Sergio took his film to ABC News, and when the pictures appeared. Quinn phoned to ask if he could turn Sergio in. After all, the police knew someone was with Quinn on the building. Sergio agreed, and they ended up in a bar, along with the three detectives, swapping stories. After 13 court appearances, charges against them were finally dropped. Meanwhile Quinn had become one of the most famous jumpers in America. The lounge under construction on the 44th floor of the World Trade Center was named Skydive.
A few years later, Shawanaga closed, and Quinn retired from jumping. Sergio stayed away from BASE jumping, but he competed internationally in the tamer forms of skydiving. He also worked at becoming an actor. In 1977 he quit construction for good and began a full-time show business career with a two-year stint on Broadway in the musical comedy I Love My Wife. In 1986, when the Mets were climbing toward the Series, he was a regular on the TV soap opera Loving. By then demonstration jumps into stadiums had become fairly common, but a bandit jump into the World Series remained the stuff of barroom fantasies.
After the Mets held off the Astros in the 16th inning to win the National League pennant, the skydiving community, like everyone else in New York, caught World Series fever. Maynard planned a bandit jump into Shea for the opening game, but his pilot refused. Then, with the Mets two games down to Boston and looking tired, Sergio was part of a group of jumpers at Benson's, a bar in Gardiner, N.Y., that began plotting to make a jump of their own. On Monday, Oct. 20, when Met pitcher Ron Darling complained in a press conference at Fenway Park that the fans who had supported the team throughout the season were not in the stands because they had been replaced by the corporate expense account crowd, the jump seemed a matter of civic duty.
"Sergio said he had a pilot and an aircraft but would not mention any details," says Maynard. 'The less anybody knew, the better off everyone would be." The sixth and seventh games of the Series were scheduled for Shea, and there was some argument about which game Sergio should jump into. When the Mets lost the fifth game, Sergio saw no choice. The Mets would need all the help they could get to make it to the seventh.
Friday morning, the day before Game 6, Sergio went to a company that makes banners for parachutes, but the design he wanted would cost $300 and the company could not guarantee overnight delivery. On his way back home, he stopped at a Woolworth's and bought a twin-sized sheet and some spray paint and headed back to his apartment in Manhattan. There he painted the words GO METS on the sheet.
Meanwhile the man who was to pilot the jump plane must have asked himself what he stood to gain from the stunt—which, at best, was nothing—and what he might lose, which could be his freedom and his livelihood. He called Sergio and said he was bowing out. Sergio got on the phone to find another pilot but came up with nothing. Finally he called Quinn. Yes. Quinn knew a man who could fly the mission—a pilot who owed him a debt dating back to 1969. If Sergio was completely serious, Quinn said, he would give the pilot a chance to "redeem himself." Said Quinn, "I really put the screws to the guy."
On Saturday morning Sergio was at the Ranch early to connect the bed sheet to the rigging of his parachute and to try a couple of practice jumps to make sure the sheet would open. The official story was that Sergio and a friend had been hired to do a demonstration jump on Sunday for some Mets fans on Long Island, and it required an American flag flying from the parachute rigging.
On Saturday evening, just before dusk, Carl Zatts, a pilot from the Ranch, flew a Cessna six miles south to a tiny airfield, Kobelt, which has a lighted runway. From there Sergio would take off for "Long Island.' " Zatts flew to Kobelt, left the keys and the radio headphones in the unlocked plane and went to Benson's to join other members of the Ranch gathered to watch Sergio come in on TV.
Kobelt Airport was completely deserted when the real pilot arrived. He was joined by three jumpers. One of them backed out before he got in the plane. After a slight delay Sergio and a man with an American flag got in.
To protect the pilot, the plan was to spend as little time in the air as possible. From Kobelt they flew directly toward Shea Stadium at full throttle—about 140 miles per hour—climbing steadily before leveling off below a deck of broken clouds at 10,000 feet. Most airplanes have a transponder, which automatically reports the plane's location and identity to air traffic control, but this Cessna 182 was flying "dark," without its transponder or its running lights turned on. The three men listened to the Mets pre-game show on the radio. They also monitored the LaGuardia air traffic control.