Boston Red Sox

It’s just past 10 p.m. (edt) and I begin toggling through the channels looking for the New York Mets and Seattle Mariners game. I pass by the short schedule of West Coast games — the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres, Minnesota Twins and Oakland Athletics — before I reach my destination.

Welcome to Safeco Park.

As I lean back on the sofa, I think to myself: How many baseball fans are interested in this game? I mean, really, outside the hardcore Mets and Mariners fan bases. Is this what former MLB commissioner Bud Selig had in mind when he convinced every major league team owner that interleague play was good for the game? Was he envisioning a late-July Mets/Mariners showdown to generate new fans and higher attendance?

I think not.

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Even in hindsight the story is hard to fathom. The New York Mets came to bat in the bottom of the 10th inning, at home, trailing the Boston Red Sox 5-3 in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. They were three outs away from losing the Series. Hold on, this isn’t the story you’re thinking it is.

Wally Backman led off the inning slicing a line drive into the glove of Dave Henderson. One out. Keith Hernandez then hit a hard line drive to centerfield for the second out. The Mets were, as Len Dykstra would later tell Peter Golenbeck in Amazin’, “one out away from wasting the whole f—ing season.”

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Mets game and Keith Hernandez repeated his story about Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

If you’re not familiar with the tale, here is how the New York Times reported it 30 years ago:

Hernandez had just made what seemed so certain to be the next-to-last out of the game, the World Series and the Met season. The Mets were trailing the Red Sox by two runs in the bottom of the 10th inning, and after Hernandez flied out to center field with no one on base, he took a long, slow walk to the dugout and kept going.

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Boston Red Sox

In Boston, their Sox are Red and their hearts are broken. In Boston, the 2013 Major League Baseball season started with a new manager, a handful of questionable roster additions and a sense of anxiety. In Boston, the the good news was Bobby Valentine was out. In Boston, that created optimism along Lansdowne Street. In Boston, optimism means something.

The city has a long history of baseball heartbreak. Bucky Dent (1978). Bill Buckner (1986). Aaron Boone (2003). But all that has changed over the last decade. The Red Sox put to rest the gibberish of an organization cursed, winning three World Series — 2004, 2007 and 2013 — in nine years.

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Long after fans stripped Shea Stadium of everything not nailed down, Tom Seaver and Gary Gentry left the clubhouse and returned to the torn up field followed by Life Magazine photographers.

“I realized for the first time that the ultimate joy is not in the clubhouse, spraying champagne … the biggest thrill is on the field, joining teammates in the competition to achieve one common goal,” said Seaver. “That day I understood that the process in itself is the reward. It was a lesson in maturity, a moment of personal growth. That is why as long as I live, whatever I accomplish, I will always be a ’69 Met.”

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