This is a book for a niche audience. Obviously you’d have to be a baseball fan to even have a passing interest, but on top of that you’d really need to be a Mets fan to care enough to read it. Not only that but you’d probably have to be old enough to remember the 1986 Mets or at least have a specific interest in that historic team. It would also help if you were given the book by your mom.
For those of you who don’t know and are still reading this for some reason, Ron Darling was a good but not great pitcher for several teams over 13 major league seasons. The best years of his career were with the Mets, with whom he won a World Series ring in 1986. He is currently one-third of the Mets’ broadcast team alongside play-by-play announcer Gary Cohen and Darling’s former teammate Keith Hernandez. Darling has a reputation for cerebral analysis of the game. He played his college baseball at Yale and has published one book prior to this one.
This book is, as you can tell from the title, a relatively deep dive into one particular game. After the Mets won a classic, thrilling Game 6, Darling found himself starting Game 7. Every kid playing baseball dreams of playing in a World Series, especially in a Game 7, but the hook to Darling’s memoir is that the experience was bittersweet. Darling struggled mightily in that game and was pulled after only 3.2 innings. Fortunately for him, his teammates and their fans, the Mets pulled off one more comeback win to capture the title.
Darling breaks down his start pitch-by-pitch, batter-by-batter. He tries to get inside his head at the time and analyze what went wrong. Darling is very critical of himself, his attitude and his approach to the game. Along the way he takes the opportunity to digress into discussions of his teammates, his family, and his life beyond baseball.
Darling is candid, to a point. His habit of refusing to tell stories about people that they haven’t already shared is perhaps admirable, but limiting in a memoir. Some of his more honest disclosures are a little disappointing for lifelong Mets fans. He admits to being angry with teammates Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry for wasting their talents through drug use and lack of effort, but swears he never saw cocaine firsthand. He admits unnecessarily that he isn’t really close friends with the majority of his 1986 teammates, including Keith Hernandez who he still works with.
Still, if you recall the 1986 Mets fondly, Darling’s book is a quick, light look at a time and place that will forever be etched in baseball history.