Aug 10

Today in Mets’ History: Remembering Don Cardwell.

Tom Seaver always said Don Cardwell was always one of the more important, yet under appreciated pitchers on the 1969 staff.

CARDWELL: Appreciated by his teammates.

On this date in 1969, Cardwell replaced Nolan Ryan in the third inning and went on to pitch four scoreless innings as the Mets defeated Atlanta, 3-0.

Cardwell offered professionalism and leadership to a young, talented staff. That season Cardwell was a study in perseverance. After a 3-9 start, starting in late July, Cardwell reeled off five straight wins, including a 1-0 shutout of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second game of a doubleheader, Sept. 12.

Jerry Koosman won the first game, 1-0, and in a rarity, both Koosman and Cardwell drove in the runs.

The victory was the Mets’ ninth straight, and came two days after the team moved into first place for good in the NL East.

Cardwell, the prototypical journeyman pitcher, compiled a 102-138 record with a 3.92 ERA pitching for Philadelphia (1957-60), Chicago Cubs (1960-1962), Pittsburgh (1963-66), the Mets (1967-70) and Atlanta (1970).

Cardwell has the distinction of becoming the first major league pitcher to throw a no-hitter in his first start after being traded. After the Phillies traded him to the Cubs, on May 13, 1960, he no-hit St. Louis at Wrigley Field.

That season Cardwell won nine games for the Cubs, but he also hit five home runs.

Cardwell retired in 1970. He eventually returned to his hometown of Winston-Salem, NC, where he died at age 72, Jan. 14, 2008.

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CARDWELL CAREER

 

Jul 16

Today in Mets’ History: Mets beat Cubs again in key ’69 Series at Wrigley.

Things got a little hotter and tighter in the National League East as the Mets won again at Chicago on this date in 1969.

Tommie Agee, Art Shamsky and Al Weis all homered as the Mets won, 9-5, to move within 3.5 games of the first-place Cubs.

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The Mets took a 6-0 lead after two innings, but after the Cubs came back with four in the second against Don Cardwell, they pulled away for the victory.

Jul 15

Today in Mets’ History: Weis, Gentry beat Cubs.

When the Mets surged into relevance in 1969, the impetus was bookend series against the Chicago Cubs in July.

On this date at Wrigley Field, Al Weis hit a three-run homer in the fourth and Ken Boswell homered in the fifth to back Gary Gentry’s solid pitching to give the Mets a 5-4 victory.

Gentry, the third starter on the staff behind Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, gave up four runs in 7.2 innings. Ron Taylor closed the game for the save.

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AL WEIS CAREER

 

Jul 09

Today in Mets’ History: Always terrific, Seaver was nearly perfect.

It is possible this game in 1969 is most remembered from that amazing season. On this date in 1969, and maybe each day since for Tom Seaver, he’ll remember Jimmy Qualls’ sinking single into the left-center gap with one out in the eighth inning to break up his perfect game bid and forced him to settle for one-hit, 4-0 shutout.

SEAVER: Almost perfect on this day.

It was one of 31 hits Qualls had during his career. It was one of five one-hitters Seaver threw for the Mets. Years later, Seaver got his no-hitter, but it was while pitching for Cincinnati.

When asked which meant more to him, the one-hitter or the no-hitter, Seaver said: “The one-hitter.  I had better stuff that night and we were making a move on the Cubs.’’

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Seaver’s game thrust the Mets into the national spotlight as a contender. I was living in Ohio at the time and rarely did the 11 p.m., sports feature clips from games other than the Indians, but they did on this night.

I always followed the box scores then, but after that game I started following them a little more closely.

 

Jul 08

Today in Mets’ History: 1969 Miracle takes form as fate hits Cubs outfielder.

One of my favorite baseball books was “The Year the Mets Lost Last Place,’’ a diary of a three-series stretch in July of 1969 when the Mets played two series with the Chicago Cubs and one with the Montreal Expos.

YOUNG: Fate finds obscure Cubs outfielder.

Dick Schaap was the author and book took the form of timeline, nearly to the minute, of those games.

One of those games came on this date in 1969 when the Mets beat the Cubs, 4-3, on the strength of Cleon Jones’ two-run double to support the strong pitching of Jerry Koosman. Jones’ double tied the game, and Ed Kranepool’s single off Ferguson Jenkins was the game-winner.

However, the emotional spin of this game centered around non-descript Cubs outfielder Don Young, who misplayed two balls to set up the Mets’ three-run ninth-inning rally. Balls get misplayed, that’s part of the game, but the twist came when Cubs star third baseman Ron Santo viciously blasted Young, first to his face in the clubhouse, and then to the media.

The next day, Santo called a press conference and apologized to Young, who played his last major league game in October of that year. He played sparingly the next two seasons and retired.

The Mets pulled within 4 ½ games of the Cubs with the victory and it was clear 1969 was shaping into a remarkable season.

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