Mookie Wilson 1990 Topps- Sully Baseball Card of the Day for January 19, 2017


When I pulled out Hubie Brooks’ card, close to it was this 1990 Mookie Wilson card. And in my mind they will always be connected.

I remember when going to a Mets vs. Phillies game in 1981, both Mookie Wilson and Hubie Brooks were young players for New York, giving fans hope for better days.

Both players followed through on that promise. Only Wilson experienced the glory days in Queens. In fact he was instrumental in the single most famous moment in Mets history.

But this card, which features his stats up until 1989, shows Wilson as a member of the Blue Jays. That is part of a larger story about the dismantling of one of the great teams of the decade.

Mookie Wilson was a college star at the University of South Carolina before being drafted by the Mets in 1977. By 1981, he was a starter on the big league squad and quickly became a fan favorite.

He played hard, he played with enthusiasm, he stole bases and brought energy to the team. He was everything that New York fans REALLY love from their players: He was homegrown and good. He was one of their own.

Wilson became the Mets all time stolen base leader and remained beloved by the fans even as he moved over to left to make room for Lenny Dykstra.

In 1986, everything came together for the Mets. If you have read this far, then you know what I am talking about. And with the Mets season down to the final pitch, Mookie Wilson had his epic 10 pitch at bat which included him avoiding a pitch that went wild and allowed the tying run to score. And of course he hit the dribbler that went through Bill Buckner’s legs, linking both Wilson and Buckner in baseball lore.

The Mets won it all in 1986 and looked like they were going to win for the foreseeable future.

But soon this incredible if combustible group was broken up. First World Series hero Ray Knight left via free agency (which was hard to do in the age of collusion.) Kevin Mitchell was sent packing to San Diego for “exciting as lettuce” outfielder Kevin McReynolds.

Down the line, the team was picked apart.

Rafael Santana was let go after the World Series.

Jesse Orosco was traded after the 1987 season to the Dodgers.

Then after losing the 1988 NLCS to Los Angeles, Wally Backman was sent packing to the Twins for 3 minor leaguers who never made it to New York.

Then between June 18 and July 31, 1989, the team went on a purge.

Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell were shipped to Philadelphia in a disastrous trade for Juan Samuel on June 18.

Then on July 31, Lee Mazzilli was picked up by Toronto via waivers, Rick Aguilera was included in a deal to Minnesota for Frank Viola and Mookie Wilson was dealt to Toronto for reliever Jeff Musselman.

The fun and swagger of 1986 was gone midway through 1989.

By the end of the year Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter were gone. By the end of 1990, manager Davey Johnson and right fielder Darryl Strawberry left and the 1991 Mets bore no resemblance to the team that won it all.

Wilson and Mazzilli both played in the 1989 ALCS for Toronto. He tried out free agency but return to Toronto for the 1990 and 1991 season, playing his final game in the 1991 ALCS.

In retirement he coached for the Mets and even managed the minor league Brooklyn Cyclones while his stepson, Preston Wilson, was a member of the 2006 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

One of the most beloved figures in Mets history, he was elected to the team’s Hall of Fame.

He should have been a Met for live. Hell, the 1986 team should have stayed together a few more years. But they didn’t. And that’s why Mookie Wilson is preserved here forever as a Toronto Blue Jay.

Getting ready for kick off… thinking about the 1986 World Series

OF COURSE I am thinking about the 1986 World Series… what else would I be thinking about as the games deciding the Super Bowl berths are about to be played.

But I am not thinking about it for the reasons that you would think.

In the past, I lamented 1986 as the ultimate “what might have been.”
But 2004 and 2007 put that to rest.

Then I lamented the great flop of 1986 when I thought of Jim Rice’s candidacy for the Hall of Fame. Had the Red Sox won in 1986, I argued, Rice would have been in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. He didn’t have Ted’s stats or Yaz’s stats… but the Sox would have won when Rice was captain.

Rice’s election last year put that to rest.

But today’s Jets game got me thinking about that fateful 10th inning.
The Mets and Jets are very similar franchises… and not just because their names rhyme.

They are second banana franchises in their own cities. The Yankees own the baseball scene and the Giants have always had a bigger following.

They both have had their share of heart break and dysfunction over the years.

Both have fan bases that have listened to Yankee fans and Giant fans crow about their more recent titles. The Yankees with their 27 titles and the Giants with Super Bowl titles in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

And of course they each had, over a period of 9 months in 1969, a startling championship that defined their franchise to this very day.

Both seemed beyond the realm of possibility… the AFL was supposed to be inferior to the NFL and the Super Bowl had been a lackluster joke in its first two games.

And of course the Mets averaged a 56-106 record for each of its first seven seasons.

Both teams rode the back of a brash new superstar… Broadway Joe predicting the outcome by the poolside…

Tom Terrific mowing down NL batters left and right heading into the Series.

And oddly, they both beat heavily favored teams that played in Baltimore.

Now there is one huge difference between the franchises:

The Jets have never won since. The Mets have… one other time.

The Mets have that, for them, Amazin’ moment of coming back from 2 runs down, 2 outs, nobody on in the 10th that was so beautifully recreated in this video game.

Now just imagine if the Mets never won that game. (And NO, I am not going to say “Imagine if Buckner made that play. The game was already tied. Buckner’s error prevented the game from going into the 10th. It neither clinched the World Series for the Met nor would have clinched the World Series for the Red Sox… please tattoo that on your wrist.)

Imagine if Gary Carter made an out… or Kevin Mitchell made an out… or Schraldi got that third strike on Ray Knight… or Mookie Wilson swung and missed on one of his 2 strike foul balls against Bob Stanley.

Trust me, I did every day of my life between October 1986 to October 2004.

But I always thought of the Red Sox side… for the Mets, they would still be pining for 1969.

1986 would have been thrown on the scrap pile of frustrations along with the end of the 1973 World Series, the trade of Seaver, the Scioscia homer in 1988, the bases loaded walk to end the 1999 NLCS, losing to the Yankees in the 2000 World Series, the called third on Beltran, the great collapse of 2007, the almost as great collapse of 2008…

All the while clinging to their lone moment of glory in 1969.

Kind of like the Jets do now, still waiting for that second great highlight to go with Joe Willy Namath running off the field, finger in the air.

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