…. The other side

Lupica writes about the ’86 Mets today, when they were the team that came back in a Game Six, twenty years ago:

…. It was three games to two for the Mets, but the Astros were winning Game 6 in the ninth and Bob Knepper was one-hitting them and Mike Scott, unhittable that year, was waiting to pitch Game 7 the next night. Only then Lenny Dykstra tripled up the gap in the top of the ninth and the Mets came back to tie the Astros, 3-3, and a game that began in the afternoon looked like it might go all night.

It was sometime in extra innings, maybe after the top of the 12th, when I passed Tim McCarver in the Astrodome press box, both of us running for coffee. And McCarver, who didn’t so much broadcast that ’86 season as narrate it, said, “Can you imagine what it must be like in New York right now?”

We found out later. This was before instant-everything on the Internet, and cell phones that gave you pitch-by-pitch and Palm Pilots and all the rest of it. Commuters were afraid to go home that October day 20 years ago, afraid to leave Grand Central or Penn Station, afraid the game might end while they were on their way home and they wouldn’t see it.

The pitch-by-pitch that day was passed from taxicab to taxicab on Seventh Ave. People stood in crowds, we found out when we got back from Houston, in front of appliance stores with TV sets showing the game in the front window. A baseball happy hour in New York.

Lupica gets it right, when he talks about the electricity, the passion, the mayhem. He wasn’t there, in NY, in the middle of the city that night, but he gets it right.

I was. I was there, standing on a concrete flower box in front of Parsons School of Design on, (if I remember correctly), 34th street and 5th Avenue, with a tiny transistor radio pressed against my ear. I was calling out the play by play to what started out as a crowd of about twenty people, from about the seventh or eighth inning. As the game went on, and on, and on, the crowd around me got bigger and bigger, until, at the end, in the 16th inning, there were people standing in the street, and the taxi cabs had stopped traffic, stopped NY, (if you can even imagine that happening); and there were maybe as many as four or five hundred people surrounding me. By then, by the bottom of the 16th, I was yelling at the top of my lungs, “Strike One!” Strike Two!” “Swing!…… Fair Ball! The Mets take the lead!” Like that, for about an hour and a half.

When Orosco ended it…. well, like I said; Lupica wasn’t there. He tells the story second-hand. (I’m getting goose bumps just writing about it). The people closest to me picked me up and carried me out into the street. Traffic stopped, and everyone got out of their cars, taxi drivers and truck drivers and commuters, and we all hugged and yelled and high-fived each other, and jumped up and down. No one wanted it to end, and eventually, about a hundred of us, strangers all, poured into a nearby margarita bar and got smashed. It was perhaps the most exciting sports moment of my life, and when I think about it now, the fact that I didn’t even see a replay of what happened in the game until about ten years later, it boggles my mind. What I do know, is that Lupica is 100% right when he says the Mets owned, absolutely owned NY that year. And that NLCS win, that moment in time, was pure magic, sports pandemonium distilled down to it’s essence, the reason we are sports fans at all. And I was there. I. Was. There.

The Mets had another Game Six that season, against the Red Sox. But that’s another story, the details of which I’ll share with you later, if the Mets make it to the Serious.

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All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
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