As we approach the 30th anniversary, a former All-Star pitcher, now broadcaster, reflects on the last game of the historic 1986 World Series.
Remember Vin Scully’s famous 10th inning call about Mookie Wilson’s little dribbler along first? Rolling “behind the bag!...it gets through Buckner!...here comes Knight!...and the Mets win it!” Even hard-core fans sometimes forget the New York Mets needed a seventh game to seal the series victory over the Boston Red Sox, a contest Darling (The Complete Game: Reflections on Baseball, Pitching, and Life on the Mound, 2009) left after three innings, having put his team in a three-run hole. With an assist from Paisner, Darling revisits this “bittersweet” moment of personal failure and team success. During the course of his inning-by-inning treatment, the author analyzes the reasons for his collapse: hoping simply to avoid embarrassment, leaving the door open to worry and fear, refusing to go earlier to his breaking ball. He poignantly recalls the “walk of shame” back to the dugout after failing to deliver in the big spot. He expands the narrative to explain the various meanings of the baseball “glove tap,” to deconstruct the pitcher-batter-catcher dynamic upon which the umpire sometimes intrudes, and to recall his blue-collar boyhood in Massachusetts. He focuses, though, on Game 7, assessing Boston stars like Jim Rice, Wade Boggs, Dwight Evans, schoolboy rival Rich Gedman, and opposing pitcher Bruce Hurst and commenting on notable teammates like Keith Hernandez, Lenny Dykstra, Doc Gooden, Gary Carter, and Darryl Strawberry. These Mets saw themselves as a team of destiny, brimming with the necessary talent, killer instinct, arrogance, and even a certain selfishness to claw back the game Darling had almost given away. These hard-partying ballplayers proved, in Darling’s words, “too young, too full of ourselves” to be great for more than one season, wasting their gifts and a very real chance at a dynasty. But in ’86, they were magic.
Mets fans in particular will enjoy this wholly unique perspective on one of their fondest memories.