nearly 30 seconds). Then later in the inning, Orosco, with men on first and second and the situation clearly calling for a bunt, chopped a single up the middle to make it 8-5.

There was one last moment of levity when Wilson got clipped on the knee by a pitch as me made the same move to avoid the ball that he successfully did in Game 6. Then came the business of finishing the season.

Orosco did that without issue, getting Ed Romero to pop to Hernandez, who made a basket catch near home plate, and Boggs to ground to second before striking out Barrett on a high, outside fastball to end the game.

It was a long, hard journey through 13 games in the postseason, but in the end the Mets were both lucky and good. And they were champions.

Turning Point
NBC gave its Player of the Game honors to Fernandez for his shutout work in relief.

Only five relievers have retired at least seven batters without allowing a hit in a World Series winner-take-all-game. None have done so since Fernandez.

What They Wrote
“Arrogant, yes.Rally caps, encores, high fives and hugs. The New York Mets did everything but wave pompons during the 1986 baseball season and it's easy to see how they became the most disliked team in baseball.But surely, by now, you can also see why they were the best.”
-- Rick Talley, Los Angeles Daily News

Article 59- There was a mist hovering over Shea Stadium last night, a mist into which the upper deck disappeared.It suggested that this game for the World Series championship was being played in an ether not of this world - a heavenly and, yes, fitting backdrop to the conclusion of what may be the greatest three weeks baseball has ever witnessed.
John McGill, Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader

“People across the country said the New York Mets were arrogant, uppity, boastful. But Satchel Paige used to say that if you can do it, it ain't braggin'. The mighty Mets, winners of 108 games in the regular season, won the 83rd World Series last night because they had the most important quality of champions: resilience.”
- Barry Lorge, San Diego Union

“Somewhere between first base and heaven, Ray Knight took flight, his feet carried by wings of joy, and a kid's backyard dreams - a Georgia kid's dreams learned at his father's knee, the dreams carried from the Iowa bush leagues to the Big Apple.”
-- Dave Kindred, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Quote of the Day
“This is what we've been striving for all year. We're there.”
-- Gary Carter

"These last three weeks explain why this is the great American pastime."
--Mookie Wilson

“We were one pitch away from winning the world championship (Saturday). We're the second-best team in baseball. We had a hell of a year."
-- Bill Buckner

For Further Reading
There is a treasure trove to be found on the Mets if you simply type 1986 Mets into Google, YouTube, or EBay. Among the highlights, full coverage of the Mets trip to the White House to be honored by President Ronald Reagan, the 1986 team highlight video, and jersey and fan apparel from that era. If you’re a 1986 Mets fan, it’s worth checking out.

Stats To Remember
1- The Mets rally from three runs down tied the second-biggest comeback in a winner-take-all World Series game, matching that of the 1960 Pirates (against the Yankees) and the 1975 Reds (against the Red Sox). The 1925 Pirates had the biggest rally, coming back from a 4-0 deficit to beat the Washington Senators, 9-7.

2-- Ray Knight is the only player in postseason history to get the game-winning RBI in both the clinching game of the LCS and the World Series, with both coming in the seventh inning of the game or later. He had the go-ahead hit in the 16th inning of Game 6 of the NLCS against the Astros.

3-- Jesse Orosco is the last pitcher to get an RBI in the eighth inning or later of a postseason game. He is the only relief pitcher to get an RBI that late in Game 7 of a postseason series. Orosco would not get another hit for the rest of his career, which didn’t end until 2003.

This date in '86: The miracle of Game 6

October, 25, 2011
10/25/11
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Focus on Sports/Getty Images Rich Gedman (front right) is the picture of Red Sox despair as the Mets celebrate the most improbable win in team history, a 6-5 triumph over the Red Sox in Game 6 of the World Series.
Over the last three weeks, Mark Simon has reminisced here about the 1986 postseason. The 1986 Mets won the World Series in an exhilarating fashion. Here's a look at Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, played on October 25, 25 years ago.

"I'm sitting here and I still don't believe it."

That's what Hall of Fame-honored sportswriter Bus Saidt wrote to open his story for my former employer, the Trenton Times, and it still holds true 25 years to the day after the most remarkable, unbelievable and amazing of the Mets' 3,854 regular-season and postseason wins. Let's review all that went into the greatest game of the greatest season in Mets history.

Game 6, Shea Stadium: Mets 6, Red Sox 5

Game 6 of the 1986 World Series began as Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS did, with Mets starting pitcher Bob Ojeda on the ropes early.

He allowed a run in the first inning on a two-out double by Dwight Evans that hit the top of the fence in left center and a run in the second on a two-out RBI single to left field by Marty Barrett just in front of Mookie Wilson.

The lead could have been bigger. Evans' ball hit the top of the fence. Had it gone over, it would have been a three-run homer instead of a single-run double. In the second inning, a catch by backpedaling right fielder Darryl Strawberry on Bill Buckner’s fly ball to right field saved two more runs from scoring.

As Vin Scully pointed out on NBC's telecast, there had not been a come-from-behind win in the World Series yet. With AL MVP Roger Clemens on the mound for the Red Sox, that stat hung over the Mets through the first four innings, in which they were hitless.

But Ojeda settled down, as he did in Game 6 of the NLCS, and that kept the Mets in the game.

They would rally to tie in the fifth inning. Strawberry walked, then stole second and Ray Knight’s single past Clemens into center field on a 2-2 breaking ball brought Strawberry home.

Wilson then had a great at-bat after falling behind 0-2. He took two balls well out of the strike zone to even the count, than fouled two off before hitting a breaking ball into right field for a hit. When Evans bobbled the ball, Knight went to third base.

That turned out to be huge, because it meant he could score to tie the game rather than just advance to third when pinch-hitter Danny Heep grounded into a double play

Hernandez made a nice play on a Clemens bunt to get a force play that thwarted a Red Sox threat in the sixth. The Mets then left runners at the corners in the home sixth when Clemens struck out Mets catcher Gary Carter with a nasty fastball on the outside corner and got Strawberry to ground out.

In the seventh, the Red Sox took the lead partly thanks to Knight’s throwing error at third base, which put runners at first and third with one out (instead of having a man on second with two outs). On a 3-2 pitch, with Jim Rice running on reliever Roger McDowell's delivery, Evans grounded out. The Mets were unable to get a double play, allowing a run to score and Boston to take a 3-2 lead.

The Red Sox had a chance for another run, but Wilson threw Rice out at the plate on Rich Gedman's hit to end the inning.

Clemens got through the seventh, but was pinch-hit for in the eighth inning with the Red Sox threatening (he’d exceeded 130 pitches by this point and there is controversy over whether Clemens asked out due to a blister, or was removed by manager John McNamara). The Red Sox had another chance to add to the lead, but Jesse Orosco got Buckner to fly out to end the eighth.

Trailing by a run with six outs left in their season, the Mets rallied. Lee Mazzilli got a two-strike single and was safe at second when Red Sox reliever Calvin Schiraldi’s throw on Lenny Dykstra’s bunt couldn’t be handled cleanly by Red Sox shortstop Spike Owen. Wally Backman advanced the runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt.

An intentional walk to Keith Hernandez loaded the bases for Carter, who took three balls, then lined to deep enough left to plate Mazzilli with the tying run. Strawberry flied out to leave the teams tied heading to the ninth.

After Gedman's double play ended the Boston ninth, the Mets had a great chance to win in the home frame, putting the first two men on base (after Boston botched another bunt). But Howard Johnson failed on his first bunt attempt, then struck out. Mazzilli and Dykstra both flied out to send the game to extra innings.

Red Sox center fielder Dave Henderson, whose home run in Game 5 of the ALCS helped the Red Sox overcome a 3-1 deficit against the Angels, got a low fastball to his liking from reliever Rick Aguilera and pounced on it, crushing it for a home runjust below the loge seats in left field.

The Red Sox tacked another run on at the end of the inning when Wilson misjudged Wade Boggs' two-strike liner to left, which turned into a double, and Boggs scored on Barrett’s full-count single (Barrett was 10-for-14 in the series with men on base). That made it 5-3 and put the Red Sox within half-an-inning of their first championship since 1918.

The only solace a Mets fan could take at this point, with the season three outs from devastating completion, was that the team had the 2-3-4 hitters up in the bottom of the 10th. But when Backman popped to left and Hernandez skied to center, it looked like the Mets were done for the year.

"Everybody sitting very quietly in that New York Mets dugout," said Mets radio announcer Bob Murphy, "hoping against hope that something will start to happen."

The public address system played "Charge!" as Carter came to the plate and, perhaps overeager, Carter popped the first pitch foul, but it went out of play behind home plate. Schiraldi then missed up-and-in with one fastball and down and away with another. On his 2-1 offering, Carter slammed the pitch into left field for a hit.

Kevin Mitchell came up as a pinch-hitter representing the tying run. He started to swing at an inside fastball checked it and fouled it off. Schiraldi then went to a curveball away and Mitchell whacked it to center for another hit.

