1969 World Series
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The 1969 World Series was played between the New York Mets and the Baltimore Orioles, with the Mets prevailing in 5 games to accomplish one of the greatest upsets in Series history, as that particular Orioles squad was (and still is by some baseball pundits) considered to be one of the finest ever and the Mets had never been a competitive team in their first 8 years of play. The World Series win and surprising performance of the team through the year earned the team the sobriquet "Miracle Mets".
The Mets became the first expansion team to win a division title, a pennant, and the World Series, winning in their eighth year of existence. The Florida Marlins would break the Mets' record, winning the 1997 World Series in their fifth year (also becoming the first wild card team to win a World Series); the Arizona Diamondbacks won the 2001 World Series in their fourth year of play. However, the Mets' comeback from the depths of mediocrity (40-120 in 1962 and similar records the next two years), was exceptional.
Those who might have predicted that astronauts would walk on the moon before the Mets would get into the World Series were proven right, as Neil Armstrong walked on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969, eleven weeks before the first game of the Series.
A delighted Met fan held up a sign after the Mets won the final game: "There Are No Words."
Series MVP: Donn Clendenon (New York)
The New York Mets, who had never finished higher than ninth place (next-to-last) nor won more than 73 games in a season since joining the National League in 1962, were not highly regarded before the 1969 season started. In fact, the best that could be said for them was that because the National League was being split into two divisions that year, the Mets were guaranteed to finish no lower than sixth place. With three weeks to go in the season, the underdog Mets stormed past the Chicago Cubs, who had led the Eastern Division for most of the season, winning 39 of their final 48 games for a total of 100 wins and capturing the first National League Eastern Division crown. Third-year pitcher Tom Seaver won a major-league-leading 25 games en route to his first Cy Young Award; the other two top Mets starting pitchers, Jerry Koosman and rookie Gary Gentry, combined to win 30 more games. Outfielder Cleon Jones hit a (then) club-record .340 and finished third in the National League batting race, while his lifelong friend and outfield mate Tommie Agee hit 26 home runs and drove in 76 runs to lead the club; they were the only players on the team who garnered more than 400 at bats. Manager Gil Hodges employed a skillful platoon system not unlike the Yankees of the Casey Stengel era, in which Ron Swoboda and Art Shamsky became a switch-hitting right fielder who hit 23 home runs and drove in 100 runs, and Ed Kranepool and Donn Clendenon added up to a switch-hitting first baseman who hit 23 more homers and knocked in another 95 runs. Almost to a man, the 1969 Mets were united in their praise of their manager's skill. In the first League Championship Series, the light-hitting Mets, once again considered underdogs (even though the Mets actually had a better record than the Braves), put on an uncharacteristic power display by scoring 27 runs in sweeping the favored Atlanta Braves in three games.
The Baltimore Orioles, by contrast, were practically flawless and featured stars at almost every position. They breezed through the 1969 season, winning 109 games (until 1998 the most games won since the advent of divisional play) and brushing aside the Minnesota Twins in three games in the ALCS to win their second pennant in four years. The Orioles were led by star sluggers Frank Robinson and Boog Powell, who each hit over 30 home runs and drove in over 100 runs; third baseman Brooks Robinson, perhaps the best-fielding hot-corner player in baseball history; and pitchers Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally and Jim Palmer, who combined for 63 victories. It was felt that in the face of such statistical comparisons, only the most reckless gambler would put any money on the Mets.
Game Score Date Location Attendance --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- (1) Mets - 1, Orioles - 4 October 11 Memorial Stadium 50,429 (2) Mets - 2, Orioles - 1 October 12 Memorial Stadium 50,850 (3) Orioles - 0, Mets - 5 October 14 Shea Stadium 56,335 (4) Orioles - 1, Mets - 2 October 15 Shea Stadium 57,367 (10 innings) (5) Orioles - 3, Mets - 5 October 16 Shea Stadium 57,397
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E - - - - - - - - - - - - New York Mets 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 6 1 Baltimore Orioles 1 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 X 4 6 0 PITCHERS: NYM - Seaver, Cardwell (6), Taylor (7) BAL - Cuellar WP - Cuellar LP - Seaver HOME RUNS: NYM - None BAL - Buford ATTENDANCE: 50,429
Jerry Koosman pitched 6 innings of no-hit ball before Paul Blair led off the bottom of the 7th with a single. The Mets scored the winning run in the 9th on consecutive two-out singles by Ed Charles, Jerry Grote and Al Weis.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E - - - - - - - - - - - - New York Mets 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 6 0 Baltimore Orioles 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 2 0 PITCHERS: NYM - Koosman, Taylor (9) BAL - McNally WP - Koosman LP - McNally SAVE - Taylor HOME RUNS: NYM - Clendenon BAL - None ATTENDANCE: 50,850
This game marked the only World Series appearance for Nolan Ryan in his 27-year career. Mets' outfielder Tommie Agee almost single-handedly won the game for his team with a leadoff home run the bottom of the first inning and by making two great catches at crucial points in the game to save at least 5 Baltimore runs. Gary Gentry pitched 6⅔ innings of shutout ball to earn the win.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E - - - - - - - - - - - - Baltimore Orioles 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 1 New York Mets 1 2 0 0 0 1 0 1 X 5 6 0 PITCHERS: BAL - Palmer, Leonhard (7) NYM - Gentry, Ryan (7) WP - Gentry LP - Palmer SAVE - Ryan HOME RUNS: BAL - none NYM - Agee, Kranepool ATTENDANCE: 56,335
