Jun 14, 2021

Remembering Mets History (1969 ) Donn Clendenon Arrives On the June 15th Trade Deadline

June 15th 1969:
On this day, the New York Mets added the final piece to their championship puzzle on trade deadline. Mets GM Johnny Murphy's decision that the Mets were going for it & that they were true contenders, had him negotiate for Clendenon in the final hours before the deadline. This decision changed the course of Mets history.

The New York Mets were in second place, 9 ½ games behind the Chicago Cubs at the time, but were starting to attract some attention. They had great young itching and some good hitting but lacked a strong power threat & run producer.

They found their man in Donn Clendenon. 
Clendenon was having a controversial year prior to his arrival in New York. 

In January 1969, he was left unprotected by the Pittsburgh Pirates and got selected in the expansion draft, by the Montreal Expos. He was quickly traded to the Houston Astros for Rusty Staub. 

But Clendenon wasn't happy about going to Houston, he had had a falling out with the new Astros manager, Harry Walker back in their Pittsburgh days together. 

Instead of going to Houston, Clendenon announced his retirement. He was to work as an executive for the Scripto pen Company. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn stepped in and told the teams to work something out. 

This was also due to the fact, that Montreal had promoted Rusty Staub as the face of their new organization. He was to be known as "Le Grande Orange" to their French Canadian fans. 

In the end, the Expos sent Jack Billingham and Skip Guinn to Houston, while Clendenon
continued to play for Montreal. 

It took a sit down meeting with former New York Giants Hall of Famer, Monte Irvin, who was working for the Commissioner's Office at the time, to convince Clendenon to come back to play. An additional $14,000 for his troubles, certainly helped. 

Clendenon's tactics of retiring instead of accepting the trade, was the first of its kind. In
a changing baseball landscape of the late sixties, this was another advantage for the players. 
Soon after, "The Hawk" Ken Harrelson & Curt Flood would do similar actions.

When Clendenon returned, he was out of shape & struggled at the plate. In 38 games he hit .240, with 4 HRs 14 RBIs & 32 strike outs. The Expos decided to trade him & this time Clendenon didn't balk at the idea. 

Big Trade: On June 15th, 1969 Clendenon was traded to the New York Mets for pitcher, Steve Renko & infielder, Kevin Collins. 


As soon as he arrived in New York Donn Clendenon made a difference, scoring runs in his first two games. He would hit 12 HRs with 37 RBIs & score 31 runs with a .455 slugging % in 72 games with the Mets, platooning at first base with Ed Kranepool. 

Quotes- Donn Clendenon: " I don't see how a lifetime .280 hitter who has knocked in a lot of runs should be sitting on the bench of an expansion team which is losing."

Clendenon was happy to play for Gil Hodges
who he called his idol. Clendenon gave the Mets power against left handed pitching and more strength off the bench. When he arrived on June 15th, the Mets were 30-26 nine games behind the Chicago Cubs. By September 24th, Clendenon's three run HR helped the Mets clinch the NL East title.

In the 1969 World Series, Clendenon was the World Series MVP. He set a record with three HRs in a five game series, and his HRs in Game #2, Game #4 & Game #5, meant the winning run each time. Overall, he hit .357 with 3 HRs, a double, two walks, and four RBIs.


In retrospect his teammates raved about his presence on the club: Tug McGraw said "he was probably the key to our whole season". 
Wayne Garrett called Clendenon the last ingredient the team needed, while Art Shamsky called him the catalyst.

Bud Harrelson said "We never had a three-run homer type of guy, yet he was humble, never cocky, our MVP.”

Trivia: Tom Seaver remembers his wife spotted Clendenon in the hotel lobby when he joined the team. "Nancy said: "I know who you are." 

"Donn was wearing an island shirt and vest,
he turned to her and suavely kissed her hand. Nancy Seaver thought Donn was charming; he knew she was my wife and put on a little show."

Quotes- Donn Clendenon: "It's great to be a Met".

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Donn Clendenon has always been my favorite Met -- I got to meet him in person in 1971. He was so polite and gracious. There should be more remembrances of him at CitiField -- after all, he was our first World Series MVP. He should be recognized accordingly by the Mets organization.