If you grow up as a New York Mets fan, you understand heartache and pain. I once wrote an essay about why Eastern Europeans should be Mets fans and sent it to a Hungarian friend.
This will be more specific. The 1969 and 1986 World Series.
1969: Season started out, well, like a typical New York Mets season. Losing. In those days, the Yankees were a losing team as well, so a bit less of a sting, and the Mets outdrew them. Tom Seaver threw a near perfect game. Suddenly, they started winning! If you’re a Mets fan, you enjoy it, but you keep waiting for the fall. There has to be a catch.
This was the first year of Divisional Play. The Chicago Cubs, had been way ahead most of the season. They collapsed, and the Mets took over the National League East on September 10th. When they won the National League Pennant and were going to the World Series, who could believe it.
The opponent was the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles had a good 1960’s. Until 1954, they were the perennial American League doormat, St. Louis Browns.
I have a cousin in suburban Baltimore. My uncle was still alive. They were visiting and he had fun telling me what the Orioles were going to do to the Mets. I held my tongue but believed him. If the Orioles won, the fact the Mets made it that far was something to be proud of.
It’s now Game Seven. I got off the subway at DeKalb Avenue. I was coming from school in Bay Ridge and going to Hebrew School nearby to prepare for my Bar Mitzvah, which was coming up on December 13th. Of course, I would’ve loved to have been in Shea Stadium to see the game, but tickets were tough to come by.
The Southwest corner of Flatbush and De Kalb Avenue, across from Juniors Restaurant and on a diagonal from Long Island University, had a bar, at the top of the steps to the station.
I watched the last half inning, when the Mets won from that bar. Hebrew School was a short walk on Schermerhorn Street. My teacher, an Orthodox Jew Mrs. Traub was displeased. Enough said.
The Mets won though! It was the same year as the Moon Landing. Anything was possible!
There used to be a bakery called Ebingers. They had a branch on Montague Street. There was a New York Mets cake they baked. I remember it cost eighty-five cents. I know Mom, thinking about food, yet again.
I also remember Casey Stengel, the first Mets manager, shaking his head and repeating, “Amazin, amazin.” He dealt with the Mets first season with one hundred and twenty losses. Amazin…
The 1986 World Series was very different. With brilliant manager Davey Johnson at the helm, (Ironically, he was the Orioles Second Baseman in 1969, and made the final out, when hit hit a fly ball to Cleon Jones), the Mets won one hundred eight games, finishing twenty one and a half games ahead of the Phillies.
They were playing the Boston Red Sox. This is important. Two years earlier, I married someone from Boston. She’s a fanatical Red Sox fan.. Mom warned me about mixed marriages, but did I listen? Of course not! If I were a Yankee fan, the relationship wouldn’t have gone anywhere. Now, domestic bliss was being challenged.
On top of that, we were living in rural Virginia at the time. My father figured the Red Sox would win. My wife Elaine keeps saying, “He should’ve listened to his daughter in law. Back then, Red Sox fans were used to major suffering. I’d need another essay for the history of Red Sox suffering I’ve seen personally, and with my silly looks at history.
Well, we’d only been living there for a month. (I was there for a job). The well to do farmer across the street befriended us. His running joke was which one of us would be sleeping on the porch.
Game Six is what most of us remember. The Shea Stadium scoreboard briefly flashed “Congratulations Boston Red Sox, 1986 World Champions.” Then the ball went between Bill Buckner’s legs. I keep telling her, you have to admire his courage to play with bad knees and ankles. Manager John McNamara made the call to leave him in.
It almost made Game Seven anticlimactic. Elaine was unforgiving. She wanted to see Buckner and McNamara hanged from the Citgo sign, behind Fenway Park. She got her victory in 2004. After Game Seven, the phone rang. Elaine mumbled, “I’ll get it, I know who it is.” It was my then brother in law, John. All he said was, . “Nice game, huh?”