The Pitch

1986-mets-dykstra-gooden-strawberry
In the 1980s, fiscal woes, city corruption and  rampant crime had left New York in tatters. But in 1986, a band of anti-heroes in Flushing, Queens stepped in to save the day. The New York Mets, powered by  grit and talent, arrogance and heart, stampeded over the other 11 teams in the National League to go all the way to the World Series, winning in spectacular fashion and reviving the spirit of a broken city. It was a fairy-tale season that even cynical New Yorkers could believe in, and one which announcer Tim McCarver called “an epic of our time … like Beowulf.”

’86 Mets: The Movie tells the story of a team  that fit a city of characters like a glove. While Jimmy Breslin wrote the headlines on the front page, the Mets dominated the back page, led by captain Keith Hernandez, a veteran trying to shake off his past in St. Louis; Gary Carter, whose Pearl-Drop smile was on every commercial aired in-between innings; Darryl Strawberry, who looked better in 1986 than Willie Mays or Duke Snider at the same age; Dwight Gooden, the youngest pitcher ever to lead the league in strikeouts; Lenny Dykstra and Wally Backman, a one-two punch of tobacco and stolen bases and led he league in dirty uniforms; Ron Darling, a handsome Yalie right-hander who stole hearts; and Davey Johnson, the droopy-eyed skipper who never stopped popping Tums but knew what it took to turn a ragtag group of hellions into champions. In between there were the GQ covers, the Sports Illustrated articles,  music videos, rally caps, wives, girlfriends, Budweisers, and enough passion and devotion to turn New York City away from the Yankees.

’86 Mets also shines the floodlights on the Shea faithful who loved the Mets; opposing teams who loathed them; and a postseason against Houston and Boston so improbable that even the people who saw it couldn’t believe it. As one Sports Illustrated writer said before the 1986 World Series:

“A Mets-Red Sox confrontation would be near-perfect theatre. It would be the first time since Fenway Park’s inaugural season, 75 years ago, that a team named Boston met a team named New York in the Fall Classic … It would raise the possibility of the Red Sox’ first world championship since Babe Ruth pitched for them. It would bring together America’s Sparta and Athens, and pull the men of letters, music and history out of the woods.”

Or as Bobby Ojeda said: “We were throwbacks, man. We were like, ‘Gimme a steak, gimme a beer, gimme a smoke, and get the hell out of our way.'”

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