With two men on, the Mets had some life, and had one of their best clutch hitters up in Knight, who took a fastball down the middle for a strike, then hit a slow roller down the third base line that Boggs let roll foul.

The next pitch is an oft-forgotten one in the grand scheme of what happened, but the results were impressive. Schiraldi threw a tailing fastball, that came inside but Knight adjusted, curled his back foot, and got just enough of the good part of the bat on the ball to muscle it into shallow center for a hit, allowing Carter to score and Mitchell to advance to third base.

With the Red Sox lead now a run but still just an out from victory, McNamara pulled Schiraldi for Bob Stanley, with Wilson at the plate.

Wilson fouled off the first pitch solidly, than took a fastball wide for ball one and another high for ball two. Wilson fouled the next pitch off his foot, to put Boston within a strike of the title. He fouled the next pitch straight down into the dirt, and another foul behind the plate on a pitch away.

Stanley reversed course on the next pitch and tried to come inside, but came too far inside. Gedman, the catcher, reached for the ball, but never moved his body to block it as Wilson leapt to avoid it, and the ball went to the backstop. Mitchell came racing home with the tying run.

Wilson fouled the next two pitches off and the Mets were fortunate on the last of those, because according to TV analyst Joe Garagiola, had Stanley tried for a pickoff at second base, he’d have had Knight out easily.

Instead came the 10th pitch of the at-bat, one that Wilson was able to roll along the first base line. The ball trickled to Buckner at first base, but then bounced right through his legs for the most infamous miscue in sports history. Knight leapt on the plate with the winning run.

As Scully noted they were "not only alive, they are well" and they would be playing the Red Sox in a Game 7 for the championship.

Turning Point
There were so many turning points in this game, and we were able to document most of them above, but there were also a couple of bad karma moments of which you may not have been fully aware.

The more well known of them is that McNamara didn’t bring Dave Stapleton in to play first base in the bottom of the 10th inning. Stapleton, a far better and far healthier defender than Buckner, had relieved Buckner at first base in all seven of the Red Sox postseason wins.

McNamara had the perfect opportunity to do so after Buckner grimaced when hit just below the belt buckle by a pitch in the top of the 10th, but chose not to make the switch.

Interestingly, Buckner was left in to play first base in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the ALCS, with the Red Sox leading the Angels, 3-0. The Red Sox blew that game too, losing 4-3 in 11 innings.

Also, someone saw fit to vandalize the visitors bullpen with spray-paint graffiti, as the initials R.C. can be seen in the background of a couple of NBC’s pre-celebration shots of Red Sox players in the 10th inning. We don’t know who committed the “crime,” but one of the shots did feature Clemens exchanging high-fives with his teammates.

What They Wrote
"Bill Buckner has just limped off the field, carrying the weight of the world on his back. He can ice those aching ankles all night so he can play in Game Seven of the World Series tonight, but there isn't enough ice to freeze the pain in his heart."
-- Ray Sons, Chicago Sun-Times

"The ghosts of World Series past, of seven-game losses in 1946 and 1967 and 1975, wrapped their cold fingers around the Red Sox' throats Saturday night and choked the life out of what the people of Boston had been calling 'The Possible Dream.'

"If the Red Sox couldn't win their first World Series in 68 years after leading ... by two runs ... with two out ... and the bases empty in the bottom of the 10th inning of Saturday's sixth game, well, maybe it's impossible after all."
-- Kevin Modesti, L.A. Daily News

"Their history has been one of pathos and heartbreak, of lofty dreams and crushing disappointments. But no night in the 68-year-old losing legacy of the Boston Red Sox could match what befell them last night."
- Peter Pascarelli, Philadelphia Inquirer

"It was enough to make you believe there are curses that haunt this team. It was enough to make you believe that the Mets are on some highway toward destiny."
-- Jayson Stark, Philadelphia Inquirer

"From 200 miles away, you could practically feel New England quaking with fear, grief and disbelief. The Boston Red Sox were one out away from their first World Series championship since 1918 early this morning, and the New York Mets rose up like the ghosts of Denied Christmases past and extended big-league baseball's most extraordinary postseason by one more game.

"The denouement of this stirring October drama is scheduled tonight at Shea Stadium, but the forecast is for rain, possibly lasting two days. But 48 hours of steady showers would likely not produce more moisture than the tears shed by the Red Sox's long-suffering fans last night."
- Barry Lorge, San Diego Union

"I can only imagine what the good citizens of Boston are doing now. Are the blindfolds in place? Are they out on the window ledges? Have they wrapped up the sharp instruments?"
- Tony Kornheiser, Washington Post

"If the World Series had been a pleasure cruise to the fans of most teams, it has been to two generations of Bostonians, a stateroom on the Titanic, a deck chair on the Lusitania, first class passage on the Hindenburg."
-- Bruce Lowitt, St. Petersburg Times

"It would not happen this time, the Boston Red Sox had promised. Not in this World Series. Their failures belong to the past. That was then, this is now. Alas, the team that lived by the last strike in the American League playoffs died by the last strike when the World Series was in hand against the New York Mets in Game 6."
-- Hal Bock, Associated Press

Quote of the Day
"My legs didn't have any effect. I felt good out there. It just shows you anything can happen. I feel lousy. Tomorrow, hopefully, will be a different story. We don't have a day or two to forget about it. You can't get down about it.

"Hey, we outhit them tonight. We hit good out there. We just made some big mistakes. I hate to say I missed a ground ball. I did concentrate on that ball. I saw it well. It bounced and bounced and then it didn't bounce. It just skipped. I can't remember the last time I missed a ball like that, but I'll remember that one."


Amy Sancetta/A.P. PhotoMichael Sergio chanted "Let's Go Mets" as police escorted him off the field.

"It was a slow roller with a lot of spin on it. I thought I watched it good. I was playing deeply Than I normally do because I didn't want it to get through the infield.

"If Mookie didn't run so fast I'd get down on a knee to block it. It bounced and bounced And then skidded right under my glove. I was waiting for it to bounce. It didn't."
-- Bill Buckner

Further Reading
Perhaps foreshadowing a bizarre night, with Buckner at the plate in the first inning, a Mets fan, Michael Sergio, parachuted onto the playing field. He would be escorted away by police, but not before getting some laughs and a high-five from Mets pitcher Ron Darling.

Earlier this year, New York attorney Eric Turkewitz interviewed Sergio for his blog. His story can be found here.

Stats/Notes To Remember
1-- There have only been three instances in World Series history in which a game ended on a play that was ruled as an error.

The Mets have been involved in two of them- this one and Game 4 of the 1969 World Series, in which the Mets won when Orioles pitcher Pete Richert hit J.C. Martin in the back with his throw on Martin’s bunt attempt, allowing Rod Gaspar to score the winning run.

2-- Baseball Info Solutions, a Pennsylvania-based company, does video review of every play from every major-league game. Their video tracking found that in 2011, there were 20 balls hit to the same area, and at the same approximate speed that Wilson's ball was hit to Buckner. All 20 of those were turned into outs.

3-- Bill Buckner made his major league debut for the Dodgers on September 21, 1969. He pinch-hit in the ninth inning and popped out.

What was prominent about that game? The Giants beat the Dodgers that day, 4-3 in walk-off fashion.

The game ended on a ground ball to Dodgers shortstop Maury Wills.

It went through his legs for a game-ending error.

Where were you for Game 6?

October, 24, 2011
10/24/11
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Focus on Sports/Getty Images The Mets weren't the only ones jubilant when Ray Knight scored the winning run in Game 6 of the World Series.

We asked Mets bloggers, a couple of our ESPN friends and an ex-Mets employee to reminisce about Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Feel free to share your stories in the comments section below.

Michael Baron, Metsblog
October 25, 1986 was my mother’s 41st birthday, so my father was obligated to take her out for dinner rather than go to the game. Instead, he sent me with my cousins to Game 6 of the World Series, which I knew was do-or-die.

We were seated in our usual Loge Box 472A at Shea Stadium, the first box in fair territory in left field. It was an emotional night through nine innings, but as Dave Henderson’s go-ahead home run hit the scoreboard just beneath us in the tenth, I had never heard Shea grow so quiet. However, just a few minutes later, I had never heard Shea roar so loud.

When Bob Stanley knocked Mookie Wilson down and Kevin Mitchell scored the tying run, strangers around us were yelling, screaming and hugging. By the time that little roller squeaked through Bill Buckner’s legs, those same strangers began to kiss each other.

From those seats, it was hard to see the ball roll through Buckner’s legs, but as the Loge began to shake and the roar of the fans grew to the loudest I had ever heard in that building, all this six year old knew was something extraordinary had happened and the Mets were playing tomorrow.

Linda Cohn, ESPN anchor
Did I really think the Mets were going to do the unthinkable as I sat on my couch in my home in Astoria, Queens?

