1986 World Series Game 6: 'Pandemonium' in TV truck, too

Mookie Wilson grounds weakly to first base in

Mookie Wilson grounds weakly to first base in Game 6 of the World Series. The ball went through Bill Buckner's legs, scoring Ray Knight from second and giving the Mets a 6-5 win in the bottom of the 10th. (Credit: Newsday / Paul J. Bereswill)

Neil Best

Newsday columnist Neil Best Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned

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The mood inside NBC's production truck wasn't much different from that inside Shea Stadium.

"Pandemonium," Michael Weisman said yesterday, recalling the night 25 years ago next Tuesday when he oversaw the telecast of one of the most memorable World Series games.

But that would do only for a few seconds. The images he and famed director Harry Coyle would show over the next several minutes would become part of collective sports memory, and they had to be right.

"Just to get my equilibrium, because the truck was in chaos, I yelled out to no one in particular, pretty much to myself, 'Shut up! Everyone shut up!' " he said. "We had to focus."

That quieted everyone, including executives celebrating not only the drama of the Mets' victory over the Red Sox in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series but that there would be a Game 7, and with it powerful ratings and more revenues.

"They're thinking 'click, click, click'; the cash registers were rolling," Weisman said.

Mostly, though, the excitement wasn't about money or that many staffers were New Yorkers partial to the Mets. The thrill was about capturing an event, and that they did.

Mookie Wilson's "little roller up along first" eluding Bill Buckner, Ray Knight scoring the winning run, celebrating fans, Knight being mobbed by teammates, Buckner dejectedly walking off the field -- "those are moments that live forever," Weisman said. "From the truck point of view, it's not unlike Buckner. If you blow it as a producer or director, that's it. You never get a second chance."

Weisman, who grew up in Douglaston, started at NBC Sports as a 22-year-old in 1972. He was in the truck for iconic moments such as Hank Aaron's 715th career homer in '74 and Carlton Fisk's World Series Game 6-winning shot in '75. He produced his first World Series in 1978 and his last in 2003, for Fox.

So where does he rank 1986? In a tie with the Fisk game and the Yankees' dramatic comebacks against Arizona in 2001.

Boston took a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the 10th in Game 6 and was three outs from its first world championship since 1918, by which point Weisman had left the game largely in the hands of Vin Scully and Coyle. He turned to planning what figured to be a chaotic postgame show from the visiting clubhouse.

He was pondering everything from which Met would be the best camera target "for the forlorn shot in the dugout" to when to deploy a vintage image of Babe Ruth winking as his curse comes to an end.

"They're planning all this [stuff] and you're only half paying attention to the game," he said. "That last shot is going to be shown for the next 50 years. The Red Sox win; here's the moment. Scully is working on his line in the back of his head but he won't admit it. Does he say, 'Somewhere, Babe Ruth is smiling'? Or, 'The jinx is over'?"

Bob Costas, the postgame host, tells the story of the awkward scene in the Red Sox clubhouse, where he was preparing for the trophy presentation as the Mets rallied.

At one point he asked Weisman what to do if the Mets tied it. "Get . . . out of there as fast as you possibly can," he was told, and that he did, along with crew and equipment, as the tying and winning runs followed in close succession.

Somehow it all worked, for which Weisman credits an all-star crew, in particular Coyle, a pioneer of televised baseball who among other things introduced the centerfield camera. (He died in 1996 at age 74.)

"The best directors are so single-minded, they never take their eye off the program monitor," Weisman said. "They are in the second, in the moment. Whereas I was literally out of my seat, Coyle just kept his head on the monitor."

Later, "almost like a delayed reaction," Weisman said, Coyle turned to him and marveled over what had occurred, and even better, about this: "Wow, we've got another game."