Just in time for the holiday season, Mets 101's Seven in Seven series returns as our gift to you. Each week, the Mets 101 staff will begin a countdown of topics related to the New York Mets (i.e. best third baseman, worst defeat, etc.). We will begin our countdowns with the number seven and work all the way to number one. This week's Seven in Seven list takes a look at the most memorable moments in the history of our beloved Mets. We will wrap up the countdown today with the most memorable moment in Mets history, the end of Game Six in the 1986 World Series.
Date: October 25, 1986
The Buildup: The 1986 World Series was supposed to be a coronation for the Mets. The team, which had put out a music video in spring training proclaiming their dominance, ran over the National League en route to the franchise's third pennant. Their opposition in the World Series was the Boston Red Sox, who were seeking their first championship since 1918. The Sox came out of the gate fast in the series, winning games one and two at Shea to grab an early 2-0 series lead. The Mets would return the favor by winning the next two games at Fenway Park to even the series, but Boston won the critical fifth game 4-2 by knocking around Dwight Gooden for four runs. The series returned to Shea for Game Six with the Mets facing elimination.
The Moment: The Red Sox jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the game, and the Mets quickly tied the game. An error by Ray Knight gave Boston a 3-2 lead in the seventh, but the Mets were able to tie it up in the bottom of the eighth on a sacrifice fly. The game remained tied until the top of the tenth inning, when Dave Henderson homered off of Mets reliever Rick Aguileira to give the Red Sox a 4-3 lead. The Red Sox tacked on another run to extend their lead to 5-3. Boston manager John McNamara made two unorthodox moves prior to the bottom of the tenth inning. One was the decision to leave closer Calvin Schiraldi in for a third inning of work. The other was to not replace first baseman Bill Buckner, who had been dealing with bad ankles, for defensive replacement Dave Stapleton. Stapleton had been substituted for Buckner often late in the 1986 season, but McNamara felt that Buckner deserved to be out there for the end of the game.
The bottom of the tenth started out badly for the Mets as Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez flew out to quickly put the Red Sox within one out of the championship. The scoreboard flashed a message of congratulations to the Boston Red Sox as Gary Carter walked to the plate determined not to be the last out of the World Series. Carter kept the Mets alive by singling to left, and Kevin Mitchell (who had to be retrieved from the clubhouse after believing the game was over) pinch-hit for the pitcher's spot and singled as well. Ray Knight came up and quickly fell behind in the count 0-2, putting the Sox one strike away from a title. Knight hit the third pitch into center for a single to score Carter and send the speedy Mitchell to third base. At that point, McNamara replaced the tiring Schiraldi with veteran reliever Bob Stanley. Stanley came in to face Mookie Wilson, and Wilson worked a tremendous at bat against Stanley. Wilson had kept the count at 2-2 by fouling off several tough pitches before Stanley uncorked a wild pitch, which allowed Mitchell to score and advanced Knight to second. With the game tied, Wilson fouled off two more pitches before rolling a slow dribbler down the first base line. The play looked routine to everyone at Shea, but the ball somehow got through Buckner's legs to allow Knight to come around and score the winning run. I cannot do any more justice to the play than the immortal Vin Scully, so enjoy this clip of the play with his commentary courtesy of MLB.com.
The Aftermath: The stunning win in Game Six sent Shea Stadium into delirium and put the Mets into the World Series' seventh game for the first time since 1973. The game would be delayed one day due to rain, and even as Boston grabbed an early lead it felt inevitable that the Mets would come back to win. The Mets scored eight runs in the last three innings to grab the game by the horns, and Darryl Strawberry's home run in the bottom of the eighth added a bit of insurance for closer Jesse Orosco. Orosco came in for the ninth and was untouchable, setting the Sox down in order. Orosco capped the franchise's second championship by striking out Marty Barrett swinging, after which Orosco famously flung his glove into the air and dropped to his knees to become the center of the dog pile.
In Hindsight: Game Six of the 1986 World Series has become one of the most memorable games in baseball history. The play became a symbol of the curse of the Bambino, which had plagued the Red Sox since 1918. Bill Buckner's career was never the same again, as fans vilified him for missing the grounder he probably shouldn't have been in a position to field in the first place. The Red Sox would not win the World Series for another 18 years, finally breaking the curse for good.
From the Mets' perspective, the 1986 World Series has been the franchise's most recognizable moment. That team was the best squad in Mets history, and Mookie Wilson has become a cult hero among Mets fans for hitting that grounder after a memorable showdown with Bob Stanley. The Mets have also not won another World Series since 1986, making the playoffs only four times since then. The aura of 1986 remains a key part of Mets lore and the longer the team goes without winning a World Series only adds to the mystique surrounding the 1986 squad.
Check back tomorrow as Seven in Seven starts anew with a unique look at a certain future Hall of Famer!
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