Yes, that’s where I was. Astoria, Queens, located just minutes away from Shea Stadium. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t give up. I didn’t shut off the television. Hey, no matter how bleak I never shut off a game that involves one of my teams when there is always a chance.

I'll always remember my doubt and disappointment disappear when that ball went through the wickets of Buckner. So much for sitting on my couch. I jumped straight up and neighbors dropped by to peel me off the ceiling.

Taryn Cooper, KinersKorner
I just remember sitting at the edge of my mom's bed, watching the end of the game. I was 10 years old, my dad was actually AT the game, and my mom was sleeping or at least trying to (she's not a sports fan).

I was in charge of taping the games on the old VHS recorder, and I usually edited the commercials. Of course, I was in shock after the Red Sox took a 2-run lead, I forgot to reset the tape! I realized it after the rally had taken charge, then of course, the end. I was 10, so a lot of this was a daze. But I do remember that my dad called my mom a little bit later, to tell her he had met some people at the game who couldn't make Game 7, but had four tickets.

Guess who was going to Game 7? **THIS CHICK!!**

Dennis D'Agostino
I was the assistant PR director for the Mets then.

When Henderson swung and the ball passed over the infield, I knew it was gone and I remember saying to myself, “Hit something! Hit a plane, hit a bird (this was a year before Dion James did hit a bird!), hit something!!” What it hit, of course, was the Newsday sign beyond the left field fence.

When I got down there, Rick Cerrone of the Commissioner's Office called down to the clubhouse phone (remember, no cell phones, e-mails, text messages, Tweets or twits back then) and said that we were to bring Davey Johnson into the interview room as fast as possible (while the Sox were still celebrating), and that would take care of our interview room obligations (in other words, no players). Then the Sox would take it over.

I distinctly remember that when Gary Carter came up I remembered thinking that if there is a God in heaven that He won’t allow this guy, who played so hard and waited so long, to make the last out.

I think the whole Kevin-Mitchell-in-the-clubhouse thing is a bit overblown. Mitch WAS in the clubhouse, but if you watch the tape he’s on deck during Carter’s at bat, so it wasn’t like they had to hold up the game to go look for him.

What I will remember most of all was the scene in Davey’s office when Keith Hernandez came in after making the second out -- Jay Horwitz was sitting in front of the big TV set, cross-legged on the floor. Keith was behind him in the blue Adidas director’s chair, a Budweiser in one hand and a cigarette butt in the other.

Charlie Longo, one of our clubhouse kids, was sitting at Davey’s desk. Darrell Johnson, the old Red Sox manager who was now working in our minor league department, was sprawled on the couch.

I was hovering in the doorway. I saw the wild pitch (soundless) on a little monitor outside near the big bat rack, then raced into Davey’s office to see Keith and D.J. hugging and motionless in front of the TV, with me, Jay and Charlie jumping and screaming.

Then the phone rang again and it was Cerrone, this time screaming, "Mookie and Knight [in the interview room] if you win!!"

The rest, as they say, is history.

Howard Megdal, Lower Hudson Mets Blog
At age six, I actually saw Game 6 about 12 hours after everyone else. At my mother's behest, I was sent to bed while my father recorded the game on our VCR.
Obviously, I couldn't wait to see it in the morning, and he couldn't wait to show it to me. Two days later, I got to stay awake on a school night and see the Mets capture their last World Series championship. I still remember racing with my father up to their bedroom, jumping up and down and screaming to wake my mother. I like to think my daughter and I will do the same thing to my wife someday.

Greg Prince, Faith and Fear in Flushing
When Backman led off, I was filled with hope. He was Wally Backman, .320 hitter, and I trusted him to start a rally. After Backman made out, I remained filled with hope because Keith Hernandez was up and I couldn't imagine Keith not coming through in a desperate situation. When he made out, I gave up.

When Carter got his hit, I refused to believe it was anything more than a tease. When Mitchell got his hit, I thought it was just cruel to keep the tease going. I didn't buy into anything until Knight's hit, because I assumed Knight was going to revert to his 1985 self (.218) and make the last out.

When he didn't, I was fully invested in the possibility the Mets could come back, but I also decided Mookie Wilson was going to let me down in some kind of cosmic throwback to his rookie year when I waited for him to become the kind of player Tim Raines was and all he turned out to be was Mookie Wilson. While my dark cloud of foreboding grew ever wider, Mookie jumped out of the way of Bob Stanley's pitch, the game was tied, and I fully stopped expecting the worst.

For a fan who subscribed heart and soul to "You Gotta Believe," it took total apostasy toward the Mets' creed to find myself a born again believer.

Gus Ramsey, ESPN producer
I watched the game in the common room of my dorm at Rollins College.
When Mookie was up I remember saying to my roommate, and fellow Strat-O-Matic baseball player, Troy, “We really need a catch-x (Strat-O-Matic for potential wild pitch or passed ball) here.”

And moments later Stanley threw the wild pitch.

Then when the ball went through Buckner’s legs I jumped up and ran circles around the common room with my arms in the air.

I still get goosebumps and giggle whenever I see that moment.

Shannon Shark, Metspolice
My friend Jim and I used to call each other the second the other guy's team was eliminated. Islanders/Rangers or Mets/Yankees.

I watched the first 9.5 innings in the living room with my dad, and then went into my bedroom to be depressed and wait for the call. It never came.

The next day Jim told me he had my phone number dialed except for the last digit.

Matt Silverman, MetSilverman.net
I had used the last of my savings to travel to New York from college in southwestern Virginia for the NLCS and the first two games of the World Series. Broke and preparing to be broken hearted, I sat in my friend's dorm room at Roanoke College in the bottom of the 10th inning, trying to think how I was going to make good on previously friendly bets I had defiantly doubled after the Mets went down two games to none.

Then bing, bam, boom, Kevin Mitchell scored on the wild pitch to tie it. Having grown up with the Mets in the 1970s, I knew that thoughts of impending victory usually resulted in crushing anguish. So I concentrated on Mookie Wilson. I'd always liked Bill Buckner as a Cub, but I liked him more on the Red Sox that evening.

Mike Silva, New York Baseball Digest
I fell asleep during Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. I woke up to hear my dad throw his Mets hat across the living room and talking to my mom about how they blew a great season. I was in that half asleep/half-awake mode, but the next thing I know is I hear my dad jumping after the Buckner error and saying "hello, Oil Can Boyd" after the play.

I can remember laying in bed and listening to my dad's emotions of the moment. I was just getting into baseball and that playoff run was what got me into the game.


What it was like to cover Game 6?

October, 24, 2011
10/24/11
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AP Photo/Rusty KennedyBill Buckner's miscue made for one of the great moments in Mets history.
ESPN's reporters remember what it was like to be at Shea Stadium for the Mets' amazing win over the Red Sox in Game 6 of the World Series on Oct. 25, 1986.

Tim Kurkjian
My game story for the Baltimore Sun was already in, and ready to go. And then the Mets made their miraculous comeback. I had seven minutes to rewrite the biggest game story I had ever written.

As if that wasn't hard enough, as I wrote from the auxiliary press box down the left-field line, and it was as if someone emptied a keg of beer in the upper deck above me in the celebration.

I threw myself on my computer to keep it dry, but I was dripping wet in beer as I replaced the first eight paragraphs of my story with eight new ones.

I had no time to craft some really cool lead, and my hair was all wet. I reflexively wrote the word "Amazin'" for the lead, and moved on.

Jeremy Schaap
I admit it. Like Keith Hernandez, I gave up. I didn't go into the clubhouse, light up a Marlboro and pop open a Bud, but, after he flied out, my hopes were all lost, too.

With the Mets down to their final out and trailing by two runs, my father and I got up out of our seats, turned our backs to the field and headed for the door leading out of the SportsChannel suite.

I didn't want to see the Red Sox celebrate on the Mets' field -- and he didn't want me to see it, either. I was 17 and the Mets hadn’t won a World Series since Oct. 16, 1969, when I was seven weeks old.

My father was 52 and he had never seen the Red Sox win a World Series. We were fine with that second streak continuing, but certain that it was about to end.

Then Gary Carter singled -- the Kid always seemed to come through -- and my father and I looked at each other, silently communicated a "Let's see where this goes," and returned to our seats.

Then there was Mitchell, then Knight, then the wild pitch/passed ball. And, then, finally, ludicrously, the Wilson grounder.

I wish I could remember what my father and I said to each other at that moment, but I can't. Probably just, "Wow." There was nothing else to be said.

What I do remember was the trip down the elevator to the ground level. We got on and were joined by the Honorable Raymond Flynn, the All-American guard from Providence College who had become mayor of Boston, and the eminent A. Bartlett Giamatti, the president of Yale who had become president of the National League.

On the elevator, though, Giamatti was wearing a different hat -- figuratively, at least -- that of devastated Red Sox fan. The president of the NL had just seen the team representing his league pull off the greatest comeback ever in a World Series, forcing a seventh game.

