Coutinho: 25 Years Ago Today, Mets Owned The Baseball World

By Rich Coutinho
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It’s hard to believe it was 25 years ago today.

On this date, October 27, 1986, the Mets sat atop the baseball world. They owned the city like no team ever had in the history of New York sports.

Of course, much of their popularity had to do with the personalities that lived inside the Mets’ clubhouse — and that had as much to do with the ’80s as anything else. To live through that decade in NYC, it’s hard to describe to those who either were not around or lived somewhere else.

It was an era devoted to excess. To be a twenty-something athlete living in here during that time was… lets just say carefree at the least.

1986 was my third year covering the Mets after a brief stint as a bartender in New York after graduating from Fordham University. I must say, those two years tending bar proved to be very helpful in covering that team. They spent as much time in bars and nightclubs as they did on the field. But in every walk of life, people were doing that sort of thing — and that is the thing people forget when remembering the ’86 Amazin’s.

The Mets’ infatuation with the “good life” was not an isolated case — it was the way most New Yorkers that age lived their lives. Work hard, play hard and keep very late hours. But make no mistake about it, when this team took the field they were a talented, feisty bunch. And they knew they were champions.

They were also the team others loved to hate. When you think about how players today express themselves after hitting a game-winning home run, it’s hard to believe that the Mets were heavily criticized for taking curtain calls. The St. Louis Cardinals did much of the griping, which is pretty comical when you consider their shortstop, Ozzie Smith, started every home game by backflipping to his position like an Olympic gymnast.

In any event, the Mets made a mockery of the NL East, forcing Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog to concede the division before the calendar hit July. But along the way, the Mets showed the baseball world they would not back down from anyone. The team had bench clearing brawls on three separate occasions, including a night in Cincinnati where Ray Knight decked Eric Davis with one punch.

But more than that, the Mets showed they could win in any number of ways — with pitching or with a high-octane offense. When the playoffs rolled around, many felt New York was untested. Some even theorized the Mets were not as good as their record. I always thought that was pretty silly, very few teams in league history could boast to win 108 games in a season. But there were media types who thought ’86 team was ripe for an upset. Perhaps by a team like the Astros, who didn’t have the lineup the Mets had but certainly possessed as good a starting rotation.

In those days, MLB alternated home-field advantage in both the NLCS and the World Series. But because of a scheduling conflict, the Mets were forced to play Games 6 and 7 in Houston rather than at the NL Eastern champion site, as originally scheduled. Ironically, this hurt the Mets in 1988 when they would have been slated to have home-field against the Dodgers — but that’s another story for another day.

I know it’s amazing to think a 108-win team would not get home-field in the NLCS but in those days they alternated it. I was in Houston for that Game 6, the greatest baseball game I’ve ever seen. It sometimes gets glossed over because of Bill Buckner and the events of Game 6 of the World Series. But when you consider the Mets were staring at a 3-0 deficit in the ninth inning of a game in which losing meant facing Mike Scott in Game 7 (whom they could not beat), you can understand the enormity of the situation. And to take the lead not once but twice in extra innings before winning the pennant was off the charts.

And the rest — as they say — is history.

I think the thing I remember most about that ’86 team is that they were bigger than life in NYC. For example, “60 Minutes,” which rarely features sports celebrities, did a segment on Doc and Darryl. Howie Rose tells me in the early days of WFAN, the single biggest personality discussed on the station was Darryl Stawberry. When you consider at that time, New York had stars like Patrick Ewing, Don Mattingly and Rickey Henderson, that should illustrate how big the Mets were in this town.

Bigger than any other team.

It’s hard to believe it but the Yankees were an afterthought, despite having some pretty good teams.

The Bombers  lacked pitching but had star-power in their lineup. George Steinbrenner’s October was spent writing a newspaper column about the Mets rather than punching out an elevator — as he had done earlier in the decade.

