Mets 1986

You Belong To The City

Photo courtesy of Trumbull Island.  I never forgave my mom for not letting me stop long enough to take a pic of this mural by Port Authority in 1986.

Photo courtesy of Trumbull Island. I never forgave my mom for not letting me stop long enough to take a pic of this mural by Port Authority in 1986.

I knew when I was 10 years old that I wanted to live in New York City.  This was before the days of Disney-ificiation and Lion King musicals in Times Square.  These were the days of sleaze, crime, dingy days of Ed Koch.

And I LOVED it.  I knew somehow I’d be there someday.

I often say that when I was seven, two things occurred that really helped shape my personality as I got older.  I discovered Duran Duran and new wave Brit pop.  At the time, artists like Madonna and Michael Jackson were the popular go-to Top 40 artists of the time.  I listened to them too, but I really loved DD.  That same year, I caught myself watching some baseball games with my dad.  He was a Mets fan.  I declared myself as such too.

I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.  The year I was 10, the Mets won the World Series.

That was also the first year I visited New York City for the first time.  Not just going to Queens to see a baseball game, or driving through Brooklyn and Staten Island like we used would going to our Sunday games.  But a real live Broadway show (Cats on a Wednesday afternoon with my mom and my aunt).  My dad and mom also took me on a day trip to the South Street Seaport, an area I used to work close to as an adult, that has lost some of its lustre, but nevertheless still holds a special place in my heart.

When I was 10, I attended more Mets wins than I ever had.  They won 108 games that year, it would be hard to see a loss.  Then again, I attended about three Dwight Gooden starts in his rookie year, only to see him lose all three.

He lost nine games total that season.

It should be no surprise that in 1986, the Mets won the World Series, and I went to New York City for the first time that same year.

Both were gritty.  Both were totally different from what I was used to.

I identify in my Jersey-ness.  But ew York was where I belonged.

I didn’t know that though till the Mets were in the playoffs that year.

I grew up in a boring rural town, that was basically only car accessible.  There was no walking to the corner store, or taking a walk through the neighborhood.  Shit, I couldn’t even really ride a bike around…my parents feared I might get hit by a car careening down the street, not expecting a young child on a bike.

So I was relegated to basically our building, to my bike in the parking lot…I mostly read books, and kept journals.  I also watched a LOT of baseball.

Then New York City got under my skin.

Never mind I had been to the city a few times for a show, some touristy stuff and even rode the subway.  I had only seen that happen in movies and television.

It was during Game six of the 1986 NLCS against the Houston Astros that got me.

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This has been a tough year for me, getting to games wise.  I took a job that has me working many weekends.  I could finagle a day off here or there, but the reality is, being retail driven, I can’t really miss Saturdays.  The Mets didn’t consult with me, and there was only one flippin game this year that started at 7 pm on a Saturday.

To say I’ve missed many Saturdays this season is an understatement.  But I did get to go to three games in a row this week, and four out of five games.

I saw a 13-inning five hour marathon on Monday night, chronicled here by my companion for the evening, Greg Prince from Faith and Fear in Flushing.

Not one to miss a chance to see another game, I went the next night too.  I saw two wins.  I saw a rain delay Tuesday night that was almost as long as the first part of the game.  During the delay, I was able to charge my phone, watch Homer Bailey’s no-hitter in the Caesar’s Club, but reminisce about 1986, the last World Championship won by the Mets.  It wasn’t because we simply had nothing better to do; the highlight reel of that season “1986: A Year to Remember” was played during the delay.

When highlights of the epic Game Six (the “first” one) came across, the video showed fans all over the naked city watching the game by any means possible.  If that meant they had to brown bag beers outside of an already full bar, so be it.  They watched (and did The Wave) outside of appliance stores that showed the game on the display TVs.  Strangers were high-fiving strangers.  Underage drinkers were toasting cops on the street.

I was watching the game from my living room in Freehold, New Jersey.  I sat in front of that TV from the time I got home from school, to the very last bitter out.  To the point where the broadcast switched right ALCS, where the Angels were playing the Red Sox.

