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Baseball: Mets infielder Backman fondly recalls special moments

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Ask any baseball fan about Game 6 of the 1986 World Series and they’ll talk about the infamous Bill Buckner error that ultimately cost the Boston Red Sox the title against the New York Mets.

But after Friday night, area baseball fans might speak just as fondly of the guy who flew out to make the first out in that prolific 10th inning — Wally Backman.

Backman was the guest of honor at the Watertown Rams’ annual hot stove dinner Friday night at Savory Downtown.

Backman — who manages the Mets’ AAA affiliate in Las Vegas — participated in a meet-and-greet with fans, then fielded questions ranging from all things baseball to what type of shoes he was wearing.

Among the highlights for the Mets fans in attendance was Backman’s positive outlook on the current state of the Mets organization.

“I know everyone has their different opinions, but one thing I can tell you is (the team owners) the Wilpons want to win,” Backman said before discussing the plethora of young talent that he believes has the team on the upswing.

“If they do the right thing the way they did, or the way we did in the early ‘80s through the mid-’80s, this could be a special organization. And hopefully they understand that winning is everything,” he added.

Backman, a middle infielder who hit for a career .275 average in 13 big league seasons, also discussed the current state of Major League Baseball.

He was asked his opinion on the expanded use of instant replay scheduled to begin this season.

“I think it holds the umpires to a different standard,” Backman said. “I don’t know if it’s good or it’s bad. They’re trying to make a lot of people robots in the game and we’re human beings. I don’t agree with it, but it’s just one opinion.”

He was also asked for his thoughts on the “steroid era.”

“You go back to ’94, baseball had some hard times and baseball wanted some good times, and I think they kind of turned the other cheek,” Backman said.

“I played against both (Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa) and I respect them both as players. ... The bottom line is, every one of these guys loved to play baseball.”

Backman, 54, also shared stories from his playing days. He listed Kirby Puckett as the nicest guy he’s met through baseball and said Wrigley Field was his favorite ballpark to play in.

Backman ended his entertaining 20-minute question and answer session by discussing his love for managing.

“To teach players how to become champions is what the game is all about. You have coaches that are ready to put their label on a player, say ‘I did this, I did that.’ All we do is help the players and make them the player they can be or be a piece of the player they can be. If you can’t take satisfaction out of that, then you’ve got your issues.”

And for those wondering, Backman was wearing ostrich-skin shoes.

“Someone bought them for me, I would never buy these myself,” Backman joked.

n The Rams also unveiled a new logo and announced their inaugural Hall of Fame class at the event.

Honorees included current Jefferson Community College coach, John Northrop, who played for the organization from 2004-06 and coached from 2007-10.

Other individuals inducted include Shae Simmons (2010), Mike Scalliger (2005), Eric Gaylord (2011), Mike Lyon (2005), Mike McGally (2003-04) and Brandon Potter (2009).

Organizations honored include the Watertown Daily Times, the YMCA, Watertown Savings Bank, WWNY-TV and FX Caprara.

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