MLB History: 1969 Mets Race for the Ring

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1969 Miracle Mets' season was one of the biggest shockers in MLB history.
1969 Mets' season was one of the biggest shockers in MLB history.

Throughout MLB history, there have been a number of larger than life stories, but none quite like the Miracle Mets of 1969. Every so often, a team comes along that far outpaces preseason projections, such as the 2020 Miami Marlins, or the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays. The legend of these teams pales in comparison, however, to that of the 1969 New York Mets.

MLB History: Early Years of the Mets

In 1962, the Mets became the 10th National League team as Major League Baseball expanded from 18 to 20 teams. During the seven seasons from their formation to 1969, the Mets showed absolutely no indication of success. In their first season, they went 40-120, for a historically bad .250 winning percentage. Across their first seven seasons, the team had never been over .500 after their ninth game. A preseason projection by the New York Times had the Mets finishing fourth out of six teams in the National League East, although in hindsight, a look at the roster heading into the 1969 season shows the true potential this group had.

The Miracle Mets: The Roster

The Lineup

1969 World Series Game 5 Lineup (OPS+)
Tommie Agee CF (122)
Bud Harrelson SS (82)
Cleon Jones LF (151)
Donn Clendenon 1B (114)
Ron Swoboda RF (91)
Ed Charles 3B (68)
Jerry Grote C (84)
Al Weis 2B (53)
Jerry Koosman P

Admittedly, the offense does not feature the superstar power that one would expect in a world series winner. Over the course of the 1969 season, the team had an overall OPS+ of 84, markedly below league average. Outside of perhaps Jones, Agee, and Clendenon, there was very little offensive production. This was not just the product of early-season struggles, either. Even in the World Series, this team averaged only three runs per game, however, in a parallel to the modern 2015 New York Mets, the success of this team was based on its pitching staff.

The Pitching

1969 Mets Rotation (ERA+)
SP1: Tom Seaver RHP (165)
SP2: Jerry Koosman LHP (160)
SP3: Gary Gentry RHP (106)
SP4: Don Cardwell RHP (121)
SP5: Jim McAndrew RHP (105)

This rotation truly carried the Mets to a successful season and an eventual World Series championship. Headlined by the All-Star caliber seasons from Mets legends Seaver and Koosman, and supported by above-average seasons from starters 3-5, this rotation allowed the Mets to rattle off consistent winning streaks–at one point winning 11 straight ballgames, not to mention a relief corps led by Tug McGraw, Ron Taylor, and a young Nolan Ryan (who would become one of the greatest hurlers in MLB History).

The Story

The Regular Season

The 1969 New York Mets are one of the greatest Cinderella stories in MLB History. The Mets started the season with little fanfare and a 9-14 start, and it seemed as if this season would follow in the footsteps of the previous seven. After spurts of wins and losses, they found themselves at 18-23, still on their expected mediocre pace. Incredibly, after this they would go on to an 82-39 record the rest of the way, finishing at 100-62. Despite this pace, in mid-August, the Mets were in third place in the NL East and 10 games back of the first-place Cubs.

In incredible fashion over the last month and a half of the season, the Mets executed one of the most rapid turnarounds in MLB history, gaining 18 games on the Cubs. The Mets played amazing baseball, going 24-8 in September. This run was further aided by the Cubs’ collapse, going 9-18 in the season’s final month. The Mets would be crowned NL East champions, and go on to face the Braves in the National League Championship Series.

The NLCS

In their first playoff matchup in history, the Mets faced the NL West champion Atlanta Braves, featuring stars Hank Aaron, Phil Niekro, and Orlando Cepeda. The Braves were in for a shock, however, as the Mets swept them 3-0.

The World Series

Following their NLCS win, the Mets encountered the American League champion Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. This star-studded team finished the season with a 109-53 record, one of the best in MLB History. Their pitching staff was one of the few that could match up with the Mets, highlighted by great seasons from the likes of Mike Cuellar and Jim Palmer. Their lineup also included a number of offensive and defensive legends including Frank Robinson, Boog Powell, and Brooks Robinson.

Most of the baseball industry expected the Orioles to be able to handle the upstart Mets, but they were quickly proven wrong. After a game one defeat, the Mets would come back to win four straight, and bring a championship to Queens. During that four-game streak, the pitching staff allowed only five total runs, as they once again proved themselves to be the heart of the club. As they had all season, the 1-2 punch of Seaver and Koosman led the Mets to success. On the whole, 1969 was not just one of the best seasons in Mets history, its story and romanticism make it one of the finest in MLB History.

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Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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