Jun 15

Today in Mets History: The Franchise is traded.

Perhaps no other day in Mets history shook the franchise to its core like this date in 1977 when the organization traded The Franchise.

SEAVER: Traded on this date.

Unthinkable to many, but anticipated by him, the Mets traded the best player – still to this day – Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher Pat Zachry, infielder Doug Flynn and outfielders Steve Henderson and Dan Norman.

Three days earlier, Seaver beat the Astros in Houston, 3-1, and after the game said: “This may very well be my last game as a Met.’’

Seaver went the distance that day, giving up five hits while walking two and striking out six to raise his record to 7-3 with a 3.00 ERA.

BOX SCORE OF SEAVER’S METS LAST GAME

Seaver anticipated the trade when contract negotiations stalled with CEO M. Donald Grant. As Seaver became more frustrated, things finally boiled over when cantankerous New York Daily News columnist Dick Young, who publicly and loudly sided with Grant.

Unable to deal with Grant, Seaver went to then owner Lorinda de Roulet and GM Joe McDonald and reached agreement on a three-year extension. However, when Young wrote a column suggesting Seaver’s wife, Nancy, was pushing him to ask for more money, the pitcher called off the deal.

Wrote Young: “In a way, Tom Seaver is like Walter O’Malley. Both are very good at what they do. Both are very deceptive in what they say. Both are very greedy. … Nolan Ryan is getting more now than Seaver, and that galls Tom because Nancy Seaver and Ruth Ryan are very friendly and Tom Seaver long has treated Nolan Ryan like a little brother.’’

When the column hit the streets, Seaver knew it was time to leave.

In 2007, Seaver said: “That Young column was the straw that broke the back. Bringing your family into it with no truth whatsoever to what he wrote. I could not abide by that. I had to go.’’

Young also wrote, “A man lives up to his contract,’’ but four years later he broke his own contract with the Daily News and moved to the Post.

 

May 14

Today in Mets History: The Ryan Express nails 14 Reds.

RYAN: Seven no-hitters.

The Mets knew early there was something special about Nolan Ryan, he with the electric arm that threw thunderbolts that sizzled.

On this date in 1968, Ryan established a then club record by striking out 14 Cincinnati Reds. “I threw nothing but fastballs the last two innings,’’ said Ryan, then 21.

Ryan pitched in parts of five seasons with the Mets and compiled a non-descript 29-38 record with a respectable 3.43 ERA.

Ryan’s stay in New York was interrupted with stints in the National Guard, wildness, and blisters that required soaking his fingers in cups of pickle brine.

Above all Ryan never felt comfortable in New York, and the Mets, weighing all this and in need of a third baseman, dealt him to the Angels prior to the 1972 season.

The Mets were to receive All-Star shortstop Jim Fregosi, who was at the end of his career and would be shifting to third base. The trade sounded good in theory at the time, but a 27-year Hall of Fame career said the Mets clearly lost this deal.

However, the Angels let him get away, too, to Houston and then the Texas Rangers. When it was all over, Ryan had thrown seven no-hitters.

CAREER STATS

 

May 13

Today in Mets’ History: Gentry misses no-hitter.

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.


Aug 21

The Summer of ’69

The Mets are honoring the 40th anniversary of the 1969 Miracle Mets this weekend. Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Nolan Ryan are back, bringing with them glorious memories.

It was truly an amazing year, with man landing on the moon, the Vietnam War raging and unrest on college campuses throughout the country. Still, baseball captivated us and helped heal the wounds from the civil rights riots from the previous summer.

SEAVER: Tom was Terrific

SEAVER: Tom was Terrific

In the American League, powerful Baltimore rolled, and for much of the summer the Chicago Cubs seemed poised to shed years of frustration and mediocrity. Then, there were the Mets, who, were picked to finish third. Considering the early years of the franchise that was pretty good.

But, the Mets amazed with great pitching.

Offensively, this was not an awesome team. Cleon Jones was the best hitter and there was Tommie Agee. But, Ron Swoboda, Al Weis, Buddy Harrelson, Jerry Grote, Art Shamsky, Ken Boswell didn’t strike fear among opposing pitchers.

A late-season trade acquired slugger Donn Clendenon (click for video) provided the Mets with an offensive identity they lacked. In 202 at-bats, Clendenon had 51 hits, but 12 of them were homers and he drove in 37 runs.

“When we got him, we became a different team,” Harrelson said. “We never had a three-run homer type of guy. He was always humble, never cocky. We were still young kids in that era. He was a veteran that came in and made us better. When you threw him into the mix with the rest of us, we became a dangerous force.

“We knew we had a good team with him, but we didn’t know quite how good. Gil (Hodges) thought we were better than we were. He was the MVP — a very dangerous player.”

While Clendenon gave the Mets pop, they won on a pitching staff that threw an incredible 28 shutouts. Seaver won 25 games.

That season the Mets got off to a slow start, but even after winning two series against the Cubs, they were still in Leo Durocher’s rear view mirror.

On August 13, the Mets were in third place, 9.5 games behind the Cubs, but overtook them with a 38-11 stretch. Included in that was a double-header sweep of Pittsburgh, winning each game 1-0 with the pitchers (Koosman and Don Cardwell) driving in the winning runs.

On Sept. 10, after a double-header sweep of the Expos and the Cubs losing that day to Philadelphia, the Mets moved into first place for the first time in franchise history.

The Mets swept Atlanta in the NLCS, and Seaver was beaten in Game 1 of the World Series at Baltimore. The Mets were about to come back to earth, but reeled off four straight wins … the final out coming on Davey Johnson’s lazy fly to Jones.

I remember a lot from that season: Seaver’s near perfect game; the July series with the Cubs; the black cat; all those shutouts; Steve Carlton striking out 19 Mets but Swoboda hitting a pair of homers for the win; the shoe polish incident in the Series; those catches by Agee and Swoboda; and the luck of J.C. Martin being ruled safe when he clearly ran inside the baseline.

What’s your favorite memory from that season?