BY DAVID RUSSELL
While the 2016 Mets look to be a title contender, the 1986 Mets stole the show on Saturday night. The 1986 team had a reunion and were celebrated during an on-field ceremony before the current Mets lost 9-1 to the Dodgers.
“It’s great seeing everyone at the ballpark,” said Mookie Wilson, the popular outfielder who was the only player on the Mets in every year of the ‘80s. “That’s the beauty of this one. We’ve met before in hotels and at colleges at reunions, and that’s all fun, but this is a reunion at the ballpark. The fans get an opportunity to enjoy it and acknowledge the guys that are here.”
The team was honored for the 20th anniversary in 2006, but it’s rare for a reunion to take place at the stadium. “We have get-togethers at least every other year,” said Wally Backman, the second baseman in 1986. “It’s more special when you come to the stadium like this.”
Players were also able to catch up with the Mets employees. “It’s really nice to see all the people that have been here for a lot of years,” said former pitcher Randy Niemann. “Jay Horwitz and a lot of the security guards that were here not only in ’86, but when I coached here.”
The celebration took place at Citi Field, a stadium where the members of the 1986 team never played. Those memorable games took place at Shea Stadium, where the parking lot is now. “It’s funny how times change, from the clubhouses to the way the players are taken care of inside of the clubhouses,” Backman said. “It’s an amazing thing.”
Fans enjoyed a re-enactment of the final pitch of the 1986 World Series. Thirty years ago, Jesse Orosco famously threw his glove in the air after striking out Marty Barrett and was hugged by catcher Gary Carter. This time it was Gary’s son, D.J., who caught the pitch and embraced Orosco.
“It’s emotional,” said 1986 catcher Ed Hearn. “What I think is really cool is to see the Carters and the Robinsons being able to enjoy this.” The families of the late Gary Carter and first base coach Bill Robinson were given nice hands by the crowd.
Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry were given big cheers as well as current Mets announcers Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling. World Series MVP Ray Knight made a rare Flushing appearance. The third baseman, who for years was upset about not being re-signed after 1986, was not at Shea Stadium for the 20th Anniversary reunion or the Shea Goodbye closing ceremony in 2008.
There is always a special applause for Mookie Wilson, who still has the most iconic at-bat in team history. Down 5-4 in the 10th inning of Game 6 of the World Series, Wilson avoided a wild pitch which scored Kevin Mitchell from third, and then hit a ground ball to Bill Buckner at first base which rolled through Buckner’s legs and scored the winning run for the Mets.
Wilson played 12 seasons in the majors but his career boils down to that one at-bat. “It’s weird and it’s a good thing because I think everyone has to have a moment that really puts a stamp on their career,” Wilson said. “Some guys have a lot of them. I had one and I had a lot of fun and I embrace it now.”