I remember it well . It was the early ’80′s and the Mets team was a mess. Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon had just purchased the Mets from the Payson family ( it had been run by their daughter Linda). and it was a miracle if the Mets drew more than 300,000 fans for the season. But I admit the 1980 season didn’t see any improvement, but it did introduce one player who would help bring the Mets back to respectability. That man is number 16 on our list. He is Center Fielder ” Mookie” Wilson .
William Hayward “Mookie“ Wilson was born in Bamberg, South Carolina on February 9, 1956. He grew up in a family who were poor share croppers. He generally toiled in the fields to help his family earn enough money to survive. He was given the nickname ” Mookie” when he was a young child because he couldn’t say the word milk, instead he said Mookie and it stuck. Wilson played college baseball for both Spartanburg Methodist College as well as the University of South Carolina. He was drafted by the Mets in the second round of the 1977 free agent draft, and was immediately sent to play in the Mets minor league system.
Mookie made his way quickly through the Mets minor league system, and made his Major League debut on September 2, 1980 as a September call up. Mookie played well in his 27 games for the Mets. He batted .248 with four RBI’sand seven stolen bases in his limited time withthe club. He impressed the fans with his quick reflexes as well as his blazing speed on the base paths as well as in the outfield.
In 1982 Mookie was used in a center field platoon. His numbers improved drastically. By the end of the year his batting average was a respectable .271 , but he had eight triples and fourteen RBI’s withtwenty four stolen bases in just ninety-two games. The fans already had sensed that he would be a mainstay on the team and they took to him quickly by serenading him with choruses of ” Mooookieeee” Mookie was always appreciative to the fans and it showed. He rarely turned down autograph requests from the fans.
By 1982 Mookie was the Mets full time outfielder. He would play in 159 games that season and he stole a career high 58 bases. He would also hit 9 triples as well as 25 Doubles that season.
In 1985 Mookie would miss half of the season due to an arm injury, but he still would play 92 games in a limited role.
In 1986 Mookie would suffer a freak accident in Spring Training when he would be hit in the face with a errandly thrown baseball, which shattered his sunglasses , sending fragments into his eye. He would miss the first month and a half of the season. Lenny Dykstra took his place in center field in the duration. When Mookie came back, he was platooned with Lenny in center field, until George Foster was released in mid July. Mookiemoved over to play Left field, and along with Dykstra and Darryl Strawberry, he made up one of the best Mets outfields ever. Mookie would play in 123 regular season games for the 108 game winning Metsthat season. He batted .289 with a career high 9 homers and 45 RBI’s. He stole 25 bases and had 17 doubles.
Mookie’s offense was non existent against the Astros in the ’86 NLCs, batting .115 with one RBI.
But he would gain immortality when in game six of the ’86 World Series against the Boston Red Soxwhen he he gutted through an at bat against Bob Stanley, which ended with the iconic dribbler that went through Bill Buckner’slegs, which scored Ray Knight with the winning run- saving the Mets from elimination !! Mookie to this day still insists that he would have beaten Buckner to the bag if he had fielded that ball cleanly. For some strange reason I believe him.
Mookiewould make the post season again with the Mets again in 1988 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He would only bat .154 in 13 at bats as the Mets would lose the NLCS in seven games.
During the 1989 season, the Mets weren’t going anywhere and Mookie was unhappy. He requested a trade and the Mets obliged him by trading him to the Blue Jays for reliever, Jeff Musselman and minor league pitcher, Mike Brady . Mets fans were outraged at the fact that the Mets had traded one of their longest tenured Mets – a guy who grew up in the organization and was a fan favorite. Mookie would go on to win his secondWorld Series ring with the Blue Jays.
In his ten years with the Mets, Mookie would finish with a batting average of .276 with 281 stolen bases, 342 RBI’s60 Homers, 62 triples and 170 doubles.
Mookiewould retire as a player after the 1991 season with the Blue Jays, and 1996, he was one of the last Mets to be inducted Mets Hall of Fame until it’s reformation last season.
In 2005, Wilson was named as the manager of the Mets single A team , the Brooklyn Cyclones. He had previously managed the Rookie League Kingsport Mets team. He was a coach for the New York Mets from 1997 to 2002.
Mookie has also worked as a tractor trailer driver in recent years and has put out a album of gospel music.
In 2006 Mookie was on hand for the 20 year celebration of the “86 World Series team. He did attend the “06 NLCS but only to root on the St. Louis Cardinals because his step son , Preston Wilson was on the team. Mookie was not on hand for the closing ceremonies of Shea Stadium due to “ scheduling conflicts” but it was well known there was a rift between him and the organization. That rift has been finally mended and Mookie will be the Mets first base coach this season.
Tomorrow we shall lift the veil of secrecy and reveal the infielder who is number 15 on the list of the top 50 Mets of all time
And with that said … HERE COMES THE INFAMY !!!!
Mets alumni celebrating a birthday today include:
Today would have been the 68th birthday of Joe Foy (1943), the third baseman third baseman from the 1970 team. He was once a top flight infielder from the California Angels Organization, so the Mets gave up their prized prospect, Amos Otis for him. It is considered one of the worst trades of all time because Amos went on to have a long and strong Major League career, while Foy would spiral into the abyss of drug abuse. He was released by the Mets at the end of the ’70 season.
Sadly on this date, the Mets lost two original pitchers from the Mets inaugural season. Vinegar Bend Mizell in 1999 and Sherman Jones in 2007.
New York Mets signed free agent outfielder/first baseman,Joe Orsulakon February 21, 1998. This would have been his second tour of duty with the Mets. But his skills had diminished ,and he was released before Opening Day.
The New York Mets traded minor league pitcher, Corey Brittan to the Colorado Rockies for middle reliever, Kane Davis on February 21, 2002.
And while you curse Mother Nature for last night’s covering of snow, just remember that there are just 39 Gary Gentry days until the Mets open their season against the Florida Marlins in Miami, and 46 more days until the Mets home opener in Citi Field against the Washington Nationals.
Mo Vaughn has been inspired to take up ballet after seeing the movie Black Swan. I hate the be the person that has to help him pick out his tu-tu !!!