Friday, October 13, 2006

Back to 1986

My big memory of 1986 was seeing a revitalized Giants team out at the Stick after horrific seasons in 1983, 1984 and 1985. It was the year of Humm Baby, outstanding rookie years from Will the Thrill and Robbie Thompson and the realization that the Giants had actually gotten something out of the Jack Clark deal in the person of smooth-fielding Jose Uribe. My favorite game was seeing the Giants beat the Dodgers late in the year 8-6 in something like the 14th inning and put an end to their pennant hopes.

For most people, though, the big memories of 1986 have to do with the Mets and how they electrified New York by squeezing out postseason wins against the Astros and Red Sox. Watching the Mets win 2-0 tonight amid a fired-up Shea crowd, I was reminded of how intense the postseason can be.

John Perricone at Only Baseball Matters has credited the NY Daily News' often lame Mike Lupica with a decent recap of 1986 and posted an outstanding personal recollection of what it was like to be in New York during Game 6 against Houston --

I was there, standing on a concrete flower box in front of Parsons School of Design on, (if I remember correctly), 34th street and 5th Avenue, with a tiny transistor radio pressed against my ear. I was calling out the play by play to what started out as a crowd of about twenty people, from about the seventh or eighth inning. As the game went on, and on, and on, the crowd around me got bigger and bigger, until, at the end, in the 16th inning, there were people standing in the street, and the taxi cabs had stopped traffic, stopped NY, (if you can even imagine that happening); and there were maybe as many as four or five hundred people surrounding me. By then, by the bottom of the 16th, I was yelling at the top of my lungs, "Strike One!" Strike Two!" "Swing!...... Fair Ball! The Mets take the lead!" Like that, for about an hour and a half.
When Orosco ended it.... well, like I said; Lupica wasn't there. He tells the story second-hand. (I'm getting goose bumps just writing about it). The people closest to me picked me up and carried me out into the street. Traffic stopped, and everyone got out of their cars, taxi drivers and truck drivers and commuters, and we all hugged and yelled and high-fived each other, and jumped up and down. No one wanted it to end, and eventually, about a hundred of us, strangers all, poured into a nearby margarita bar and got smashed. It was perhaps the most exciting sports moment of my life, and when I think about it now, the fact that I didn't even see a replay of what happened in the game until about ten years later, it boggles my mind. What I do know, is that Lupica is 100% right when he says the Mets owned, absolutely owned NY that year. And that NLCS win, that moment in time, was pure magic, sports pandemonium distilled down to it's essence, the reason we are sports fans at all. And I was there. I. Was. There.
The Mets had another Game Six that season, against the Red Sox. But that's another story, the details of which I'll share with you later, if the Mets make it to the Serious.


Anonymous Dan said...

I remember 1986.

The morning of Game Six of the World Series, I received a call at my studio apartment on 72nd Street and Riverside Drive. It was my friend Ted, who was an enormous Red Sox fan.

That fall, Ted was living in Washington with his wife. Now, Ted was feeling quite confident about the game that night, so he was talking smack. He dared me to come down and watch the game with him but said he didn't think I would do it.

I had the Amtrak schedule handy, and told him to meet me at Union Station at 5pm, because I would be on that train.

We also invited our friend Charlie to watch with us. Charlie lived near Georgetown. On the way to Ted's we bought a bottle of tequila. I consumed a lot of tequila that night.

It turns out I was the only Mets fan in a room full of about ten BoSox fans. As it became more and more desperate for the Metropolitans and the booze was consumed more freely, the grief was being heaped on me in larger doses.

In the bottom of the tenth, I called my sister and we had a nice cry. I hung up when there were two outs, and with every hit by the Mets, you could sense the unease building in the room.

By this time I was feeling no pain, and by the time Mookie and Buckner collaborated on the Error, all I could do was scream out "THEY CHOKED!!!!"

I was not the most popular guy in the room.

Ted took the VHS tape of the game he was planning to save and practically threw it at me. He then told Charlie to get me out of there. I guess he was a little upset, and the champagne he had opened in anticipation of celebration was now a way to drown his sorrows.

That was the most amazing night of my life as a fan, as far as I remember.

4:37 PM  

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