You might expect him to be gratified. Or at least ambivalent. He wasn't.

It is possible that I am misremembering his exact words -- but I would swear I am not. "F---ing McNamara,” the Renaissance scholar said angrily, loudly. "Where the f--- was [Dave] Stapleton?"

Barry Stanton, news editor
I was writing for the Journal-News. After Dave Henderson hit a HR off Rick Aguilera in the top of the 10th –- and jogged backwards down the first base line -- to put the Sox ahead, the fan came out in some of the Boston writers in the press box, almost understandably for the ones who had grown up cheering for a jinxed team they believed would never, ever win a World Series.


Amy Sancetta/A.P. PhotoMedia members thought they'd be writing about a Red Sox World Series title ...

The guy next to me even called his father to share the moment.

"Dad, can you believe it! Did you ever think we’d see it?"

Looking down at the Red Sox dugout, with Roger Clemens and Oil Can Boyd waving towels in celebration, I remember thinking that it just didn't seem fair because the other team -- the Mets -- had been, by far, the best team in baseball that year.

And then, down to their final out, things starting happening.

Carter. Mitchell. Knight. Mookie at the plate. Stanley's wild pitch. And then Mookie's roller through Buckner’s legs. Absolute bedlam.

In the clubhouse, we found out that Keith Hernandez, who had made the second out in the bottom of the 10th, spent the rally in Davey Johnson's office, drinking beer. And that Kevin Mitchell, naked from the waist down, was on the phone making plane reservations home when they called him to pinch hit for Aguilera, and that he'd quickly yanked on uniform pants (but no underwear) and run to the plate.

And I remember an angry Darryl Strawberry, storming through the happiest clubhouse I'd ever seen, because he'd been taken out of the game in a double-switch.

I still remember the column I wrote, played off the Dylan Thomas lines, "Rage, rage against the dying of the light."


Amy Sancetta/A.P. PhotoInstead, they witnessed one of the greatest comebacks in sports history.

And we stayed in the Stadium club that night until 4 am.

Remarkable night.

Jayson Stark
Some nights in October blend into all the other nights. But not this one. I vividly remember going to the park for the Philadelphia Inquirer thinking I was about to see something almost no living human had ever seen -- the Red Sox winning the World Series. And then there it was, happening before my eyes.

So because I was in the newspaper business and we had this concept known as "deadlines," I had that tale all written, a story no one in that press box had ever written before, the story of the Red Sox winning the World Series. I'd sent it in. It was late on a Saturday night. I was practically done for the night. And then THAT inning happened. And everything changed, of course. So the story I'd waited a lifetime to write was never going to run.

I remember sprinting down the ramps at Shea Stadium, dodging fans, just about knocking people over, because I had to get to that clubhouse. I remember spending 10 minutes down there, grabbing anyone who appeared, and then sprinting back up the ramps and writing stream of consciousness for the next 20 minutes. And then it hit me what I'd just seen, a moment in baseball time we'd be talking about all my life.

But the other thing that hit me was: I was supposed to close on my new house that Monday, two days later. So I needed that World Series to be over. But of course, it didn't end that night. And then it didn't end the next night, because it poured.

And so I had to hustle back to Pennsylvania, go to the closing, then hustle back to Shea for an incredible Game 7. How 'bout that daily double? And all because of Bill Buckner, and Bob Stanley and all their Red Sox co-conspirators.

Willie Weinbaum, feature producer
I didn't cover it, but was there as a fan in the upper deck, with my dad, Sam (a Cubs fan).

As the Mets got hit after hit, everybody was on their feet. From the upper deck, far down the left-field line, when the grounder left the bat, it looked like an easy out. But for a split-second, when it got past the bag, because of Wilson's speed, I was thinking, maybe he can beat it out. Then it got through Buckner and everyone, it seemed, was screaming in unison, "I don't believe it! I don't believe it!"

Exhilaration replaced resignation -- how could the Mets have won the game and extended the Series, when Boston had wrapped up both? For my dad and me, it was tinged with sympathy for Buckner, who had been the definitive warrior for the Cubs.

We were also seated behind a friend and colleague, Ouisie Shapiro, who was the writer of the show "This Week In Baseball," for which I was later a field producer.

Ouisie, who has won Emmy Awards for her work as a documentary writer and producer, is a lifelong and devout Red Sox fan, born and raised in Boston.

With two outs, she was standing and crying in disbelief as the Red Sox fans' interminable wait was ending. Then it was simply shock as everything fell apart.

My dad and I will never forget -- and neither will Ouisie -- that in the moments after Mookie Wilson's grounder got by Bill Buckner, when we got on the No. 7 subway to head back to the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where all of us lived, Ouisie sat with her head down, in her hands, just above her lap, and didn't say a word the whole long ride home amid the jubilation on the packed train.

She had suffered a heartbreak that left her speechless. She has since appeared in documentaries about her beloved team and has experienced the team's redemption and the lifting of "the curse."

My dad and I didn't just feel sympathy for Buckner, but for Ouisie and all of the Boston fans.

My dad was to go in 1984 to the World Series in Chicago after the Cubs got up 2-0 on the Padres in the NLCS. Leon Durham's parallel episode to Buckner's and Steve Garvey's heroics ended that plan.

More than a quarter-century later, my dad still follows the Cubs with great passion and still suffers and still waits. Ouisie's team has won two World Series, while the team from Chicago's North Side hasn't even been in one since 1945.

Steve Wulf, ESPN The Magazine
I was with Sports Illustrated, but I was not at Shea that night because my wife and I were at a night wedding. Before we left the house, we had dressed our four-month-old boy, Bo, in a Red Sox onesie, and left him in the care of our baby-sitter, Agatha.

I followed the game on a transistor, and left the wedding in the sixth inning. When I got home to relieve Agatha, Bo was fast asleep. But as the game played out, and the Red Sox went ahead in the 10th, I thought to myself that some day he would want to know he watched the Red Sox win their first Series in 68 years.

I take him out of the crib and prop him up on my lap. As he blinks his little eyes at the TV, I look down at him and notice that Agatha, a Mets fan, had changed him into a Mets onesie. Before I could change him back into his Red Sox outfit, the wheels came off. (Agatha was from Barbados, where there is a culture of voodoo.)

So don't blame Buckner or Stanley or Gedman or McNamara or Schiraldi. Blame me. I lost the '86 Series because I was a sap.


This date in '86: Bruce Hurst = Mike Scott

October, 23, 2011
10/23/11
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A.P. PhotosWhy did the Red Sox win Game 5? Because Bruce Hurst (left) rose to the occasion against Mets ace Dwight Gooden (right).

Over the next few days, Mark Simon will reminisce here about the 1986 postseason. The 1986 Mets won the World Series in an exhilarating fashion. Here's a capsule look at Game 5 of the 1986 World Series, played on this date, 25 years ago.

Game 5, Fenway Park: Red Sox 4, Mets 2
Red Sox lefty Bruce Hurst proved to be every bit the problem in the World Series that Mike Scott was for the Mets in the NLCS, minus any accusations of scuffing the baseball.

Hurst's win in Game 5 put the Mets on the brink of losing out on what they thought was meant to be their championship.

Mets starter Dwight Gooden was fortunate to escape the first inning undamaged, getting out of a bases-loaded jam via a Dwight Evans flyout.

He wouldn’t be as fortunate in the second as Dave Henderson tripled with one out (helped when rightfielder Darryl Strawberry couldn’t come up with the ball and centerfielder Lenny Dykstra fell down on the warning track) and Spike Owen drove him in with a sacrifice fly.

Evans added to that lead with a two-out RBI single in the third inning, a run made possible by a Rafael Santana error on a ground ball.

The Red Sox tacked on two more runs in the fifth, chasing Gooden with a triple from Jim Rice and back-to-back singles from Don Baylor and Dwight Evans. Henderson’s double brought in Boston’s fourth run.

Reliever Sid Fernandez was able to stall the Red Sox offense after that and the Mets managed a late comeback after doing little against Hurst through the first seven innings.


Dave Tannenbaum/A.P. PhotoLenny Dykstra was frustrated by the Mets results in Game 5.

Tim Teufel homered in the eighth to cut the Red Sox lead to 4-1 and a two-out single by Rafael Santana in the ninth inning made it a two-run game and brought the tying run to the plate in Len Dykstra.

The Red Sox had griped during the series, wondering as the Astros did if Dykstra was using a corked bat. But Hurst made sure Dykstra wouldn’t make contact on a two-strike fastball up around the eyes, one Dykstra whiffed on with a meek checked swing to end the game.

Turning Point
With two on and one out in the visiting third, with the Mets down 1-0, fly balls by Teufel and Keith Hernandez into a stiff New England wind were caught in left field by Rice. The Mets missed out on an early chance to score, and the Red Sox had the game's momentum the rest of the way.

