Apr 1, 2016

1969 Mets World Series Hero: Al Weis (1968-1971)

Albert John Weis was born April 2, 1938 in Franklin Square, New York on Long Island. He grew up in the town of Bethpage & attended Farmingdale high School. The Long Island boy then joined the Navy & while playing baseball there got signed by the Chicago White Sox as an amateur free agent. The speedy six foot switch hitting infielder stole 42 bases in 1960 at the low level of the minor leagues.

He spent four years in the minor leagues peaking in 1962 at AAA Indianapolis batting .296 with 13 triples, 15 doubles & 31 stolen bases. He got a September 1962 call up playing behind the double play combo of Hall of Famers, Luis Aparicio & Nellie Fox. Weis debuted in Washington drawing a walk in his first game in a 3-1 loss to the Senators. He went just 1-12 during the month (.083).

At the end of the season the White Sox traded away Aparacio, Weis played his rookie year as a utility infielder behind Nellie Fox & new comer Ron Hansen. He made the 1963 Topps All-Star Rookie Team playing 99 games batting .271 with 15 stolen bases (7th in the AL) 18 RBIs & 41 runs scored. He stole 93% of the bases he attempted to swipe which was the second best percentage in the league. Weis became a big part of the early sixties White Sox teams that finished in second place three straight seasons.

After the 1963 season the White Sox traded away Nellie Fox who was at the end of his career & Weis became their main second baseman. He led the team with 22 stolen bases (2nd in the league) 15 sac hits (3rd in the league) while putting up career highs in hits (81) RBIs (23) games (133) at bats (328) & triples (4) while batting .247. He hit two HRs that season, the first off Tommy John & the second off Baltimore’s Dave McNally whom he’d face again in the 1969 World Series as a member of the Amazing Mets. At second base Weis made 16 errors, second most in the league at that position, posting a .966 fielding %.

The next season Don Buford took over the second base spot & Weis was back in the utility role. He hit .296 in 135 at bats with four stolen bases a .393 on base % & 12 RBIs. In 1966 he put up his best fielding % as a second baseman (.987) playing in 96 games at that position under new White Sox manager Eddie Stanky. Over all he saw action in 129 game but hit just .155 with three stolen bases & nine RBIs. In 1967 he suffered a broken leg, after a violent collision at second base with the Orioles Frank Robinson. Weis would play in only 50 games that year batting .245.

Meanwhile the New York Mets needed some infield help. A young Bud Harrelson was serving on & off military service, so they needed a quality veteran back up at short. Over at second base Jerry Buchek didn’t impress anyone as a regular & a young Ken Boswell had yet to establish himself. On December 15, 1967 Al Weis & former White Sox 1966 Rookie of the Year, Tommie Agee were traded to the New York Mets for Tommy Davis, Jack Fisher, Billy Wynne, and Buddy Booker.

Gil Hodges had seen Weis play while he was manager of the Washington Senators in the A.L. and really liked the way he played the game. Hodges told Chicago he wouldn’t make the trade if Weis wasn’t included in the deal. Weis earned confidence in learning that & was forever loyal to Hodges. Another reason the Mets front office wanted Weis was that at age 29, he couldn't be called for Vietnam military duty like so many of the Mets youngsters were.

Weis got the start & made his Mets debut on April 15th in a historic epic game at the Houston Astrodome, in the fifth game of the 1968 season. He went 1-9 with a walk but most notably allowed a ball to go through his legs in the bottom of the 24th inning, in the longest game ever played in baseball history. The error came off the bat of future Met Bob Aspromonte, as Houston's Norm Miller crossed the plate with the only run of the game. On May 25thWeis had his best day at the plate, getting three hits including his only HR of the season in a game against the Braves in Atlanta.

Weis would get into 90 games playing second base & short stop making 14 errors at the two positions. Weis struggled all year at the plate & batted just .172, but gained even more confidence when Hodges would leave him in game situations when most other managers would have substituted him for a pinch hitter.

By 1969 he felt his switch hitting was contributing to his poor hitting, so he became strictly a right handed batter. He began the year hitless (0-10) in April but unlike last year, finally got over the .200 mark in mid July. In a July 4th double header at Pittsburgh, Weis drove in five runs gathering up five hits & three extra base hits in the Mets twin bill sweep over the Pirates.