On the evening news, they broadcasted from a street called “Houston” (pronounced “How-STUN”), where there are still several bars.  Fans cheered so loudly, you could barely hear John Johnson report from the street.  They showed the footage of fans outside of stores, bars, cop cars or wherever they hear or see the game.

I had been to the Big Apple a few times by that point.  But as a 10 year old, I decided THAT was where I needed to be.

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New York City gets under your skin.  It did for me at least, and for the next 20-something years they closest I’d get to the city was going to Mets games.  I lived literally across the river, so I figured I was a short ride away from the action.  I worked here.  Then I had a few things come to a head in 2008.  That was when I decided it was now or never.  I’ve lived here since.

They say you can only have one great love.  I call bullshit.  Sure, I have my husband, a man I probably would not have met had it not been for our mutual Mets fandom.  The one constant I’ve had is the Mets.  And the city.

I belong to all three.

Make Love, Not War

Mets 50th Anniversary CollectionI have what we deem as a “Christmas birthday.”  While everyone on planet Earth (okay, maybe just **here**) is prepping for the holidays and transition into the New Year, a day celebrating me is thrown in the mix there.

Being a sports fan, it’s never been out of the realm of possibility to get a sports-related gift to celebrate.  This year, the big “get” was the Mets 50th Anniversary DVD collection, which was kind of a family gift (my husband has had his eye on this sucker for a WHILE now).

I was super excited to see that in the collection, one of my favorite Mets videos, An Amazin’ Era (a chronicle of the first 25 seasons of the Mets), was available on the DVD set.  Super excited probably doesn’t get it – super-duper is more like it.  Of course, the DVD was extended to include the 1986 championship and the NL East run in 1988…something that was a “To Be Continued…” part of the original VHS.  And yes, I still have that thing somewhere.

I often take for granted that the Mets won a championship in my lifetime.  Sometimes though I imagine what life might be like if I didn’t have that year.  If watching the 1969 highlights is all we’d have for going all the way…but so many close calls, like the 1973, 1988 and even the late 90s.

Mark Messier 1994Then the night my husband and I watched the video, he fell asleep, and I was there in insomnia land.  Not only did I get to relive the Mets championship years, I got to see a retrospective on the New York Rangers 1993-94 Stanley Cup run.

I guess I’m a little more than fortunate when it comes to my teams.  Some fan bases have never seen a championship in their lifetime.  I’ve seen one for each of my teams.

I said last year that the team closest to a championship would have been the Rangers.  It’s only cruel and unusual punishment that they have not been able to drop the puck this year.

The Mets seem to be making some moves to ensure that in the future, championships will be dancing in our heads.

I suppose it is only fitting that when I look at the last time the Mets had “relevance,” it was 2006…life would be so much different if they were able to make it the World Series, let alone win it.  Yet, 2006 was a long time ago.

The same could be said for my third team, the Jets.  Two years in a row, they did not make it to the playoffs despite high expectations.  The two years PRIOR to that though, they made it as far as they could go without going the furthest, if that makes sense.

I’m trying to take the football victories where I can.   I can be happy for my friends and family who root for different teams.  My husband is a big Seahawks fan.  We even went to see them play the Jets in Seattle in November.  He was in Hawks Heaven…I’m typically found in Jets hell.

Today, though, I heard that while Mike Tannenbaum was let go, Rex Ryan is staying on  I really don’t know how to feel about it.  I know the buck stops there, but ultimately, how many times can changing the coaching staff really help?

My thought was…I was brought back so many good memories of having my teams winning in my lifetime.  This is a gift I not only cherish but also do not take for granted.

Yet, I don’t have the warm fuzzies with the Jets, except maybe the time from 2009 and 2010.  Some other years there, but I guess deep down I knew it just wasn’t their year.  I had such high expectations only to be dashed at the last moment.  I would then have higher hopes for the future, only to get pooped on later.

