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The Bad Guys Won A Season of Brawling, Boozing, Bimbo-Chasing, and Championship Baseball with Straw, Doc, Mookie, Nails, the Kid, and t
By Pearlman, Jeff
HarperCollins Publishers ISBN: 0060507322
It wasn't just guys destroying a plane. It was guys destroying a plane after an emotional roller coaster. There's a difference.
-- Randy Niemann, Mets pitcher
Ray Knight's arms were numb. Not just numb as if he'd spent a few too many minutes in the snow. Numb numb -- as if he'd just swum two thousand laps in an Olympic-sized pool. As if he'd just sparred eight hundred rounds with George Foreman. As if someone had grabbed a 10-foot machete, reared back, and sliced off both limbs. "Maybe someone did," he says with a laugh. "I wouldn't have known." It wasn't just his arms, either. Inside the head of New York's third baseman a drum was beating. His hands were shaking. His mouth was cotton-dry. His feet were on fire. His uniform must have held twenty pounds of sweat. "I couldn't walk, I couldn't talk, I couldn't move," Knight says. "I couldn't even think." It was exhaustion, more pure and painful than any he had ever felt before. Than any he would ever feel again. "I haven't been in war," he says. "But ... "
But this was war. Or at least the next closest thing.
Sixteen innings. In 16 beautiful, electric, heart-wrenching, gut-churning, bladder-bursting, finger-twitching, eye-bulging, throat-burning innings of baseball, the New York Mets had been pushed to the brink over and over again. On enemy turf, no less. Finally, they had pushed back.
Game 6 of the 1986 National League Championship Series:
The Mets were going to the World Series. It was everything they had dreamed of, but now -- what? The hardest-living players in baseball entered the visiting clubhouse of the Houston Astrodome and didn't know what to do. Scream or cry? Party or pray? A couple of the men had tears streaming down their cheeks. Others slumped in front of their lockers, sandbags for shoulders and rocks for feet. "I could have slept for twenty hours," says Ed Hearn, New York's backup catcher, "and I hadn't even played in the game."
Then and there the Mets reached a collective decision. Perhaps it was inspired by the popping of a champagne cork. Or the cracking open of a beer can. Or the lighting of a cigarette. Or the primal "Whoooo!" bursting from Wally Backman's throat. Whatever the stimulus, the message was clear and powerful: Before they went to the World Series, the Mets would party their fuckin' brains out.
There was one problem: time.
Although the game had begun early enough, at 3:05 P.M., 16 innings was 16 innings. After four hours and forty-two minutes of baseball, it was 8:20 when the first Mets players stumbled into the clubhouse. Even as the bottles of Great Western bubbly were being distributed, Arthur Richman, the club's traveling secretary, was doing everything he could to hurry people along: Congratulations, Ray -- now get dressed! Good job, Keith -- and don't forget your shaving kit! The team had to fly back to New York immediately, and the trip was a long one. Yet in the aftermath of triumph, it didn't matter. Richman was ignored. Kevin Mitchell, the barrel-chested rookie, grabbed Bobby Ojeda around the neck and doused his head with champagne. Ojeda, in turn, doused Jesse Orosco, who doused Doug Sisk, who doused Rick Aguilera, who doused Dwight Gooden, who doused Backman. The Mets didn't just let loose, they bear-hugged and gang-tackled. They were a fraternity without classes to attend, a rock-and-roll band without instruments. Shortly after he entered the clubhouse, journeyman reliever Randy Niemann snatched a bottle of bubbly and poured it on the head of bow-tied general manager Frank Cashen, who responded with a bitter glare of death. As Phil Mushnick of the New York Post wrote, "Cashen's candid crankiness ... created a national image as a party-pooper."
No matter. Some ninety minutes after the victory, a sticky, drenched Cashen, surrounded by empty bottles and crushed cans, made an announcement to his sticky, drenched players: "The World Series bus is leaving! Anyone not on it gets left behind!" This was not a joke. The Mets and their entourage piled onto a pair of buses that went to Houston's William P. Hobby Airport. En route, beers were chugged. The remaining champagne bottles were polished off and then tossed to the ground. Even manager Davey Johnson was indulging.
It was mini-mayhem.
Then they reached the plane.
Women are bad news. Very bad. They take real men -- ball-playing men -- and turn them to mush. They transform ruggedness and determination into sentimentality and passivity. Yes, there are good women in the world. But they are at their absolute best away from the ballpark, preparing dinner over a hot stove and tucking the children into bed. It's a simple equation, really:
Women + Baseball = Trouble
In the mind of Frank Cashen, this was established. Cashen was old school, and he wore the reputation proudly. When Rusty Staub, longtime Mets star, commonly referred to the players' wives as "cunts" and the players' extramarital girlfriends as "special cunts," he was speaking Cashen's language. In his eighteenth year as a baseball executive, Cashen was a throwback to the good old days when a ballplayer would never use the opposite sex as an excuse. Baby due any day? Tough luck -- you're staying with the team. Wife sick? Send her a note. Honeymoon? Not during the season, kid. Cashen's philosophy could be summed up in one sentence: Frank Robinson never missed a day for no friggin' broad, and neither should you. Now, in the midst of the playoffs, this news: The Mets players wanted their wives to fly with the team.
Cashen knew there had been rumblings concerning this issue, but he tuned them out until two of the more respected Mets -- Knight and pitcher Ron Darling -- requested a meeting. In Cashen's office they made an impassioned case for women in flight ... Continues...
Excerpted from The Bad Guys Won by Pearlman, Jeff Excerpted by permission.
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