Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Mookie Wilson

Among the many reasons Mookie Wilson was number one are two we should bear in mind before we make too much of his symbolic resonance: he gave good interview and he never threw a garbage can through a pizzeria window. But let's not dwell on the negative--let's do this the way Mook would. The fleet centerfielder who added a touch of panache to the dreary franchise of the early '80s, Wilson personified hope from the start. He obviously loved to play, but his enthusiasm was neither Willie Mays boyish nor Pete Rose macho: he ran out from under his cap because that was the fastest way from first to third. Unlike Mays--or Kirby Puckett, for that matter--he didn't grin all the time, and there was none of Rose's amused arrogance in the tight, toothy, satisfied smile that would possess his face after he'd slashed the ball out of reach. When Lenny Dykstra moved in on him, he spoke sensibly and generously (as always) about taking more pitches, but that was beyond this college graduate's baseball IQ, and especially after Dykstra started swinging for the big bucks he let it slide; once I timidly challenged Rafael Santana on the same subject and Mookie chimed in, "They pay us to hit." Also, he lost fly balls in the sun. He had no other faults.

Remember two things about him, please--how nimbly he hopped over the wild pitch preceding the dribbler heard round the world, and an incident many recall and no one can detail. One Sunday in early '86, somebody--I don't even remember if it was a Met--did something oafish on the field. Cut to the dugout camera, Mookie and George Foster, a man so proud that fools think he'd throw a garbage can through a pizzeria window. Both of them were laughing their asses off.

Would it be too much to ask that number 1 be retired while he's still the team's alltime leader in triples, stolen bases, and runs scored? It seems a good omen that Jeff Mussleman prefers number 13.

Village Voice, 1989