50th Anniversary of the 1969 Mets: Mets Take A Twin Bill At Wrigley Field
50th Anniversary of the 1969 World Champion "Amazing Mets"
After all the Cubs were already leading the division & were a heavy favorite to win it all. Led by legendary manager, Leo Durocher & Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Ferguson Jenkins & Billy Williams, it was a powerful veteran team with good pitching.
The Cubs & their fans were ready to clinch the title this early in the season, little did they know, todays Mets double header sweep was just the beginning of the end of their dreams. This young Mets team sent a message in what was to become that summers biggest rivalry.
Todays matchup was a good one, Gil Hodges Mets (10-14) sent their ace Tom Seaver to the mound, against the Cubs, Bill Hands. The Hackensack, New Jersey born Hands was at the peak of his career.
He would win twenty games in 1969, second best on the team to Ferguson Jenkins 21 victories. Hands coming off a 16 win season, would win 18 more in 1970.
First Game: The Mets would start out with two lead off singles, but a Glen Beckert to Don Kessinger to Ernie Banks double play erased that. That Cubs infield was a good defensive one. Kessinger made six All Star teams & Beckert made four straight All Star teams himself.
In the 2nd, the Cubs struck as catcher Randy Hundley singled & Al Spangler tripled to center. Spangler batted just .211 in 82 games, but did have 26 career triples, although just one that year at the age of 35.
In the 3rd inning, things got interesting, Hands hit Tom Seaver with a pitch. Seaver who never took any crap, immediately retaliated by hitting Hands with a pitch as he led off the bottom of the 3rd inning.
In a time where this was common, the home plate umpire Frank Secory, shook his finger at Seaver getting manager Gil Hodges all upset as he came out of the dugout to defend his pitcher. Things settled down & moved along.
Kessinger then doubled, putting runners on second & third with no one out. Seaver got Beckert to ground out to the mound, Seaver held the runner to third. He then walked Billy Williams intentionally, loading the bases. Seaver arguably the games best pitcher, struck out Santo & got Ernie Banks to pop out.
In the 4th, Ed Kranepool hit his third HR of the season, tying up the game at one.
In the 5th the Mets struck again, with one out, Seaver drew a walk. Rod Gaspar then singled to left field. Ken Boswell then singled to right field scoring Seaver. A Ron Swoboda sac fly scored Gaspar giving New York a 3-1 lead.
In the bottom of the inning two Cub base hits & a Billy Williams ground out brought the Cubs to within a run 3-2.
Seaver would go the distance, although he scattered nine hits, he gave up just the two runs, walked two & struck out seven batters. This got Seaver to a 3-2 record with a 2.28 ERA. Hands exited in the 5th inning & took the loss getting to a 3-3 record.
Nightcap: The scheduled starter, Gary Gentry was scratched from his start & reliever Tug McGraw was penciled in as the starter. Making Gil Hodges look like a genius once again, McGraw was sensational. He would pitch the entire game, scattering nine hits, allowing two runs, striking out eight batters & walking two.
Former Met & Tom Seaver's old friend from Fresno, California, Dick Selma took the mound for the Cubs. Selma was drafted away from the Mets in the 1968 expansion draft by the San Diego Padres. He was then sent to the Cubs for Joe Niekro, Gary Ross & Frankie Libran.
The Mets started hitting right out of the gate. After Rod Gaspar walked & Wayne Garrett struck out, Ken Boswell doubled to centerfield bringing in Gaspar. Cleon Jones who was batting .400 at this time in the season, as the leagues leading hitter, then drove a single to center giving the Mets a 2-0 lead.
But the Cubs struck back, Kessinger led off with a double, then Beckert singled, putting two men on. Billy Williams singled & Ron Santo grounded into a double play bringing in the Cubs second run. It was a 2-2 game.
Selma got out of jams, the first in the 3rd inning, after a wild pitch put runners on first & third but Boswell grounded out to end the inning. In the 6th inning, with two on he got Jones to ground into an inning ending double play.
In the 7th inning, Ron Swoboda walked & with two outs Al Weis singled. Selma then threw a wild pitch to McGraw at the plate. Swoboda came scampering home with what was to be the winning run.
For Tug McGraw he rolled along easily to the 7th inning. With two men on, McGraw got Hickman to ground out & the struck out Don Young. In the 9th inning, McGraw gave up two singles but struck out pinch hitter Gene Oliver to end the game. The win got McGraw to a 3-0 record while owning a fantastic 1.61 ERA.