Feb 02

Mets Vs. Jets: Which 1969 Championship Had The Most Impact?

Regardless of the outcome of today’s Super Bowl, it won’t be a defining upset in the way the New York Jets’ stunner over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

Of course, that was the Joe Namath Super Bowl, the one in which unfortunately Johnny Unitas didn’t make an appearance until it was too late. Namath played a brilliant game that eventually carried him to the Hall of Fame. Without that victory, I don’t know if Namath makes it to Canton.

NAMATH: Led Jets to historic upset.

NAMATH: Led Jets to historic upset.

The Jets’ victory over the Colts is arguably one of sports’ greatest upsets. Several months later there was another, courtesy of another New York team, when the Mets stunned the Orioles in five games in the 1969 World Series.

As the Colts were overwhelming favorites, so too were the Orioles. Both, were stuffed.

So, which was the more surprising? Which was the most significant?

The Mets’ championship was harder to attain because they had to overcome a supposed superior opponent four times instead of once.

In one game, anything can happen, like the Colts throwing four interceptions and Earl Morrall not seeing a wide-open Jimmy Orr at the end of the first half. If one or two plays had been different, the Colts might have prevailed.

Given a football game can change on one or two plays, in retrospect the Jets’ victory is more easily comprehendible than it was in the hours after final gun in the Orange Bowl.

Sure, the odds were long, but throughout history – in all sports – teams have played the perfect game to orchestrate upsets in all sports.

However, in looking at the Mets, they won 100 games that season, so while their first trip to the playoffs was surprising, they were not a fluke team. By the time they overtook the Chicago Cubs, there was an inkling this was going to be a special team.

The 1969 Mets had one of history’s greatest pitching staffs, won their division going away and crushed Atlanta in the playoffs. Then, they dismissed the Orioles in five games, shutting down a crushing offense with Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, and an array of clutch offensive performers – Donn Clendenon for one – and defensive gems – Tommie Agee and Ron Swoboda.

Clearly, the Jets’ victory was the most significant as it drove the merger between the established NFL and the AFL. The Jets’ victory might also have been the most stunning because they needed to catch lightning in a bottle to upset a superior opponent.

But, the Mets, while their title was an upset, in hindsight they were a lot better than history might remember them.

May 06

Amazin’ Moments: Eric Valent Hits For The Cycle

Contributed by Gerry Silverman of MetsMerizedOnline.com

Hitting for the cycle has always been one of the more singular batting feats in baseball. It is a relatively rare occurrence but not one that guarantees anything in particular for the team of the player who achieves one beyond a mention on the sports page. Granted, it involves getting four hits (a good thing) with three being for extra bases (a very good thing), but from a pure baseball perspective one could propose that if a batter had four singles in a game, he might well provide a greater benefit to his team than a cycle would, provided those singles occur with runners in scoring position.

In other words, a cycle is a feat we regard with admiration primarily because it is COOL. It is so COOL that it even has a more refined version, the so-called “natural” cycle (single, double, triple, home run in order). This unique quality allows a cycle to actually transcend the game itself, remaining COOL even if your team loses the game in which it occurs, kind of like a consolation prize.

At this point in baseball history, only two teams remain cycle-less: the San Diego Padres (who also hold the distinction of being the only franchise not to have recorded a no-hitter) and the Miami Marlins whose relative youth as a franchise functions as something of an excuse. By way of contrast, the Red Sox have pulled off the feat an impressive twenty times.

eric valentSeven Mets had achieved the cycle prior to the day in July, 2004 when Eric Valent got one of his infrequent starts, spelling regular left fielder Cliff Floyd in a game against the Montreal Expos. Valent was a 27 year-old outfielder/first baseman who had been a late first round draft pick by the Phillies in 1998. After a couple of uneventful cups of coffee with the Phils, he was dealt to the Reds for catcher and future Met Kelly Stinnett in August of 2003. That winter, he was left off the Reds’ 40 man roster and was selected by the Mets in the Rule 5 Draft.

