Celebrating in the Rose Garden

CELEBRATING IN THE ROSE GARDEN

On November 12, 1986, the New York Mets gathered in the Rose Garden at the White House. At precisely 11:30 a.m., then president Ronald Reagan stepped to the microphone. Surrounded by the World Series champions, the president celebrated the Mets. The following is the transcript of President Reagan’s comments.

Well, thank you all, and welcome to the White House. It’s a pleasure to have you here, just as it was a pleasure not only to have these gentlemen here but to watch them in the 83d World Series. It isn’t true that I was announcing ball games at that time. I considered parachuting here into the Rose Garden for this ceremony, but the Secret Service had a little something to say about it.

Well, today’s celebration can be traced back to October 17, 1960, when a corporation called the Metropolitan Baseball Club of New York was awarded a National League franchise. And the old professor, Casey “You-Can-Look-It-Up” Stengel, was hired to be the first manager, and play began in 1962 with Gil Hodges, Roger Craig, Gus Bell, Don Zimmer and Marvin Throneberry leading the way. Although from his commercials, I’m not sure Marv would agree about that “leading the way” part.

You’ve come a long way from that 40 and 120 record the amazing Mets posted in 1962, a record that prompted old Casey to give us another of his celebrated remarks when he said, “Can’t anybody play this here game?” Well, not only did the Mets show America that the “other team from New York” could play this game, but they did it their way: The Mets made ‘em say, “Ya’ Gotta Believe!”

It sort of reminds me of a story. Everything does these days. It was about a baseball rookie and his know-it-all manager. He had a lot of problems with him. But a crucial game in the pennant race, tied up in the bottom of the ninth, and this rookie was called on as a pinch hitter. And he went in and won the ball game with a booming home run over the right center field bleachers. As he rounded third and crossed home plate with a big grin on his face and his hand extended, the manager was waiting for him, and the manager ripped into him. He said, “Your stance was all wrong. Your swing was awkward. You held your arms too high.” And when he paused for a breath, the kid said, “Yeah, but how about that distance?”

Well, what a distance Davey Johnson went. Led by all-stars Gary Carter — who incidentally was something of a fine diplomat recently in Central America with the Vice President for all of us — Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry — all forged a season. And everybody was magnificent — the little guys Lenny Dykstra, Wally Backman; the relief tandem of Roger McDowell and Jesse Orosco; the starters, the firm of Gooden, Ojeda, Darling and Fernandez; and, of course, the most valuable player, Ray Knight, who wasn’t sure that he would be in baseball, much less a Met, at the start of the season. I want these fellows to know I pitched three games for the Cardinals in a World Series. It was the 1926 World Series. I waited until 1952 to pitch the games. It was in a movie. But I had an edge on all of you here in the sense that I had the script in advance, so I knew it was going to come out all right.

Well, all my life I’ve believed that if you truly have faith, your dream will come true. And your dream began in spring training and culminated by bringing the championship to the Big Apple. It took you through 108 regular-season wins and hard-fought victories in the playoffs. And even after being down to your last strike three times in game six, you came back to epitomize what that other bard of baseball Yogi Berra once said, “The game isn’t over till it’s over.”

So, believe me, even this lifelong Cubs fan has to dish out the praise: You have certainly done yourselves, the city of New York, and all America proud. And I’m sure you wouldn’t have hurt Casey’s feelings a bit, either.

So, congratulations, champs, and God bless you all.

THE STENGEL REPORT
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Mets Rewind
National League baseball in New York was redefined on March 6, 1961 when the New York Metropolitan Baseball Club Inc. formally received a certificate of membership from leave president Warren Giles. Of the 30 Major League Baseball clubs today, the case could be made that no other team has a more compelling franchise history than the New York Mets. From Casey Stengel to Yogi Berra, Marv Throneberry to Tom Seaver, Willie Mays, Tug McGraw, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Keith Hernandez, Bobby Valentine, Pedro Martinez and Matt Harvey, the Mets are loaded with character(s). Then there are the Amazin’ seasons — 1962, 1969, 1973, 1986, 2000, 2006-2008 and 2015 — full of miracles, joy, hope and heartbreak. Mets Rewind is designed for that purpose: To share team history in a distinct and entertaining format. We hope you — the baseball fan — enjoy the content. We encourage you to share your memories.
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