BY DAVID RUSSELL
A new book takes a look at what some members of the 1986 Mets title team have done over the last three decades. Erik Sherman profiled 14 members of the team for “Kings of Queens: Life Beyond Baseball With the ’86 Mets.”
Sherman previously worked on a book with Met hero Mookie Wilson, which led to this book. “Mookie’s wife, Rosa, asked me what my next project would be,” Sherman said. “She wondered what Sid Fernandez is doing now, and how that might make a good book. It took me back to Roger Kahn’s The Boys of Summer, about the Brooklyn Dodgers and how in the second half of that book he visited key players from years earlier.”
Sherman traveled over 30,000 miles while meeting with former Mets in dugouts, homes and restaurants. ‘I wanted to meet in their current environment,” Sherman said. “I asked for 45 minutes and the average interview lasted four hours. Once they got talking, they really opened up.”
The former Mets have taken many different paths. Keith Hernandez has become a popular announcer with SNY, while Danny Heep has quietly won over 500 games as a coach at Incarnate Word in San Antonio. There are interviews with New York icons like Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, and a profile on the much-maligned reliever Doug Sisk. To profile the late Gary Carter, Sherman spoke to Carter’s widow, Sandy, and their two daughters.
It was Carter who finished second in the MVP voting in 1986, finishing behind Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt. Known as “Camera Carter”, the catcher was one of the bright personalities that resonated with New Yorkers.
“I don’t think we’ll ever see a team like the ’86 Mets capture New York the way they did,” Sherman said. “The landscape was different before Smartphones and the Internet and a million channels. The Mets were a gritty, charismatic, young team. They were talented and had bravado and swagger. They became must-watch TV. You watched every game because it was so entertaining.”
For all the love the players have received, front office types have not been as loving. Many of the 1986 Mets have not gotten job offers, either from the Mets or any of the other 29 teams in the majors. “They feel kept out,” Sherman said.
“A year-and-a-half ago, they were all saying how they could help the current players with baseball and dealing with the media but they’re never really asked. They feel shunned.”
The Flushing faithful haven’t shunned the 1986 Mets, with the players from the title team remaining as iconic as ever. “You’re never going to have a team that popular again,” Sherman said. “That’s why 30 years later, Mets fans still yearn for that team. They were so good and they only won one time. It was like a shooting star. Maybe it was too combustible to last. That’s part of the mystique.
If they won three or four titles in that era, it wouldn’t be the same.”