Friday, July 22, 2016

30 Years Ago: The Game That Epitomized the 1986 Mets

Ray Knight tried to take Eric Davis's face clean off his face.  (MLB screen shot)

The 1986 Mets were a fighting team, both literally and figuratively.  They always fought back when faced with adversity and they never backed down from a fight (or four).  This never-say-die attitude carried the Mets to a team-record 108 victories and a world championship in October.

The team's 62nd win of the year probably epitomized the Mets more than any other game they played in 1986.  Their game at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati had it all.

It had Darryl Strawberry being ejected by home plate umpire Gerry Davis for arguing a questionable strikeout call.

It had a brawl that cleared both benches (except for George Foster, who was thinking about what kids' impressions of him would be had he joined the fracas - he should have thought what they would think of his awful "Get Metsmerized" album instead).

It had Gary Carter participating in a double play as the 80th third baseman in team history.  (Since then, there have been 81 additional players to man the hot corner for the Mets, giving the team 161 third sackers, or 96 fewer players than have played left field.  Funny how everyone talks about all the third basemen in club history, but no one ever talks about the 257 left fielders.)

It had one of those 257 left fielders - Roger McDowell - playing musical chairs with his lefthanded pitching counterpart, Jesse Orosco, as manager Davey Johnson rotated McDowell and Orosco between the pitching mound and the outfield when the team ran out of players due to ejections and other substitutions.

It had a tie-breaking three-run homer by Howard Johnson - playing shortstop at the time - to give the Mets a hard-fought (pun very much intended) victory in the 14th inning.  It was the team's second five-hour game in three days after they dropped the finale in Houston in 15 innings two days earlier on a controversial call at the plate by umpire Greg Bonin.  (And that 15-inning affair came two days after four Mets players were famously arrested for - what else - fighting some crooked cops at Cooter's.)

The game in Cincinnati on July 22, 1986 - thirty years ago today - most definitely had it all.  And almost all of it would never have happened had three-time Gold Glove winner Dave Parker not enraged then-Reds closer John Franco by dropping what should have been the final out of the game in the ninth inning...

I hope you enjoy the video, courtesy of ClassicMLB11 on YouTube, which shows the entire game (including commercials!!).  For those not interested in sitting through five hours of sometimes grainy video, the Strawberry at-bat and subsequent ejection happen around the 1 hour, 36 minute mark.  The Parker gaffe occurred at 2 hour and 56 minutes.  The fight began around 3 hours and 29 minutes, then continues for many minutes after that.  Gary Carter playing third base and turning two happens at 4 hours, 20 minutes.  HoJo's homer occurs at 4 hours, 53 minutes.  And Orosco and McDowell rotate throughout extra innings.  Enjoy!

Shoutout to ClassicMLB11 for posting this video of the Reds' TV broadcast from 7/22/86.

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