Throughout the Summer of `69, Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo celebrated each victory by clicking his heels in the air.
He clicked them often as the Cubs built a seemingly insurmountable 10-game lead by Aug. 13. However, he wouldn’t be clicking them on this day, although superstition would be the headliner.
That lead was cut to a half-game on this date as Tom Seaver, backed by homers from Donn Clendenon and Art Shamsky, beat Ferguson Jenkins and the Cubs, 7-1, in what will forever be known as “The Black Cat Game.’’
The black cat symbolized the Cubs' fall.
While the Cubs were batting, a black cat walked behind the on-deck circle where Santo was standing.
“(The cat) kept walking around their on-deck circle,’’ said Ed Kranepool in a phone interview. “The crowd kept yelling and cheering, and the cat just stayed there.’’
No, the cat wasn’t planned.
“We had a lot of cats (at Shea) because we had a lot of rats there,’’ Kranepool said.
From Aug. 14, the Mets sizzled at 39-11 while the Cubs went 21-29 during that stretch, including 8-17 in September. The Mets were 23-7 in September.
The cat is a nice story and a great piece of Mets’ lore. From the Chicago perspective, perhaps Leo Durocher burned out his team – which only played day games at home – by running out the same lineup every day. Five Cubs played in at least 150 games and two more played over 130.
Still, 92 wins for the year isn’t bad.
However, the Mets’ pitching was brilliant with 13 shutouts in August and September.
“We were playing great baseball,’’ Kranepool said. “When we came home from the West Coast (where they went 6-4) we were playing our best baseball of the season.
“The lead went from ten to six, then it kept going down.’’
The victory was the Mets’ 82nd, which assured them of their first winning season. It was also their fourth in the midst of a stretch where they won 10 straight and 13 of 14 games to go up by 3 ½ games.