My point is wondering why I stick around.  Sometimes, especially after seasons like this, make me wonder why I just don’t go root for another team.  I wonder if things will ever change.  I doubt they will.  Yet, I don’t want to be that fan who gave up when it was so close.

I could only imagine what it was like for people like my dad, who stuck around with the Rangers though they didn’t win till he was a long-time fan and was even lecturing me on the prospect of the Rangers not making it past game six in the 1994 Eastern Conference final versus the Devils.  It became evident, watching the highlights, that the blueshirts were “going for it all” that year.  They wouldn’t have had a better chance after that season.

The Mets started to fall apart after 1986.  I sometimes wonder why I stick around with such inept management and even more inept finances.  Then I think there’s no way they can be that bad forever, right?

But I have the championships from those teams.

Then there’s the Jets.  There are certainly bigger Gang Green fans than I am, but we explain it all away when love a team, we make excuses but the reality is…we all want the same thing.

To survive the war together.

So when people ask me why I am a sports fan, it’s the prospect of winning it all…that’s one thing.  It’s the surviving of it together.  It’s the experience of it together.

I named my first Mets blog “My Summer Family,” after a line in the movie Fever Pitch, which is what Jimmy Fallon’s character says about his Red Sox family.  He later said that he wanted to be involved with something bigger than himself.  It’s why I’ve stuck around with the Mets, the Rangers and the Jets.  To experience that feeling again.  I’ve been fortunate to experience it with two of my teams.

I guess I have to believe there is some payoff at the end.  That during the wars, and the battles, we stick around for the love of the team.

The love of the team though trumps most of the wars and battles forged though.  It’s part of our life, it’s part of our culture.

It’s part of who we are.

When Did I Become the “Elder?”

Today is the 25th anniversary of the last championship the Mets won.  Today, the Mets blogosphere is saturated with stories of Game Seven, summaries, “What-Was-I-Doing-When…” stories, among others.

As Mets fans, we appreciate the history of this team, albeit quirky and riddled with more ennui than excitement.  While I think we tend to romanticize the “down years” a little too much, this date reminds us of how we can all look back with fondness and glee, remembering where you were exactly when the Mets last won a World Series.

Unless, of course, you weren’t born by then or were alive, but do not have vivid memories of their last bombastic year.

When the Mets won in 1986, I was 10 years old.  I was one of the youngest people at the game that night (although I do remember a little boy sitting next to me, who had to have been six).  Now, I’m one of the elders.

How the Hell did that happen?

A lot can happen in 25 years.  A person who was born in 1986 could be a pitcher for the Mets now (as Jonathon Niese is, as well as Pedro Beato), someone who was born after could be married and have children (like Josh Thole)…at the very least, has a license and a Joe Schmoe job like the rest of us if he was not lucky enough to have a talent for baseball and couldn’t get drafted by the Mets.  Yet, in 25 years, I have become a sage, a wise fan who can share the old war stories about 1986.

Again, I ask, how did that happen?

When I was 10, I looked to people like my dad and his friends who all went to games together to tell me about the past, what it was like to see a game at the Polo Grounds (my dad and his best friend were usually taken to the games by their respective older brothers), to tell me about 1969 (my dad skipped school so he could watch it that day), when Tom Seaver was traded (I was in my crib, my dad crying at the television during the evening news), the Hendu Can-Do Walk-Off (which reminds us that even in darkness, there is a light at the end), and then when Keith Hernandez was traded to the Mets (I decided that if my dad liked those guys, then I would like them too).

Over the years, I’ve made lots of my own memories, mostly good, even in the down years.  One of my favorite Mets teams in my older years was in 1999, which defied all logic to go on to the National League Championship Series by sheer determination.  Sometimes, I appreciate that team more than 1986 because we all knew they would win in 1986; 1999 was a lovely surprise.  On the other end of the spectrum, 2006 raised our expectations so high, that we still have not recovered from the disappointing end to that season.

In some ways, 1986 is all we have for our bragging rights, the team that didn’t give a damn about anyone and made New York proud.

