Three things I couldn’t get enough while growing up here in Saratoga Springs? The World Wrestling Federation (WWF), G.I. Joe toys and the Boston Red Sox. Most Saturday mornings, you could find me sprawled out on my parent’s worn-out, mustard-colored couch (RIP), watching soon-to-be-legendary wrestlers such as Hulk Hogan, The Fabulous Moolah and Andre The Giant body slamming one another in the ring. You could also find me on the living room rug squaring off with my older brother in an epic battle of G.I. Joe versus Cobra (I always got stuck with the bad guy, and our “wars” usually ended in tears). And when I wasn’t watching wrestling or doing my best Cobra Commander voice, I was rooting for the Red Sox.
Starting in 1985 and running for several years afterwards, two of my favorite pastimes converged: The WWF did a cross-promotion with toymaker Hasbro, adding wrestler Sgt. Slaughter—sort of this maniacal, badass drill sergeant character—to the ranks of the G.I. Joe toy line, giving him, first, his own mail-away action figure in ’85, and then in ’86, one you could buy right in the toy store. Slaughter came by himself or with a few different vehicle play sets. (My preferred point of purchase was Toys For Joy on Broadway in Saratoga; I still dream about its rows and rows of toys to this day.)
That same year Slaughter hit Saratoga stores was also a rather depressing one for us Red Sox fans. The team had won the pennant and was riding the arm of star pitching phenom William “Roger” Clemens (my hero at the time; we shared the same name), among others, into the World Series versus a formidable New York Mets team. And, well, it looked like the Sox were going to win it all—until the 10th inning of Game 6, when the Mets’ Mookie Wilson hit a slow grounder down the first-base line, and it trickled through Buckner’s legs, scoring the winning run. Of course, that didn’t lose them the Series, but it sounded the death knell for the Sox’s momentum, basically icing them in Game 7. It was a lot for a little kid to take in, and I’m sure I didn’t understand why the Sox lost. (Much later in life, I’d get the chance to interview Buckner and Wilson at the same time. I can dig up a copy of the interview if you’re interested in reading it; it never made it online.) At some point, I just went back to playing with my G.I. Joe figures and watching Saturday morning wrestling and forgot the whole thing happened.
Why the big overture? As luck would have it, those three childhood memories will now be Voltron-ing together in nearby Colonie this February. Heroes Hideout, a vintage and modern toy store in Colonie Center, will be hosting an in-store appearance by Sgt. Slaughter on Sunday, February 10, then one with Mets pitching great and ’86 World Series champ Dwight “Doc” Gooden on Sunday, February 17. (Gooden’s also a big deal for the New York Yankees’ faithful, as he pitched a no-hitter for the team and won a pair of championship rings with them.)
It goes without saying that it’ll cost you to see these guys in the flesh. Gooden’s asking $25 for autographs and the same amount for a professionally shot photo (if I were a Mets fan, I’d opt for the selfie; you can purchase both for $40). And Gooden’s also doing inscriptions for $15 a pop, or two for $25. (That means, he’ll write something like “Rookie of the Year 1984” or “Dr. K” on your baseball or 33-year-old Mets underpants.) By means of comparison, Sgt. Slaughter, er, commands a heftier rate, charging $30 per autograph, $40 for a professionally shot photo op and $60 for a combo of the two.
Either way, you know I’ll try to be there. Because, sometimes, things happen for a reason.