You Gotta Believe! — rewriting 1973 to make ourselves happy

I was too young to remember watching the Miracle Mets surprise the Baltimore Orioles and the world by winning their first World Series in 1969, but I can still remember their next championship like it was yesterday.

The scrappy 1973 Mets — the team that gave us “You Gotta Believe!” — had implausibly defeated the Big Red Machine in the playoffs and had forced the mighty Oakland A’s to a seventh game in the World Series.

The game started poorly for the Amazin’s, with Bert Campaneris and Reggie Jackson both homering in the bottom of the third inning to give Oakland a 4-0 lead, chasing Mets’ starter Jon Matlack. And by the time the ninth inning arrived, the A’s had a 5-1 lead with future hall-of-famer Rollie Fingers on the mound needing just three more outs to secure the win.

You know the rest of the story.

Ed Kranepool, batting with two on and two out, hit what should have been a game-ending groundball, but Deron Johnson’s error let John Milner score. Now it’s 5-2, still two on and two out, tying run at the plate.

As Mets skipper Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

Wayne Garrett’s single made it 5-3, followed by Felix Millan’s epic at-bat, fouling off 11 pitches before working out a walk to load the bases for Rusty Staub and baseball history.

I don’t have to tell you what happened next — “Rusty’s Rocket,” “The Slam Heard ‘Round the World,” you’ve probably seen clips of that moment a thousand times. Or that famous photo of Jerry Koosman embracing Jerry Grote on the mound after pitching a perfect ninth-inning on three days’ rest.

Watching the game on television back in New Jersey, I cheered and cheered. I didn’t cry at all because Wayne Garrett didn’t pop out to shortstop and I get to remember 1973 exactly the way I want to, the way I wish to, just like Al Mohler does.

We can’t be bound by memory, or documented history, or truth or facts. We can rewrite all of those to create a mythic reality preferable to any sad truth, sad memories, sad history that we’d prefer were somehow different.

So if Mohler gets to reach back to 1973 to fabricate a mythic history involving some kind of principled evangelical backlash to Roe v. Wade that never happened, then I get to do the same thing — I get to reach back to 1973 and invent a history that suits my emotional needs too. I’m just changing Garrett’s pop-fly into a single. That’s a much more modest change than rewriting a decade of increasing Southern Strategy partisanship into something that we can pretend gives us the moral high ground.

The history books may say different than what Al says or what I say. And Mohler and I are both old enough to remember what really happened. We’re both old enough to know that my account of the ninth inning above is as ridiculously fictional as his column in the Post. But why should either of us have to settle for such memories and such unpleasant truths when our fantasy histories are so much more enjoyable?

So Viva le Grande Orange! And all hail the 1973 World Champion New York Mets!


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  • aunursa

    Cool.  I’ll rewrite Game 6 of the 1986 World Series to end with Mookie Wilson stranding the tying run at third by popping out to first baseman Buckner.

    I’ll rewrite the 1990 NFC Championship Game to have the final field goal attempt drift two feet farther to the left.

    And don’t get me started on the 1977 AFC Championship, 1987 NLCS, 1988 World Series, 1992 NFC Championship, 2000 NLCS, 2002 World Series …


    You know, I’m not a baseball fan so I actually believed you until your 9th paragraph, I didn’t feel any shame at not following your link to the real story.

    Of course you aren’t using your revisionist history to argue that my neighbors kids cannot play little-league. 

  •  Sweet.  I’ma re-write the 2006 Super Bowl so that Sexy Rexy didn’t toss a pick sixth in the fourth and instead ran a game-winning TD drive.  I’m also going to re-write it so that I said no when the girl I was seeing asked if her roommate could watch the game with me an my family, since, man, she was one of the most annoying people in the world.

    Then I’m going to re-write the 2005 World Series so that the White Sox…um…actually, I’m all good with that particular championship season.

  • redsixwing

    I want to play, too!

    I’d like Funny Cide to have taken an outside pass on the last turn of the Belmont instead of running along the rail, and been the first US Triple Crown winner in my lifetime.

  • P J Evans

     I’ll rewrite the 1962 world series so McCovey’s liner doesn’t get caught. (Why, yes, I do remember what really happened. I also remember seeing the end of the 1969 World Series – it was insane.)

  • Carstonio

    I would rewrite history so that Congress actually finished Reconstruction after the Civil War, instead of letting the freed slaves and their descendants suffer under Jim Crow for a century. Next, I would retroactively reverse the Citizens United decision…

  • John

    In an entirely other field, I’d like to rewrite Fox’s mistreatment of “Firefly”…

  • Albanaeon

    I’m going to rewritten the 2000 election so that Gore won.


