Mookie Wilson is a modest man. So modest, in fact, that his entertaining autobiography “Mookie: Life, Baseball, and the ’86 Mets” is hardly about him at all.
Certainly Wilson, who penned the book with Erik Sherman, writes about himself. He talks about his difficult childhood as a black boy growing up in the deep South. His father was a sharecropper who supported a family of 14 on $25 a week. Their cement block house had four bedrooms but no running water; the family used an outhouse.
With the help of a white judge in town who drove him to and from practice, Wilson took to baseball. He made his high school team and then went on to college. This is where Wilson’s modesty comes in — he never does tell us if it was a struggle making the teams or whether it was easy. Mookie Wilson just does not like to talk about himself.
The bulk of the book is dedicated to the 1986 Mets, and of course, his ground ball through Bill Buckner’s legs to win Game 6. It was probably a smart decision; after all, it is what Mookie Wilson is best known for. However, we have heard all of the stories of that great Mets team and that legendary play. I wanted to learn more about Mookie Wilson, not a rehash of information that has been out there for nearly 30 years.
The book gets interesting when Wilson writes about the difficulties he had during those years. Mookie Wilson always played with a smile on his face, but he was not a happy man. Wilson writes about coming back from injury in 1985 and having to platoon in center with Lenny Dykstra. That went on for five more years, in which time Wilson asked for a trade and generally felt underappreciated by the Mets. He finally was traded in 1989 — a month after Dykstra was also traded (with Roger McDowell) in the awful Juan Samuel deal.
That trade was basically the final nail in the coffin for the great 1980s Mets teams. Wilson tells how Frank Cashen built the team, then quickly tore it down. It seems he wasn’t as fond as the “Scum Bunch” as fans and fellow players, instead getting rid of those strong personalities in favor of more upstanding citizens. That explains the Kevin Mitchell for Kevin McReynolds deal.
Wilson also talks about his displeasure with the current Mets regime. In addition to being fired from his job as first base coach following the 2011 season without explanation from Sandy Alderson, Wilson claims ownership and the front office ignore players from the 1986 Mets. He says they seemingly go out of their way not to hire or promote the former players (aside from Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling and Bobby Ojeda).
Despite that disappointment, Mookie Wilson seems content. Always a religious man, Wilson has entered the ministry and hopes to one day have his own congregation.
“Mookie” is a must-read for Mets fans. I just wish he would have talked a bit more about himself, especially finally answering the question, “Where did the name Mookie come from?!”