Here’s why the Mets owned the baseball world 25 years ago: they worked hard and played hard. Much like the rest of us in Manhattan circa 1986. Heck, a fan parachuted into Shea Stadium on the night of Game 6 — something that could never happen today. Not in the world we live in now.

The ’80s are well in our rear-view mirror. But that ’86 Mets team, they’re still the poster child of that era. They were a great team, flaws and all — just like the rest of us.

Your thoughts on the 25th anniversary of the Mets’ World Series championship? Let us know in the comments below!

  • Otis

    They were a despicable, drug addled bunch of overachievers. To say that they owned NY like no other team in history is hilarious, they were an afterthought at best. A miserable organization then and now.

    • michael

      Must be a YANKEE fan just jealous GO METS You did own the down back then

  • Pat

    The 86 Mets indeed owned New York. They are the greatest team that ever played the game.

  • Elias

    The ’86 Mets did indeed own NYC for the entire season like no other team has before nor since. It can even be argued that they owned some other cities as well. I distinctly remember hearing overwhelming “Let’s Go Mets” chants over the TV no matter where they were playing.

    However, based upon historical records and anecdotes from people who were teens and adult during that year, I would guess that the ’69 Mets owned NYC during the fall like no team before nor since. It seemed to me like the city almost stopped when they played.

    • miichael

      Elias i saw both WS i thought 86 was more intense

  • Vinnie From the Bronx

    Mets win one World Series game; just their second in their history and they own NY like no other team in NY sports history, now that’s funny.

    Let’s all remember, this is a diehard Mets fan writing the article not some sports writer from Alaska doing a report on NY baseball, so Coutinho would say the Mets own NY.

    He needs to believe that, he likes to believe that & he wants to be believe that.

    and 25 yrs later that was the last time the Mets won a WS title.

    There’s another team call the New York Yankees with 27 WS titles, with players & icons named Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio, Jackson, Munson, Rivera, Jeter, Berra, Ford, Bernie Petitte who each won more titles during their era then the entire Mets organization have in their history.

    A team that had years of being called a dynasty, winning 2 WS in a row (’27, ’28, ‘61,’62 & ’77, ’78), 3 in a row (’98-2000) & records of 4 in a row (’36-’39 ) & 5 in a row (’49-’53) and Coutinho wants to believe the ’86 Mets own NY like no other team in NY sports history.

    I guess when you’re a fan of a team with a losing history anytime they win something it’s the best ever.

    The article Coutinho should have written is where are all the ’86 Mets today, we all know where all those Yankees greats are and are going to be, Copperstown

    That’s how you own New York sports and by just one season

    • Pat

      Not all of those so-called Yankee “greats” will be in Cooperstown. Remember, the talent in baseball wasn’t good in 98 as it was in 86.

      • Vinnie From the Bronx

        Hey moron, that ’98 team won 114 games that year and ended with a MLB record of 125 wins for ’98 and the same team went on to win 2 more WS in a row, one over your loser Mets in 2000.

        Also deadhead, out of that ’98 team, is Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte, Posada & Bernie Williams, those 5 guys top the entire Mets ’86 roster. Mo & Jeter are first ballot Hall of Famer, 100%, with Pettitte & Posada right behind. Bernie will get many votes, unlike your Cocaine Keith Hernandez who in his first year did not get enough votes to stay on the ballot, he got under 5%,

        As for Carter, he went in as an Expo, because that what he was, an Expo.

        Also moron, the ’98 Yankees killed in the post-season, swept the Padres & not get lucky like your ’86 Loser Mets over the Red Sox.

        You need to watch Yankees baseball to know what the hell you’re talking about.

    • miichael

      Vinnie we all no about the great Yankees years were only talking about 1986 the mets did own NY get over yourself

      • Vinnie From the Bronx

        for one year Michelle, for just one year. When people mention New York everyone knows its the Yankees, it’s always been that way.

  • Louie

    seems by the number of comments, they are long forgotten, the YANKS own new york, for the last 20 years, judging by attendance and tv ratings, and revenues that they bring in.RIP mets

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