Baseball

MLB History: The 1969 New York Mets

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As free agency continues for the upcoming 2021 MLB season, it is time to reminisce on one of the greatest turnarounds in MLB history: The Mets Franchise in 1969. It all starts in 1962 when the Mets went 40-120 in their inaugural season. The 120 losses still hold the record for the modern era of baseball if the 134 losses by the Cleveland Spiders in 1899 were negated.

The team was managed by Casey Stengel, who was apparently fired by the Yankees for being too old at the age of 70. By the end of the 1962 season, the Mets were seen across the baseball world as a symbol of ineptitude, as the roster that they had simply could not compete with the more experienced ball clubs in Major League Baseball.

MLB History: Mets from 1963-1968

But it was not all bad news, as the Mets started to gradually win some games due to the help of stellar pitching by Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, and solid hitting by Cleon Jones, among others. In 1964, the Mets won 53 games. In 1966, the Mets won 66 games. In 1968, the year that the roster started to take shape, the team won 73 games. 

Seaver won rookie of the year in 1967 with a 2.76 ERA and 16 wins. He only went upward from there with 25 wins and seven losses in 1969, a 2.21 ERA, and 208 strikeouts. In 1968, Koosman had a season of similar impressiveness with 19 wins and a 2.08 ERA. The offensive talents of players such as Cleon Jones, Jerry Grote, and Bud Harrelson also helped the Mets get a decent record in 1968. The expectations for the team were raised from an expected last place to a playoff contender for the 1969 season.

Mets 1969 Season

Fast forward to the 1969 season, where the Mets lost their eighth opening day game in a row to the Montreal Expos. The team was still mediocre through May 27th, where they had a record of 18-23. The media and the fans were down on the team, but something clicked for the team and they went on an 11 game winning streak. In early July, the Mets won a series against the loaded Chicago Cubs, and the team looked bound to make the playoffs. But the team was still underperforming, as they were ten games out of the division lead in the middle of August. If the Mets were going to win the division, something had to change fast. 

Well, the team had a miraculous 38-11 record over their final 49 games, and that was enough to take the division and secure a playoff spot over the Chicago Cubs. Some milestones that they achieved during the regular season was having the first winning record for the franchise at 24-23. Seaver almost had a perfect game on July 9, as he came within two outs of accomplishing the feat. And on September 25, the Mets officially earned their first playoff appearance with a 6-0 victory over the Cardinals. 

World Series Game 1

Later, the Mets won the pennant and advanced to the World Series, where they would have to beat the Baltimore Orioles. It did not start great, as the Orioles got to Seaver for four runs and won the game 4-1. Seaver’s loss came after a streak of eleven consecutive wins, and he was pulled from the game after the 5th inning. 

World Series Game 2

The pitching was better in the second game, as Koosman only gave up one run for a narrow victory. With a two-out ninth-inning rally fueled by Ed Charles, Jerry Grote, and Al Weis, the Mets took a 2-1 lead. Koosman proceeded to shut it down with the help of Ron Taylor for the final out and tie the series at 1-1. 

World Series Game 3

In the third game, the Mets scored five runs and recorded a shutout with a strong start from Gary Gentry (6 and 2/3 IP) and a save by Nolan Ryan (2 and 2/3 IP). A great catch from centerfielder Tommie Agee also helped the team secure the shutout and take a 2-1 series lead.

World Series Game 4

The fourth game was a closely contested affair. The game lasted for ten innings, and Seaver pitched all ten of them while giving up only one run. With a 1-1 tie in the 10th, J.C. Martin hit a bunt and ran towards first base, however, he ran in the wrong base path and the throw deflected off his wrist. However, the umpires did not see this infraction, and the winning run was scored by Rod Gaspar to make the series 3-1. 

World Series Game 5

The impossible was now possible, as Koosman had the chance to close out the series in Game five at Shea. The Mets were down 3-0 in the bottom of the 6th inning when Cleon Jones was hit by a pitch and driven home by Donn Clendenon. New York ended up taking the game 5-3 and the series 4-1. Radio announcer Curt Gowdy on the call: “There’s a fly ball out to left. Waiting is Jones… The Mets are the world champions! Jerry Koosman is being mobbed! Look at this scene!”

When thinking about where the team started in 1962 with a 40-120 record and still managing to win a world series before the end of the decade, the accomplishments of the team that season was truly incredible. 

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main image credit Embed from Getty Images

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