My son, Ty, not to be confused with new Met Ty Kelly (with #55, not a lot is expected of that Ty), is proud of his papa and loaded my talk on WAMC on youtube, so we are linking up. But we do discuss the relevant topic with Northeast Public Radio host Joe Donahue: “Why does Matt Harvey suck so much?” I think Dan Warthen will be calling me tomorrow to get me to tap into the Dark Knight’s psyche.
I am doing limited appearances this year for One-Year Dynasty, but please use this as a Save the Date invitation: I will speak at the NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME IN COOPERSTOWN ON SATURDAY, AUGUST 20, AT 1 P.M. Even after doing it in 2001 and 2013, it is still an Amazin’ honor, but that’s all there is to say about it right now. So I will tell you about the day-night doubleheader of promotion on May 20.
The daytime portion was at the WAMC Northeast Public Radio in Albany. I wake up to the station every morning, so it was kind of a big thing for me to visit the studio and see the people whose voices I had long heard. I even set up my Twitter account on my phone (if you care, most of my writing and posting is done from my desktop on my, well, desk). When I was in the green room, though, I got just nervous enough to forget to inundate my Twitter peeps with imminent warnings of my on air arrival. But it’s OK. If you missed it live or in the headline, here is the link.
After flipping through a copy of Ansel Adams in Color in the green room, I started re-reading my book as if in the final minutes before an exam for which I knew the material like I’d written the book, so to speak. Joe Donahue is a real pro and made me feel at home and we had a great talk. I then got in my car, drove 50 miles back to work, got off work, got back in the car, and drove to the exact same block for the nighttime book-signing portion at the Low Beat.
Run by Howard Glassman, the Low Beat is a Mets centric location in Yankeesland. His previous bar, Valentine’s, served a similar need in the Capital District. We set up the idea when I saw him at a Brooklyn Cyclones-Tri-City Valley Cats game last August. Nine months later a unique and wonderful day was born. Thanks to Dan Carubia, Arnold Dorman, Howard, Mike and Linda (not sure I got that 100 percent right), and everyone else who came on down. It was fun to pontificate from a barstool with the Mets winning, live music cranking, and a Narragansett at my elbow. Cheers!
There were a lot of nervous moments in the finale of the Mets-Padres series in San Diego. But the one that had me as nervous as any situation was when San Diego native Kevin Mitchell entered the booth and talked with Gary Cohen and Ron Darling.
Mitchell was a Met for one year (and parts of a couple others as a September call-up), but he is still a beloved figure in Mets lore. It was his hit, of course, that kept the impossible rally going during the 10th inning of Game Six of the ’86 World Series. It is a linchpin in any 1986 retelling, as it certainly is for One-Year Dynasty. (Come to think of it, that could also be the name for Mitch’s one-year Mets career before going on to be MVP.)
I got a hold of Mitch a year ago after several failed attempts due to health concerns, which left him unable to move for a time. Finally we talked at length on the phone. It was a remarkable interview, and he set a few things straight. One of them was whether he was in the locker room at Shea, naked from the waist down, making reservations to fly home to his native San Diego as the rally began and he was summoned to pinch hit against Mets prospect turned Red Sox closer Calvin Schiraldi. The story has gone around for years and he once even confirmed it for a writer. Ballplayers and their memories can be fluid. Some remember every detail like it just happened a few hours ago. Others seem to have the ability to boil their entire career into one hell of a story that occurred all in one day. I don’t get a lot of scoops, but this one felt as much like a scope for a 30-year-old event. Yet it would be knocked out of the water if he said on the air that he pinch-hit commando.
I breathed easier when Darling said, “Of course you were on the bench the whole time.” Knew it all along. So did Mitch.
Contrary to urban myth, Mitchell was in the dugout the whole time, pants on, ready to pinch-hit. Where else would he have been? “I’ll tell everybody right now: How in the hell was I able to be on deck and get a base hit? I’m a rookie. What the hell am I going to be doing in the clubhouse?” Mitchell said, denying the oft-told story that he had taken off his pants in the clubhouse in the 10th while making plane reservations for home in San Diego. “Everybody has a story to build up the hype. I’m in a World Series game. And I’m learning something, my first World Series. Mookie Wilson told me, ‘Be prepared to hit.’ . . . Why would I be making a reservation when the Mets pay for your flight to go home? As a rookie? Tell me that.”
As an aside, don’t ask him about cutting off a cat’s head—a myth started by Dwight Gooden and perpetuated even in recent years by Darryl Strawberry. Suffice to say, it’s also false. But do ask Mitchell about his at bat against his former minor league roommate, Calvin Schiraldi.
