Non-Fiction / Sports
Mookie: Life, Baseball and the '86 Mets
Written by: Mookie Wilson with Erik Sherman
Published By: Berkley Books
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I remember the lean years of the New York Mets, the years in which we ended up in last place in our division often. Some of those years took place in the early 1980s. Those years may have been painful to many Mets fans, but I found a bright spot in them - Mookie Wilson. Mookie came to the Mets when they weren't even contenders, was with them when they won the 1986 World Series against the Boston Red Sox and was there when they fizzled back into non-contenders. I had great respect for Mookie as a player and later a coach and mentor for the team. I loved that the Mets chose Mookie to lead the Brooklyn Cyclones.
Obviously, I'm a big Mookie fan, so when I received Mookie: Life, Baseball and the '86 Mets for Christmas, I couldn't wait to read it. But I have a special tradition - I always read a baseball book during spring training. Thus, I decided to save this book until the 2016 Spring Training season was in full swing.
Most people who have an inkling of who Mookie Wilson is only remember him for that dribbler that passed through the legs of Bill Buckner in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. But Mookie is so much more than that. Mookie was not only a clutch player, but a great mentor to the younger players and a good friend to many on the team. But even that doesn't define the man and that's what co-writing this book with Erik Sherman was all about. Mookie Wilson wanted people to know the man behind the uniform.
Mookie Wilson didn't grow up knowing he was going to play baseball for a living. He grew up working on a farm with his parents and siblings. Mookie's father was a sharecropper, supporting a family of fourteen on just $25.00 a week. They didn't live in a huge house and didn't have all the amenities, but they lived honestly and within their means. And they did this in a time and locale in which the color of your skin meant you were a second class citizen.
A great escape for the family - their greatest form of entertainment - was playing baseball. Mookie's father taught him that anything worth doing was worth doing right and this same view held true for playing baseball. This outlook on life would serve Mookie well in the future as, no matter how the rest of the team was playing, Mookie would always put 100% in all that he did on the field and in the batter's box. This work ethic showed especially during the weaker Mets teams that Mookie was a part of over the years. Whenever Mookie played, he did whatever he could with that aggressive playing style of his to get his team closer to a victory.
But Mookie is just a man, after all, and this book is not only about the great stuff, but also about the downside of his time with the Mets. I have to agree with him when he laments the platoon he was forced into with Lenny Dykstra and how it took away playing time for both players. Sure, it worked for the '86 incarnation of the team, but in later years, when they still weren't using Mookie to his potential...well, I found that to be downright shortsighted. I remember thinking during the latter seasons in his career, "Where's Mookie? Why isn't he playing?" I thought it was great when he became a coach, but I don't agree with all he found fault with as far as up and coming players goes. I think his impression of Benny Agbayani as a better player than what he depicts as a one-dimensional Matt Franco is wrong. Matt Franco was a player you could use in just about any position on the field and, when he wasn't playing, a clutch hitter when brought in to pinch hit. Agbayani was exciting in his first year with the Mets, but quite honestly he didn't do all that much for the organization and could only play outfield. He didn't do much after leaving the Mets either. I also don't agree with his views about scuffing balls or spitballs. How can you call using PEDs cheating, but not consider altering a baseball cheating as well?
And now we come to that part of the book that made me cringe. I've read three books written by players who were on the 1986 team - Dwight Gooden, Gary Carter and now Mookie Wilson. Gooden whined and blamed the Mets for all of his drug problems and Gary and Mookie both complained about the lack of managing opportunities offered by the Mets. Gary whined about it a lot; Mookie just seemed really mad. But, truth be told, I never saw Mookie as a manager; an excellent fielding and batting coach and third or first base coach, but never as a manager. Happily, he got what he had to say out on paper and then moved on.
And that's when we get to another part of Mookie that most Mets fans won't know about - his relationship with God and his role in the church. I found the chapter regarding his work as a preacher and how he got to that point in his life to be quite interesting. I also loved reading about his experience in writing the book and the signing tour that followed. I was surprised to discover that Mookie wanted to write more and is currently involved in two writing projects. Good for him! I'd be interested in seeing what writing projects he has planned.
I loved that Mookie: Life, Baseball and the '86 Mets gave us more than just the Mookie Wilson we knew from the game. The book allowed us a glimpse into the life of the man outside of baseball, the ups and downs of his life before, during and after baseball, and some insight into the man Mookie Wilson hopes to be. It was a great read and well-worth it for Mets fans from any era.