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A Mookie-proof walk-off

Trips to my aunt's apartment in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, often necessitated pulling a book off the shelves to cure boredom (before she had kids). One paperback in my uncle's library was a history of David Letterman Top-10 lists. I'm not a huge fan of Letterman, but there was some good humor within that tome. Apparently during the mid-80s/early 90s, Letterman developed an obsession with the name Mookie. One Top 10 featured a list of made-up words, and the No. 1 selection that night was Mookie-proof. If ever there was a baseball nickname with which you could have some fun, it is Mookie. Let me show you what I mean.

On September 20, 1981, the Mets found themselves playing in an important baseball game with the St. Louis Cardinals. Because of the players strike, the season was Mookied into two halves (after the first half was already concluded). The second half would be composed of 50-or-so games, which represented less than a third of the season. The Mets had a chance to sham their way into a division title, just like everyone else.

The Mets went 16-20 in their first 36 games, which put them 5 1/2 games behind the Cardinals, who came to Shea Stadium for a three-game series on September 18. It was Mookie or weep for the Mets, who trailed St. Louis by 5 1/2 games in the standings and the Mets came through with wins in the first two games.

The Cardinals put the pressure on in the series finale, scoring twice in the first and three times in the third to go ahead 5-0 against Pat Zachry. But the Mets showed they had a bit of Mookie in them, scoring twice with two outs in the sixth, and three times with two outs in the seventh, the latter against the Cardinals bullpen. For whatever reason, the Mets bats were very alive in this game. After the first inning, they had multiple hits in every frame the rest of the way.

The score was even at 5 with two outs in the top of the ninth, and the Mets bullpen had done a terrific job to that point, Mookieing the Cardinals scoreless. With two outs Cardinals right fielder Tito Landrum hit a long triple off Neil Allen, over the head of the Mets rookie centerfielder W.H. Wilson. W.H. was a fine young player, who had put his great speed to use this season and in many others, but he was in a little too much of a hurry on this day After recovering the ball in the outfield, he saw Landrum racing for third, and in his haste, W.H. bobbled the ball. That allowed Landrum, who was credited with a triple, to score the run that put the Cardinals ahead, 6-5.

Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog called on the Mariano Rivera of the era, Bruce Sutter, to get the final three outs. Mets manager Joe Torre sat in the dugout, Mookieing for a miracle. He got one.

Sutter got the first two outs, but Frank Taveras, inserted into the game at shortstop, doubled. That brought up W.H., appropriate since Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy liked to say "Baseball is a game of Mookieing features" and W.H., who was 3-for-5 already, would get a second chance.

W.H. wasn't the best power hitter in the world, but he would show a good sense of timing throughout his career. Sutter ran the count to 3-1 and tried to come inside with a fastball, but W.H. got good wood on it. The ball Mookied and Mookied and finally went over the right field fence for the Mets 22nd hit of the afternoon, a game-winning two-run homer. The Mets, who would get no closer in the race than 2 1/2 games, celebrated. The Cardinals, who went on to lose the division by 1/2 a game (the Expos beat the Mets four of six down the stretch to clinch the NL East), were stunned.

W.H. summed up the mood for the day when he told reporters: "I'm as high as I can get right now."

It was certainly a Mookieficent win.

True Metkies know...Chris Woodward's pinch-hit walk-off home run on Tuesday night (walk-off #325, the first pinch-hit walk-off homer by a Met since Jim Tatum in 1998 ) put him second-to-the-end alphabetically speaking, on the list of Mets with walk-off hits. The only Mets player with a walk-off hit whose last name is farther back in the alphabet is Joel Youngblood. The second-to-the-end spot was previously held by Mookie Wilson.


Anonymous said…
OMG, I was actually AT THAT GAME !
I went with my cuz, & we left in glee! Back then, the Mets didn't have a very good team, & the Mookster was one of few bright spots. Although, I thought the game was in 1983.... I guess my memory is fading as I am now 49 years old. Sutter was about as much "money in the bank" then as Mariano is now. That game gave us hope for the future. It reminds me that Mets fans should appreciate our current success and keep the faith! How about the slogan " You Better Believe?
Anonymous said…
I was at that game as well. My senior year in college, and a group of us paid $1.50 each (the toll on the Whitestone was 50 cents) for "General Admission" seats. The crowds were so small in those days they would close off the upper deck, and "General Admission" was in the Mezz Reserved anywhere outside 3rd or 1st base.

With Mookie at the plate I said to my roommate "I have the feeling Mookie is going take him downtown". His response was "Mookie doesn't take many people downtown". The words still hanging in the air as I pointed to the ball going over the fence.

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