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?

Feb 12

Dunn, Abreu off the market …. Mets missed chance.

I’ve been barking about the Mets signing Adam Dunn since the moment Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza walked out of Shea together after the final game ceremonies.

He’s now with Washington for two years at the cost of $20 million, where he’ll get a chance to maul Mets pitching for 19 games this season. Bobby Abreu signed with the Angels for $5 million for one season.

I wanted Dunn for his power and because I’m not convinced the left field platoon of Fernando Tatis and Daniel Murphy will be the answer. I know Dunn will strike out a lot (not as much as Ryan Howard), but he’ll also hit 40 homers and drive in 100 runs. He’ll also take his walks and be on base enough to where he should scored close to 100 runs. Plus, he’d be around to take over when Carlos Delgado leaves.

Abreu is also a consistent run producer. Either would have upgraded the Mets’ offense, which needs a little more pop.

The Mets upgraded their biggest need, which was the bullpen, but 29 blown saves also tells you the games were tight in the late innings. More firepower is needed because the Mets did not sufficiently upgrade their rotation.

Nov 25

How would you like Shea preserved?

Preserve Shea memories

Preserve Shea memories

You can still see her, Shea Stadium, when you drive to LaGuardia. Pretty soon, she’ll only be in photographs and memories.

What is now Shea Stadium will become a parking lot, which is how these things work, but I wish there would be a way to prevent an old Volvo from leaking oil on the site where the ball got by Buckner, or where Cleon Jones caught the final out of the 1969 World Series, or where Tommie Agee made those catches, or the mound where Tom Seaver excelled for so many years.

Go ahead, make it a parking lot, but on those spots and others, block off the area and preserve it with a plaque, or small statue, or something that reminds future generations something special happened here.

I called Mets the other day and asked them their plans, and was told they don’t know what they plan, yet.  I just hope they don’t get so caught up in the new place that they fail to preserve some special memories.

Sep 26

Mets Chat Room: Pelfrey goes fishing/Shea Top Ten

The Mets announced today the top ten moments at Shea Stadium:

1. Game Six of the 1986 World Series highlighted by the Bill Buckner team.
2. Mike Mike Piazza’s dramatic two-run home run in the eighth inning, Sept. 21, 2001, to beat the Braves in New York City’s first sporting event after the 9-11 attacks on America.
3. The Mets beat the heavily-favored Baltimore Orioles, 5-3, in Game Five of the 1969 World Series.
4. Endy Chavez’ Game Seven 2006 NLCS catch.
5. The Mets 7 1986 World Series victory.
6. Robin Ventura’s “Grand Slam Single” in Game Five of the 1999 NLCS.
7. The Beatles play Shea, Aug. 15, 1965.
8. The Mets, on June 30, 2000, scored 10 runs in the eighth inning vs. Atlanta.
9. Tom Seaver’s one-hitter against Chicago.
10. Todd Pratt’s walk-off home run in Game Four of the NLDS vs. Arizona.

Let’s talk about them during the game, if there is a game. For the second straight season the Mets’ last hurdle to October are the Florida Marlins.

“We have three games left and it’s going to be hard,” said Carlos Beltran, who is hitting .315 (17-for-54) with three home runs and 12 RBIs against Florida this season.

The Mets are 9-6 against the Marlins this season, including 4-2 at Shea. None of that success is by Mike Pelfrey, who is 0-3 with a 7.91 ERA in four starts against the Marlins this season and 1-4 lifetime in seven appearances.

Sep 24

The one event you didn’t see.

A lot of you have mentioned your favorite Shea Stadium memories. But, what about the ones you missed. Tell me the one moment in Shea Stadium you would have liked to have witnessed live, but didn’t.

Tom Seaver? Tom Agee’s homer into the upper deck? The 1969 World Series? The Beatles? The Stones? The Spiderman Wedding?