On This Date in Sports July 22, 1986: The Fighting Mets

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In the wackiest game of the year, the New York Mets outlasted the Cincinnati Reds 6-3 in 14 innings at Riverfront Stadium. The Reds had the game in hand, leading 3-1 with two outs in the ninth when Dave Parker dropped a routine fly ball leading to the Mets to tie the game. The game featured a tenth inning brawl as the Mets used a pitcher in the outfield after running out of position players. 

The New York Mets were the dominant team of 1986, powered by a 13-3 start; the Mets ran away with the Eastern Division in the National League. Even with a slight slump after the All-Star Break, the Mets held a record of 61-28, while the Cincinnati Reds held a mediocre mark of 44-46 for player-manager Pete Rose. 

The Reds had gone into Shea Stadium two weeks earlier and came out with a surprise sweep; after the All-Star Game, the Mets lost three of four games in Houston against the Astros as four players (Ron Darling, Bob Ojeda, Tim Teufel, and Rick Aguilera) were arrested for a scuffle with police outside a Houston nightclub. The Mets of 1986 were brawlers having three bench-clearing incidents before the All-Star Break. 

After a 4-2 win over the Reds on Monday, the Mets went into the Tuesday night game in Cincinnati with Bob Ojeda on the mound. Ojeda was one of the four players arrested in Houston a few days earlier. The Reds countered with rookie Scott Terry. In the third inning, Cincinnati drew first blood, taking a 2-0 lead on a home run by Dave Parker. The Mets scored their first run in the fifth inning as Ojeda scored on a triple by Len Dykstra. However, the Reds answered right away with a home run by Buddy Bell. 

The Mets could not make any headway against the Cincinnati bullpen, as the Reds held a 3-1 into the ninth inning, with closer Ron Robinson on the mound. Robinson appeared on the way to closing the game when he walked Len Dykstra with two outs. Tim Teufel kept the Mets' hopes alive with a double, putting the tying runs in scoring position as John Franco entered the game for the Reds. Keith Hernandez came to the plate for the Mets and hit a fly ball to right field that appeared to end the game. However, Dave Parker, a former gold glove winner, dropped an easy fly ball, allowing the Mets to tie the game. 

The Mets had lost Darryl Strawberry in the fifth inning when he argued a called third strike. The game would go into extra innings, with the Mets bench getting thin; Davey Johnson used Rick Aguilera to pinch hit for Doug Sisk in the tenth inning. Howard Johnson was playing shortstop after pinch-hitting for Rafael Santana in the ninth as backup catcher Ed Hearn was the last man on the bench. 


In the bottom of the tenth, Pete Rose hitting for Franco laced a single and had Eric Davis come in a pinch-runner. With Eddie Milner at the plate, Davis stole second and third with Jesse Orosco on the mound. Milner would strike out as Davis took off for third. Eric Davis had slid hard into Mets' third basemen Ray Knight. Knight, a former gold glove boxer, did not take kindly and landed a right cross to Davis’s jaw. At that point, it was on like Donkey Kong, the benches cleared with several fights breaking out, including Kevin Mitchell tussling with John Denny. 

Eric Davis, Ray Knight, and Kevin Mitchell were all ejected as Tom Browning came into run at third base. The Mets had more significant issues with just one player left on the bench. Ed Hearn came into catch as Gary Carter shifted to third base. Davey Johnson was forced to play Roger McDowell in the outfield, with Jesse Orosco in the game. Johnson began to get creative, having McDowell and Orosco switch back and forth between the outfield and the mound, depending on who was at the plate. McDowell and Orosco alternated between the outfield and the mound. Pete Rose and the Reds tried to examine the rule book, missing the section about betting, and saw what the Mets were doing was legal. McDowell retired Wade Rowdon to end the inning as the game went into the 11th. 

Roger McDowell and Jesse Orosco continued to switch back and forth as the game went into the 14th inning. Keith Hernandez made a key play taking a bunt by Reds pitcher Carl Willis and starting a 3-5-4 double play that stymied a Cincinnati rally in the 12th. Willis, who had been on the mound since the 11th, ran out of gas in the 14th as Ed Hearn had a leadoff double. Following a walk to Jesse Orosco, Ted Power came into the game and struck out Roger McDowell. Next batter up, Howard Johnson. Johnson jumped on a pitch and drove it out to right field, giving the Mets a 6-3 lead. McDowell, who pitched the final two innings, would get the win as the Reds went down in order, with Buddy Bell making the final out on a grounder to HoJo at short. 

The Mets would go on to win the World Series, posting a 108-54 record as Ray Knight was named World Series MVP. Along the way, they were involved in four bench-clearing brawls. The first was May 27th, when Knight charged the mound after being hit by Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Tom Niedenfuer. Niedenfuer had just given up a grand slam to George Foster as the Mets won the game 8-1.


On June 6th in the first game of a doubleheader against the Pirates, when first base coach Bill Robinson, a member of the 1979 Pirates challenged former teammate Rick Rhoden who he accused of scuffing the ball to a fight. Robinson shoved Rhoden touching off an ugly fight that saw Mets' rookie Kevin Mitchell nearly choke out Sammy Kahlifa. The Mets lost the game 7-1 it was the only loss to the Pirates for the Mets in 18 games, as Barry Bonds hit his second career home run. 

The Mets third fight occurred on July 11th, in a Nationally Televised game on NBC's Friday Night Baseball. Dave Palmer of the Atlanta Braves plunked Darry Strawberry and then threw his glove at Straw when he charged the mound and ran and hid behind his teammates. The plunking came after a three-run bomb by Gary Carter as the Mets behind Sid Fernandez won 11-0 at Shea Stadium.