The Mets timing was fortuitous, as Valent was about to turn 27, the apparent “magic” age for certain players when whatever baseball skills they possess coalesce long enough to produce some evidence to support their place on a major league team. The 2004 season would mark Eric’s high water mark as a player as he produced a respectable .267/.337/.481 slash line in 270 AB’s spread out over 130 games. He would hit all of his big league homers that season, including one that day in Montreal.

Facing Expos starter Rocky Biddle, Valent collected a single in the second inning and a double in the third. He then homered off reliever Sunny Kim, launching a shot that clanked off one of the speakers suspended from the roof of Olympic Stadium. That left him a triple short of achieving a cycle, generally regarded as the toughie of the bunch.

When he came to the plate in the top of the seventh, the Mets had opened a substantial lead in what would end up a 10-1 win for Al Leiter. Consequently, a discussion on going for a three-bagger had preceded his next plate appearance.  Mets coach Don Baylor had told Valent to expect third base coach Matt Galante to be “waving” him on anything hit down the line or in the gap.

When his subsequent at-bat produced a liner into the right field corner, “I just kept going when I hit it” Valent would say after the game

“When I hit the ball in the corner like that, I knew I was going to third. I just wanted to hit the ball hard. It was cool. There aren’t a lot of guys that can say they hit for the cycle, no matter how long they play. It’s a lot of luck.”

By virtue of that statement to MLB.com, we can trace an awareness of the cycle’s aforementioned “coolness factor” to the players themselves.

Of the ten Mets who have hit for the cycle (the most recent being Scott Hairston on April 27th of last year), Valent could be said to tie with infielder Mike Phillips of the 1975 team for “least likely.” After a few more desultory appearances with the Mets the following season, he was out of baseball, but in the record books. That moment of his career at least, was pretty cool.

Mets Who Have Hit For The Cycle

April 27, 2012, Scott Hairston at Colorado

June 21, 2006, Jose Reyes vs. Cincinnati

July 29, 2004, Eric Valent at Montreal

Sept. 11, 1997, John Olerud vs. Montreal

July 3, 1996, Alex Ochoa at Philadelphia

Aug. 1, 1989, Kevin McReynolds at St. Louis

July 4, 1985, Keith Hernandez at Atlanta (19 innings)

June 25, 1976, Mike Phillips at Chicago

July 6, 1970, Tommie Agee vs. St. Louis

Aug. 7, 1963, Jim Hickman vs. St. Louis

Mets Country

May 03

Giving The Mets Horse Names

In honor of the Kentucky Derby, I decided to give the Mets – past and present – horse names. Some are humorous, some are descriptive, and some are critical. I know I missed some. If you have suggestions, let’s hear them.

The Man With Words

The Man With Words

PRESENT METS

Matt Harvey: “Nasty Stuff’’

Jon Niese: “Lefty Heat’’

Zack Wheeler: “Promises, Promises’’

Ike Davis: “Hole In Bat”

Daniel Murphy: “Taking To Second’’

David Wright: “In The Clutch’’

Lucas Duda: “Strong As Onions’’

Jordany Valdespin: “Has A Knack’’

Terry Collins: “Dealing With Few Pieces’’

Sandy Alderson: “GM Seeking Bullpen’’

Ruben Tejada: “Big Shoes To Fill’’

John Buck: “More Than A Throw-in’’

Bobby Parnell: “Getting His Chance’’

Scott Rice: “Perseverance Rewarded’’

Johan Santana: “Sad Ending’’

Frank Francisco: “Is He Still Around?’’

The Wilpons: “Write That Check’’

IN THE BOOTH

Gary Cohen: “Outta Here’’

Ralph Kiner: “A Treasure’’

Lindsey Nelson: “Where Did He Get That Coat?’’

Bob Murphy: “They Won The Damn Thing’’

Kevin Burkhardt: “Where’s Waldo? Where’s Kevin?’’

Howie Rose: “Close The Books’’

Josh Lewin: “The New Kid’’

Ed Coleman: “How Often Can You Ask About The Bullpen?’’

