I was a kid. A 13 year old entering into some of the most confusing years of my life. Arm issues left me incapable of playing sports and a crippling shyness left me unable to do much else. At 43 it is weird to look back at 13 and say I was lost in the world. I had barely taken any steps at all in this world at 13, but somehow, that is what I felt. Lost. Confused. Lonely.
Then came the Boys of Summer…Mookie, Keith, Darryl, Doc and Nails. Ray, Jesse and, of course, Gary “The Kid” Carter. However, more importantly than all of them, there was my Mom…but I’ll come back to her in a minute.
As the Cubs and Indians take the field for Game 1 of the World Series, I’ll be quietly marking a very special day for me. A day that I think about every year at this time, especially, but also a day that I think about year round. For those that know me well enough, they know it is a sacred day for me.
It has been 30 years since a ball hit by Mookie Wilson rolled through the legs of Bill Buckner, allowing Ray Knight to score and giving the Mets one of the most improbable wins in World Series history. It’s a game known simply as Game Six to Mets fans and every year, when October 25 shows up on my calendar, I pause to reflect on the impact it had on my life.
While it would be my dad that would teach me about the nuances of baseball and it’s history, my passion for the game came from my mom. She was the one that turned on the radio in the car just in time to hear Shea Stadium in bedlam just after Darryl Strawberry hit a home run against Bob Knepper and the Astros during the NLCS. It was my mom who would come running out of the house, yelling and screaming, later that day to drag us in the see the Mets celebrating after Lenny Dykstra hit a two run home run to give the Mets a walk-off home run. It was my mom who still insisted that we watch game three of the World Series from the very beginning, despite the Mets being behind two games to none and in Boston, and boy did she cheer when Nails led off that game with a homer.
When Dave Henderson hit that home run to put the Mets behind in the 10th inning of Game Six, my heart absolutely sunk. When another run crossed, I knew I didn’t know much about baseball at the time, but I knew that was not good. When Wally and Hernandez made their outs, I think it was just my mom and I left watching in the living room. I sat in the corner of the couch, with my fist over my heart. I could feel it beating quickly and I could feel my palms sweating. However, at this point, a calmness had washed over me. Sometime while my first childhood hero, Gary Carter stood at the plate, I got a sense that I just knew the Mets were going to win. I am sure there are millions of fans in Boston that felt they needed the Red Sox to win, but I knew I needed the Mets to win and I knew they were going to win. Maybe it was ignorance of the game or maybe it was just the Mets fan waking up inside of me, but I had no doubt they were going to win. And, certainly, the Kid wasn’t going to make the last out.
And when that tricky little roller down the first base line went past the bag and got by Buckner, I sat quietly still with my fist still over my heart thanking God for this miracle. My mom, on the other hand, literally was standing on the other end of the couch, jumping and dancing and yelling.
To most, it is simply a baseball game. To older Mets fans, it was the second greatest thing to happen to this team. To most of us post-1969 Mets fans, it is still the single greatest moment to ever occur in a baseball game. To me, it was a moment that changed my life forever.
It is a moment that cemented my love of baseball and the Mets. Other moments earlier in the playoffs were the sparks, but that moment would complete engulf me in flames. The whole course of my life was tied to that crazy bouncing ball. If the Mets lost that game, the heartbreak likely snuffs out the sparks of the earlier moments and I don’t fall in love with baseball. If I don’t fall in love with baseball, I am left still looking for my passion. If I don’t have my passion, I don’t become inspired to write. I don’t write and I never find my confidence and I don’t find a sword to battle my shyness. High school becomes more difficult and lord knows where I end up in college, but I doubt it would have been York College, and even if it was York College, I likely drop out after a semester because I never find my voice to continue to battle the self-doubt that gnaws at me constantly. Without York College then I have almost nothing that I have now…Andrea, my two boys, my job, my life as I know it.
Without that rally 30 years ago, there is no doubt I become a different person. One that is more skeptical and less full of hope. I am an eternal optimist in all aspects of life as a result of that night, believing that miracles can and do happen every day. I have wonderful memories of great friends and moments from the days when I worked for the Orioles and Mets. I have a NLCS Championship ring. I have a completed first draft of a novel based on my love for this game. I have Andrea and the boys and a job I like. Without Gary Carter, Mookie Wilson and my mom dancing on the end of the couch, my life would be very different than it is now. And while there are so many other moments that steered me to this moment, it was Mookie Wilson’s ground ball that put me on the road.
So, on Tuesday, while I’ll be disappointed that it isn’t my Mets playing in game one, I’ll frequently remember how Game Six forever changed me and I’ll make sure to say a prayer of Thanksgiving for all the blessings in my life the began somewhere behind the bag at Shea Stadium.