Thursday, August 16, 2012

Me and Davey Johnson

In October of 1969, the New York Mets were transfigured into the Miracle Mets by winning the World Series against the vaunted Baltimore Orioles of Frank and Brooks Robinson (no relation), Boog Powell, and Jim Palmer.  The series ended after only 5 games when Orioles 2nd baseman Davey Johnson lofted a lazy fly ball into the mitt of Cleon Jones standing just in front of the left field 371 ft. mark.  Cleon caught Johnson’s ball and went to one knee, partly in relief and partly in a prayer of thanksgiving.

A Cleon Jones-signed black and white photo of him catching that Davey Johnson pop up hangs on my man cave wall.  It signifies that miracles can come true in this world.
In 1986, the same Davey Johnson was then manager of Mets, no longer a surprise team, but one expected to win.  Davey had young talent (Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry) and productive veteran leadership (Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter), and he molded these elements into a baseball juggernaut, winning 116 games that season (including the playoffs).  The 1986 season and that Davey Johnson team is best remembered for a slow roller up along first that went “BEHIND THE BAG!” as Bill Buckner stood in shock and awe at his error.  Game 6.

A Buckner-Mookie Wilson signed color photo of that ground ball scooting down the first base fair line hangs on my man cave wall.  It signifies that John McNamara should have made a defensive replacement in the bottom of the 10th inning, but also that miracles can come true in this world (and nothing in life is guaranteed, especially for Red Sox fans).

The 1969 Mets World Championship defined my youth, and the 1986 Mets defined my young adulthood.  Both moments shared Davey Johnson as a common thread.

Today in 2012, Davey Johnson is again at the center of my sports universe.  His team, the Washington Nationals, is my adopted team.  They have the best record in baseball this season; they have the best pitching staff in the game; they have young talent and productive veteran leadership.  Most of all, they have Davey Johnson, and when Davey Johnson enters my realm, miracles happen.

Should this baseball season conclude with Washington on the top of the major league mountain, it will again be an unforgettable sports moment for me with Davey at its center.  I’m starting to trust that guy. 

If Davey had coached the 1994 New York Rangers to the Stanley Cup instead of egomaniac Mike Keenan, this story of mine would have an even more perfect ending, but how much can you hope for in one sports lifetime?

I’ll settle for the first baseball championship in Washington, DC since 1924.  Any miracles left, Davey?  I have room left on my man cave wall for one more autographed championship photo.

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