The game was played in the Astrodome on Wednesday, October 15th. I was at game 5 which was played at Shea Stadium the previous day. Nobody remembers game 5 because of the magnitude of the following game, but it was a beauty as well, featuring an epic matchup of Dwight Gooden and Nolan Ryan. Darryl Strawberry tied the game at 1 with a home run in the 5th and the score remained knotted until the bottom of the 12th when Gary Carter drove in the winning run with a single up the middle.
I never saw Game 6 because of my then steady gig playing solo piano for yuppies at a Wall street watering whole called St Maggie’s Cafe. I ended up listening to most of the extra innings on the restaurant’s transistor radio. (how quaint!)
24 years ago postseason day games were not uncommon, especially when both leagues were playing on the same day. The Mets game had a 3;30 start time because the ALCS game 7 between the Redsox and the Angels was scheduled for 8pm that evening. The result was that New York City, on a crisp fall afternoon, ground to a halt. People literally stopped working and flocked to office TVs. On the streets people ducked into the nearest bar or watched department store televisions.
After playing for an hour or so I was politely asked to stop. I gladly took a seat at the bar and listened to one of the most gut wrenching post season games ever. The game matched Bobby Ojeda and Bob Knepper. Ojeda did not have his best stuff allowing 3 early runs, but he settled down. Knepper pitched a gem shutting down the Mets offense for 8 innings.
The details: The Mets finally solved Knepper in the 9th inning putting up a 3 spot off of him and reliever Dave Smith. When the ‘stros failed to score in the bottom of the inning the game headed to extras. The Mets went ahead in the 14th on a Wally Backman RBI but Jessie Orosco blew the save allowing a home run to Billy Hatcher. Finally, in the top of the 16th the Mets exploded for 3 runs silencing the rabid Astrodome crowd. But the Astros would not go down easily and they battered a tired Orosco for 2 runs before Kevin Bsss struck out to end the game.
Living in New York City I have always looked at this game from a Mets perspective. It was a tough, gritty win — an improbable win given how dominant Knepper was. Ojeda was hittable but managed to get the key outs keeping the score within reach. The bullpen was almost flawless and Keith Hernandez made several sparkling plays at first.
From an Astros, perspective, however, the game looks much different. In the bottom of the first Houston scored 3 runs and had the Mets on the ropes when Alan Ashby botched a squeeze play, swinging through a pitch and leaving Bass hung out to dry between third and home. Just that one run would have made the difference.
The 16th inning rally began with a high fly pop up by Strawberry which dropped between three fielders. Center fielder Hatcher had taken one step back before realizing that the ball was going to be in front of him. This was probably a catchable ball. When Ray Knight singled to left. third base coach Bud Harrelson aggressively sent Darryl home. The throw from Bass was up the line and Strawberry was safe, but a good throw may have gotten him.
Imagine being an Astros fan watching this game. Could there have been a more excruciating loss? Boston Redsox fans would soon have an answer to this question.