Believe it or not, I was at the 7th game of the 1986 World Series. Like everyone else in metro New York, I tried to dial in when postseason tickets for non-season ticket holders went on sale. The overloaded phone system went dead. But my dad lived elsewhere, and had a touchtone phone with automatic redial, which few people had at the time. He spent the evening watching TV and hitting redial, and eventually got through. He bought and gave us what was probably some of the last tickets sold – under the eaves with a partially obstructed view for the postseason game least likely to occur.
When people remember that season, everyone remembers game six of the League Championship Series, a game so tense my wife eventually hid in the bathroom because she couldn’t take the stress anymore. And everyone remembers game six of the World Series, the Buckner game. I had the tickets to game seven in my hand and almost tore them up. Game seven is overshadowed, but some people remember Sid Fernandez coming out of the bullpen to hold down the Red Sox and keep the Mets in the game. And some remember the home run by Series MVP Ray Knight, which gave the Mets the lead, and the home run by Daryl Strawberry, which put the game away.
No one seems to remember the hit that, sitting there in the stands, I saw as the turning point of the game, turning a Mets win into a sure thing. The hit that changed the whole mood of the game and the feeling in the crowd.
Davey Johnson had decided to go with a three main rotation and short rest, and the Mets best clutch pitcher, Ron Darling, didn’t have it that day. (Shades of 1973). He gave up three runs early, before Fernandez slowed the Red Sox down. Meanwhile Bruce Hurst, who had shut down the Mets earlier in the series, was doing it again. The Mets were down 3-0 in the sixth inning, and everyone in Shea Stadium had a feeling the Mets might lose.
Until Keith Hernandez got a clutch single to drive in two runs and make the score 3-2. That hit didn’t win the game. It didn’t tie the game. But once that hit got the Mets close, everyone in the stadium knew they would win. The stadium was rocking, and stopping the Mets at that point would have been like stopping a Tsunami. Keith’s big hit gave the Mets momentum at a point where the game and the series was slipping away. They never lost it.
This is sort of in response to the request for stories from old school Met fans post here earlier. I don't feel like putting my e-mail address out there. I get enough spam as it is.
One more thought on the game. All we had with us were tokens (remember those) and a few bucks. Because we assumed that there might be something like a riot after the game, and didn't want to lose our wallets and anything hard to replace. But there wasn't a riot, just a bunch of Mets fans screaming "lets go Mets" on the Flushing line all the way back to Manhattan, and all the other lines all the way home. I guess the city had already started to change.