There were signs prior to their showdown series against the Cubs that 1969 had the potential to be a breakout, if not special season.
The Mets always had their troubles against the Giants, and finding little ways to win was never their forte. However, on this day in 1969 the Mets completed a three-game sweep of San Francisco at Shea Stadium, winning 5-4 on Ron Swoboda’s bases-loaded walk in the ninth inning.
Swoboda signed with the Mets after playing one year at the University of Maryland, and debuted with the team in 1965. Swoboda hit 15 homers by the All-Star break, but finished the season with 19, then a Mets’ rookie record (broken by Darryl Strawberry in 1983).
For all his strength, Swoboda never became a big time home run hitter and finished his career with 73. He will always be remembered for hitting a pair of two-run homers off Steve Carlton, Sept. 15, 1969, and robbing Brooks Robinson of extra bases with a diving catch in right field in Game 4 of the World Series.
When he first broke into the big leagues, they used to say of Darryl Strawberry he had the swing of Ted Williams. However, he never had the plate discipline of Williams, and as great as his numbers were, there was always the belief he could do more.
Strawberry’s career high in homers was 39, accomplished twice. Perhaps the most memorable homer in his career was the 440-foot drive off the scoreboard clock in St. Louis in 1985.
STRAWBERRY: What a sweet swing.
That proved to be overstated, but Strawberry was one of those rare players who grabbed and held your attention whenever he came to the plate. How far would this one go? Would he be punched out?
On this date in 1983, Strawberry hit the first of 335 homers in a career marred by drug use and suspension. Strawberry averaged 34 homers and 102 per 162-game stretch.
In a career oddity, Strawberry played for all the teams with New York roots: the Mets, Dodgers, Giants and Yankees.
Strawberry played out the last years of his career with drug problems and will be remembered as a wasted talent. Had he stayed clean, there’s no telling what his numbers might have been.
Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry will be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame this weekend. Both players brought a certain electricity to Shea Stadium.
Each player had the ability to grab the crowd by the scruff of the neck.
For Strawberry, it was the sense of anticipation with every at-bat. He was one of the few players who kept you riveted every time he came to the plate because there was the prospect of hitting a mammoth home run like the one he hit off the scoreboard clock in St. Louis.
For Gooden, during the summers of 1985 and 1986 there was a buzz at Shea whenever he took the mound. I remember how the crowd would rise and scream whenever he got two strikes on a hitter. Gooden had electric stuff, the kind that made you wonder if this would be the night he’d throw a no-hitter.
Eventually, he did. But, fittingly in the tormented history of this franchise, he did so for the Yankees.