Opening Day 2011 will be the 50th Opening Day in Mets history. To honor that, around here we’ll be counting down the top 50 Mets in team history, one every weekday from now until we’ve done ‘em all. Today, #24, Mookie Wilson:
Some random thoughts about this at bat from my mostly modern perspective:
1. Bob Stanley is working fast, at least when compared to the baseball I’m used to watching. Keep in mind that this is Game 6 of the World Series, Boston is one out (and at times one strike) away from clinching, and there are men on base the entire time. I would assume that at least one of these things should be slowing Stanley down, but he goes ahead playing hot potato anyway. I have him timed at about 17 seconds between pitches — that pace would make him one of the ten quickest workers among today’s pitchers. Was Stanley a particularly fast worker, or was everyone pitching that quickly 25 years ago? Or is it just that Mookie Wilson never steps out on him?
2. Wilson doesn’t have an earflap on his batting helmet — earflaps were made mandatory for new players three years earlier, but older players could continue using flapless (unflappable?) helmets. Roger Clemens started this game for the Red Sox. I would not want to face Roger Clemens, but I particularly would not want to face Roger Clemens if I didn’t at least have an earflap protecting my skull.
3. You can see the “25th anniversary” patch on Wilson’s sleeve. I have trouble with the anniversary thing myself, but I’m pretty sure someone did the math wrong on that one: 1986 was the Mets’ 25th season, but it wasn’t their 25th anniversary. They’re not the same thing. The Mets began life in 1962, so if you assume 1963 was the team’s 1st anniversary, then 1972 would be their 10th anniversary and 1982 would be their 20th anniversary, which means 1983 is the 21st anniversary, 1984 is their 22nd, 1985 is the 23rd . . . and 1986 is their 24th anniversary. Similarly, 2011 is the Mets’ 50th season, but 2012 will be celebrated as their 50th anniversary. So I think they jumped the gun on that 25th anniversary party. I’m too young — did people mention that at the time?
4. After Kevin Mitchell scores, a large amount of what appears to be toilet paper falls on the field (3:05 mark). Just, you know: toilet paper on the field!
5. You can’t actually see this in the video, but color commentator Joe Garagiola points out that Marty Barrett had Ray Knight picked off at second base, after Mitchell scored. Stanley never looks back, and I don’t think he ever bothers to check on a runner during the entire at bat. That was a pretty masterful choke job on all fronts, wasn’t it?
6. Watch the way that ground ball bounces — Wilson hits the top of the ball, it bounces once near home plate, takes a big hop with a lot of top spin, and then jumps on the second bounce. It’s not the easiest play, and it’s not really a slow roller, as it’s sometimes described.
7. Wilson would claim that he was going to beat out the ground ball anyway. Bill Buckner was suffering from an ankle injury at the time, and Wilson was obviously busting out of the box. It certainly would have been close, but it’s not really important. Had Buckner fielded the ball cleanly, Knight would have had to stop at third, keeping the game tied. But, you know, he didn’t.