Sunday, July 4, 2010
#263) MOOKIE WILSON
Mookie Wilson joined the New York Mets organization when the club selected him in the second round of the free agent player draft on June 7, 1977. He would go on to become one of the most beloved Mets in franchise history. Possessing both tremendous speed and an incomparable charisma which made him instantly popular with New York fans.
Wilson made his Mets' debut as a late season call-up on September 2, 1980. That day he started in center field and batted lead-off. The club fell to the Dodgers in Los Angeles, but the young switch-hitter had begun his major-league career. It was also the first Mets' game for minor-league teammate, Wally Backman. Three years later, Mookie would set the Mets' club record for triples in a season, and then break his own record with 10 in 1984.
An accident occurred to Mookie during spring training camp of 1986. While involved in a base-running drill he was struck in the right eye with a thrown baseball. Vision glasses that Wilson was wearing at the time were broken. "The glasses shattered," he said, "but they didn't do any damage. And, in fact, they took the full impact of the blow and probably prevented more damage." The injury caused Mookie to miss the first month of the season. Allowing another piece to the puzzle, young prospect Lenny Dykstra a chance to fill-in as the center fielder during his absence.
During the 1986 World Series he was involved in the biggest single play in New York Mets team history. With the Boston Red Sox one out away from a World Championship, Wilson hit a ball that rolled between first baseman, Bill Buckner's legs and ended the game. Mookie shared with Mike Piazza in 2000, that even an hour after that Game 6 there were players in the training room still asking, "What happened?" It elevated the outfielder to legend. "Sadly, yes, that's the first thing people remember about me," Mookie conceded. "When people see me on the street, that's how they remember me. It used to bother me, but now I accept that it was one of the most unbelievable moments." Wilson's Mets would go on to win an improbable 1986 World Championship.
Wilson played in New York until he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Jeff Musselman and Mike Brady on August 1, 1989. The trade was requested by Mookie who saw the club beginning a youth movement. "I have mixed feelings about leaving," he said at the time. "I've always wanted to play regularly, so it's an opportunity for me. But the thought of leaving New York is sad. I have strong ties to New York." Mets' vice-president for baseball operations, Joe McIlvaine commented, "Since I came here, I think that Mookie Wilson is the finest individual we ever had in this organization."
Mookie Wilson was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1996. The same year that he earned his bachelor's degree in behavioral sciences from Mercy College in New York. Completing his secondary education as a 40-year old graduate. Afterward he rejoined the Mets organization as a coach from 1997 through 2002, and managed the minor league Brooklyn Cyclones in 2005.
In 2009, in recognition of his accomplishments on and off the field, Wilson was presented the prestigious J. Walter Kennedy Award from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Before the 2010 season he rejoined the New York Mets as a roving outfielder instructor, and worked with players during spring training camp.
Mookie Wilson beautifully signed his card card in the set for my good friend, Jessie through "The Man for All Things Mets"—Jack Berke on June 23, 2010. Jack's website can be found here.