Today is the 25th anniversary of a gigantic moment in Mets history, and that’s the celebration of Game Six.
Whether you were alive, a child, a baby, an adult, not even born yet, chances are an elder has sat you down and either played the last inning of the game or has told them the story verbatim. I like to say that Mets fans are into the history of the team like no other fan base…we celebrate it and love to analyze it more than any other I am aware of (Yankees don’t count since mostly it’s about them winning…we appreciate the losing years a little TOO much at times). All the ghosts of miracles past came into play that fair night and as one of my dad’s friend put it, “God put his hand over Shea Stadium tonight.”
I was at home, watching the game with my mom. She fell asleep around the time Dave Henderson hit the go-ahead home run in the top of the 10th inning. I was 10 years old. My dad, as I alluded above, was at the game. I know it sounds cliche to say this 25 years after the fact, but at 10 years old, sitting on my mom’s bed watching the game, I wasn’t aware that the Mets *could* lose, that they were allowed to. I often say that in Dwight Gooden’s rookie year, he lost nine games, and I swear I witnessed four of them live. I knew the Mets could lose or had the capacity to, but I also didn’t think they would lose THIS game.
This isn’t going to be a retrospective of “What did I do during Game 6,” though Mark Simon from ESPN Mets Blog does that for me today. It’s how history has rewritten Game Six as a Red Sox loss rather than a Mets win. Sure, today we have a bunch of warm fuzzies discussing the event in most Mets forums today (after all, it’s much better to look at the past today than the present or at least the very near future), but for the most part if you look at how Game Six is in the lexicon of baseball fans, it’s how the Red Sox, Cursed Team of the North, were one strike away on several different occasions from tying up the win AND the series, but did not. It’s never been about how the Mets were going on sheet guts and guile to win the game in a dramatic come-from-behind victory.
I’ve also felt bad for Bill Buckner for several years. Just like how history rewrote the game as a Red Sox loss and not a Mets win, Buckner has gotten his share of the blame for the last play of the game. Even the documentary Catching Hell discussed how the Red Sox media and fans treated Buckner afterwards. Certainly, I can understand the power of the scapegoat…I am a Mets fan who has had to deal with the nuclear fallout of Carlos Beltran taking strike three in 2006.
Yet, being an amateur Mets historian as I like to think of myself, it amazes me just how many people think that the Mets actually WON the World Series in that game. If it was…why was the loss and subsequent comeback so dramatic? They still have Game 7 to play. The Red Sox STILL blew a 3-run lead that game.
Buckner misplayed the “little roller along first,” but in order for the Mets to win, they had to have tied it at that point, right? Furthermore, the dynamic changer of that inning was not the bunch of singles that got the Mets’ juices flowing, but it was Bob Stanley’s wild pitch. I’ve often said that no one was happier about Buckner letting the ball go through his legs than Stanley, who had allowed a run to score from third on the play (we can also point out Mookie Wilson jumping out of the way or Rich Gedman’s misplay of the ball too.)
Yes, even the good times in Mets lore have been marred by backhanded compliments, and ways to discredit their victory. The biggest discredit of them all is blaming Buckner. I’d like to hope that people don’t blame him or look at the bigger picture. I know that five years after the fact, people still blame Beltran for all the Mets woes to this day (I, personally, blame Duaner Sanchez for getting hungry on July 30, 2006, in Miami). Did you know, as a “for instance,” that then-Red Sox manager John McNamara usually replaced Buckner defensively in later innings but opted to keep him in the game so he could “celebrate?” Where’s the ire towards him for putting the proverbial cart before the horse? (Actually, I think it exists amongst Red Sox fans, but that’s neither here nor there.)
Today is a significant day in Mets culture. There is no question about it. However, I hope it doesn’t take another 25 years before people see the bigger picture of what really happened here…and that the Mets earned this victory by sheer determination, hard work and grit.