  • Ooh, and get an expanded second season of “Jericho” :D

  • Lunch Meat

    I don’t follow baseball, but this story reminds me of May 1999, when George Lucas announced that although he had planned to make a prequel Star Wars trilogy, he realized the story of Darth Vader’s fall to the dark side was best left to the fans’ imagination. He also worried about destroying the mystery of the Force. Sometimes I wonder what those prequels would have been like…

  • I’ll rewrite history so that, following their breakout hit The Matrix, the directors of the movie retired, never to create a sequel.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    I’ll rewrite Game 6 of the 1986 World Series to end with Mookie Wilson stranding the tying run at third by popping out to first baseman Buckner.

    Oh no you don’t! You’ll break the heart of a little boy who didn’t understand why his parents wouldn’t name his baby sister Mookie. (My mom relayed that story to Mookie Wilson himself at a card-signing a few summers later while I was away at camp.)

  • AnonymousSam
  • As with so many things I do, I was inspired by XKCD.

  • I would change the Star Wars prequel movies (right now they just don’t exist), The Throne of Bhaal, nearly every romcom of the past 20 years…

    Oh and there was never any sexism in any form of media in my lifetime. There were as many female characters as male characters, and a correctly proportional number of characters who were other than white or straight. Also most characters weren’t ridiculously wealthy.

    And women got to play at the World Series.

  • Carstonio

    I’ll rewrite Game 6 of the 1986 World Series to end with Mookie Wilson
    stranding the tying run at third by popping out to first baseman

    Why not go back to the beginning and have the Sox renew Ruth’s contract in 1919?

  • Foreigner

    All true Englishmen will nod along with me when I say the one word: Penalties. We always win penalty shootouts, right? That’s right. Never lost a one, not like those losers the Germans.

    Seconding Firefly, and not forgetting how great it was that the fourth and fifth seasons of Babylon 5 came out exactly the way JMS had always planned!

  • SpaceOtter

    I know that as an A’s fan I’m doomed to watch Kirk Gibson hit the home run off of Dennis Eckersley in the ’88 World Series for the rest of my life. That moment inevitably pops up now and then in the media, and I can only look away.

    Considering sports fandom … I sometimes wonder if experiencing
    The Thrill of Victory is worth The Agony of Defeat, especially when the Agony is  of historical proportions.

  • David Starner

     As for female and male characters, I noticed something that may be as interesting as the Bechdel test. The IMDB allows download of text forms of some parts of its database, and separates male and female actors into separate files. The actor file is 211 MB and the actress file is only 116 MB, with some quick processing showing that there’s been almost 12 million roles for male actors in the database, but only 7 million for women.

  • There are only three “Star Wars Movies”; there weren’t even any made-for-TV properties, or holiday specials. There is only one “Matrix” film. There are only two “Godfather” movies. (though Sophia Coppola does direct films) There is only one “Highlander” film, and it hasn’t exactly aged well. 

    “Transformers” was a fun animated series in the 80’s with only one film version, an animated movie featuring voice work by Orson Welles and Leonard Nimoy. There has never been a live-action adaptation.  Similarly, other animated properties have never been given the live-action treatment. (i.e. Dragonball Z, Fist of the North Star, Wicked City, etc. etc. etc.)

    To reflect the quirkiness and mystique of sci-fi, all “Star Trek” movies are even numbered, with no other films inbetween, and only the original series had movies; there were never any Next Generation films. It was recently rebooted successfully as an action franchise in a sci-fi setting, and is really no longer pure “science fiction”.

    “Moonraker” was a silly James Bond story that was never adapted to film. James Bond movies have certainly never had Madonna in a cameo role, Halley Barry, or a farking invisible car.

    Now, let’s talk TV. I know we’ve all been enjoying the sixth season of Firefly, and we can all agree that it would have been a disaster to put Futurama on a multiple-year hiatus. It’s a pity that Aaron Sorkin never produced another TV show after “The West Wing”, but clearly movies work better for him these days. Likewise, I think we all enjoy our “Simpsons” treasury of the complete series from season 1 to 8, and respect that they ended it at the right time, and that a movie really wouldn’t have worked. 

    By the way, Marvel opened up it’s vault of rejected story ideas for the last twenty years, and boy were there some stinkers! Peter Parker is a clone, Peter Parker sells his soul to the devil, Captain America rebels against the U.S. government in favor of vigilantes, Professor X becomes an unstoppable killing machine that can only be killed by sacrificing all the non-mutant superheroes. Wow… just awful stuff I’m glad never saw the light of day.

