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Mookie Wilson Talks Life, Baseball And The 86 Mets

New York Mets

While the first game was actually played Sunday night, Monday is the official start of the 2015 Major League Baseball season.

To get in the spirit of the season, and because he's a crazed NY Mets fan, WUWF’s Bob Barrett spoke to 12 year major league veteran Mookie Wilson about his new book “Mookie – Life, Baseball and the 86 Mets”.

Unless you were watching a lot of baseball in New York City in the 1980s, you probably know Mookie Wilson from that "little roller up along first" he hit towards Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner in game 6 of the 1986 World Series. The ball of course went through Buckner's legs linking Buckner and Wilson in baseball history. Bob reminded Mookie of a game against the Mets and Montreal Expos in 1983 where Wilson was on second with one out and the score tied in the bottom of the 9th. Another runner on was first and George Foster hit what should have been a double play ball. Foster beat the play and first, but instead of first and third with two outs...Wilson never stopped running, taking the Expos by surprise and winning the game on the play at the plate.  Plus...it was the second time Wilson had won a ball game with that same play in the same week. Wilson says that's the kind of player he was "being unpredictable and using the talent that I was blessed with which was my speed".

This is Bob Barrett's complete (slightly edited) conversation with Mookie Wilson.

Other highlights from the conversation:

  • Becoming a star in New York City after growing up poor on a farm in the south "was different". Once he got to New York, Wilson commented that it wasn't really all THAT different. "I had a different perception of what New York was". There were a lot more people, "but a lot of the people were the same, a lot of people were just trying to survive".
  • Starting his career on a perennial losing team and watching it be built into a winner around him was fun. He said the first big move the team made was bringing up all the young players who had played together in the minor leagues. Players like Wilson, Hubie Brooks, Ed Lynch, Jesse Orosco and Wally Backman. The second big move toward building the team into a winner was the trade that brought in Keith Hernandez "because we needed someone with a little more experience and who had won, and I think Keith was the guy".
    Credit Penguin Books

  • After winning the World Series in 1986, Wilson says the Mets immediately started dismantling the team. Not resigning Ray Knight and trading away future MVP Kevin Mitchell were the biggest moves that Wilson said took away "the soul of the team". "People use the term chemistry. Well, no one can really define it, but whatever it was that Mets team had it". Wilson thinks had management not tinkered with that chemistry, the Mets would have won more than just that one championship in the 1980s.
  • The 1986 teams is still talked about in New York far more than any of the Yankees' championships. Wilson said that's because many New York fans were old Brooklyn Dodger fans who still rooted for team in the National League. Also, the Mets were "young and exciting and unpredictable, players that people could relate to. They were just normal people. They weren't always politically correct, or socially correct for that matter, but they were fun to watch, they weren't boring. Say what you like, the Yankees were winners but they were boring".
  • With today's huge salaries, players have a little more clout with teams than they used to. "You can't fire 25 guys, particularly is 15 of them are making 10 million dollars. It just ain't gonna happen!" As a former player, Wilson thinks it's good that teams are listening to their players, especially their star players more than before. But, he says teams have to be careful and not "let the inmates run the asylum. that's not good."
  • Wilson was a minor league manager in the Mets system for a few years. He says that judging young baseball players and projecting how they will progress is next to impossible. He says there are some players who are "can't miss", but they are few and far between. Wilson feels organizations put to much emphasis on numbers and not players.
  • Even though Wilson is no longer involved in coaching or player development, he still keeps an eye on young players coming up throughout baseball. He noted that Pace high School grad Addison Russell, who was recently sent down to minor league camp by the Chicago Cubs, has been talked about a lot. He says while he doesn't know the situation of the Cubs system right now, a team has to make sure they put a player in the right situation at the right time to maximize his value to the team and to advance the player's career.

Mookie Wilson had a 12 year major league career with the New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays. His book is called “Mookie – Life, Baseball and the 86 Mets”.

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.