The Mets are honoring the 40th anniversary of the 1969 Miracle Mets this weekend. Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Nolan Ryan are back, bringing with them glorious memories.
It was truly an amazing year, with man landing on the moon, the Vietnam War raging and unrest on college campuses throughout the country. Still, baseball captivated us and helped heal the wounds from the civil rights riots from the previous summer.
In the American League, powerful Baltimore rolled, and for much of the summer the Chicago Cubs seemed poised to shed years of frustration and mediocrity. Then, there were the Mets, who, were picked to finish third. Considering the early years of the franchise that was pretty good.
But, the Mets amazed with great pitching.
Offensively, this was not an awesome team. Cleon Jones was the best hitter and there was Tommie Agee. But, Ron Swoboda, Al Weis, Buddy Harrelson, Jerry Grote, Art Shamsky, Ken Boswell didn’t strike fear among opposing pitchers.
A late-season trade acquired slugger Donn Clendenon (click for video) provided the Mets with an offensive identity they lacked. In 202 at-bats, Clendenon had 51 hits, but 12 of them were homers and he drove in 37 runs.
“When we got him, we became a different team,” Harrelson said. “We never had a three-run homer type of guy. He was always humble, never cocky. We were still young kids in that era. He was a veteran that came in and made us better. When you threw him into the mix with the rest of us, we became a dangerous force.
“We knew we had a good team with him, but we didn’t know quite how good. Gil (Hodges) thought we were better than we were. He was the MVP — a very dangerous player.”
While Clendenon gave the Mets pop, they won on a pitching staff that threw an incredible 28 shutouts. Seaver won 25 games.
That season the Mets got off to a slow start, but even after winning two series against the Cubs, they were still in Leo Durocher’s rear view mirror.
On August 13, the Mets were in third place, 9.5 games behind the Cubs, but overtook them with a 38-11 stretch. Included in that was a double-header sweep of Pittsburgh, winning each game 1-0 with the pitchers (Koosman and Don Cardwell) driving in the winning runs.
On Sept. 10, after a double-header sweep of the Expos and the Cubs losing that day to Philadelphia, the Mets moved into first place for the first time in franchise history.
The Mets swept Atlanta in the NLCS, and Seaver was beaten in Game 1 of the World Series at Baltimore. The Mets were about to come back to earth, but reeled off four straight wins … the final out coming on Davey Johnson’s lazy fly to Jones.
I remember a lot from that season: Seaver’s near perfect game; the July series with the Cubs; the black cat; all those shutouts; Steve Carlton striking out 19 Mets but Swoboda hitting a pair of homers for the win; the shoe polish incident in the Series; those catches by Agee and Swoboda; and the luck of J.C. Martin being ruled safe when he clearly ran inside the baseline.
What’s your favorite memory from that season?