They had to.
"If we hadn't won ... ," Mookie Wilson said Saturday night, searching for a greater global significance. "If we hadn't ... well ... we wouldn't be here tonight."
But they were here -- at Shea Stadium -- Saturday night, most of them anyway, all the ones who could make it back as their brilliance of 20 years past was acknowledged, celebrated and hailed one more time on the field where they had earned the franchise's second and most recent World Series championship.
And it was good. Sometimes even nostalgia is as good as it used to be.
They gathered on the Shea tarpaulin -- and why not? Game 7 of the World Series was postponed by rain -- and took their bows wearing the same uniform numbers they wore when they engaged the Astros and Red Sox in a postseason as amazin' as anything Casey's '62 Mets did and as miraculous as anything Gil's guys did seven Octobers later.
"It's nice to be back and feel we're part of the team's history," Tim Tuefel said hours before the celebration when he and his former mates gathered in the bowels of the ballpark that won't be in use when the 25th anniversary arrives.
"A lot of us have seen each other here and there from time to time and we've had some get-togethers. But this is a lot of us and we're here together. It's pretty cool."
Those not part of the celebration were among the highest profile -- manager Davey Johnson, World Series MVP Ray Knight, comic reliever Roger McDowell, erstwhile matinee idol Lee Mazzilli and, of course, Dwight Gooden. But neither their absence nor persistent drizzle diluted the pregame ceremony.
In some seven weeks, they'll break ground for Shea's successor. On Saturday night, they were diggin' what happened here 20 years ago. Standing in front of the World Series trophy, Howie Rose introduced them, recalling how the Beatles, too, had played Shea (They had more albums, the Mets had more hits). Rose called them "a band of brothers."
And they looked the part. As Darryl Strawberry, the last man introduced and the man most loudly cheered, made his way to his place, by his No. 18, he stopped at No. 17 -- to hug Keith Hernandez.
Wilson and Wally Backman had embraced a few moments earlier. There were hundreds of high fives. And some of those who passed former first-base coach Bill Robinson bowed to share a "low five" as some had done during their '86 victory laps.
They took time to shake the hand of general manager emeritus Frank Cashen, the architect of the team that won 108 games that year and averaged 94 victories per year for seven years.
Mostly, they enjoyed themselves and the adulation of a full house. Even Doug Sisk was cheered.
They had spent Friday night together at a midtown restaurant. They arrived together at Shea at 5:15 and walked the runway they used to own.
"Everything seems smaller," Howard Johnson said. Perhaps the Mets just seemed bigger. "If weight is an indication of how well we've done, we've done pretty well," Teufel said.
Teufel, Wilson, Rick Aguliera and Danny Heep appeared unchanged by time. But only "Just for Men" spokesman Hernandez acknowledged "painting." Lenny looked bigger, Sid looked smaller -- and not by comparison. Mitch had significantly more tattoos. Backman has less hair.
And he wasn't any taller. He took his seat for the abridged press gathering, and someone requested a Manhattan phone directory for his chair. "I like it this way," he said. "I can almost touch the floor."
He laughed, they laughed. Everybody played their part. Gary Carter, the lone Hall of Famer among them, held court. He was Kid again, doing what he did again. Orosco and Heep were shoulder to shoulder as they were in the backs of so many busses. And Lenny was being Lenny -- bigger, richer, older. But still Lenny.
"And the next time we're all together," he said. "I'll be older. And it'll be better. We just keep getting better."