  • P J Evans

     And the film version of ‘The Last Airbender’ was a world-wide hit.

  • I would like to rewrite quite a bit of history using the Paradox Patch cards from the game Chrononauts. The idea of Challenger never launching on that fatally cold day because a surviving John Lennon was holding a peace sit-in on the launch pad just makes my heart all warm and wistful.

    Also, the Neverending Story sequel followed the 2nd half of the book faithfully, which is to say, at least as faithfully as the first movie followed the first half, which is pretty solid given the realities of book-to-movie adaptations. I continue to be amazed at how well they managed to portray the Lion of the Desert of Colors given the limitations of special effects at the time. (I have a friend who insists the movie introduced this ridiculous Howard the Duck style character as a flunky to the witch Xayide, but I suspect he was tripping when he watched it.)

  • Jenny Islander

    No, no, folks, there were three prequel movies.  Don’t you remember the year-plus of fan furor when Lucas announced that he was auditioning for scriptwriters because he knew that trying to do it himself would be biting off more than he could chew?  And the press conference at which he announced that so many brilliant published authors had applied, many offering to work for free if they could just be allowed to live out their dream of writing the next SW movie, that he was going to have to push back cast auditions another six months in order to concentrate on finding the very best one?  And don’t you remember the day he announced that Lois McMaster Bujold was his choice and the Internet blew the hell up?

    Those movies just blew me away.  I just–I just–no wonder whole psychology courses are taught using just the characters in the first three movies.  Poor Anakin.  Poor Jedi.  Poor everybody.  And in the meantime Lucas was free to craft an incredible spectacle that gave the little kids something to ooh and aah over while the grown-ups were bawling their eyes out!  (Okay, okay, I loved the space battles too.  And the Jedi battles. And the podrace.  I’m just glad that Lucas was able to play to his strengths.)

    And isn’t it lucky for LMB that she didn’t work for free after all?  I think that right now she can basically build her own Moon rocket if she wants.

  • Grylliade

    Umm…in the linked article Mohler clearly states that there was NOT an evangelical movement against abortion until years later. What part is he accused of fabricating?

  • ReverendRef

    Since we are beginning the hysteria that is the Superbowl, I’m rewriting history so that my beloved Dallas Cowboys of the 1970’s went 1-1 against the hated Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Just one . . . that’s all I wanted.  Thanks to Al Mohler, Jackie Smith did not drop that pass in the end zone, he was never the “sickest man in the world,” and the Cowboys recovered two consecutive onside kicks to win that game.

    Ah . . . all better now.  Thank you.

  • Lunch Meat

    The part where he says:

    Roe was the catalyst for the moral revolution within evangelicalism. The
    reality of abortion on demand and exposure to the logic of the abortion
    rights movement led to a fundamental shift in the evangelical

    Read Fred’s next post for why this is a complete fabrication.

  • Will Hennessy

     I could tell from your thumbnail that you were a Giants fan. Now that I know you’re also a 49ers fan, you just gained about a hundred thousand cool points.

  • Will Hennessy

     I hate the Cowboys… but poor Jackie Smith. That play makes even me heartbroken for him. I think Steelers fans even felt for the guy.

  • ReverendRef

     I lost my love for the Cowboys the day Jerry Jones bought the team and unceremoniously dumped Tom Landry on the street without so much as a, “Thank you for your service to this organization.”

    I tend to pull for the guys in stripes now anyway . . . go figure.

  • Now if you’ll all excuse me, I’m going to read today’s “Calvin and Hobbes” and enjoy a nice black cherry-flavored New York Seltzer.

  • spinetingler

    Mark David Chapman grew up a Neil Diamond fan.

  • Michael Pullmann

     You’ve no idea how glad I am that JMS talked Joe Quesada down from doing One More Day. Especially since he was able to convince him that all the stuff they had planned could go forward just as easily with a married Peter Parker. So we missed out on Peter speed-dating and drunkenly hooking up with his clingy roommate. I can live with that.

  • syfr

    I was so happy when the Sabres scored the winning goal in the Stanley Cup series in 1999, at ungodly o’clock in the morning.  It was worth the sleepy day at work!

  • Launcifer

    So, my question is this: If I can rewrite history, do I also get to rewrite it again in order to put it all back how it was before once I realise that I accidentally broke the universe the first time?

  • P J Evans

     No one is going to rewrite Montana or Young.They’re improbable enough already.

