Almost eighteen years ago, an amazing thing happened. Perhaps not quite as amazing as 1969, but a real close second. What happened? The New York Mets were ushered into the 1986 World Series on the heels of one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) playoff games in baseball history, a 16 inning potboiler with the Houston Astros. The Astros had come back home needing to win both games 6 & 7 to take the NLCS and go to their first World Series. If you are not familiar with the game, the short recap is: Houston races out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Bob Knepper pitches shutout ball through 8, giving up just two hits. Mets enter the 9th down 3-0, but Lenny Dykstra leads off with a pinch-hit triple. Mookie Wilson follows with a base hit to drive in Dykstra. Score: 3-1. Kevin Mitchell hits a ground ball for out number one, but Wilson moves to 2nd base. Keith Hernandez, the Mets best player in the clutch all year, doubles, driving in Wilson. Score: 3-2. Astros manager, Hal Lanier, replaces Knepper with closer Dave Smith. He promptly walks Gary Carter & Daryl Strawberry, both on full counts. Ray Knight up next. Smith thinks he has Knight on a 1-2 fastball, and is incensed when he doesn't get the call. Knight follows with a sac fly to tie the game, and at this point the game was just starting! Score: 3-3 In extras, the game was scoreless for the next four innings. In the top of the 14th, Lanier sent in Aurelio Lopez, the fourth pitcher used by the 'stros. He gives up a leadoff single and then a walk. One out later, Wally Backman drives in the go ahead run. Score 4-3 Mets. Remember, this is the 14th inning of a 16 inning game, so the Astros weren't done yet. In the bottom of the 14th, Billy Hatcher clutches-up and drives a Jesse Orosco 3-2 fastball into the netting of the left field foul/fair pole. Score 4-4. Dagnabbit! In the top of the 16th, Knight drives in Strawberry for yet another lead change. After two wild pitches and a single, the Mets score another run, and "Nails" Dykstra singles in the 3rd run of the inning. Score: 7-4 Mets. Were the Astros demoralized and resigned to the loss? Not a chance. Davy Lopes works out a one-out walk, bringing up Hatcher again. He drives Lopes home with a hit. Denny Walling grounds into a fielder's choice, leaving men on first and third and bringing up power-hitting Glenn Davis with a chance to win it with a home run. He doesn't homer, but does single into shallow right to bring the Astros to within one run. Jesse Orosco, who came in in the 14th, goes to a full count on Kevin Bass before striking him out on a slider. Game over, history made! This game was so captivating to the fans in attendance, that they applauded both teams as they retired to their dressing rooms, despite suffering a crushing loss.
Final Score: 7-6 Mets Totally Amazing!
So, what does all of this mean to the present-day New York Mets? Not much unfortunately, but it means a whole bunch to the millions of Mets fans. Why? Because we know that our team is special in ways no other team can claim. When the New York Mets win, they win in an unbelievably exciting and scintillating fashion that leaves their fans breathless and spent. We don't win often. There was 17 years between the first and second World Championship and it has been over 17 years since the last, but we know that when that time rolls around again, it will be something to behold and cherish. It probably won't be this year, but if it is next year, or 5 years from now, we will be right there to stake our claim to another uniquely Met moment. I'm so thankful that my Dad was a Mets fan and not a Yankees fan. Sure we have only two titles to their twenty-six, but that's OK. It's more than OK, because when we do get back there, it will be like bliss, Nirvana, ecstasy and rapture all rolled together. The next time the Yankees win it all, it will be like, "Whew... I'm glad we won. We wouldn't want to make George upset again". It's whole different dynamic. The recent Yankees are expected to win based on their payroll advantage. It's a relief when they do, and unacceptable when they don't, causing heads to roll. The Mets, on the other hand, are the loveable losers, who, every once in a while, catch lightning in a bottle. The Mets have made some amazingly bad personnel moves in the last 2-3 years. Alomar, Vaughan, Cedeno, etc., but new GM Jim Duquette seems to have a plan designed to get there sooner, not later. Let's Go Mets!