Donn Clendenon homered to lead off the 2nd inning. Tom Seaver pitched 8 shutout innings before the Orioles tied it in the 9th via Brooks Robinson's sacrifice fly on which Ron Swoboda made a diving catch. The Mets won in the 10th when Rod Gaspar scored from second on Pete Richert's errant throw after fielding J.C. Martin's bunt.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 R H E - - - - - - - - - - - - - Baltimore Orioles 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 6 1 New York Mets 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 10 1 PITCHERS: BAL - Cuellar, Watt (8), Hall (10), Richert (10) NYM - Seaver WP - Seaver LP - Hall HOME RUNS: BAL - none NYM - Clendenon ATTENDANCE: 57,367
Dave McNally and Frank Robinson hit home runs for the Orioles in the 3rd. The Mets answered with round-trippers of their own from Donn Clendenon in the 6th and Al Weis in the 7th. New York went ahead to stay in the 8th on back-to-back doubles by Cleon Jones and Ron Swoboda, followed by two Baltimore errors on Jerry Grote's infield ground ball.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E - - - - - - - - - - - - Baltimore Orioles 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 5 2 New York Mets 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 2 X 5 7 0 PITCHERS: BAL - McNally, Watt (8) NYM - Koosman WP - Koosman LP - Watt HOME RUNS: BAL - McNally, F. Robinson NYM - Clendenon, Weis ATTENDANCE: 57,397
|New York Mets||1||3||0||1||0||3||2||3||1||1||15||35||2|
|Total Attendance: 272,378 Average Attendance: 54,472|
|Winning Player’s Share: – $13,260, Losing Player’s Share – $9,350
- Long-time Mets fan favorite Ron Swoboda, not known for his fielding prowess, upstaged Agee's heroics in the 9th inning of game 4, making a diving, tumbling catch of Brooks Robinson's sinking line drive and preventing the Orioles from scoring more than one run. Some rank Swoboda's catch as the greatest in Series history. Swoboda also drove in the Series-winning run in game 5.
- Game 4 was mired in controversy. Tom Seaver's photograph was used on some anti-war Moratorium Day literature being distributed outside Shea Stadium before the game, although the pitcher claimed that his picture was used without his knowledge or approval. Orioles skipper Earl Weaver argued some ball-strike calls too strenuously with umpire Shag Crawford and became the first manager in 34 years to be ejected from a World Series game. In the 10th inning, with pinch-runner Rod Gaspar on second, Mets pinch-hitter J.C. Martin bunted to the mound and was hit by Pete Richert's throw while running to first base, which allowed Gaspar to score the winning run. Photographs later showed that Martin was running inside the baseline (and to the left of the running lane), which could have resulted in his being called out for interference. The umpires said that they didn't make the call because they felt that Martin didn't intentionally interfere with the play.
- Controversy also marred game 5. In the 5th inning, the Orioles argued that Frank Robinson had been hit by a pitch and should be awarded first base. The umpire ruled that the ball had hit Robinson's bat, then hit him, thus denying the Orioles' appeal. Replays of the incident later showed that Robinson had indeed been hit by the pitch. In the 6th, the Orioles argued again, this time claiming that Mets outfielder Cleon Jones had not been hit by a pitch, which they claimed had bounced first. Mets manager Gil Hodges showed umpire Lou DiMuro a shoe-polish smudge on the ball, which had skipped into the Mets' dugout, and this convinced the umpire that Jones had indeed been hit (although film of the incident is inconclusive) and awarded him first base. Moments later Donn Clendenon hit a two-run home run that brought the Mets within a run of the Orioles. This was similar to an incident in the 1957 World Series when the Brave's Nippy Jones claimed he was hit by a pitch and pointed to shoe polish on the ball as proof. Jones was awarded first base as part of a key Braves game winning rally.
- Light-hitting Mets second baseman Al Weis, who hit only seven home runs in his big-league career, hit his first Shea Stadium home run to tie game 5. He hit .455 to lead both teams in batting.
- Mets first baseman Donn Clendenon, the Series MVP, still holds the record for most home runs hit in a five-game World Series, with three.
- In an ironic twist, Oriole second baseman Davey Johnson, who would later manage the Mets to their second World Series win in 1986, flied out to Cleon Jones for the last out of the 1969 World Series.
- This was the second major upset by a New York team over a Baltimore team in a sport's championship event in 1969. Earlier in January, the Jets, led by Joe Namath, upset the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in the Super Bowl.
- The Mets became the first team ever to win a World Series without turning any double plays in the Series. Only the Oakland Athletics in 1972 have done this since.
Popular culture references
- Game 2 of the Series served as a backdrop in the movie Frequency.
- Actor Tim Robbins, a strong Mets fan, stated that on October 16 his mother bought him a ticket to the Game 5 of the Series for his birthday.
- George Burns, as the title character in the film, Oh, God!, told John Denver's character, "I don't do miracles. They're too flashy. The last miracle I performed was the 1969 Mets. Before that, I think you'd have to go back to the Red Sea."
Quote(s) of the Series
There's a fly ball out to left. Waiting is (Cleon) Jones...the Mets are the World Champions! Jerry Koosman is being mobbed! Look at this scene! -- Curt Gowdy, announcing that the Mets had just won their first World Series.
- Stanley Cohen: A Magic Summer: The Amazin' Story of the 1969 New York Mets, Skyhorse Publishing, New York, NY, 2009 (originally published in 1989).
- Tom Seaver and Richard Schaap: The Perfect Game: Tom Seaver and the Mets, Dutton Books, New York, NY, 1970.
- Matthew Silverman and Ken Samelson, ed.: The Miracle Has Landed: The Amazin' Story of How the 1969 Mets Shocked the World, Maple Street Press, Hanover, MA, 2009. ISBN 1934186171
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Pre-1903 Postseason Series