HE KISSED IT GOODBYE

November 03, 1986

Amid all the "prettys" ("pretty unbelievable" and "pretty spent" and "pretty emotional"), and the hugs and the kisses, and the love—has any major leaguer, least of all a World Series MVP, ever professed love for both managers after a Game 7?—the emotions gushing forth from the Cabbage Patch face of Ray Knight early Tuesday morning made for a refreshing, sugary. Grand Old Game, Dating Game frappè.

Why, if you're counting Game 7 kisses alone, you'd have to include: the one Knight planted on Boston manager John McNamara ("The first manager I ever played fulltime for [with Cincinnati in 1979]. First day in spring training told me I'd be his everyday third baseman"). The one he blew toward his wife, Nancy Lopez, after he had completed his seventh-inning home run trot. The one he got from Mets coach Vern Hoscheit. ("I was one of those who wanted to get you off the club in spring training," Hoscheit said. "I've never been so wrong about anything in my life.") And the ones that Nancy fielded as if they were one hoppers to third. "Crybaby!" Keith Hernandez called her between busses. "MVP!" Right behind Hernandez, even commissioner Peter Ueberroth himself stepped forward to give Nancy a chaste peck. Later in a less gushy moment, Red Sox starter Bruce Hurst congratulated Knight in the hall outside the Mets' clubhouse. "You were the key," Hurst said. "You killed us."

Knight had wanted to hear those words all season. "I've been obsessed this year with coming back," he would say. "Tonight just capped it off." Indeed, the World Series was Knight's season in miniature. Benched cold for Game 2 after going hitless in the opener, Knight confronted manager Davey Johnson, saying that sitting him down was a mistake. Johnson said the matter wasn't up for argument. "It crushed me," Knight says. "He underestimated my desire to win. I told him I loved him, but I didn't like him today." But just as Knight won the third base job in the spring, ignoring rumors he wasn't long for the club or would be platooned, he delivered an RBI double when Johnson started him again in Game 3.

Then, in Game 6, telling himself that "concentration is the ability to think of nothing." Knight sent his little Sof-Serv single into centerfield to score the Mets' first run in their improbable, impossible last at bat. And no, Knight says, he hadn't prayed for that hit in the on-deck circle in the 10th inning. He simply wanted a chance to redeem himself for the throwing error that had helped the Sox take the lead in the seventh inning. The homer, in the seventh inning Monday night off Calvin Schiraldi, came on a 2-and-1 fastball that ran inside. "I knew I'd hit it hard enough," he said. "I just wasn't sure it would be long enough." As the Mets took their first regulation-time, Shea-side lead of the Series on the first homer hit by a player in his home park, Knight fairly skipped around the bases. "What you saw is pretty much how I felt," he said. Nancy Lopez wasn't surprised by what she saw. "He got a lot of rest and slept late before he left for Shea," she said. "I told him if he played as good as he looked, he'd get three hits and a home run. I was pretty close, wasn't I?"

Right on the kisser.

All the embracing was just the logical culmination of the touchy-feely rituals Knight has practiced all season. Before every game, he shook coach Bud Harrelson's hand. He slapped two fingers with hitting instructor Bill Robinson, too. And touched everyone on the club before every game. "I'm not superstitious," he says. "I don't believe in voodoo. But I get a little bit from everybody, and I want everybody included."

PHOTOJERRY WACHTERAfter his homer, the MVP acknowledged Nancy.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)