Bob Klapisch has been covering baseball in New York for almost 30 years. Writing for the New York Post, New York Daily News and most recently the The Record. He is also a regular contributor for ESPN.com and FoxSports.com. He has been a voting member of the Baseball Writers Association of America since 1983.
It was early 1989, almost three years since the most surreal moment in Mookie Wilson’s professional life. No one in New York had to be reminded. For any Mets fan, the ’86 World Series still had the effect of a hallucinogenic drug. And as for Mookie . . . well, he was a walking advertisement for the impossible. Honest and homegrown, Mookie was on a first-name basis with an entire city, and one of the principals in a surprise ending that’s remembered to this day.
I’m only half-kidding when I say I’ve been covering baseball since the Paleozoic Age; it just feels that way sometimes. Nevertheless, decades of my professional life have been spent in the press box, which makes historical comparisons credible, if not easy. So when I’m asked about the best postseason run I’ve ever covered, I draw on an archive that includes the ’86 New York Mets, the ’91 Minnesota Twins, the ’96 New York Yankees, and the ’04 Boston Red Sox.
It was early in spring training 25 years ago when New York Mets General Manager Al Harazin summoned the beat writers to his office for a friendly word of advice. Actually, the message wasn’t so friendly and the advice was closer to a warning. But Harazin’s point couldn’t have been clearer: Watch your step with Eddie Murray, the free-agent first baseman who had been signed by the team over the winter.
“Eddie doesn’t suffer fools gladly,” Harazin said. “I’ll leave it at that.”
The year was 1954, when anyone paying close attention might’ve realized the Dodgers had their eye on the door, ready to leave Brooklyn. Not that team president Peter O’Malley came out and said so, but in retrospect the hints were everywhere.
If you want to know what baseball was like in its low-tech, pre-PC days, run a Google search on Earl Weaver going nuclear on a hapless umpire. You can get the same result if you look up Billy Martin or Tommy Lasorda, but Weaver was the king of in-your-face diplomacy. Feigned or not, you just don’t see theater like that anymore.
Any self-respecting Mets fan will fix a gaze that’ll cut you in two at the mere mention of 1988. That’s how much it (still) hurts to think of the NL Championship Series loss to the Dodgers, the team the Mets had beaten 11 times in the regular season and represented nothing more than calisthenics on the way to the World Series.
Several years ago, I was spending time with Yogi Berra at his Museum and Learning Center in Montclair, N.J. Yogi was still vibrant and in good health, and on this day, he was eager to walk me through his own time tunnel.
It wasn’t long ago that I saw an ad for the Dodge Challenger Hellcat, which boasted a near-impossible 707 horsepower. My first and only thought about this car was—impossible. But I did my research and realized Dodge’s engineers had indeed made a breakthrough. They’d created the fastest production muscle car in American history, a four-wheel rocket ship.
There’s probably no way to count the number of times baseball has been pronounced dead—or at least dying—in the last 50 years. Too slow, too boring, too out of touch with younger fans who need more simulation. Think any of this is new? Try again.
In 1957, the Dodgers’ last year in Brooklyn, attendance fell by 20 percent. This, despite the fact they’d won the pennant the previous season and were only two years removed from beating the hated Yankees in the World Series.