By Paul DiSclafani
It’s been 30 years since Bob Murphy made that iconic call, describing one of the most improbably plays in the most improbable World Series game in the most improbable post season for the Mets. October 25th, 1986.
It was a season of domination for the Mets, winning 108 regular season games. But they almost blew their NLDS playoff series with the Houston Astros, having to win one game by a Lenny Dykstra home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, another in extra innings with a Gary Cater base hit and still another in extra innings by scoring three in the top of the ninth of Game 6 to tie the game before having to play seven extra innings. That Game 6 would have been the greatest post season game in Mets history, except that about 10 days later they played another Game 6 for the ages.
It will forever be the Bill Buckner game.
I know that you can google the video of the TV broadcast, or the highlights of that game and enjoy Vin Scully’s call of the final play, but if you can find the video to go along with Bob Murphy’s call, that should be a national treasure. If you can’t, I’d like to remind you of his call in the bottom of the 10th inning.
If you are a Mets fan, you know the story by now, the legend of Game 6. If you are a young Mets fan, you have seen the videos and heard the stories. I am sure there are much more than the 56,000 people who were actually at the game who say they were there. I wish I was one of them, but I wasn’t.
I was at Game 3 and Game 5 of the NLDS vs Houston, and I was there when they won it all in Game 7 – That’s a story for another day.
But I wanted to talk about Game 6 and re-live that last inning with a thank you to Bob Murphy. You see, I was watching that game on TV with my cousin Sal and we couldn’t stand listening to Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola anymore because all they were talking about was how long it had been since the Red Sox had won a World Series.
We needed to do something to change things up, so we put towels over our heads, under our Mets hats for our “Rally Caps” (that’s what we did back in 1986), turned down the TV volume and put on Bob Murphy’s radio call. You know that you can’t do that anymore because the TV images are on a delay now and the radio voices don’t synch up anymore?
After Dave Henderson hit that home run to lead off the top of the 10th to give the Red Sox a 4-3 lead, let’s face it, it didn’t look good. When they tacked on another run to make it 5-3, it really didn’t look good. These Mets were supposed to be the team of destiny. These Mets were dominant all year and now we were going to lose the freaking World Series, to a team that hadn’t won one since 1918? Come on.
But there we were, just three outs away from the single most disappointing moment in the history of a franchise that has had a number of disappointing moments.
Rally Caps and Bob Murphy – we didn’t have anything else we could do.
Wally Backman flied out weakly to left and Keith Hernandez flied out to center. And just like that, it was about to be over. The stadium scoreboard even briefly flashed a “Congratulations Boston Red Sox, 1986 World Champions” graphic.
Gary Carter was our last hope. And Bob Murphy was right there with us…
“Line Drive, it’ll be a base hit to left field.”
Always the consummate professional broadcaster, not only capturing the emotion in his voice, but to the final play, describing every detail of the play and painting the picture in words for the blind radio audience. Only we were getting to watch it unfold as he described it.
That brought up rookie Kevin Mitchell to pinch hit. It was rumored that Mitchell was in the clubhouse at the time and had to rush back to dugout and grab a bat. He delivered and so did Murphy…
“And a line drive, base hit to center field. Now the tying runs will be on base.”
And so they were. Mitchell’s hit moved Carter into scoring position and brought up Ray Knight. Maybe something was happening here after all. Now we were paralyzed and by order of baseball superstition code 235.7, unable to move or speak for fear of jinxing the situation.
As Knight stepped into the box, I was thinking three-run home run or bases clearing double to tie the game. Knight just wanted to keep the line moving. Murphy wanted to keep it moving too, as his voice grew more and more excited as the play developed.
“A soft line drive, it’ll be a base hit into center field! Carter will score and Mitchell will go to third – a base hit by Ray Knight!”
That brought Boston Manager John McNamara out to the mound to replace the former Met Calvin Shiraldi and bring in Bob Stanley to face Mookie Wilson.
With the tying run just 90 feet away now with Mitchell on third, I just had a feeling he was going to throw one in the dirt. Mookie had an epic at bat against Stanley, fouling off pitch after pitch and working the 2-2 count for seven pitches. How many times could the Red Sox be one strike away from winning the World Series?
Then I broke my silence and yelled something to the effect of, “throw one to the backstop, you SOB”. And he did. And Murphy made the call, repeating it each time for emphasis.
“The pitch… It gets away! It gets away!! Here comes Mitchell, here comes Mitchell !! Tie game!!!!”
Oh My Goodness, what a feeling of relief. That was all we were praying for, tying the game. At least that was all I was praying for. I knew that tying the game meant we would win it in the next inning and live to play Game 7.
At first I thought that Wilson had been hit by the pitch, but quickly realized that I was glad he didn’t get hit because the run would not have scored. What I hadn’t really taken the time to process, was that the Wild Pitch allowed Knight to advance to second. Now a base hit wins the game.
Wilson fouled off two more pitches before sending that little roller down the first base line for what would turn out to be a play that to this day, makes Mets fans smile no matter what the situation is. Just the anticipation of waiting for that ball to slowly roll down the line as it gets to Buckner and, well, you know what happened…
“And the pitch by Stanley, and a ground ball, trickling, it’s a fair ball. It gets by Buckner!!! Rounding third Knight!!! The Mets will win the ballgame!! The Mets win!!!!!”
October 25th, 1986. Where has the time gone, my friends?
If you could see me, I have a smile on my face and a tear in my eye. If I could see you, I’m sure I’d see the same thing.