On this date in 1986, the New York Mets – led by a host of former Jackson Mets – won Game 7 of the World Series, claiming the franchise’s second and last championship to date. The Mets, who had stayed alive with their unforgettable comeback in Game 6, won the clincher over Boston 8-5 at Shea Stadium. The New York roster was replete with former JaxMets: Darryl Strawberry, Lenny Dykstra, Mookie Wilson, Jesse Orosco, Kevin Mitchell, Roger McDowell, Lee Mazzilli, Wally Backman and more. Davey Johnson, the manager, managed the JaxMets to a Texas League crown in 1981, and coach Greg Pavlick played for the OJMs in the first game at Smith-Wills Stadium in 1975. The big Mets came to Smith-Wills for an exhibition against their Double-A club prior to the ’86 season. In Game 7 of the Series, the Mets fell behind 3-0 early but roared back to break the Red Sox’s hearts again. McDowell got the win, Orosco the final out and Strawberry hit a monstrous eighth-inning home run that made it a 7-5 game.
Back in 1986, the New York Mets faced a situation similar to the one they face today: Down 0-2 entering Game 3 of the World Series. But while the current club gets Game 3 against Kansas City at its own Citi Field, the ’86 Mets were on the road, at Fenway Park. And one could argue that their comeback in the series was fueled by the outcome of the very first at-bat on Oct. 21, 1986. Lenny Dykstra, the former Jackson Mets star, belted a home run against Boston’s Oil Can Boyd, the Meridian native and Jackson State alum. The Mets would score three more times in the first inning en route to a 7-1 victory. Boyd, in the only World Series appearance of his career, battled for six more innings but wound up with an ugly line: nine hits, a walk, six runs, all earned. (Boyd would be passed over for a possible Game 7 start when a rain delay enabled the Red Sox to roll out Bruce Hurst again. Hurst pitched OK, but the Sox bullpen faltered in the 8-5 loss.) Dykstra went 4-for-5 in Game 3 and scored twice. For all of his faults – and the list seems to keep growing – “Nails” was a money player. He batted .321 in 32 postseason games (with the Mets and Philadelphia), with 10 homers, 19 RBIs and 27 runs.
The last time – the only time, actually — the Kansas City Royals won a World Series, Greenville native Frank White played a big role for the champs. That was 1985. The last time the New York Mets won a World Series, a host of ex-Jackson Mets had a hand in claiming the ring. That was 1986. Of course, there are famous “goats” associated with both of those Series, umpire Don Denkinger for his missed call in Game 6 in ’85 and Boston first baseman Bill Buckner for his mishandled grounder in Game 6 in ’86. But remembering those Series for the so-called goats does a disservice to the players who shined in those seven-game Fall Classics. White, a five-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove winner over his 18 seasons, batted .250 with a homer, six RBIs and four runs for the Royals in the ’85 Series against St. Louis. In the ’86 Series, the second of the two titles won by the Mets, Wally Backman hit .333 with four runs, Lenny Dykstra batted .296 with two homers, Mookie Wilson hit .269 with three runs, Jesse Orosco pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings and Roger McDowell and Rick Aguilera botch notched wins. All these years later, mention the World Series of 1985 or 1986, and the names of Denkinger and Buckner will come up. That’s understandable, perhaps, but those two names shouldn’t be all we remember.