Tucked away in the mountains of Tehachapi, Calif. rests a modest cottage. Living in that cottage are John and Jill Nelson. These are my parents.
In any given room, you can find the typical conventions of any old west-style household. There are paintings of horses on every wall, candle holders made from welded horseshoes on the dining room table and small pieces from alfalfa-hay flakes scattered across the 70s-style brown carpet.
If you look deep enough in the closets, underneath the abundance of dust, you’ll find something any true baseball fan has: memorabilia. In my parents’ case, the majority happens to be New York Mets memorabilia.
This offseason has dragged on for what seems like an eternity. The Mets continue to be written off, but this is something my parents have been used to hearing for as long as they’ve followed the Mets—something that’s been engrained in the way I’ve followed the Mets my whole life. I’m sure it’s something we all recognize.
See, my parents haven’t always resided on the West Coast. For a large chuck of their lives, they lived in Fair Lawn, N.J.—in Bergen County, which is right on the border of New York and New Jersey. They both worked for the Associated Press in New York.
My father is originally from Federal Way, Wash. so he indirectly adopted the Mets through my mother, who grew up in Kenilworth, N.J.
Whenever I visit my parents in Tehachapi, they tell me stories from when they watched and covered the Mets. They have a more impartial perspective because they are both journalists. You can tell when they talk about the Mets though, there’s just a hint attachment. I recently got a chance to visit them and they dusted off all their memorabilia and told me the stories behind it.
This 1969 poster from Jock Magazine cost 60 cents and measured about 3 feet in length.
Since the anniversary of Gary Carter’s passing, I’ve been asking them a lot about Mets teams of old. I want to share some stories and memorabilia with you. It’s my hope that we can put aside the Mets’ current foibles and focus primarily on something the Mets have done throughout the franchise’s history: defy the odds.
This offseason reminds me of the season preceding 1969—the “Miracle Mets” season.
My mother got this Daily News issued button and the poster seen above during the Mets’ World Series run in 1969. The Mets clinched the division on Sept. 24, 1969 with a win over the St. Louis Cardinals 6-0.
It was also fan appreciation day. My mother and grandfather were both in attendance. My mother was 16 years old. She remembers fans climbing the foul poles and everyone rushing onto the field to grab a chunk of grass after the Mets won the game. On the way home, she recalls almost everyone riding the train holding a piece of grass. It would be nice to see the Mets get that kind of support from the fanbase again. There was a time when, despite how bad the Mets were, fans still showed a lot of support.
1986 NLCS Score Book
By the time 1986 rolled around, my father had become an established writer for the Associated Press. My older brother had been born so my mother became more of a fan. She went to a lot of games in ’86 and kept many things along the way.
Box score from Game 3 of the NLCS against the Astros at Shea Stadium
As we all know, the Mets beat the Houston Astros in the ’86 NLCS in six games to move on to the World Series. My mother attended Game 3 (as you can see from the handwritten box score). The Mets won the game 6-5 with a walk-off home run by Lenny Dykstra. She said when Dykstra hit the two-run homer in the bottom of the 9th inning, the stands in Shea Stadium shook back and forth.
Two-page spread of the NL Champion Mets featured in The Record on Sunday, Oct. 19, 1986
During the ’86 World Series, my father wrote an evaluation of each team’s roster for the AP. He picked which team had the upper hand at each position. These evaluations were distributed to newspapers across the country that didn’t have traveling baseball writers and didn’t have as much knowledge about each team. When it came to third base, my father picked Ray Knight to be the better player over Wade Boggs. Every paper that the comparison was distributed to ran it except for one publication based in Boston. The paper refused to publish it unless Knight was replaced by Boggs. My father refused and the paper didn’t run his piece. When the World Series was over, Knight was named World Series MVP.
My mother’s score card from Game 6 of the 1986 World Series
Both my mother and father were at Game 6. My mother was in the stands with my grandmother and my father was in the press box covering the game for the AP.
Back then, my father used to dictate the games over the phone back to the AP office. When Keith Hernandez made the second out of the 9th inning, the Series seemed all but wrapped up for the Red Sox. After Carter’s two-out hit in the inning, my father recalls telling the AP office, “Hold on. Something crazy is about to happen.”
It’s indicative of the way the Mets play. We saw it a lot in 2012 when the Mets piled up all those two-out runs.
My mother was sitting on the first base side in between home and first. She remembers Red Sox fans sitting a few rows in front of her going crazy after the second out of the 9th inning. After Wilson’s grounder to Bill Buckner at first, she claims that even if Buckner had fielded the ball, Wilson would have beat the throw. When the ball rolled passed Buckner, she recalls all of Shea Stadium going completely silent for a split second.
As Knight rounded third base seconds later, she said Shea blew up like someone had set off dynamite from under the seats. When she looked down at the Red Sox fans a few rows in front her, they were no where to be found.
I love hearing these stories whenever I get a chance to go home. It makes me think that we shouldn’t count the Mets out in 2013 just yet. In fact, history tells us that the Mets have a penchant for surprising everybody. I like it when we fly under the radar. They play better with a chip on their shoulders. With all that being said, I feel something amazin’ is in the works.
Ya gotta believe!… Do you?