By Paul DiSclafani:
It’s been 30 years since Bob Murphy made that iconic call, describing one of the most improbably plays in the most improbable World Series game in the most improbable post season for the Mets. October 25th, 1986.
It was a season of domination for the Mets, winning 108 regular season games. But they almost blew their NLDS playoff series with the Houston Astros, having to win one game by a Lenny Dykstra home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, another in extra innings with a Gary Cater base hit and still another in extra innings by scoring three in the top of the ninth of Game 6 to tie the game before having to play seven extra innings. That Game 6 would have been the greatest post season game in Mets history, except that about 10 days later they played another Game 6 for the ages.
It will forever be the Bill Buckner game.
I know that you can google the video of the TV broadcast, or the highlights of that game and enjoy Vin Scully’s call of the final play, but if you can find the video to go along with Bob Murphy’s call, that should be a national treasure. If you can’t, I’d like to remind you of his call in the bottom of the 10th inning.
If you are a Mets fan, you know the story by now, the legend of Game 6. If you are a young Mets fan, you have seen the videos and heard the stories. I am sure there are much more than the 56,000 people who were actually at the game who say they were there. I wish I was one of them, but I wasn’t.
I was at Game 3 and Game 5 of the NLDS vs Houston, and I was there when they won it all in Game 7 – That’s a story for another day.
But I wanted to talk about Game 6 and re-live that last inning with a thank you to Bob Murphy. You see, I was watching that game on TV with my cousin Sal and we couldn’t stand listening to Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola anymore because all they were talking about was how long it had been since the Red Sox had won a World Series.
We needed to do something to change things up, so we put towels over our heads, under our Mets hats for our “Rally Caps” (that’s what we did back in 1986), turned down the TV volume and put on Bob Murphy’s radio call. You know that you can’t do that anymore because the TV images are on a delay now and the radio voices don’t synch up anymore?
After Dave Henderson hit that home run to lead off the top of the 10th to give the Red Sox a 4-3 lead, let’s face it, it didn’t look good. When they tacked on another run to make it 5-3, it really didn’t look good. These Mets were supposed to be the team of destiny. These Mets were dominant all year and now we were going to lose the freaking World Series, to a team that hadn’t won one since 1918? Come on.
But there we were, just three outs away from the single most disappointing moment in the history of a franchise that has had a number of disappointing moments.
Rally Caps and Bob Murphy – we didn’t have anything else we could do.
Wally Backman flied out weakly to left and Keith Hernandez flied out to center. And just like that, it was about to be over. The stadium scoreboard even briefly flashed a “Congratulations Boston Red Sox, 1986 World Champions” graphic.
Gary Carter was our last hope. And Bob Murphy was right there with us…
“Line Drive, it’ll be a base hit to left field.”
Always the consummate professional broadcaster, not only capturing the emotion in his voice, but to the final play, describing every detail of the play and painting the picture in words for the blind radio audience. Only we were getting to watch it unfold as he described it.
That brought up rookie Kevin Mitchell to pinch hit. It was rumored that Mitchell was in the clubhouse at the time and had to rush back to dugout and grab a bat. He delivered and so did Murphy…
“And a line drive, base hit to center field. Now the tying runs will be on base.”
And so they were. Mitchell’s hit moved Carter into scoring position and brought up Ray Knight. Maybe something was happening here after all. Now we were paralyzed and by order of baseball superstition code 235.7, unable to move or speak for fear of jinxing the situation.
As Knight stepped into the box, I was thinking three-run home run or bases clearing double to tie the game. Knight just wanted to keep the line moving. Murphy wanted to keep it moving too, as his voice grew more and more excited as the play developed.
“A soft line drive, it’ll be a base hit into center field! Carter will score and Mitchell will go to third – a base hit by Ray Knight!”
That brought Boston Manager John McNamara out to the mound to replace the former Met Calvin Shiraldi and bring in Bob Stanley to face Mookie Wilson.
With the tying run just 90 feet away now with Mitchell on third, I just had a feeling he was going to throw one in the dirt. Mookie had an epic at bat against Stanley, fouling off pitch after pitch and working the 2-2 count for seven pitches. How many times could the Red Sox be one strike away from winning the World Series?
Then I broke my silence and yelled something to the effect of, “throw one to the backstop, you SOB”. And he did. And Murphy made the call, repeating it each time for emphasis.
“The pitch… It gets away! It gets away!! Here comes Mitchell, here comes Mitchell !! Tie game!!!!”
Oh My Goodness, what a feeling of relief. That was all we were praying for, tying the game. At least that was all I was praying for. I knew that tying the game meant we would win it in the next inning and live to play Game 7.
At first I thought that Wilson had been hit by the pitch, but quickly realized that I was glad he didn’t get hit because the run would not have scored. What I hadn’t really taken the time to process, was that the Wild Pitch allowed Knight to advance to second. Now a base hit wins the game.
Wilson fouled off two more pitches before sending that little roller down the first base line for what would turn out to be a play that to this day, makes Mets fans smile no matter what the situation is. Just the anticipation of waiting for that ball to slowly roll down the line as it gets to Buckner and, well, you know what happened…
“And the pitch by Stanley, and a ground ball, trickling, it’s a fair ball. It gets by Buckner!!! Rounding third Knight!!! The Mets will win the ballgame!! The Mets win!!!!!”
