With the Mets hitting Fenway tonight, memories of the 1986 World Series will be thrown around as casually as MVP trophies for Spike Owen. Ailing backup backstop Ed Hearn, traded to Kansas City for David Cone in 1987, speaks with the Newark Star-Ledger’s Kevin Manahan.
Diagnosed in 1991 with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a kidney disease, Hearn has endured three kidney transplants and two bouts with cancer. He often needs the aid of a breathing machine and takes more than 50 types of medication daily in his home in Lenexa, Kan., a suburb of Kansas City.
Tonight, when the three-game series starts in Boston, he will watch the crawl on ESPN, look for a score and feel a pang as the forgotten Met. He hopes this will be an excuse for someone to call.
“I’m doing good for how I feel,” Hearn said from his home. “Twenty years? Heck, it feels like it’s been 40. I hope the next 20 years aren’t as tough as the last 20 years. But somebody has to take the bullets and I was chosen.
“It would be great to hear from an old teammate. It would be great for someone to pick up the phone and say, ‘Ed, how are you doing, man?’ But life moves on. And I know there are a lot of guys on that team who wouldn’t ever give a hoot.”
For all their grittiness, the 1986 Mets, Hearn says, really weren’t that tight. They were 25 guys committed to winning, but driven mostly by individual statistics and the lure of a big contract. When the team dissolved, so did a lot of the friendships.
“I see guys at card shows, guys who were very tight when they played together, and they’re hugging each other and saying, ‘Hey, man, I haven’t talked to you in 10 years!’ How does that happen?” Hearn said. “How can you be close to someone and let them drift out of your life like that?
“But I figure, ‘Hey, if they were really close and they haven’t spoken in years, then I can’t take it personally that no one has called me.’ I was a rookie. I wasn’t a main cog. I was traded the next year.”
“I’ve had flash points in my life when I’ve thought, ‘Why me?’ I’m not going to lie,” Hearn said. “I’m human. I’ve gone through it all — cancer, kidney transplants, dialysis. And I’ve done it multiple times. Any man would start to question why he had to endure so much.”
And when he watched the sports world congratulate former teammates Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden each time they screwed up and saved themselves, only to fail again, Hearn wondered about justice. But that never stopped him from leaving supportive messages for Strawberry and Gooden. Neither ever called back.
Owner Fred Wilpon helped Hearn before his first kidney transplant, but that was about the only contact he has had from the Mets, he said.
“I’ve watched guys get second, third and fourth chances, when people have bent over backwards for guys who have screwed up over and over again, and I’ve been very bitter,” he said. “I mean, I’ve fought just to stay alive. Nobody gave me million-dollar contracts. Nobody gave me jobs. Nobody has given me anything, really.”
Without wishing to diminish Hearn’s plight, it should be pointed out that he had a further two seasons of big league service time with the Royals after leaving the Mets. Whether or not Hearn’s bitterness towards old teammates is limited to those that actually won something, isn’t mentioned.