There is no current Met old enough to recall the events of Oct. 27, 1986, when Keith Hernandez hit a two-run single in Game 7 of the World Series that marked the beginning of the end for the Red Sox.
A parade followed soon thereafter.
But no matter. Late Saturday afternoon at Citi Field, next to the parking lot where Shea Stadium once stood, they got a good idea of what that long-ago night meant — and of what they are trying to accomplish in 2022.
What does winning it all in New York look like, even 36 years later?
It looks like a perfect mid-July day, in a stadium filled to the rim, with multiple standing ovations and the No. 17 decorating the outfield grass, the home run apple, a display at second base and, finally, a spot in leftfield among the Mets’ other retired numbers.
Hernandez earned all that, along with the teammates he represented, and just as he brought leadership by example to the Mets in 1983 and beyond, he offered an example for modern times, too.
The current manager, Buck Showalter, said before the Mets’ 5-4, 10-inning victory over the Marlins that his players asked not whether they should be at the ceremony but when they should be there. They arrived in the dugout in time to see the love wash over Hernandez.
Afterward, Showalter deemed the lesson valuable.
“It’s a reminder to our players about how great a player he was, how much those teams were embraced and people rallied around them and how many Mets fans are dying for us to try to do the same thing,” he said. “I actually thought it was great for our players to see all that.”
The players seemed to agree.
“It’s fun, it’s amazing, it’s beautiful to see,” said Francisco Lindor, who said it was the first time he had seen Citi Field full an hour before a game.
Current Mets first baseman Pete Alonso wore a mustache and stirrups in tribute. He said Hernandez saw him before the game and got a kick out of the ’stache.
Showalter recalled David Cone, a former Met and Yankee — and a four-time World Series winner with the latter — once saying to him about New York: “Everybody’s waiting to embrace you here. It’s up to you to give them something to embrace you about.”
The 2022 Mets are doing their best, with a 53-32 record.
Imagining Hernandez in his youthful heyday surely was difficult for some of them, who see him as a 68-year-old announcer more than an elite former jock. (When Hernandez introduces himself to 21st century Mets, he often adds that he used to play for the team, just in case.)
So Saturday was a history lesson, too.
Hernandez recalled how upset he was when he was traded here from the Cardinals in 1983, but looking back, he called it “a life- and career-changing event.”
He knows more about the current team than most old-timers, of course, because it is his job to follow them daily as an SNY analyst.
So he knew whereof he spoke when near the end of his speech, he turned to the 2022 Mets and said: “This current team, I love to watch . . . You’re on top of it. This team comes out and hustles, they play hard and comport themselves like professionals. It is a treat.”
That part clearly resonated.
“Having a guy like that backing us up says a lot,” Lindor said. “He’s been on good teams, he’s been on bad teams and I’m sure he knows what a good team is.”
Alonso and Lindor both homered before the Mets won it in the bottom of the 10th on a throwing error by Marlins pitcher Tanner Scott that allowed Tomas Nido to score. The last time the Mets won on a walk-off error with two outs in extra innings? Yup: Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.
The Mets are legitimate championship contenders. Will Alonso, Lindor or another of these guys someday enjoy a day like Hernandez did Saturday?
Fans are waiting to embrace that.