By Paul DiSclafani:
The Mets chose this weekend to celebrate the accomplishments of the 1986 World Series Champions that won 108 games in the regular season. Curtis Granderson gave the current crop of Mets fan a nostalgic view of how that team operated with his walk-off home run to get the weekend started.
Granted, the 1986 Mets dominated the regular season and had the proverbial “Never Give Up” attitude that permeates every Championship team, including the 2015 Mets. But that 1986 team was different. It’s not that they never gave up, they just never gave in.
No, it’s not the same thing. Fighting until you make the last out is “Never Give Up”. Refusing to not make the last out is ‘Never Give In.” The 1986 Mets never gave in, especially in the postseason.
Everyone knows the story of Game 6 of the World Series, down two runs in the 10th inning and on the brink of elimination, the Mets have a furious comeback to win the game and live to play a Game 7. But do you remember what each of the players involved in that comeback said? Gary Carter, who started the rally with a base hit; Kevin Mitchell who followed with another hit on the first pitch, moving Cater to third; Ray Knight who drove Carter home with another hit to make it 5-4, also moving Mitchell to third and Mookie Wilson, who avoided the wild-pith that scored Mitchell from third to tie the game and hit the slow roller that made Bill Buckner a goat; they all said the same thing – “I didn’t want to make the last out”.
As dominating as their regular season was, the 1986 postseason was fraught with peril. In perhaps the last great game Dwight Gooden pitched for the Mets, they lost Game 1 of the NLCS to Houston and Mike Scott, 1-0, but gained a split with a dominating Game 2, beating Nolan Ryan.
In the first home playoff game since 1975, the Mets were down 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth in Game 3 of the NLCS that is tied 1-1, Lenny Dykstra hits his first ever walk-off home run to win the game. After another fruitless effort against the unhittable Scott in Game 4 ties the series 2-2, the Mets needed 12 innings as Gary Cater gets the winner. Ryan was working on a perfect game until Darryl Strawberry hit a home run leading off the fifth to tie the game 1-1 and set up Carter’s heroics and putting them one win away from the World Series.
Finding themselves down 3-0 in the ninth inning of Game six in that same series and contemplating facing Scott for Game 7, the Mets score three times to tie the game and the fight on in 16 innings to win the series in what many call one of the greatest games ever played.
After dominating the regular season and just escaping with their lives in the NLCS, most thought that facing the cursed Red Sox would be a cake walk. It was anything but.
Do most casual fans really remember what happened in the World Series other than Game 6? In Game 1 at Shea Stadium, Tim Teufel makes an error in the seventh inning that cost the Mets a run in a 1-0 loss followed by a disaster of a start from Doc Gooden in Game 2, a 9-3 loss that put the Mets in a 0-2 hole going into Boston.
In a game that truly defined the term “Must Win” – down 0-2 and facing the Red Sox for three games in Boston, the Mets put up a four-spot in the first inning in Game 3 in Boston (Dykstra led off the game with a home run) to win 7-1 and then Gary Carter hit two monster home runs in Game 4 in a 6-2 win that tied the series. But Boston beat up Gooden again, knocking him out after just four innings in an eventual 4-2 win that put them on the brink of their first World Series since trading Babe Ruth in 1918.
Everyone knows what happened in extra innings of Game 6; but do you remember what led up to that? Trailing 3-2 in the eighth, and with the bases loaded, Gary Carter hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game, but Strawberry flied out to end the inning. Then in the bottom of the ninth, the Mets got the first two runners on. Howard Johnson failed to bunt the runners over on the first two pitches, then struck out when Manager Davy Johnson took off the bunt. Ray Knight then hit a long fly ball that would have won the game and the World Series for the Mets, instead setting up the now famous 10th inning.
What about Game 7? Most fans forget that the Mets were down 3-0 after just 2 innings. It was Sid Fernandez that stopped the bleeding, retiring seven straight and giving the Mets a chance to catch their breath. They tied the game in the sixth inning and went ahead 6-3 in the seventh. Boston then rallied in the top of the eighth with two runs, making it 6-5. That set the stage for Strawberry’s mammoth home run leading off the 8th, followed by Jessie Orosco’s RBI single to tack on a run and make it 8-5.
We all know how it ended – with Orosco on his knees, throwing his glove into the air and being mobbed.
Every team plays until the last out and refuses to give up. You are taught that the first time you go out on the baseball field. You are also taught that the hardest out to get is the last out.
That 1986 team just refused to make the last out, because they never gave in.