“That was true,” Mitchell said. “He would always talk about how he’d pitch me. And I took the first pitch for a strike on an inside fastball. [Footnote: It was a foul ball on a checked swing.] He always said that he’d start me off with a fastball inside and then he’d throw me a slider. And he did it. And I looked for the slider on the next pitch and got it.”
[One-Year Dynasty, Chapter 14, 2016, Lyons Press]
But then again I’ve known for 30 years that you could trust Kevin Mitchell to come up big when you needed him most. Glad to see he’s feeling a lot better than he was a year ago.
Going to be in the Albany area on Friday May 20? Or if you weren’t planning to be there, change plans and come on up for Happy Hour on Friday, May 20, at 6 p.m. to the Low Beat. It is the Mets bastion of light in the upstate universe. I’ll be selling One-Year Dynasty and I will also have the new edition of 100 Things Mets Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die. We’ll watch the Mets game and down a couple.
First review of One Year Dynasty goes to Lloyd Carroll. Writing for Queens publication Good Times Magazine, Carroll said, “For those who want to relive ’86 in vivid detail, check out Matt Silverman’s One-Year Dynasty (Lyons Press). Silverman, who has written many books on the Mets, gets the little details down, including how Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell appeared on MTV with Martha Quinn. he also gets a few of the Mets to admit the fear they had for Houston Astros pitcher Mike Scott, and some admit they would have lost Game 7 to them if they had to face him in the National League Championship Series for a third time.” And the first reviewer on amazon.com said it was “fantastic.” Well, my ego’s been soothed for a week.
May 1, 2016 is what’s called the publication date for One-Year Dynasty, my new book about the last Mets world champion, 30 years old. Will we ever see another world champion? It may be sooner than we could dream or it could be another 30 years. (God, I hope not.)
I don’t know when the next Mets parade will be, but I do know all about the last one. I believe the 1969 world championship will always be the most important title in club history, but 1986 is the most significant, surely now, because it is the one in the most people’s mindset. Even if they weren’t yet born, there are everyday reminders of what that team did. But how did they really do it, day by day, month by month, when it was actually happening? How did they own New York? What was New York like in the grips of a Mets frenzy? It was the kind that is all the more rabid because it will not last forever—a fever burning hot and then it’s gone. One-Year Dynasty: Inside the Rise and Fall of the 1986 Mets, Baseball’s One-and-Done Champions is for the people who never lost the fever, and those who cam along too late to appreciate that ’86 team.
I looked at dozens of hours of video (thank you, Larry DC), read tons of old newspapers, magazines, books, and dug up other stuff I had forgotten ever existed. And I dug up people who were there, whether playing for the team, managing them, sitting in the press box, or, in the case of Ed Randall, flying over Shea Stadium when the pennant could have gone either way.
It was an incredible season. The Mets were as dominant as any National League team between the birth of the World Series in 1903 and the addition of the wild card and the extra playoff rounds that, frankly, have watered down division titles and made it hard to compare them with teams of the past who, like the 1985 Mets could win 98 game and go home with nothing. Experts on the subject claim the ’86 Mets are still one of the 10 best teams of all time. And yet their victory after being down to their last out in the World Series with no one on base and down by two runs is still the most unlikely comeback ever.
Relive it with Keith and Davey, Wally and Mookie, Bobby O. and Kevin Mitchell, plus fans, writers, bloggers, and dazed Red Sox players and followers. It’s the ’86 Mets. Still coming to your town, they’re going to party it down. Big ’80s, big life.
As I did with Swinging ’73, I place baseball in the context of its times. Everything from the music (Wang Chung, anyone?) to the movies (Bueller, Bueller? Maverick?) to the Pittsburgh Drug Trials to collusion to Geraldo’s debacle of Al Capone’s vault to MTV to the tragedy of what happened to some of the stars and the whole organization in the years to follow, right up until the current resurgence. Everything about the Mets goes back to 1986. Three decades later, they’re still trying to get back to that stage where they own the late innings of late October. That is how a dynasty is formed, even it lasts a year on the field, it is still in the mind.
I am not planning a lot of promotion, at least not initially, except for a signing at the Low Beat in Albany around 6 p.m. on Friday, May 20. I’m glad to send signed copies to people for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduation, and all the days in between. Contact me at the site, if you’d like.
But remember ’86, celebrate ’86. It is the touchstone for Mets fans young and old. It was the Mets painted as big and bold as they can be, backing up the talk, making us sweat, and covering us in the sticky residue of champagne and beer. Maybe the boys stayed too long and loud at the party. But it’s where we come from. It’s our Mets DNA.