October 25th, 1986. Where has the time gone, my friends?
If you could see me, I have a smile on my face and a tear in my eye. If I could see you, I’m sure I’d see the same thing.
Paul DiSclafani is a featured author at “A View From the Bench”, an official affiliate of MLB.com. “A View from the Bench” is recognized in the Top 100 of MLB.com/blogs.
By Paul DiSclafani:
Syndergaard’s first pitch to Utley never made contact with him, but home plate umpire Adam Hamari tossed him immediately, causing manager Terry Collins to race out of the dugout immediately to find out why his Ace didn’t merit at least a warning. He didn’t get one either, joining Syndergaard in the clubhouse for the rest of the game.
“There was no warning”, a tense Collins said after the game which featured an animated and heated argument between Collins and the entire umpiring crew before he finally said the magic word and getting tossed himself. “He made an assumption, which he is certainly allowed to do, and I disagreed with it.”
Even Syndergaard was puzzled by the immediacy of the ejection. “I was still very confused at the time to why I had gotten tossed. It was a very quick trigger. I was just kind of dumbfounded. I’ve never been thrown out of a game before, so it was just kind of a whirlwind of emotions. It kind of rattled me a little bit, the reason I got thrown out. I was kind of at a loss for words.”
With one out in the top of the third, Utley stepped in to the batter’s box for his second at bat of the game. Utley had doubled in the ninth inning the previous night against Jeurys Familia to clear the bases and tie the game before Curtis Granderson saved the day with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth.
Syndergaard had struck out Utley looking in the first inning and promptly turned into “Nuke” LaLoosh from Bull Durham, throwing the first pitch, a 99 mph heater, right behind Utley’s back and directly into the backstop, just missing Mr. Met (just kidding).
It had been seven months since Utley broke Reuben Tejada’s leg in Game 3 of the NLDS and this was already the fifth time the Mets and Dodgers have played. Utley spoke candidly about what to expect from the Mets prior to the season, considering their comments. So what took so long?
Syndergaard, whose opening pitch in Game 3 of the 2015 World Series sailed over the head of Alcides Escobar, energizing the Citi Field crowd and inspiring the Mets to their only win of the Series, insisted that the pitch just got away from him. “It just slipped from my hands. Tonight was a warm one out there,” he said. “I got a little sweaty. It just got away from me a little bit.”
Although it was no mystery that this was Syndergaard’s way of showing his teammates that he is now the undisputed Ace of the staff, how could he be ejected for not even hitting Utley, without at least a warning, considering the current state of the history between this player and this team?
Syndergaard was so taken aback by the ejection; he had his glove up waiting for the umpire to throw him another ball for the next pitch. He couldn’t even fathom an ejection at that point. “I think a warning might have sufficed before an ejection,” he said, although admitting he can see why he might be considered for ejection. “I understand why he did what he did, but I just think a warning would have been better.”
Even Utley was surprised by the ejection, but not at the pitch. He has been expecting retaliation ever since he broke Reuben Tejada’s leg in the NLDS and has become Public Enemy #1. “I wouldn’t say it surprised me,” Utley said. When asked if there was a chance that this wasn’t the end of the bad blood between the two teams and there might be more fireworks in the final game of the series, Utley repeated, “It wouldn’t surprise me.”
Collins said he did discuss retaliation against Utley with the Mets when they made the trip out to LA two weeks ago.
“We’re not going to say ‘don’t do anything’, but you gotta understand that we don’t need anybody hurt, we don’t need to be retaliated against and I don’t need anybody suspended for stuff.”
Was Syndergaard worried about being suspended? “No, not really,” he said, “I don’t think I should be facing a suspension for letting the ball get away from me.”
Although Utley has faced the Mets a number of times since “The Incident”, there has been no sign of retaliation, although the Citi Field crown had been seeking blood revenge on Friday night. And with the night belonging to the 30th Anniversary of the last Mets World Championship, a number of the 1986 Mets wondered, “What took them so long?”
World Series MVP Ray Knight, who is making his first Mets related appearance since that magical year, knew that his Mets would have never put up with what Utley did to Tejada.
“There would have been a big melee in the middle of the diamond. There’s no way I’m gonna allow somebody to do that that blatantly, that blatantly. A hard slide’s a hard slide, but that was one of those slides that should never have happened. I think you’d of seen — Wally would have reacted right there, and it may have been Wally they took out, if it was Raffy (Rafael Santana) that they took out. You play together and you eat together and you travel together and you fight together. So if you’ve got somebody that is endangered or somebody that’s getting treated wrong, you’re gonna stand up for him.”
Las Vegas AAA Met’s manager Wally Backman felt that any of the 86 Mets pitching staff would have taken care of Utley. But he knew for sure that Doc Gooden would have.
“I wouldn’t just say Doc, I’d have said all of ’em,” Backman said. “The one thing, everybody had each other’s back, no matter what the case was. I can remember Ozzie Smith coming in, taking me out at second base, and Doc saying, ‘You want me to get him for you?’ And I said, ‘No, that’s OK, just give me a double-play ball, I’ll try to get him myself.’ ”
And although Gooden offered and then acquiesced to his teammate’s request, he knew what he would have done. “Wally said, ‘Let it go,’ ” Gooden said. “I was ready to put one in the ribs.”