On this date in 1969 at the All-Star Game in Washington, Cleon Jones had two hits and Jerry Koosman pitched 1.2 scoreless innings as the National League won, 9-3.
The game took place three days after Apollo 11 and featured 22 Hall of Famers, including seven members of the 500 Home Run fraternity.
Noteworthy to this game was when it was postponed a day because of rain, American League starter Denny McLain returned to Detroit for a dentist appointment and showed up late the next day. By the time McLain showed up, the American League trailed 8-2.
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.
AL WEIS CAREER
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.
Yes, there was Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman. Cleon Jones and Tommie Agee had good years. The 1969 Miracle Mets weren’t void of marquee players.
However, they were also a team comprised of role players. Donn Clendenon was a late season addition. Ron Swoboda, Ed Kranepool and Al Weis had their moments.
On this day in 1969, Ken Boswell and Wayne Garrett – two guys probably not recognizable if they chose to take the subway to Shea Stadium – contributed in a 6-4, 14-inning victory at St. Louis.
Boswell singled in a run in the 14th against Ron Willis and Garrett drew a bases-loaded walk. They combined to go 6-for-13 with five RBI and three runs scored.
Koosman started and worked 7.2 innings and Tug McGraw pitched six innings in relief to pick up the win.
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.