Who was the player who embodied the fire, the attitude, the fight of that ’86 team? Some people would argue that it was Keith Hernandez, others might say Strawberry, Backman or even Lenny Dykstra.
Well in my opinion, the catalyst from the amazing ’86 World Series Championship team was none other that third baseman , Ray Knight. I personally would have had Ray somewhere in the top 20 of this countdown but I guess number 37 on the list is better than not making it at all.
On August 28th 1984,Knight was acquired by the Mets from the Houston Astros for minor leaguers, Gerald Young, Mitch Cook and Manny Lee. I remember as a 12 year old boy wondering why we traded for a washed up third baseman that never had much pop with the Mets. But he ended the season batting .280 in 27 games for the Mets that season. In 1985 , Knight’s batting average dipped to .218 . He had only six home runs and 36 RBIs his first full season with the Mets. During the off-season, the Mets acquired Detroit Tigers back up third baseman, Howard Johnson, to platoon at third with Knight.
Knight began the ’86 season as a man possessed. In the first month of the season, Knight would slam six home runs and his batting average was .306 . He also had twelve RBIs that month . In July of that season, Knight would provide one of the many highlights to that season when he would punch out Cincinnati Reds base runner, Eric Davis after words were exchanged, and a bench clearing brawl ensued.
Knight would finish the ’86 regular season with a .298 batting average hitting eleven homers and driving in 76 RBIs. After the seasons end, Knight was voted the National League Comeback Player of the Year .
During the ’86 NLCS Knight went through a cold spell. He batted just .167 against his former team, the Houston Astros.
But things were different by the time Knight reached the World Series. Knight would catch fire against the Boston Red Sox. He ended up with a .391 batting average knocked in five RBIs.
While many people remember Mookie Wlson’s slow roller through the wickets of Bill Buckner to win game six of the World Series , many people forget that it was Ray who drove in Gary Carter for the first run of that inning. That hit also allowed Kevin Mitchell to advance to third base, eventually scoring on n Bob Stanley’s wild pitch. But who could forget that lasting image of Knight with his arms outstretched scoring the run that would win the game !!
In game seven Knight would hit the tie breaking home run , which helped the Mets win their first championship in 17 years. Ray was rewarded with the World Series MVP when all was said and done.
Unfortunately Ray and the Mets didn’t live happily ever after, Ray and the Mets could not agree on a new contract after the ’86 season and ended up signing with the Baltimore Orioles, where he ended his career. Knight has been a no show to many Mets reunions, citing previous engagements, which leads to whispers that he still has ill will by the way he was treated by the Mets. He recently was color commenter for the Washington Nationals.
In his three year career with the Mets Ray hit .271 with 18 homers and 118 RBIs. I sure hope he will comeback this summer for the 25th anniversary of the ’86 team.
Tomorrow one of the Key players of the ’69 team will be unveiled as the number 36th Met on the list of the top 50
And with that said …. HERE COMES THE INFAMY !!!!!
Mets alumni celebrating a birthday today include :
The “one who got away “- pitcher, Nolan Ryan is 64 (1947) Oh how we rue the day that he was traded to the Angels for Jim Fregosi, but from all the reports that I have read, Nolan never did warm up to New York , and threatened to retire if he was not traded.
Mets reliever from ’73-’77 ,Bob Apodaca is 61 (1950) . “Dac” came back to become the Mets pitching coach from ’96-’99.
Mets shortstop from’84-’87, Rafael Santana from is 53 (1958) .
Sadly on this date in ’02, former Mets catcher, Harry Chiti passed away.
The San Diego Padres signed catcher, Mike Piazza of the New York Mets as a free agent on January 31, 2006. Mike’s departure was bittersweet, but with his eroding offense coupled with his always mediocre defense it was hard to justify offering him a big money contract. I hope to see him enter the Hall Of Fame as a Met in a couple of years.
And while you try to avoid listening to the discussion of the Wilpon’s financial mess on sports radio , just remember that there are just 60 ( that’s two months !!) until the Mets open the 2011 season against the Florida Marlins in Miami, and just 67 days until the Mets 2011 home opener against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field.
Mo Vaughn is looking into buying a minority stake in the Mets, He is offering 25 million dollars in Monopoly money and is willing to throw in Park Place and Boardwalk !!!