Ron Darling remembers
Former Mets pitcher visits Museum for Authors Series event
“People ask why would you write about a game you didn’t do particularly well in,?” Darling said. “When the Mets won the World Series that night, no one was more joyous that I was. When we had the parade in front of 3 million people, I was so excited. But two days later I was in my apartment when the crash-and-burn happened, where you’re sitting there and you say, ‘Boy, my entire life I’ve been really good since I was about six years old and every time there was a big game I always came through, what happened?’ The book happened 30 years later.”
According to Darling, the two goals when setting out to write the book was to tell the story of the 1986 season through the prism of one baseball game and to break down that game in play-by-play detail. “I think that after Game 6 there was a feeling amongst people that there was no way the Mets would lose this. I’m sure the Golden State Warriors felt the same thing. But it can happen and it would have happened if we didn’t come back,” Darling said. “As far as the
1986 team, we barely got by the Houston Astros, we barely got by the Boston Red Sox. But that team did win 108 games that year. Yes, we were a blustery team, yes, we were full of ourselves, but when 7:10 rolled around we were ready to go. I think that’s what made us special.”
Thirty years later, looking back on what he and his teammates accomplished, Darling poignantly said, “We used to be the boys of summer but now we’re on to the autumn of our lives.”
And though he had an accomplished 13-year big league playing career with the Mets, Expos and A’s – compiling a 136-116 record, a 3.87 ERA, a National League All-Star selection in 1985, and becoming first Mets pitcher to be awarded the Gold Glove Award in 1989 – he today as recognized by a new generation of fans as one of the game’s best broadcasters. Darling, who attended Yale University before embarking on a professional baseball career, is now an analyst for SNY, TBS and MLB Network.
“I usually get three kind of responses,” Darling said. “The people that saw me play that thank me for 1986; the kids that will come up to me and only know me as an announcer; and people who say you were a heck of a pitcher but you’re a much better broadcaster. I think the longer I do this TV stuff the more it’s easier to say I probably am a better announcer that I was a ballplayer.”
As for his abbreviated time in Cooperstown, Darling being on a short break from his Mets announcing duties, he had nothing but praise for the area.
“I love this place so much,” Darling said. “Every time I come here I always have the same thought: Why am I not living here? I grew up with lakes in New Hampshire, and when you’re a lake person you just love lakes. And then you throw this beautiful Museum in here. I live in New York City, so when you’re at St. Patrick’s Cathedral you feel the same way as you do here: You feel reverent.
“As for being a former ballplayer to be here, I look at it in a couple different ways,” he added. “One is that I’m a lover of baseball, so the history of it is so great for someone like me. But I think also being a former player I know how hard it is to be great. And I had my moments when I was great. But to be great over a 10-, 15-year career, I can’t even imagine that. So when I come here I can see the guys who could imagine it.”
One guy who could imagine it was Gary Carter, the catcher on 1986 Mets. Carter, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2003, passed away at the age of 57 in 2012.
“Gary Carter was one of those guys, of course a Hall of Fame player, but he was also a Hall of Fame person. I think that what separates Gary from just about anyone else I played against or played with,” Darling said. “At some point in the day you wanted to be more like him. We lost him, but boy, what a life he led.
“And the thing about Gary was that before computers, before Sabermetrics, he had it in his brain. The entire National League, he could pull up that knowledge at any time and direct it on a very talented, young pitching staff to heights they probably wouldn’t have reached without him.”
One of the more memorable trips Darling made to Cooperstown was in 2004 when he attended the Induction Weekend of former A’s teammate Dennis Eckersley.
“I remember being at dinner with a lot of Hall of Famers. And I never feel intimidated because I’ve been blessed with such a beautiful life, but I was intimidated that day,” Darling said. “I just tried to stay out of people’s way. It was the most remarkable weekend.”
Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum