Mookie Wilson is stepping up to the plate again.
The long-retired Mets fan favorite, 36 years after his integral role in the team’s 1986 World Series triumph, has swapped his old No. 1 jersey for a chef’s apron. The 66-year-old Wilson, along with a half-dozen family members, recently launched their “Legacy Catering” business featuring southern-style cuisine in their home state of South Carolina.
“I’ve always cooked, even when I played,” Wilson told the Daily News. “I’d cook in the rooms in spring training, trying different dishes. Some worked, some didn’t … And after I retired, it gave me something to do that I really enjoyed.”
The crew, including four of Mookie’s brothers, his son Preston and a son-in-law, are prepping for a major November gig: Catering the annual Mets Fantasy Camp in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
What can the campers expect? More than just autographs, promised Wilson, who credits his mother for his culinary skills. In addition to feeding her family, she cooked for years in the South Carolina school system.
“Legacy is in there for a reason,” he said of the business’ name. “It’s who we are, how we ate, how our mother taught us how to cook. The food is a lot of stuff we all grew up eating, just tweaked. That’s our inheritance.”
The menu will feature beef, pork, ribs, chicken and the family’s signature pineapple cake.
Making the new business a family affair helped things run smoothly at the start for the formerly-retired Wilson brothers, he said.
“Much easier, much easier,” said the 12-year major league veteran, who spent 10 years with the Mets. “Before we started, we sat down and said ‘Let’s make this an enjoyable experience more than just making dollars.’
“It makes it so much easier just having people you can depend on to get things done. It really is a joy.”
No chat with Wilson is complete without mention of the 1986 World Championship alongside Mets teammates Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden and Gary Carter. It was Mookie’s bouncer down the first base line that slipped through the legs of the Red Sox’s Bill Buckner to win Game Six, with the Amazin’s taking the title in the series finale.
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Wilson and the late Buckner wound up close friends and business partners, agreeing to contact one another and appear in tandem when offers came in for paid appearances. The two even landed on a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode with Larry David, with Buckner arranging for Mookie to join him.
“He called and got me to do a cameo appearance,” said Wilson. “It was the greatest feeling, I really enjoyed it. I miss him being around and talking to my dear friend.”
Wilson said the fantasy camp date arrives after the brothers spent years making meals for family and friends, all free of charge.
“We were cooking for the neighbors and the churches, and my brothers and I decided to make it official instead of doing it for nothing,” he said with a laugh. “We always cooked, and we never received a cent.”
The family recently held a tailgate for the minor league Hudson Valley Renegades in Fishkill, a bit of warm-up for the Florida event.
Mookie will do double-duty at the week-long fantasy camp, working as both chef and a coach to the sellout crowd of fans gathering for the chance to hang with some Mets of the past.
“I don’t think as a player I ever realized the effect the game has on people,” he said. “Now that I’m a fan, not a player, I appreciate it now more than I ever did.”