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Fireworks Knight!

Today I'm going to write about one of my favorite Mets walk-offs from my childhood. It happened in 1986. The Mets rallied from two runs down in the 10th inning to win, 6-5. Ray Knight scored the winning run.

No, I'm not writing about October 25 and Bill Buckner, Rich Gedman, Bob Stanley and Mookie Wilson. Instead, I'm writing about July 3, 1986 and a game that served to foreshadow the team's postseason run.

It was Fireworks Night at Shea Stadium and with lefty Jim Deshaies on the mound for Houston, manager Davey Johnson decided to sit one of his lefthanded bats. Inserting catcher Ed Hearn in place of Keith Hernandez (Gary Carter played first) gave the Mets an extra righthander in the lineup and the decision paid off when Hearn homered in the second inning, cutting an early deficit to 2-1.

The lineup manueverings, or at least the idea of leaving Darryl Strawberry in against a southpaw, paid off again in the fifth inning when Strawberry launched a two-run shot to right-center field, tying the score at three.
Deshaies and Ron Darling settled in pretty nicely at that point. Knight in particular was mystified by Deshaies and then reliever Charlie Kerfeld, who whiffed him for the fourth time of the night in the eighth inning. Darling went nine, then ceded to Jesse Orosco in the 10th.

Current Astros manager Phil Garner put Houston ahead in the top of the 10th, with a two-run home run over the left field fence. Yet, even this follower, an 11-year-old at the time, realized that the game was a long way from over.

Houston manager Hal Lanier decided to try to close with lefty Frank Dipino, since the Mets had
back-to-back lefties leading off in the 10th. Lanier's strategy, unlike Johnson's, failed immediately.

First, Dipino walked Len Dykstra. Then Strawberry, known for his monstrous home runs, uncorked one of his longest at Shea Stadium, made all the more impressive that it came against a lefty.

Lanier got so mad he kicked a helmet in the dugout, but in his anger, he failed to realize he should take Dipino out of the game with a host of righthanders due up.

Dipino got the next two batters out, but then the Mets third baseman capped a magical Knight with a long ball. If you've ever seen the highlight video of the 1986 season "A Year to Remember," this is one of the best parts. Tim McCarver had the call on WWOR-TV.

"Well hit, left field (cut to camera shot of Knight pushing with his hand, indicating he knew it was gone)...This ball is outta here, and this ball game is over, and I don't believe it! (Cut to camera shot of Astros dugout, as one by one, all the Houston players walk silently to the tunnel.)...Ray Knight hits a game-winning home run and the Mets have won seven in a row (among the camera shots, one of the crowd of 45,000 plus, with a man in a gray sweatshirt, resembling John Candy, waving his arms in circles above his head). They are spreading the news that they are right now the dominant team in this game...in either league!"

In fairness, the radio call from Bob Murphy is pretty good too, and since I don't have it on tape, I'll print it here from memory.

"Knight waiting on a 2-0 delivery...and a high fly, deep to left...way back, going....gone! Gone! The Mets win! Ray Knight won the ball game for New York. The Mets are all at home plate waiting for Ray Knight...who capped a night of frustration. He had been fanned four times in a row. He wins the game with a home run. The Mets win it, 6-5 in the last of the 10th inning. They apparently have just refused to lose a ball game."

Len Dykstra described the atmosphere like this, in his diary of the 1986 season, "Nails."

"You should have seen that place explode. It wasn't like that again until the night we clinched. The whole place was rocking. It was (bleeping) great. We love to see the fans go crazy. It gets us psyched."

The back page of the New York Daily News on July 4 had a big picture of the home plate celebration, with the headline "Good Knight!" Funny thing is, they used that same headline again after a Knight home run a few months later- the one that put the Mets ahead for good in Game 7 of the World Series.

True Metpenters know...Including the postseason, the 1986 Mets had five walk-off wins in which the final score was 6-5. That was also the final score in San Diego, when the Mets beat the Padres by turning a game-ending 8-2-5 double play.

Comments

Anonymous said…
I was actually at this game, so I will add my perspective on it. This was the start of a special weekend in NYC, as the next night was going to be the re-opening of the Statue of Liberty after many years of restoration. The fireworks on the 4th in the harbor were the most amazing I've ever seen.

For months the media told everyone to get out of the city, as it was going to be "crazy" with all the tourists. Well many listened, and none of the tourists brought cars, so it was a great weekend to be a New Yorker. No traffic, park where-ever you'd like!!!

A friend of mine had a friend working in the ticket office that summer, who said he'd try to get us in. Well it turned out we had two seats behind homeplate,8 rows back. The ones you see on the centerfield camera shots. Best seats I've ever had for a Met Game.

After Knight hits the homer and crosses the plate, he stops and blows a kiss and points just to the right of us. We turn around and sitting their was his wife, the golfer Nancy Lopez. We had better seats than she did!! He then gets some security guys to escort her around to the dugout, where she goes on the field and into the dugout with him to watch the post game show.

I pretty cool start to a great weekend in NYC.

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