Best Mets Of All-Time: No. 6 Wally Backman
Maybe one day, we will look back at Mets history and say Jeff McNeil was the best Mets player to ever wear the number 6. In fact, you could say he is just one good season away from that honor. However, for now, the best Mets player to ever wear that number was Wally Backman.
Backman would make his debut the same day as Mookie Wilson, and it was really just a function of the batting order that Mookie stepped on the field before he did. Whatever the technicalities, the day he and Mookie stepped on the field that September day was the day the greatest run in Mets history was born.
Even with his making his debut as a 20 year old in 1980, it would take Backman a few years to truly establish himself as a member of the Mets. Finally, in 1984, Backman would establish himself as an everyday player. He would be there at second base when that Mets team would go from a 94 loss team in 1983 to a team which won 90 games in 1984 and made a real run at the NL East.
From that point forward, Backman would slate into the second spot in the lineup. He was the old fashioned second place hitter reminiscent of that era. He was a hard nosed player. He was a bit of a slasher more focused on getting on and getting the runners over. As an example of that, in 1985, Backman led the NL in sacrifices.
Backman was looked upon as a fiery personality which matched well with that 1986 team. Speaking of that 1986 Mets, Backman was part of that team who fought tooth and nail to win that pennant. Backman’s fingerprints would be all over that series.
In Game 3, with the Mets trailing 5-4, it was Backman who led off the bottom of the ninth with a drag bunt. He would ultimately score the tying run when Lenny Dykstra would hit the first walk-off homer in Mets postseason history.
in Game 6 in Houston to prevent the team from seeing Mike Scott in Game 7. Through all the hysteria that was that game, one thing which gets overlooked a bit is the fact Backman was thought to have delivered the pennant winning hit with a 14th inning single scoring Darryl Strawberry.
Backman would again be in the middle of things in the 16th. In that inning, he’d draw a walk after Ray Knight‘s go-ahead RBI single. Later that inning, he would score a run, again on a key Dykstra hit. Backman’s run would prove to be the pennant winning run.
Ultimately, that’s what Backman was known for throughout his career. He was a fiery winning player. During that time, he won over Mets fans, who to this day, largely want him to have a role in the organization. On that note, when he did return to manage in the minors, he left a lasting impact on much of the current core, including but not limited to, Brandon Nimmo.
Overall, Backman holds a special place in Mets history even with all of the off-the-field issues. When looking at his contributions, it is hard to argue that as of right now anyone else was a better Mets player who wore the number 6.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Mets player to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Backman was the sixth best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 6.