The rich history of Major League Baseball is full of colourful teams and great games.Â Itâ€™s impossible to pick out one team or game that tops the rest, but the 1986 New York Mets and game six of that yearâ€™s World Series would be strong candidates worthy of consideration.Â Jeff Pearlmanâ€™s book brings them to life, making you laugh and making you shake your head in bewilderment in equal measure.Â
The Bad Guys Won! documents the Metsâ€™ championship year in â€˜86, charting how the team was put together, how they won it all and what became of them when the group was abruptly split up.Â Many good books are character driven and with this cast your attention keeps being grabbed from one direction to another as the next oddball is introduced.Â Bad guys?Â You better believe it.Â
The 1986 New York Mets walked with a swagger, performed with supreme confidence and spoke with unconfined arrogance.Â Loveable they were not, but thatâ€™s what made them a great team on the field and what makes them such a great source of hilarious stories.Â Pitcher Bobby Ojeda sums them up: â€œWe were just a nasty bunch of guys â€¦ weâ€™d go into a town and weâ€™d say, â€˜Weâ€™re gonna drink their beer, weâ€™re gonna beat their team, weâ€™re gonna kick their asses, and then weâ€™re gonna leave and do it to someone elseâ€˜â€.Â As Pearlman states: â€œthey usually succeededâ€.
They were an unholy rabble of undesirables, a group of people from varied backgrounds with different characters and levels of ability.Â Together, they were unstoppable.Â Pearlman plunges us headfirst into the carnage by opening with the Mets on a victory flight having beaten the Astros to book their place in the World Series.Â Their boozing, drug taking, food throwing and general hell-raising caused thousands of dollars worth of damage.Â Upon landing, the Metsâ€™ travel secretary read the riot act to a sheepish clubhouse.Â Manager Davey Johnson promptly took the bill for the damage and ripped it up, much to the delight of his players.Â
Pitcher Doug Sisk, part of the so-called â€˜Scum Bunchâ€™ clique, reasoned that â€œyou donâ€™t win a World Series drinking milkâ€, which on the evidence of the â€˜86 Mets appears true enough (the Mets in fact did sometimes drink milk, but only to recover from over-doing it on the amphetamines).Â Â They drank (and drank, then drank some more) and they won.Â It must have been a living nightmare for everyone else and indeed there are more than a few comments from rival players as evidence that the Mets were hardly a popular winner.Â Not that they could care less about that, mind you.
The fact that they did win sometimes seems to get overlooked (perhaps no coincidence?).Â History is normally written by the victors; nobody remembers who finishes second.Â These things are true in most cases, but not with the 1986 World Series.Â Partly thanks to the Red Soxâ€™s recent World Series triumphs and the ending of the â€™curse of the Bambinoâ€™, the story of the â€™86 series has often been told as the story of the Red Sox losing rather than the Mets winning.Â More specifically, itâ€™s the story of Bill Buckner losing it for Boston.Â An impressive and well-respected Major Leaguer throughout his distinguished career, Buckner has had to live with his many accomplishments being put in the shade by Mookie Wilsonâ€™s hit that somehow went past his glove in game six of the Fall Classic.
What made the â€˜Buckner momentâ€™ so dramatic is that it had seemed inevitable that the Red Sox would win.Â Leading 5-3 in the bottom of the tenth, all hope for the Mets looked lost.Â Like a scene from a slap-stick comedy, the building blocks are slowly built up one-by-one, waiting to come crashing down .Â The champagne, the Metsâ€™ champagne no less, was wheeled into Bostonâ€™s club house, while the â€˜World Champion Boston Red Soxâ€™ T-shirts and caps were being hastily arranged in the playersâ€™ lockers.Â The Video Scoreboard at Shea even briefly flashed out a â€˜Congratulationsâ€™ message for their rivals.Â If it was tempting fate then the Metsâ€™ employees responsible for the above may have initiated the greatest jinxing in living memory.
In the prologue, Pearlman states that when friend and fellow writer Michael Lewis read an early draft of The Bad Guys Won!, he complained that â€œexcept for Ed Hearn, all these guys are assholesâ€.Â So why is it that by the time you reach this turning point, the reader is somehow rooting for this gang of â€˜assholesâ€˜?Â
Bobby Ojeda helps.Â Having been ousted from the Red Sox in a manner that left him admitting he would â€œhave rather eaten shit than lose to the Red Soxâ€, itâ€˜s natural to want to see him getting his own back on them. More than anything, itâ€™s the fact that we now live in a world of bland, inoffensive sporting brands.Â In the face of such â€˜niceâ€™ corporate images, whatâ€™s better than reading of a gang that broke all the rules, flipped the finger to the authorities and walked off as champions?Â Maybe they turn out to be loveable after all?
Maybe not, but they are certainly entertaining and The Bad Guys Won! captures that brilliantly.Â Any baseball fan, regardless of their allegiance, will love this book even if they donâ€˜t grow to love the â€˜86 Mets.Â
Have you read â€œThe Bad Guys Won!”?Â Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below. Can you recommend any other similar books? If so, let us know.