PAST METS

Tom Seaver: “Best Met Ever’’

Jerry Koosman: “Underrated Greatness’’

Jon Matlack: “Linked To Roberto”

Darryl Strawberry: “What Could Have Been’’

Keith Hernandez: “Retire His Number’’

Gary Carter: “A Missing Piece’’

Dwight Gooden: “Left Us Wanting’’

Lenny Dykstra: “Out of Control”

Wally Backman: “Future Boss”

Nolan Ryan: “Didn’t Do It Here”

Jim Fregosi: “Trivia Question Answer”

Gil Hodges: “Commanded Respect’’

Davey Johnson:  “Riverboat Gambler’’

Casey Stengel: “A Way With Words’’

Bobby Valentine: “Always On Stage’’

Willie Randolph: “Midnight Massacre’’

Frank Cashen: “The Architect”

Joan Payson: “Mom Met”

Jane Jarvis: “Shea Soundtrack”

Karl Ehrhardt: “A Fixture”

Omar Minaya: “Could Write A Check”

Ed Kranepool: “Early Era Good Guy’’

Jerry Grote: “Last Defense’’

Bud Harrelson: “Picked A Rose’’

Jose Reyes: “My Aching Hammy’’

Carlos Beltran: “Not Appreciated’’

Oliver Perez: “Omar’s Folly’’

Bobby Bonilla: “Bronx Tour Guide”

Mo Vaughn: “What Were They Thinking?”

Ron Darling: “Sharp Stuff, Sharp Analysis’’

John Franco: “Shut The Door’’

Tug McGraw: “Turned A Phrase’’

Ron Swoboda: “Headlong Dive’’

Tommie Agee: “Gap Runner’’

Cleon Jones: “Catches The Last Out’’

Rusty Staub: “The Gourmet’’

Mike Piazza: “Historic Blast’’

Donn Clendenon: “Had October Magic”

Rey Ordonez: “Magic Leather’’

Robin Ventura: “The Grand Single’’

Al Leiter: “Politician In The Making’’

Edgardo Alfonzo: “Second To None’’

Armando Benitez: “Please, Not Him’’

Jose Lima: “It Was Never Time”

Pedro Martinez: “The Diva”

Mike Pelfrey: “Licking Fingers”

Carlos Delgado: “Clubhouse Lawyer”

Tom Glavine: “Not Devastated”

R.A. Dickey: “One Good Year”

Willie Mays: “Ended It At Home”

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 07

Today in Mets’ History: Ryan wins in relief; Mets pull closer to Cubs.

Things are getting dicier in the NL East on this date in 1969. After Gary Gentry and Nolan Ryan combined to stuff the Phillies, 9-3, at Shea Stadium, the Mets closed within 2 ½ games behind Chicago.

Ryan, Seaver and Koosman

The victory was the Mets’ 18th in 24 games, while the Cubs were in the process of losing 10 of 18, including that day to Pittsburgh.

Gentry worked six innings and Ryan the final three for the win.

The Mets broke the game open with two in the seventh and four in the eighth.

Tommie Agee drove in three runs and scored three others, and Art Shamsky and Rod Gaspar drove in two runs apiece.

BOX SCORE

 

Aug 16

Today in Mets’ History: Mets sweep Pads to begin 1969 run.

After falling 9.5 games behind Chicago several days earlier, the 1969 started to right their ship to make a run at, and eventually overcome, the Cubs in the National League East.

McANDREW: His 1969 card.

Pitching would be their catalyst, and on this day in 1969 Tom Seaver and Jim McAndrew combined to sweep San Diego in a doubleheader, 2-0 and 2-1, and Shea Stadium.

Seaver and Ron Taylor combined to limit the Padres to four hits in the opener, and were backed by run-scoring singles from Tommie Agee and Bobby Pfeil in the fifth and seventh innings.

In the nightcap, McAndrew and Tug McGraw combined for the victory. Cleon Jones homered in the fourth and Jerry Grote singled in the game-winner in the seventh.

With the sweep, the Mets began a stretch where they won 12 of their next 13 games to move from ten games behind the Cubs to trailing by two on Aug. 27.

FIRST GAME BOX

SECOND GAME BOX