What They Wrote
“Perhaps the most noteworthy development of Game 5, however -- even more so than Smokey Robinson's two-minute, 30-second rendition of the National Anthem (just seven seconds shy of the record held by Jose Feliciano) -- was another failure by Dwight Gooden.

"Remember Dwight Gooden? Dr. K? It seems like only yesterday when he was baseball's latest prodigy.

"Now, at the tender age of 21, he has become just another pitcher who can be beaten.”
-- Rick Talley, Los Angeles Daily News

“One of the hottest plays on Broadway right now is 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood.' But without a doubt, the hottest subject in all five boroughs of New York today is the mystery of Dwight Gooden. It is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions whose latest act was played out Thursday night at Fenway Park. And when the curtain fell on Game 5 of the World Series, Hamlet had nothing on Gooden in the problem department.”
-- Fran Blinebury, Houston Chronicle

Quote of the Day
“It seems like there's divine intervention from somewhere. Being able to come back when we were down to our last strike, our last swing, well, there must be a reason. I think we have to win it. If you sat down and told this story, I don't think anybody would believe it.”
-- Red Sox DH Don Baylor

Stats To Remember
1) Hurst dominated the Mets in the regular season as well. He would go 9-1 against them in his career, including 4-0 with an 0.51 ERA and three complete games in 1992. His .900 winning percentage is tied with Wade Blasingame for second-best against the Mets, trailing only Larry Jackson, who was 21-2 (.913 winning percentage) against them for his career.

2) Gooden made nine postseason starts in his career without winning one, the most starts by a pitcher who failed to win a postseason game. Gooden is also one of only two pitchers in major league history to go 0-3 in the postseason for a team that won the World Series. He’s joined by Jack Morris of the 1992 Blue Jays.

3) Fernandez foreshadowed his appearance in Game 7 of the World Series by pitching four scoreless innings in relief in this one. Only one pitcher has thrown four scoreless relief innings in a World Series game since -- Kirk Rueter for the 2002 Giants.

This date in '86: Gary Carter's big day

October, 22, 2011
10/22/11
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Mark Lennihan/A.P. PhotoA Hall-of-Fame-caliber performance from Gary Carter helped the Mets to a Game 4 win.

Over the next week, Mark Simon will reminisce here about the 1986 postseason. The 1986 Mets won the World Series in exhilarating fashion. Here's a capsule look at Game 4 of the 1986 World Series, played on this date, 25 years ago.

Game 4: Mets 6, Red Sox 2
The Mets' confidence was restored after a Game 3 win at Fenway Park, and their swagger was back after a Game 4 win knotted the World Series, 2-2.

The Mets had a significant advantage in the starting pitching matchup, with Ron Darling going against Boston's No. 5 starter, Al Nipper. (Their No. 4 starter, Tom Seaver, missed the postseason due to injury.)

Before their offense got going, the Mets needed Darling to get big outs early. The first came in the opening fram, after two walks loaded the bases for Dwight Evans.

Darling rebounded to get Evans to ground out to shortstop, on a nifty curveball, to end Boston's early scoring threat. He survived a leadoff double in the second, recording three straight outs to escape another jam.

Nipper, who hadn't pitched in more than two weeks, got eight ground-ball outs in the first three innings but ran into trouble in the fourth. Wally Backman singled to center field off Nipper's glove.

On a 1-0 count to Keith Hernandez, the Mets tried the hit-and-run, and it looked like the Red Sox would thwart that by pitching out. But Hernandez preserved Backman's time on base by throwing his bat at the ball and grounding it to short, advancing Backman to second with one out.

After a lengthy (we timed it at 37 seconds) conference at the mound between Nipper (a future Red Sox pitching coach) and catcher Rich Gedman, Carter stepped out of the box, then stepped back in and pulled a first-pitch fastball over Fenway Park's Green Monster. Darryl Strawberry then went the other way with Nipper's next pitch and whacked it down the left field line for a double.


Susan Ragan/A.P. PhotoDwight Evans just missed coming up with Lenny Dykstra's two-run home run.

Nipper and Gedman had another conference, but it didn't help matters. Ray Knight singled on a 3-2 pitch to give the Mets a 3-0 lead.

Darling, pitching on three days' rest in a park he frequented growing up in Massachusetts, retired 10 in a row from the second through the fifth innings to keep the Mets ahead.

They would add to their lead in the seventh inning when Lenny Dykstra, after a feeble swing at a 1-1 pitch, hit a two-run home run to right field on the next offering -- one that Evans got a glove on but couldn't catch.

Carter added his second home run of the game, a towering fly ball onto Lansdowne Street beyond the left field fence off a Steve Crawford hanging curveball in the eighth inning. And after Roger McDowell gave up two runs in the bottom of the eighth, Jesse Orosco got Wade Boggs with two on and two outs to end the eighth. (Boggs went 0-for-5 at home for the first time since Sept. 7, 1985.) Then Orosco got the final three outs for a 6-2 Mets win.

As the NBC game telecast noted, this was the third World Series in which the road team won the first four games, joining the 1906 edition (Cubs versus White Sox) and the 1923 edition (Giants versus Yankees).

Turning Point
In the sixth inning, the Red Sox had a chance to cut into the Mets' lead with one on and two outs. Gedman hit a line drive to left field that Mookie Wilson played perfectly off the wall, and his throw cut Gedman down at second base to end the inning. Ten pitches later, the Mets were up 5-0.

What They Wrote
"Just as we expected. It's huge and green and glowering, and it looms like an Everest, and it's intimidating them into submission.

Not the Mets.

The Red Sox.

The New York Mets went over the Green Monster twice, played its carom perfectly once, fielded the turf beneath it without flaw and waltzed to a 6-2 victory."
--Peter Richmond, Miami Herald

"I know I've been saying the Mets' Len Dykstra is a midget -- too small to play in the majors. Well, now I'd have to say the 5-9 Dykstra has a good shot at being World Series MVP."
-Ex-major league outfielder Jimmy Piersall, Chicago Sun-Times

Quote of the Day
"The only thing on my mind now is getting that World Series ring."
-- Gary Carter

"If we continue to hit like this, nobody is going to beat us. The '27 Yankees couldn't beat us. If we had hit like this for the whole Series, we could have swept by now. Our bats are alive."
-- Ray Knight

Further Reading
Ever wonder how hard you would have to hit a ball for it to go over Fenway Park's Green Monster? The website for Khan Academy's video learning program offers a nine-and-a-half minute physics lesson on providing an answer.

Stats To Remember
1. Carter was the fourth catcher with a multi-homer game in the World Series, joining Yogi Berra (1956 Yankees), Gene Tenace (1972 Athletics) and Johnny Bench (1976 Reds). No catcher has had one since then.

2. Darling was the first pitcher to allow no runs in a World Series start in which he allowed at least 10 baserunners since Bob Shaw of the 1959 White Sox. The only pitcher to post that combo since then in World Series play is current Met Miguel Batista for the 2001 Diamondbacks against the Yankees.

3. This is one of only two instances in which the Mets posted a dozen hits in back-to-back postseason games. They did it in Games 2 and 3 of the 1969 NLCS.

This date in '86: A masterful win

October, 21, 2011
10/21/11
9:00
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Rusty Kennedy/A.P. PhotoA botched rundown play played a major role in Game 3 of the 1986 World Series.
Over the next week, Mark Simon will reminisce here about the 1986 postseason. The 1986 Mets won the World Series in an exhilarating fashion. Here's a capsule look at Game 3 of the 1986 World Series, played on this date, 25 years ago.

Game 3: Mets 7, Red Sox 1
Down two games to none, the Mets were in desperate need of a momentum shift in the early part of Game 3 of the 1986 World Series. They got just what they needed for their biggest win of the season to this point.

The best thing that could happen for the Mets was that they never gave Red Sox fans a reason to cheer. Leadoff hitter Len Dykstra hit a 1-1 pitch from cocky Red Sox starter Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd (who'd said the day before the game that he would "master" the Mets) a couple of seats inside Fenway Park's right field foul line and the Pesky Pole for a home run.

It was the Mets' first extra-base hit of the series (the NBC telecast noted they were only the third team to go without one in the first two games, joining the 1926 Yankees and 1939 Reds). They'd add a bunch more.

Ray Stubblebine/A.P. PhotoLen Dykstra's home run got the Mets offense going in a big way.

Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez each followed with singles and Gary Carter's line-drive double to left center field made it 2-0, with runners still on second and third and nobody out.

After a Darryl Strawberry strikeout (his 17th in 29 postseason at-bats) came the game's most bizarre play, an 11-second sequence of significance.

Ray Knight hit a ground ball to third and it looked like the Red Sox would squelch the Mets' rally.

Hernandez got stuck in a rundown when the throw came to home plate, and was retreating to third base as Carter was coming toward the same bag.

But the Red Sox completely messed things up. Rich Gedman tossed the ball to third baseman Wade Boggs, who was in front of the base and unable to make a play on Hernandez, who ducked around him and slid back into third base.

