Forty-five years ago today in Mets’ history (1967), Tom Seaver won the first game of his Hall of Fame career in going 7.1 innings in a 6-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Shea Stadium.
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.’’
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.
The first Met I remember as a kid was Ed Kranepool. Maybe it was the way Bob Murphy pronounced his name, I don’t know. Who really knows why things stick in your head when you’re ten years old?
My family spent our summer vacations at my grandmother’s house in Pelham, and I watched a lot of Met games. This was before the 1969 season, and they usually lost, often in agonizing fashion.
Kranepool always stood out although he wasn’t a great player. At the time, he was pretty much the best the Mets had to offer.
By 1979, I was following the Mets in the box scores and occasionally the Game of the Week. Growing up near Cleveland, the Indians were on once or twice a week, and I always thought how great it would be to live in New York when the games were on every day.
On this date that season, Kranepool hit the 118th, and final, home run of his career in a 3-2, 15-inning win over Pittsburgh.
Kranepool made his debut as a 17-year old in the Mets’ inaugural 1962 season as a defensive replacement for Gil Hodges, Sept. 22, and the next day started his first game and collected his first hit.
He began the next season splitting time at first base and right field, and was getting more time the following year. In 1965, he gave up his No. 21 to Warren Spahn and began wearing No. 7, and was the Mets’ lone representative in the All-Star Game.
Kranepool was demoted to Tidewater in 1970 and contemplated retirement, but had his best season the following year. He lost his starting job in 1973 to John Milner, and was a platoon player the next two years, and finished his career as a role player/pinch hitter, retiring at 34 in 1979.
After retirement, Kranepool was part of a group that attempted to buy the Mets, but lost out to the Nelson Doubleday-Fred Wilpon group. He worked as a stockbroker after retirement and was inducted into the Mets’ Hall of Fame in 1990.
Maybe it isn’t so odd this occurred the day after the Mets lost on a balk in the tenth inning, a disappointing end to what was a good road trip that dropped them below .500 once again.
On this date in 1962 – the year when the Mets seemed to have invented the word `amazing,’ – it was all about Marvelous Marv Throneberry, who personified those early teams.
Throneberry appeared to hit a two-run triple against the Cubs in the Polo Grounds, but was called out for failing to touch second base. When manager Casey Stengel raced out of the dugout to argue the call, first base coach Cookie Lavagetto stopped him and said, “Don’t argue, Case. He missed first base, too.’’
How can that not make you chuckle?
There were a lot of great stories about the 1962 Mets, several of them involving Throneberry.
Throneberry played for the Yankees, Kansas City Athletics and Orioles before playing the first two seasons in Mets’ history.
He was demoted to the minor leagues in 1963 and replaced by Ed Kranepool. He retired after that season as a .237 hitter with 53 homers and 170 RBI.
There was a gentleness about Throneberry, who maintained a sense of humor. Many years after retiring, Throneberry appeared in the Miller Lite ads that featured sporting legends.
WARNING: If you click on to this you might spend an hour watching the other links to commercials.
Throneberry passed away at age 60 in 1994.
Great journeys begin with small steps and the Mets took on this day in 1969 when Ed Kranepool homered twice to back Tom Seaver to a 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It was the Mets’ sixth straight victory and it gave them a 24-23 record to pull them over .500 at the latest point in the season in club history.
I grew up in Cleveland, but had family in New York that we visited every summer. This was about the time I started paying attention to the Mets watching them on Channel 9.
I used to love watching Ralph, Murph and Lindsey Nelson.
The TV coverage of the Indians at the time was horrible, but these guys made it fun to watch the games, and when they started winning it was even better.