So for Mike, and Matt, and the rest of you whipper snappers over at the Stache, I know I have to regale you with stories from Game Seven in ’86.  My dad was in attendance at Game Six, and met some folks who drove from Rhode Island to see what could have potentially been the clinching game for their Red Sox.  Of course, we all know what happened Game Six.  Turns out, these folks had four tickets to a deciding Game Seven, which they could no longer attend (bear in mind, Game Six was on a Saturday, and Game Seven was supposed to be on Sunday…the original “Game Seven” was rained out and scheduled for Monday).  My dad offered to buy the tickets, and went home $400 lighter, but richer in four field level box seats.

I still to this day wonder how my dad pulled that one off.  But if Karma does indeed exist, perhaps we’ve been paying for that ticket in more ways than one today.

I remember the night was one of those humid nights, where there’s a chill in the air but it had rained all day the previous day, so there was haze.  I remember having my palms sweaty, and even crying at one point because the Mets weren’t doing anything (Hey, I was 10…leave me alone).

I remember a nice lady sitting behind me, telling me that they would turn it on the sixth inning. I had to believe her, because I knew, even at 10, that the Mets were not going to lose that game, even when they were losing.  Sid Fernandez saved the day, then Keith Hernandez drove in two runs in the sixth inning.  She was right, and the Mets were on their way.

I remember not sitting THE ENTIRE GAME.  AT. ALL.  No schmoes were yelling at us to sit “down in front” or anything like that.  I don’t remember any Red Sox fans in the area, but I’m sure there had to be some there.  I do remember, however, walking around the concourse in the old field level at Shea, where I saw effigies of burned red socks laying around the corridor (get it??).  I remember the couple next to us singing vulgar songs about how “Boston Sucks.”  I remember trying to look for Bo Fields, the “rolling arms lady” who was featured behind home plate rolling her arms around like a mad woman (I also met her a few years later, I want to say in 1989 or 1990).  I remember a little kid sitting next to me (the six year old boy I referenced earlier) with a WatchMan, and I remember us looking at each other when Darryl Strawberry tried to catch what I believe to became a Dwight Evans home run.  This is where my 25-year old memory as a 10-year old might have tricked me.

I remember not being quiet for the last three innings of the game.  I remember that I didn’t see that lady who warned me about the sixth inning till the end of the game, which may have made her some kind of oracle, a vision who was reassuring me that the Mets would be all right.

The same night that Pedro Beato and Jonathon Niese were born, I was chanting “We’re Number One! We’re Number One!” after the game had ended, when Rick Aguilera, Bobby Ojeda, Tim Teufel (I think…) and Lenny Dykstra were drinking booze on the mound.  Also, keep in mind that three of those four guys were arrested in Houston for a bar room brawl earlier in the season.

These guys didn’t care about what ANYONE thought of them.  Bobby O even said in Jeff Pearlman’s The Bad Guys Won that these guys would have died in battle with the other, and that’s what made the team so special.  This is the team that has held my heart for so many years, yet has set the standard for disappointment or fallen just short since then.

What is the difference between that team and today’s teams, plural?  This team had the luxury of waiting a few years, getting good draft picks, using picks to get established talent to build up the team and they went on for success, though they only won ONE World Championship.  In some ways, that team also fell short, but there were also outside demons we later found out about, especially with the hopes of the future Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry addictions.  Good luck getting anyone to wait or exercise patience for that.  We certainly see that in today’s “I-Want-It-NOW” fans, no matter the fan base.

Many people knew I was in attendance at Game Seven at Shea Stadium in 1986.  This is one of the first times I’ve shared my stories and memories with a blog in the time I’ve been writing about the team.  I’ve made allusions to it, but I never discussed that night.  There are some nights that I still wish Shea existed, that I could walk around the corridors again, much like that night in October 1986, to get that same feeling washed over me again and I could bask in the glory one more time.

Until we make new memories at CitiField, this will be all we have till then.  So celebrate it and acknowledge it, but I’m looking forward to the day where some kid who was born in 1986 or afterwards can say 25 years after the fact, “Hey, remember when we won in X-year?”  It will be their turn to pass on the memories to the next generation.  I just hope that is sooner rather than later.

