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.
And, here’s another missed no-hitter in Mets’ lore. On this date in 1970, Gary Gentry threw 7.2 hitless innings in Wrigley Field when Ernie Banks hit a fly ball to left. Dave Marshall gave chase, but dropped the ball. Banks received benefit of the hometown scoring and was given a hit and Gentry was denied his shot at baseball immortality.
GENTRY: Near no-no at Wrigley.
Gentry won 13 games for the Mets as a rookie in 1969 as the third starter behind Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman.
Gentry pitched a four-hit shutout on Sept. 24 of that year to beat the Cardinals in the game that clinched the NL East. Gentry also beat Baltimore in Game 3 of the World Series.
On a side note, Nolan Ryan relieved Gentry for the save in what would become his only World Series appearance during his 27-year career.
Gentry pitched three more seasons with the Mets but was traded to the Braves in 1972. He sustained an elbow injury and was done in 1975 with a career 46-49 record.
After his release by the Braves, Gentry tried to return with the Mets, but that didn’t work out. Gentry did come back and was part of the closing ceremonies for Shea Stadium.
Here’s the lineup for Game 1 of today’s doubleheader at Atlanta:
Jose Reyes, SS
Angel Pagan, CF
David Wright, 3B
Carlos Beltran, RF
Ike Davis, 1B
Willie Harris, LF
Brad Emaus, 2B
Josh Thole, C
DJ Carrasco, RP
LINEUP COMMENTS: No surprises. Terry Collins said he’ll give Brad Emaus a legitimate chance at second base and he’s back there today. They knew going in with Emaus he had to stay on the roster for the full season because he’s a Rule 5 pick. Given that, they might has well give him a real chance to see what he can do. The Mets don’t want to hear this, but 2011 is a throwaway year. They aren’t going to win this season so they might as well see what they have in Emaus for the future.
Sandy Alderson insists the Mets will compete in 2011, but at the same time acknowledges limited resources and holes in the rotation and bullpen. The plan is for those injured to bounce back healthy and the others to play at the top of their game.
Don’t expect Johan Santana before the All-Star break at the earliest. We’ve known since he joined the organization this would be the case, but it is sinking in after coming home with scraps from the winter meetings. Yes, the Mets needed a back-up catcher and another bullpen arm, but that’s not enough to get it done.
Alderson said today he’d like seven or eight arms to compete for starter roles but came up with only Mike Pelfrey, RA Dickey, John Niese, Dillon Gee and Pat Misch. Jenrry Mejia, he said, isn’t ready. Alderson didn’t say where the other arms would come from. Chris Young is somebody they are looking at, but he’s a project and wants more than what the Mets want to give.
Everything has to break right for the Mets to have a competitive season. That much Alderson has told us. He just hasn’t said how this is to happen.