Carter was a step away from third, but turned and dashed back to second base at the last possible moment. Boggs made a short throw to shortstop Spike Owen, who was unable to do anything about Hernandez, so he chased Carter back to second.

Owen ran Carter back three-quarters of the way, but then stopped, turned and looked at Hernandez. That gave Carter just enough time to dive back into second base ahead of a late throw from Owen to second baseman Marty Barrett.

Instead of being an out away from getting out the inning with two men on base, Boyd had to deal with a bases-loaded situation.

He got flustered, and gave up a two-run single to center to designated hitter Danny Heep two pitches later. It was 4-0 after half-an inning and the Mets had all they would need.

It took starter Bob Ojeda, who was traded by the Red Sox to the Mets that offseason, seven pitches to get through a 1-2-3 first inning and his success in that frame carried through the next six.

Ojeda give up a run-scoring single to Barrett in the third, but with two men on base, struck out Bill Buckner on a high fastball (via NBC, Buckner was toughest in the majors to strike out in 1986, statistically) and got Jim Rice to ground out on the next pitch to end that scoring threat.

Buckner would get another shot as the tying run at the plate in the fifth inning, but Ojeda coaxed another ground out to end the inning.

Boyd settled down, but the Mets got to him again in the seventh inning. Carter singled in two more runs to make it 6-1 and an RBI hit from Knight in the eighth inning against reliever Joe Sambito completed the night’s scoring.

Ojeda gave the Mets seven very good innings, the second time he’d won a big game for the Mets this postseason.

Turning Point
The turning point of this game actually took place the day before when manager Davey Johnson gave the team the day off rather than have them go through a between-games workout and media day at Fenway Park. Players said afterward that this move took much of the pressure off the team and made them a more relaxed group for Game 3.

What They Wrote
"When Dennis 'Oil Can' Boyd takes the mound, he likes to think of himself as Satchel Paige. But on Tuesday night, he looked more like a page out of Red Sox history."
-- Lisa Nehus Saxon, Los Angeles Daily News

"Call it whistling past the graveyard.

"Just as old elephants trundle off into the jungle to be all alone and lemmings hurl their little bodies en masse into the sea, left-handed pitchers with a death wish usually come to Fenway Park.

"Usually.

"But Bobby Ojeda, discarded less than a year ago by the Boston Red Sox, who thought that he would forever be haunted in this southpaw's chamber of horrors, a lefty's graveyard, returned to tame the beast."
- Fran Blinebury, Houston Chronicle

"The old place was so quiet you could hear the ghosts of Babe Ruth, Tom Yawkey and Eddie Collins walking about."
- Ray Sons, describing the late innings, Chicago Sun-Times

Quotes of the Day
"The only person who got mastered tonight was Boyd."
-- Len Dykstra
"He made a big mistake saying what he did. We wanted to stick it up his nose. We want him to pitch Game 7, too, so we can stick it up his nose then, too.”
-- Darryl Strawberry

""I just screwed up. I heard the crowd roar when I first turned to second. I looked back. By the time I turned back, it was too late."
-- Spike Owen, describing the botched rundown.

"Those were the Mets you saw out there tonight. The real Mets."
-- Davey Johnson

For Further Reading/Viewing
"Batting Stance Guy" Gar Ryness was able to impersonate the stances of 14 members of the 1986 Mets in under a minute. You can check out his impressions here.

Stats To Remember
1-- Dykstra is the only leadoff hitter in postseason history to have a four-hit game, with one of those hits being a home run. Dykstra, who never had a five-hit game in his major league career, had four four-hit games in 1986, most on the Mets and tied for second-most in the NL behind Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn’s five.

2-- The Mets have had four leadoff home runs in their postseason history. Dykstra’s is the only one to come on the road. The other three were by Tommie Agee (1969 WS Game 3), Wayne Garrett (1973 WS Game 3), and Jose Reyes (2006 NLCS Game 6).

Despite their minimal postseason experience, comparative to some teams, the Mets four leadoff home runs are tied with the Indians for second-most in postseason history, trailing only the Yankees, who have six.

3-- Ojeda had five ROAD starts during the regular season in which he pitched at least seven innings and allowed one run or fewer, tying him with Mike Scott, Rick Rhoden, and Tom Browning for the most such starts in the NL.

This date in '86: Dwight Gooden socked

October, 19, 2011
10/19/11
9:00
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Focus On Sport/Getty ImagesDwight Gooden's performance in Game 2 of the 1986 World series did not live up to expectations.
Over the next week, Mark Simon will reminisce here about the 1986 postseason. The 1986 Mets won the World Series in an exhilarating fashion. Here's a capsule look at Game 2 of the 1986 World Series, played on this date, 25 years ago.

Game 2, Shea Stadium: Red Sox 9, Mets 3
There was great anticipation of the matchup in Game 2 of the 1986 World Series between Dwight Gooden and Roger Clemens, with baseball experts labeling it a once-in-a-generation meeting of the two best young pitchers in baseball (Gooden won the NL Cy Young in 1985, Clemens won the AL MVP in 1986). But the game itself was a dud, an easy Red Sox win that put them up 2-0 in the World Series.

After not allowing a hit through the first two innings, Gooden ran into trouble, partly due to an error by Gold Glove first baseman Keith Hernandez. The top three hitters in the Red Sox lineup -- Wade Boggs, Marty Barrett and Bill Buckner -- each followed with RBI hits to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead.

Gooden tried to make up for matters with a bunt hit in the bottom of the third, and the Mets scored twice that inning, on RBIs by Wally Backman and Hernandez to make it a one-run game. But Boston countered with a home run by Dave Henderson in the top of the fourth and a two-run blast by Dwight Evans in the top of the fifth, giving them a 6-2 lead.

Though Clemens was pulled after getting into a fifth-inning jam, the Mets could not mount enough of a comeback. Meanwhile, the Red Sox kept pounding Mets pitching. They had what was then a postseason single-game record (since broken by the 1993 Blue Jays) 22 at-bats with runners in scoring position. They cashed in for three more runs, then used reliever Bob Stanley to close out the last three innings of their 9-3 triumph.

Turning Point
In the bottom of the fourth, with two on and two outs, Gooden grounded out, keeping the Mets' deficit at 4-2. Two batters into the top of the fifth inning, after Evans homered, it was 6-2 and the Mets were all but done.

What They Wrote
"Gooden vs. Clemens, the dream matchup of the '80s, left something to be desired in its execution.

"And speaking of executions, the Mets are on the verge of using up all of their appeals. They are coming perilously close to discovering that their only alternative is whether or not they want blindfolds."
-- Sheldon Ocker, Akron Beacon-Journal

"Now, maybe only a classic Red Sox collapse can keep Boston from winning the World Series."
-- Ben Walker, Associated Press

Quote of the Day
"Someone asked me if we would have been happy with a split in New York. The answer is no. After we won the first game, we wanted to fight and scratch and kick and punch to win the second."
-- Red Sox rightfielder Dwight Evans

Further Reading/Viewing
Let's remember the Mets' better times, and what better way to do that with a bizarre rap song created in the 1980s to honor the Mets team -- Get Metsmerized.

Stats To Remember
1-- Only once in postseason history prior to 1986, had a team come from behind to win a series after losing the first two games at home. That happened the year prior in the 1985 World Series, when the Royals rallied from a 2-0 series deficit to beat the Cardinals in seven games.

2-- Gooden’s six runs allowed match the most allowed by a Mets pitcher in a postseason game, tying some pretty good Mets-- Jerry Koosman (1969 NLCS Game 2), Sid Fernandez (1988 NLCS Game 5), Ron Darling (1988 NLCS Game 7), and Bobby Jones (2000 NLCS Game 4).

3-- The 18 hits allowed are tied for the sixth-most allowed in a World Series game. That Mets pitchers struck out 12 is unusual. In postseason history, they’re the only team to allow at least 18 hits and record at least 12 strikeouts in a game.

It’s a combination done only once in a nine-inning game in the Mets 50-year regular season history, against the Reds on April 29, 1978.

The Red Sox could easily have whiffed more. Mets pitchers gave up five hits on 0-2 counts in this game.

This date in '86: 1-0 loss, again

October, 18, 2011
10/18/11
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Ray Stubblebine/A.P. PhotoTim Teufel, now a Mets coach, took the heat for the Mets loss in Game 1 of the 1986 World Series.


Over the next three weeks, Mark Simon will reminisce here about the 1986 postseason. The 1986 Mets won the World Series in an exhilarating fashion. Here's a capsule look at Game 1 of the 1986 World Series, played on this date, 25 years ago.

Game 1, Shea Stadium: Red Sox 1, Mets 0
After the Red Sox and Mets had two days off following draining wins in their respective League Championship Series, the two teams convened at Shea Stadium for the Fall Classic, in a great game with an unfortunate ending.