#BlameBuckner /sarcasm

Today is the 25th anniversary of a gigantic moment in Mets history, and that’s the celebration of Game Six.

Whether you were alive, a child, a baby, an adult, not even born yet, chances are an elder has sat you down and either played the last inning of the game or has told them the story verbatim.  I like to say that Mets fans are into the history of the team like no other fan base…we celebrate it and love to analyze it more than any other I am aware of (Yankees don’t count since mostly it’s about them winning…we appreciate the losing years a little TOO much at times I feel).  I call Mets history “Mets porn.”  This game is just probably the biggest money shot of them all, with all the ghosts of miracles past coming into play and as one of my dad’s friend put it that night, “God put his hand over Shea Stadium tonight.”

I was at home, watching the game with my mom.  She fell asleep around the time Dave Henderson hit the go-ahead home run in the top of the 10th inning.  I was 10 years old.  My dad, as I alluded above, was at the game.  I know it sounds cliche to say this 25 years after the fact, but at 10 years old, sitting on my mom’s bed watching the game, I wasn’t aware that the Mets *could* lose, that they were allowed to.  I often say that in Dwight Gooden’s rookie year, he lost nine games, and I swear I witnessed four of them live.  I knew the Mets could lose or had the capacity to, but I also didn’t think they would lose THIS game.

This isn’t going to be a retrospective of “What did I do during Game 6,” though Mark Simon from ESPN Mets Blog does that for me today.  It’s how history has rewritten Game Six as a Red Sox loss rather than a Mets win.  Sure, today we have a bunch of warm fuzzies discussing the event in most Mets forums today (after all, it’s much better to look at the past today than the present or at least the very near future), but for the most part if you look at how Game Six is in the lexicon of baseball fans, it’s how the Red Sox, Cursed Team of the North, were one strike away on several different occasions from tying up the win AND the series, but did not.  It’s never been about how the Mets were going on sheet guts and guile to win the game in a dramatic come-from-behind victory.

I’ve also felt bad for Bill Buckner for several years.  Just like how history rewrote the game as a Red Sox loss and not a Mets win, Buckner has gotten his share of the blame for the last play of the game.  Even the documentary Catching Hell discussed how the Red Sox media and fans treated Buckner afterwards.  Certainly, I can understand the power of the scapegoat…I am a Mets fan who has had to deal with the nuclear fallout of Carlos Beltran taking strike three in 2006.

Yet, being an amateur Mets historian as I like to think of myself, it amazes me just how many people think that the Mets actually WON the World Series in that game.  If it was…why was the loss and subsequent comeback so dramatic?  They still have Game 7 to play.  The Red Sox STILL blew a 3-run lead that game.

Buckner misplayed the “little roller along first,” but in order for the Mets to win, they had to have tied it at that point, right?  Furthermore, the dynamic changer of that inning was not the bunch of singles that got the Mets’ juices flowing, but it was Bob Stanley’s wild pitch. I’ve often said that no one was happier about Buckner letting the ball go through his legs than Stanley, who had allowed a run to score from third on the play.

Yes, even the good times in Mets lore have been marred by backhanded compliments, and ways to discredit their victory.  The biggest discredit of them all is blaming Buckner.  I’d like to hope that people don’t blame him or look at the bigger picture.  I know that five years after the fact, people still blame Beltran for all the Mets woes to this day (I, personally, blame Duaner Sanchez for getting hungry on July 30, 2006, in Miami).  Did you know, as a “for instance,” that then-Red Sox manager John McNamara usually replaced Buckner defensively in later innings but opted to keep him in the game so he could “celebrate?”  Where’s the ire towards him for putting the proverbial cart before the horse?

Today is a significant day in Mets culture.  There is no question about it.  However, I hope it doesn’t take another 25 years before people see the bigger picture of what really happened here…and that the Mets earned this victory by sheer determination, hard work and grit: something really lacking in today’s game.