Touted by scouts and coaches alike as “the next Willie Mays,” Burke, a charismatic outfielder, kept his sexuality off the radar for a good two seasons, which included a World Series appearance. He was even credited with inventing the high five with teammate Dusty Baker.
But when the Dodgers’ front office got wind of Burke’s sexuality, the damage control started, including efforts by upper management to talk him into a sham marriage. When Burke refused, he was eventually traded to Oakland, where he received a less-than-warm welcome from incoming manager Billy Martin. The prejudice, coupled with an injured knee, forced Burke into retirement at only twenty-seven years old.
Now, two decades after his death from AIDS-related complications, the man who started the conversation is finally being included in it. Major League Baseball recognized him as a gay pioneer at the 2014 All-Star game. And Burke has become a source of inspiration for athletes who refuse to be defined by who they love, while doing what they love.
Includes a new afterword by coauthor Erik Sherman reflecting on the two decades that have passed since Burke’s death.
Foreword by Billy Bean
Darryl Strawberry, Doc Gooden, Keith Hernandez, Lenny Dykstra, Mookie Wilson, Howard Johnson, Doug Sisk, Rafael Santana, Bobby Ojeda, Wally Backman, Kevin Mitchell, Ed Hearn, Danny Heep, and the late Gary Carter were all known for their heroics on the field. For some of them—known as the “Scum Bunch”—their debauchery off the field was even more awe-inspiring. But when that golden season ended, so did their aura of invincibility. Some faced battles with addiction, some were traded, and others struggled just to keep their lives together.
Through interviews with these legendary players, Erik Sherman offers fans a new perspective on a team that will forever be remembered in sports history.
From the Hardcover edition.
They said it was the “Curse of the Bambino.” They said “the bad guys won.” Now, for the first time in trade paperback, one of baseball’s all-time good guys, New York Mets legend Mookie Wilson, tells his side of the story—from the ground ball through Bill Buckner’s legs that capped the miraculous 1986 World Series Game Six rally against the Boston Red Sox to the rise and fall of a team that boasted such outsize personalities as Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, Dwight Gooden, Gary Carter, Lenny Dykstra, and Davey Johnson.
Growing up in rural South Carolina in the 1960s, Mookie took to heart the lessons of his father, a diligent sharecropper who believed in the abiding power of faith—and taught his son the game that would change his life.
When Mookie landed in Shea Stadium in 1980, the Mets were a perennial cellar-dweller overshadowed by the crosstown Yankees. But inspired by Mookie’s legendary hustle, they would soon become the toast of New York. And even when their off-field antics—made famous by a contingency of the team called “the Scum Bunch”—eclipsed their on-field successes, Mookie stayed above the fray.
In 1986, the Mets were a juggernaut, winning 108 games during the regular season and edging the Houston Astros for the National League pennant following a grueling 16-inning Game Six classic. In the World Series against Boston, in an epic at-bat that led to the Buckner error, Mookie would ignite a fire under the Mets, helping to force a Game Seven. New York would win to become World Champions.
In an era when role models in sports were hard to come by, some tarnished by their own hubris and greed, Mookie Wilson remained the exception: a man of humility and honor when it mattered the most.
WITH A FOREWORD BY KEITH HERNANDEZ
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