I’ve been to only one World Series game. It was in 1986, the year that Bill Bucker let the grounder roll between his legs in a game in which the Red Sox were just one strike from ending their World Series drought, from ending the misery of long-suffering Red Sox fans everywhere.
Who inflicted that unbearable pain? Why, my New York Mets.
I was working for the Daily Hampshire Gazette at the time, a small daily newspaper in Northampton, MA. As a Bay State paper, we were given passes to the games at Fenway Park. The sports reporters each took a turn attending a game and I was asked if I wanted to go. The caveat was that if the series ended while I was at Fenway, I’d have to work: get quotes and write a color piece to go in the next day’s paper.
Of course I said yes.
I brought along my friend Doug Cho, who grew up in Maine and was a Sox fan. Luckily for us, the series sat at 2-1 in favor of the Red Sox. Meaning I wouldn’t have to work, since there was no chance for either team to take the Series that night. I could simply enjoy the atmosphere.
Doug and I sat pretty far down the first base line. Fenway looked the way it always does. Intimate and quirky, visually dominated by the Green Monster in left.
Ron Darling, who actually pitched in an exhibition against my small division III college while I was there and he was at Yale, was on the mound for the Mets. Al Nipper, a journeyman, was given the ball for the Red Sox.
The Mets shelled Nipper – Lenny Dykstra, the Mets diminutive centerfielder, hit a home run to right that bounced out of Dwight Evans glove and over the fence, and Mets catcher Gary Carter clubbed two homers. While Darling pitched shutout ball for 6 innings.
The final score was 6-2. It was not a great game by most standards – the Mets seemed to have the game under control by the fourth inning. Still, to see my beloved Mets in the World Series was a thrill.
Later, of course, Buckner made his error that is seared into the memories of the Red Sox faithful. I watched that game with friends on the lower East Side of Manhattan, saw the ball dribble through Buckner’s legs, watched as Ray Knight raced home with the winning run. Afterward, after that miraculous game 6 when the Mets came back from the dead, my friends and I wandered out onto the street.
We were all – and in New York City, “all” is a lot of people – deliriously happy. Random screams. Honking horns. Singing-In-The-Rain-style dances around lampposts. We walked into a bar and free drinks were being served. Free drinks? In New York City?
It was like it was New Year’s Eve. Or Armistice Day.
In that one moment, our belief that anything is possible was confirmed.
Those Amazin’ Mets.