Mets Time Machine: October 25, 1986

Yogi Berra once said, "It ain't over till it's over." But on the night of October 25, with 2 outs in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series - it was over. The game, the World Series, and the season were about to end on the sourest of notes for the Mets, while the Boston Red Sox would at last reward their long-suffering fans with that club's first world championship in 68 years.

The Sox held a 5-3 lead in the game and a 3-2 lead in the series. Now they had to retire Gary Carter to get the celebration officially under way. While Carter was at the plate with 2 strikes and nobody on base, the Shea Stadium electronic message board flashed "Congratulations Boston Red Sox - 1986 World Champions." The message lasted for only a second and then disappeared, but thousands of fans at the game saw it. Ironically, the congratulatory message spelled the beginning of the end - not for the Mets, but for the Red Sox. What followed would go down as one of the most incredible comebacks in World Series history.

Boston reliever Calvin Schiraldi, a Mets starting pitcher just a season ago, got too much of the plate with his next offering and Carter ripped a hard single to left. The Mets still had a life, but with no outs to spare and a 2-run mountain to climb there was little reason for optimism. Pinch hitter Kevin Mitchell was next, and he promptly lined a single to center. Carter raced to third, and suddenly the Mets had the tying runs on base. The Shea crowd was on its feet, praying for a miracle. Ray Knight was next, and he looped a soft single to left center, scoring Carter and allowing Mitchell to reach third. The tying run was only 90 feet away.

Schiraldi was removed by manager John McNamara, and Bob Stanley was summoned from the bullpen. Stanley was Boston's leading relief pitcher, their closer. He had saved 16 games that season, and all the Red Sox needed from Stanley now was one out. He would face Mookie Wilson with the season on the line.

Mookie was one of the most popular Mets of all time. Fans appreciated his hustle and his great attitude. He had been with the team since the dark days of 1980 when the Mets were going nowhere fast, and now he had a chance to exorcise the demons of losing seasons past. Stanley quickly got 2 strikes on Mookie, and for the second time in the inning, Boston was a strike away from victory. But once again, fate would intervene. Stanley's next pitch was a fastball, low and inside, and Mookie instinctively left his feet to avoid being hit with the pitch. The ball skipped by catcher Rich Gedman all the way to the screen, and Mitchell romped home from third with the tying run. Had the batter been anyone other than the lightning-quick Wilson, it's likely that the wild pitch would have hit the foot or leg of the batter instead, loading the bases and leaving it up to on-deck batter Howard Johnson to get Mitchell home.

Now with the winning run on second base in the person of Ray Knight, Mookie was looking to drive the ball. Instead, he hit a slow roller up the first base line, an easy play for Bill Buckner. However, Buckner somehow allowed the dribbler to roll through his legs into right field, and Knight came racing home with the most improbable of winning runs. The Mets had come back from the precipice to win, 6-5, and force a 7th game, scheduled for the next evening.

In postgame reviews of the famous "Buckner Ball", Mookie Wilson brought up an interesting point. He said that even had Buckner fielded the grounder cleanly, he would have beaten the throw to first because Bob Stanley was slow to break from the mound to cover first and Buckner, with his injured legs, was too slow and too far off the bag to beat Mookie to the base. The winning pitcher for the Mets was Rick Aguilera, who earned this honor after allowing the 2 go-ahead runs in the top of the 10th. Another tidbit: With the Mets down to their last out and nobody on base, the Boston locker room was filled with buckets of champagne on ice, locker stalls were taped over with protective plastic, and NBC camera crews were set up to record the celebration. It all had to be taken away when Ray Knight crossed home plate.

I suspect that many fans were tempted, as I was, to turn off the television in the bottom of the 10th when all seemed lost. I certainly had no stomach for watching Boston celebrate on Shea's infield. But somehow I kept watching, because when it came to the 1986 Mets, Yogi was right.

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