  • Amaryllis

    Had you asked me a week ago, I’d have made some changes to last year’s AFC championship game.

    But now, I don’t need to.

  • Speaking of the Super Bowl: It’s always been amusing that a purely USA thing has “World Champions”.

  • Baby_Raptor

    I’m rewriting history to where Robert Jordan never died and could finish the Wheel of Time series himself. I am thoroughly disappointed in the way Brandon Sanderson has handled it. 

  • Have you finished “A Memory of Light” yet?  Or have you given up?

  • I’m rewriting history so that I never said anything stupid, insensitive, or bigotted in my life.  Also I’m 125lbs and significantly shorter.  (Stupid reality (-.-) this being overweight thing is murder on the knees.  I say this as I go upstairs for more pizza. (x_x))

  • Jenny Islander
  • AnonymousSam

    That comes as kind of a surprise. I was sick of Jordan’s thousand-and-fifty subplots and the way a book could go 300 pages without ever mentioning any of the original three protagonists. I haven’t read any of the books since Jordan died, but I’ve read Sanderson’s and I’m extremely fond of them. I’d have thought he’d be an improvement to the series.

  • Kiba

    I was sick of Jordan’s thousand-and-fifty subplots and the way a book could go 300 pages without ever mentioning any of the original three protagonists.

    You aren’t the only one. I swear that man was getting paid by the word. I think I finally stopped reading them after book 9. All the sub-sub-sub plots and the over fulsome descriptions of clothes ended up getting on my nerves. Which is a shame because he had a few characters that I was rather fond off. 

  • KevinC

     Hey, this rewriting history is fun!  In 1914, a Serbian would-be assassin’s pistol jammed.  The British Empire and the German Empire spent the next 30 years saber-rattling and issuing harshly worded diplomatic communiques to one another while competing to see which could build the most stupendous zeppelin fleet.  This competition came to an end when Queen Elizabeth II inherited the thrones of both Empires.*  After a great deal of intense head-scratching, it was decided that the local democratic governments of each country would run things, and the Royal Family of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Germany would make ceremonial speeches, throw out the first pitch of the cricket season, and provide fodder for scandals.

    Adolf Hitler became a successful, if kitschy artist most famous for the warm light coming from the windows of his buildings; the Thomas Kincade of the mid 20th Century.

    The United States still reached the Moon first, but a British-German consortium of airship manufacturers were the first to build a floating city, a geodesic sphere derived from Buckminster Fuller’s “Cloud Nine” concept.

    …I could go on, but I guess I’ve still got to live in the reality I’m actually in, and I lack Mohler’s capacity for cognitive dissonance.

    *I don’t actually know the specific dynastic structures in place or if this is even remotely possible, but IIRC Kaiser Wilhelm II was a blood relative of the British royals and an Admiral in the British Navy (!).  But hey, we’re making stuff up a la Mohler, right?  I bet he thinks the universe was created after the Egyptians discovered beer.

  • christopher_y

    I like the idea, but unfortunately the German Empire didn’t allow the succession of women or through the female line. So I think we’ll have to settle for a version in which the liberal and pro-British Kaiser Friedrich III didn’t die of cancer three months into his reign in 1888, but lived to a ripe old age facilitating democratic reforms all the time, and in 1914 used his prestige as the grand old man of European politics (he would have been 83) to persuade the Austrians not to over-react against Serbia.

    Inspired by the long delayed decision of Britain to modernise its succcession laws in 2013 (that bit is true, up to a point), the Scottish educated Kaiser Georg Friedrich I has recently asked the Reichstag to prepare legislation to abolish the Salic law in Germany.

  • Carstonio

     You and Kevin are bringing back memories of Pohl’s Coming of the Quantum Cats.

  • Andrew_Ryans_Caddy

    Speaking of Robert Jordan, I’d like the version of history where the books are about a rich world with a war between good and evil and not actually about one guy’s serious woman issues. 

  • Baby_Raptor

    I finished it a couple days ago. It took me about a week total, because I found the first halfish really slow. 

  • Baby_Raptor

    My roommate is on your side. When I first turned him on to the series, he complained that Jordan could spend 10 pages describing a hallway. 

    One of the things that drew me to the series was how complicated it was, and how many different little strings he managed to weave in. And I’m aware that that the people who dislike Sanderson’s contributions are the minority, but eh. I’m okay with being in the minority. 

  • Baby_Raptor

    I’m with you there. Minor MoL spoiler: Rand got laid twice within the first 200 pages. I’m sitting there thinking “Way to focus. Isn’t the world ending?”