I was 9 in 1982.
It was the first year that my mom and step-dad were together and the year my brother was born. It was also the year that I went to my first baseball game.
We lived in Connecticut at the time but my step-father was from Pennsylvania. He was a huge Pirates fan so he took me to Shea Stadium in New York to see his Pirates play the Mets. The Pirates were cool and all, but boy did I fall in love with the Mets.
I don’t know. The home team, the blue pinstripes, the atmosphere; whatever it was I became I major baseball fan that day and my team was the New York Mets.
The problem was that the Mets sucked. They hovered around last place in the NL east all season the spring and summer of 1983.
I watched the Met’s division rivals St. Louis win the World Series in 7 games over the Milwaukee Brewers.
It was another long winter in southern Connecticut waiting for spring training to start.
The Mets were better in 1984 but still didn’t make it to the World Series. That October another NL east team went to the World Series but this time the Philadelphia Phillies lost to the Orioles from Baltimore.
1985 the Mets were in the playoff hunt all season till the end when the Cards again showed dominance and went back to the World Series. In the October classic this time the Cardinals lost to the Royals. I cheered for George Brett and the Royals the whole way. Any team but the Cards!
Something changed in 1986 for my beloved New York Mets.
All of a sudden Gary Carter was brought in as catcher. Ray Knight arrived to play third and Keith Hernandez was traded over from the Cardinals. As the season progressed the Mets widened their lead in the NL east.
In the end they dominated the season and won 116 games.
After a nip tuck NLCS with the Houston Astros it was onto the World Series.
I was an excited 13 year old boy.
I wore my Mets jacket with my Mets t-shirt and with my Mets pin. I was New York Mets all the way. For a kid like me this was such a dream come true. My heroes were going to dominate the World Series against the hated Boston Red Sox.
Then the Sox won the first two games in New York. I was so broken hearted. How could we win now? I couldn’t believe they were blowing it so badly.
Then things started looking up when we won two of three in Boston.
Back in New York now it was three games to two. Boston just needed to win one game and the Mets needed to win both! What a stressful time for me!
Game six of the 1986 World Series. The first nine innings of that game just didn’t matter. Who even remembers what happened and how the game ended up 3-3. Who cares? We all know what happened next though.
I remember it like it was yesterday. The memory of the emotions are seared into my brain more than any memory of my entire life.
In the top of the 10th Dave Henderson hit a two run home run for the Red Sox.
Two easy outs in the bottom of the tenth and now it’s the classic moment that we all remember. Gary Carter with two strikes now.
Bottom of the 10th. Down by two runs. No runners on base. Two strikes. All the Red Sox needed was one strike to win the World Series.
All the Mets had was ONE STRIKE.
If this isn’t a metaphor for never giving up hope then I don’t know what is.
I lay on the floor in our TV room in shock, disbelief and on the edge of tears; my cat on my lap about to get tossed across the room. I had just that little bit of hope left as I always do.
Come on Gary Carter.
Kevin Mitchell. Single.
Ray Knight, the eventual World Series MVP, was up and again fell to two strikes. Hope was building though.
Then, the duel for the ages. Everyone remember how this at bat ended. But who remembers that Bob Stanley somehow threw the ball past catcher Rich Gedman?
Who remembers how Mookie Wilson, unheralded Mookie Wilson, who isn’t in the Hall of Fame, and certainly never will be, Mookie Wilson, on the 10th pitch of the at bat (yeah, he fouled 6 times) hit the ball down the first base line and hustled his ass off in the direction of Bill Buckner and first base.
He would have beaten the ball to first base so Buckner shouldn’t be such a goat; but he is.
The Mets won the game and also won game seven to make MY TEAM the World Series Champions.
The message today is a cliché certainly; it’s a good one though.
Never give up. Fight till the very end for what you want. Even if you only have one strike left keep swinging. Have faith and keep swinging.
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