He had hit only four career HRs at that point in his career, then he would hit two big ones at Wrigley Field in Chicago during back to back games, in the heat of the summers building pennant race. With Bud Harrelson back from the army reserves, the press questioned why Gil Hodges hadn’t inserted him back in the lineup instead of the weak hitting Weis, who had been filling in.

On July 15th Weis hit a three run HR off former Met Dick Selma leading the Mets to a 5-4 victory over those Cubs. The next day he hit another HR, this time off Rich Nye, helping the Mets to a 9-5 victory.

On the season he played in 103 games, batting .215 with nine doubles, two triples, two HRs & three stolen bases, while doing a little bit of everything on the field. He made 13 errors overall with a combined .965 fielding % in 369 chances, turning 27 double plays.

Post Season: In the 1969 NLCS against the Atlanta Braves, Weis got into all three games as a late inning defensive replacement, going 0-1 at bat. In the 1969 World Series, he became the unlikeliest of all World Series heroes & will be remembered forever in Mets history. He would also get to play in all five of the Series games at second base.

Weis got the start batting 8th in Game #1 of the World Series in Baltimore. In the 7th inning he drove in the Mets only run of the game & the first World Series run in teams history, when he hit a sac fly scoring Don Clendenon.

In Game #2 with the game tied at 1-1 in the top of the ninth, Ed Charles & Jerry Grote both singled. Al Weis followed with a single of his own off Dave McNally scoring Charles with what would be the games winning run in the 2-1 Mets victory. In Game #3 he did not start & came in in the later innings as a defensive replacement.

In Game #4 he got two more hits and drew an intentional walk in the 10thinning. He was advancing to second base when J.C. Martin's bunt won the game as Rod Gaspar scored.

In Game #5 at Shea Stadium, Weis got the start as the second baseman batting in the eighth position. With the Mets down 3-2, Weis led off the 7th inning with an unlikely, dramatic HR off Baltimore’s Dave McNally. It was the first HR he ever hit at Shea Stadium, just the sixth HR of his career but the second one he had hit off Dave McNally. The Mets scored two runs in the next inning and after he fielded a grounder to start off the 9th inning, the Amazing Mets won the World Series two outs later.

Overall in the World Series Weiss was the leading hitter, batting an incredible .455 (5-11), with a HR, four walks, a .563 on base % and three RBIs. The "mighty mite" as announcer Lindsey Nelson called him during the Series, could easily have won the Series MVP Award but it went to another worthy candidate, Don Clendenon who hit three HRs instead.
Quotes: "When I got near second base, I started hearing the crowd roar and thought something must have happened. I guess I don't know how to react to a home run. I only know how to react to singles and doubles."- Al Weis.

In 1970 Weis began the season driving in two runs which turned out to be the game winning runs in his second game, helping Tom Seaver to a 6-4 victory in St. Louis. He battled throughout the season to stay above the .200 mark & on September 3rd hit his last career HR (HR #7) off Hall of Fame pitcher Steve Carlton.

In 1970 he hit only .207 with seven doubles, one triple, one HR one stolen base, a .254 on base % & 11 RBIs, playing in 75. In 1971 after playing in only 11 games, going 0-11 he was released in July. Gil Hodges said it was one of the toughest decisions he ever had to make as a manager. In his career Weiss played ten seasons in 800 games batting .219 with 346 hits, 7 HRs 45 doubles 11 triples 55 stolen bases, a .278 on base %, 195 runs scored and 115 RBIs.

Retirement: After baseball Al & his wife continued to live in the Chicago suburbs, where they had lived since his White Sox days. He worked for an Illinois furniture company for many years and is comfortably enjoying retirement. A mural banner of Weis used to hang on the ramps of Shea Stadium during the stadiums final decade of existence. He was on hand for the Mets 40th Anniversary of the 1969 Mets at Citi Field in 2009.

1 comment:

Nick Longo said...

Have been trying to connect with Al for quite awhile. Played ball together at Farmingdale H.S.along with Jack Lamabe and played stickball in Massapequa, L.I.