By GARY McLENDON
They were created to replace the departed Brooklyn Dodgers and New York
They began in the Polo Grounds in 1962. They were the lovable losers. They
found bizarre ways to lose. They were the New York Mets.
The Mets opened up in 1962 with the legendary Casey Stengel at the helm in
Busch Stadium in St. Louis. They lost 11-4, and they lost eight more before winning their
first game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, on April 23, 1962. The Mets lost a record 120
games that year.
The next year wasnt much better. With the likes of Marv Throneberry,
Choo-Choo Coleman, and "Hot Rod" Kanehl, the Mets were colorful, but losing was
contagious. At the end of the 1963 season, they said good-bye to the Polo Grounds and
hello to Queens, and Shea Stadium.
Major league baseballs first mascot, Mr. Met, was born at Shea. And
traditions like Banner Day let Mets fans relieve their frustrations. For season after
season, throughout the 60s, Mets fans came for the love of the game. Almost no one
realized that the Mets were quietly getting better.
The Amazin 1969 Mets were a
Queens Cinderella Story. Thirty years later, we hope they can repeat.
In 1969 men were planning to walk on the Moon. But no one
expected the once-hapless Mets to become contenders.
With each Mets win, the city became increasingly optimistic. Word of mouth
spread and fans poured into Shea to see for themselves. At 9:07 p.m. on September 24th,
Mets fans by the hundreds climbed over guard-rails and ran onto the field to mob the
Eastern Division Champion New York Mets.
As former Mets skipper Casey Stengel said the Mets were, "Amazing,
amazing, amazing, amazing, amazing."
They were, and the best was yet to come.
The Mets continued their improbable journey by squaring off with the
Western Division Champion Atlanta Braves in the first ever League Championship series.
In Game 1, before 50,000 fans in Atlanta, the Mets rallied five runs in
the top of the 8th inning, and Cleon Jones scored the winning run on a throwing error by
Orlando Cepeda. They won 9-5.
In Game 2, the Mets pounced on the Braves. Cleon Jones, Tommie Agee and
Ken Boswell all hit two-run home runs, and the Mets scored at least one run in each of the
first five innings, to lead 9-0. The Braves rallied, scoring five runs in the fifth, but
the Mets pulled away, winning 11-6.
In Game 3, the Mets finished off the Braves at Shea. Before 53,195
screaming fans, Tommie Agee and Ken Boswell hit home runs. All-time homer Champ Hank Aaron
hit a home run in his third consecutive game, but future Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan closed
the doorMets 7, Braves 4.
Unbelievably, the Mets, the same team that finished in ninth place in
1968, were playing in the World Series. New York was mesmerized.
On game days, cabbies, street vendors, bus drivers and pedestrians carried
transistor radios. Crowds of strangers gathered around every public television. Kids
skipped school, or snuck radios into class. Magic was in the air.
The Mets lost Game 1 to the Baltimore Orioles 4-1, but they bounced back.
In Game 2, Jerry Koosman and Ron Taylor gave up one run, on only two hits, and a Donn
Clendenon home run and consecutive singles by Ed Charles, Jerry Grote and Al Weis were
just enough. Mets 2, Orioles 1.
The Mets scored five runs in Game 3, but defense was the order of the day.
Tommie Agee made two spectacular catches in centerfield, one a running catch with two outs
and runners on first and third. The second with the bases loaded was a diving, one-handed
catch on the warning track. The Mets won again 5-0.
A win in Game 4 would give the Mets a commanding lead, and both teams knew
it. The game went into extra-innings tied at one with the help of Rightfielder Ron
Swoboda, who in the prone position caught a sinking line-drive just inches off the
right-centerfield turf. In the bottom of the tenth inning with Rod Gaspar on second base,
catcher J.C. Martin bunted towards the pitcher. The pitchers throw hit Martin in the
back, allowing Gaspar to score the winning run. Mets 2, Orioles 1.
Now, just one win away from immortality, the Amazins closed out the
Orioles with a five hitter by Jerry Koosman, and homeruns from slugger Donn Clendenon and
featherweight Al Weis (his only home run of the season). The Mets won 5-3.
On October 16, 1969, the Mets were lovable losers no more. They were the
1969 World Champions!