Those who like pitcher’s duels would have loved this contest, a matchup of Red Sox lefty Bruce Hurst and Mets right-hander Ron Darling.

Hurst gave the Mets the same kind of troubles that Astros lefty Bob Knepper did in the early part of Game 3 and Game 6 of the NLCS. Though Hurst walked four and allowed four hits, he was able to sidestep trouble when he needed to do so.

Darling, who was very shaky and fortunate to get a no-decision in Game 3 of the NLCS, pitched very well in his World Series debut. He would allow just one run and three hits, but would be hurt by his own doing.

With the score tied in the top of the seventh, Darling walked Jim Rice, and allowed him to advance to second base on a wild pitch. Darling got Dwight Evans to ground out, but having a runner in scoring position proved painful when Rich Gedman’s grounder to the right side went through the legs of Tim Teufel. Rice scored for the only run the Red Sox would need.

The Mets got the leadoff man on base in the seventh inning against Hurst and in the ninth inning against Red Sox closer Calvin Schiraldi, but failed to score both times. The Red Sox won 1-0 and led in the series by that same margin.

Turning Point
In the third inning, the Mets had two on and one out for Keith Hernandez. But Hernandez flied out and Gary Carter grounded out to end that scoring threat. They’d put two on with nobody out in the home sixth, but their rally was killed by a Darryl Strawberry strikeout and a Ray Knight double play grounder.

The Mets would finish the game 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

The Red Sox would also make a couple of key defensive plays. Third baseman Wade Boggs made a diving stop to thwart one late rally and first baseman Dave Stapleton, inserted as a late-game replacement for Bill Buckner, got a force play on Knight's bunt attempt in the ninth inning to stymie another Mets comeback bid.

What They Wrote
“Game 1 of a World Series is like the first clash of two great heavyweights, the first spotting of an iceberg by a ship captain, the first across-the-room sighting of a woman by a man.

Who knows what majesty or tragedy might ensue?

The Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets met Saturday night at Shea Stadium for the first time in a game that counted, and the mixture was intoxicating to the point of causing hallucinations.
-- Kevin Modesti, Los Angeles Daily News

"It was a Little League error. No, worse than that.It was the sort of play your Uncle Ralph makes in the softball game at the family reunion after he`s had a few too many beers. The groundball rolls out to him at second base, and Uncle Ralph draws a crafty bead on it, slyly puts down his glove and . . ."
--Mark Purdy, Knight-Ridder Newspapers

Quote of the Day
“The ball just scooted on me. I didn't get my glove down. It took a big hop just before a small one and I didn't have the glove down low enough. Do I feel terrible? Yes."
-- Tim Teufel


Rusty Kennedy/A.P. PhotoThe Mets could not solve Bruce Hurst in Game 1.

"It reminds me of the Yankee infield," he said. "The dirt gets loose quick and causes bad hops. It doesn't look level.”
-- Red Sox second baseman Marty Barrett on Shea Stadium’s infield

Further Reading
The Society for Baseball Research is in the midst of its Bioproject, attemping to provide a biography for every major league player. Here's a very thorough look at the life and baseball career of Teufel.

Stats To Remember
1-- The 1986 Mets are the only team in postseason history to lose multiple series openers by a 1-0 score. They also lost Game 1 of the NLCS, 1-0.

2-- This was the Red Sox first 1-0 win since May 3, 1984 against Jack Morris and the Detroit Tigers. The winning pitcher that day? The Mets Game 3 starter, Bob Ojeda.

3-- This was the first postseason game in which the losing team lost 1-0 on an unearned run in 65 years. The last prior to this was Game 8 of the 1921 World Series (a best-of-9) in which the Giants defeated the Yankees, 1-0.

The Mets are the only team with two postseason 1-0 losses on unearned runs. The other such defeat came against the Braves in Game 3 of the 1999 NLCS.

And talk about hard-luck losers: Darling allowed one run and three hits in seven innings. Starting pitchers who allow one run or fewer, and three hits or fewer in seven-or-more innings are 129-11 all-time in the postseason.

This Date in '86: An amazin' Game 6

October, 15, 2011
10/15/11
9:00
AM ET
Mike Murphy/A.P. PhotoOn this date 25 years ago, the 1986 Mets celebrated a National League championship.
Over the next three weeks, Mark Simon will reminisce here about the 1986 postseason. The 1986 Mets won the World Series in an exhilarating fashion. Here's a capsule look at Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS, played on this date, 25 years ago.

NLCS Game 6: Mets 7, Astros 6 (16)
To the 1986 Mets, though this was only Game 6 of the NLCS, it felt like Game 7, with the unbeatable Mike Scott scheduled to pitch if the Astros could even the series at three games apiece with a win at home.

It took 19 pitches for the Astros to gain a three-run advantage on Mets starter Bob Ojeda in the first inning, and it looked like Astros starter Bob Knepper would make that lead stick.

Knepper pitched arguably the eight best innings of his career, holding the Mets to two hits and no runs. Ojeda and reliever Rick Aguilera kept the game close, but the Mets still trailed 3-0 headed to the top of the ninth inning.

It was here that the team first stamped its legacy, with an improbable comeback to tie the score. Len Dykstra pinch-hit a leadoff triple on a 1-2 pitch, a ball that Astros center fielder Billy Hatcher didn’t miss by much.

Mookie Wilson followed with a two-strike hit of his own, a smidge over the glove of leaping Astros second baseman Bill Doran. Kevin Mitchell grounded out, sending Wilson to second base with one out, but the heart of the Mets lineup was now up.

Keith Hernandez, aided by an in-game phone call to his brother, Gary, took the best swing any Mets player enjoyed that day, lining a double that scored Wilson and got Knepper out of the game.

The Mets' next two hitters, Gary Carter and Darryl Strawberry, both walked in seven-pitch at-bats against Astros reliever Dave Smith, loading the bases with one out.

Ray Knight followed with another tough at-bat, hitting a fly ball well enough to right center field to score Hernandez to tie the score, 3-3. Smith would escape the ninth without further scoring, though it took a nine-pitch strikeout of Danny Heep to survive still tied.

Extra innings were a game unto themselves. Reliever Roger McDowell got the Astros out in the ninth, and then from the 10th to the 13th and the Mets likewise failed to score in their turns.

They would strike in the 14th inning on a hit by Wally Backman that scored Strawberry. But two outs from elimination, the Astros struck back when Hatcher’s fly ball down the left field line stayed fair, hitting the foul pole to tie the score, 4-4.

In the 16th, the Mets scored three runs on RBI hits by Knight and Dykstra that were sandwiched around a run-scoring wild pitch.

Mets announcer Bob Murphy described the bottom of the 16th inning as "heart-stopping baseball, pulsating baseball." It was nearly disastrous for the Mets.

A walk and two hits scored a run with one out, cutting the Mets' lead to 7-5. Then, on a play often overlooked, Jesse Orosco induced a force out at second base, when Keith Hernandez made a daring throw to second on Denny Walling's ground ball.


Mike Murphy/A.P. PhotoTo say Jesse Orosco was excited after the game's final out was an understatement.

That gave the Astros runners on first and third with two outs, instead of second and third, and when Glenn Davis singled, only one run scored instead of the two that would have tied the game.

The contest came down to Orosco against Astros right fielder Kevin Bass, with the tying and winning runs on base.

"I was ahead 1-2 and I knew he was looking for a breaking ball," Orosco said on Friday. "I tried to snap it harder, and it missed away. The 2-2 pitch to Bass was close to a strike. I just missed the outside corner with it. On 3-2, I knew I had to throw something he would want to swing at. Sometimes a hitter gets antsy when they know a breaking ball is coming."

Orosco threw a slider that was tempting enough for Bass to swing … and miss. The strikeout gave the Mets the pennant and left Mets fans completely mesmerized by what they’d seen.

Turning Point
Smith missed the outside corner by a hair with his 1-2 pitch to Knight in the ninth inning. That would have been the second out and the Astros would have been up 3-2 with the bases loaded, but just one out from victory.

Instead, Knight fouled the next pitch off, then hit Smith's sixth pitch of the at-bat for the game-tying sacrifice fly.

What They Wrote
"This was Da Vinci on the diamond; baseball's version of Bach; Shakespeare performed with strikes and singles. Game 6 of the National League Championship Series was a classic, destined to hold a special place in the annals of baseball's most dramatic performances."
-- Mike Barnes, UPI

"Through the regular season they wore like a badge names such as bullies, tough guys, conceited folks who were as ruthless as the city from which they come, New York. There are, however, a few more monikers befitting the 1986 Mets. Label them tenacious. Call them a team on a mission. And, yes, term them winners."
--W.H. Stickney Jr, Houston Chronicle

Quotes of the Day
"I don't have any idea what it must have been to watch, but I'm a fan. I might have had a heart attack, might have had more than one."
-- Mets second baseman Wally Backman

"It does feel like 25 years, but it also seems like not so long ago. It's funny, at this time of year, it comes up all the time. My friends try to do something to celebrate like the way I did."
--Orosco, remembering the final out


Other Memories
On Oct. 15, 1986, this author, then a nerdy 11-year-old Mets fan living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, abided by his mom's desire for him to attend Hebrew School that afternoon, rather than stay home and watch the final innings of regulation of Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS between the Mets and Astros.

The feeling then was that I would get more out of learning about my religion than watching a baseball game. I wasn't so sure.

Thankfully, the good folks teaching sixth grade at Temple Shaaray Tefila on 79th Street (a man named Stephen and a woman named Nancy) provided a rescue of sorts. A little after 5 p.m., Nancy brought her class in to meet with our class for a group project. But she brought something else: a portable radio.

The "group project" turned into both classes listening to the Mets make their ninth-inning comeback, with students taking turns posting at-bat-by-at-bat updates on the chalkboard. It was exciting, nerve-wracking and intense, though I do recall some of the girls in the class wondering why some of the boys were so nervous.

Scenes like this were playing out all across New York City that day. The 1986 Mets highlight video, "A Year To Remember" shows one group following the game in Grand Central, living and dying with the anticipation of each pitch.

This fan bought the audio tape of the game and eventually wore it out from listening to the ninth inning, over and over again. Some of my high school cllassmates listened to music to psych themselves up for big exams, such as the SATs. I had Mets announcers Bob Murphy and Gary Thorne rocking and rolling through the ninth inning. My college admissions essay subject was always "The Power of Game 6."

Whatever their off-field faults, the 1986 Mets were an inspirational baseball team. This was the first of two rallies that postseason that impacted the baseball-watching lives of thousands upon thousands of Mets fans in my age range.

It made them believers. Even when the baseball circumstances were at their worst, there was always this game and Game 6 of the 1986 World Series to look back upon and say "Never give up. This could always be like 1986."

• • •
Greg Prince of the Mets blog Faith and Fear in Flushing has an entertaining story of what the experience of watching Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS was like for him and a few others of note.

Bass was a good sport many years later when asked about the game's final at-bat. He shared his story with members of the Society for Baseball Research last year in Houston.

The website Ultimate Mets Database collects stories and fan memories from every Mets game. This page has a variety of memories from fans sharing their recollections.

Stats To Remember
1-- Via the Elias Sports Bureau, the 1986 Mets are the last team to come back to win a postseason game in which it trailed by at least three runs in the ninth inning or later. In fact, it only happened twice previously, both in Games 4 and 5 of the 1986 ALCS between the Red Sox and Angels.

2-- Only three players have had a game-tying or go-ahead RBI in the ninth inning and then a game-winning RBI in extra innings of a postseason game. Dave Henderson did it three days before Knight, for the Red Sox against the Angels, in Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS.

The other player to do it was Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar in Game 4 of the 1996 ALDS for the Orioles against the Indians (coincidentally, one of Alomar’s teammates that season was Orosco).

3-- McDowell is the only pitcher in postseason history to throw at least five innings of relief in a postseason game, in the ninth inning or later, without allowing a run.

4-- Twenty five years later, Orosco remains the only pitcher in postseason history to win three games in relief in the same series.

This date in '86: The Kid was clutch

October, 14, 2011
10/14/11
9:00
AM ET
Lou Requenia/A.P. PhotoGary Carter was a happy man moments after the hit that won Game 5 of the 1986 NLCS and took much of the pressure off Carter’s shoulders.


Over the next three weeks, Mark Simon will reminisce here about the 1986 postseason. The 1986 Mets won the World Series in an exhilarating fashion. Here’s a capsule look at Game 5 of the 1986 NLCS, played on this date, 25 years ago.

Game 5: Mets 2, Astros 1 (12 innings)
Game 5 of the 1986 NLCS was about as epic as last week’s Chris Carpenter-Roy Halladay pitcher’s duel, except that the winning team and losing teams each scored one more run on this day.

This was a matchup of the fireballer present against the fireballer past- 21-year-old Dwight Gooden against 40-year-old Nolan Ryan, made possible when rain postponed the game by a day, and Astros manager Hal Lanier elected to pitch Ryan on four days rest after initially planning to start rookie lefty Jim Deshaies.

Ryan pitched arguably one of the best games in postseason history. He struck out a pair of hitters in each of the first four innings and looked like someone for whom one run would be enough when the Astros touched Gooden for the game’s first run in the top of the fifth.


Ray Stubblebine/AP Photo
The Mets were big believers in the power of the rally cap in 1986.

But with one out in the home fifth, Darryl Strawberry put a blemish on Ryan’s record with a line drive home run down the right field line.

The Mets would manage one more hit in regulation, putting two men on base in the seventh inning, but failed to score. Ryan allowed one run and two hits, striking out 12 and walking one in nine innings of work.

Meanwhile, Gooden got some key outs in big spots, the biggest being a line drive to left with a man on second and one out that left fielder Mookie Wilson turned into a double play.

For the first time in their three years together, manager Davey Johnson allowed Gooden to pitch into the 10th inning and Gooden survived a two-out rally by getting Billy Hatcher to fly to right field with two men on base. Gooden left after that, and to this day is the last National League starting pitcher to go at least 10 innings deep into a postseason game.

Both teams turned the game over to reliable relievers. For the Mets, that was Jesse Orosco, who got through both the 11th and 12th innings. For the Astros, that meant chunky, quirky, Jetsons-cartoon loving moundsman Charlie Kerfeld, who’d stirred the Mets up when, among other things, he made a behind-the-back snag of a Gary Carter grounder earlier in the series.

With one out in the 12th, Wally Backman reached on an infield hit, a grounder off the chest of Walling at third base. Kerfeld then made a mistake, throwing away a pickoff attempt, allowing Backman to go to second base.

The Astros played for the double play, walking Hernandez to pitch to Carter, who was 1-for-21 in the series.

Carter’s at-bat fit in perfectly with the epic nature of this game. He took three straight balls, then a strike, then fouled off the next three pitches, making pretty good contact. On the eighth pitch of the at-bat, he hit a hard grounder past Kerfeld and into centerfield. Backman beat the throw home easily and the Mets had a win, and a 3-2 series lead.

Turning Point
The Astros were deprived a second-inning run when first base ump Fred Brocklander called shortstop Craig Reynolds out at first base on an inning-ending double play with runners on the corners. TV replays showed Reynolds was safe.

What They Wrote
“They call him Kid. Not The Kid, or the Say Hey Kid. Just Kid. As in: `Kid was due.' As in: 'Kid loves the spotlight.' As in: `Kid was pressing, but he wants to be up there with the game on the line. And he's the guy we want up there.'''

To you, he's Gary Carter. In the New York Mets' clubhouse, he's Kid.

Kid is 32, pushing middle age on a baseball field, but teammate Darryl Strawberry, who's 24, will say:`Kid has come through for us all year.'

And he came through yesterday, but it was a near thing, and Kid, whose youthful exuberance got him his name, whose never-failing enthusiasm is legend, knew it better than anyone.”
-- Mike Littwin, Baltimore Sun

Quote of the Day
"When I was standing there on second, Billy Doran told me, `The way Carter is swinging the bat, he's the last person I want coming to the plate right now.”
-- Wally Backman

"In the at-bat before I said, `Yes, there is the old Carter swing," he said. "When you go into a slump it's that one at-bat where you hit the ball and you say that's me, that's my swing. I told him when he got back on the bench, you're back, you have to feel good about that."
-- Keith Hernandez

Further Reading
If you like websites that provide thorough reviews of a player’s career, there is an outstanding one for Carter. Check out http://thekid8.com which contains a level of detail and tribute that show the impact that the Hall of Famer had on his fan base.

Stats To Remember
1-- Carter had six regular season walk-off hits in his career and in a neat twist, his first was against the Mets as a rookie against Mets pitcher Rick Baldwin on June 19, 1975, in the 13th inning of a 3-2 Expos win

2-- Bill James Game Score is a metric to measure starting pitcher performance, usually on a scale of 0 to 100, with 49 to 50 being average, and the rare game topping 90.

The stat is based on a pitcher’s innings, runs allowed, hits, strikeouts, and walks.

Ryan’s combination resulted in a Game Score of 90. There have been 21 postseason games in which a starting pitcher posted a Game Score of 90 or better. Game 5 of the 1986 NLCS is the only one in which that team’s pitcher lost the game.

3-- Gooden and Carter teamed up for a big play in the sixth inning, with Carter throwing Kevin Bass out trying to steal second base. Carter threw out only six of 30 runners attempting to steal when Gooden, who had a very high leg kick, was on the mound during the regular season.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Carlos Torres
WINS ERA SO IP
2 2.08 11 8
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Lagares .314
HRL. Duda 3
RBIL. Duda 8
RE. Young Jr. 12
OPSJ. Lagares .816
ERAJ. Mejia 2.81
SOJ. Mejia 18

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