Jul 29, 2019

50th Anniversary of the 1969 Mets: Gil Hodges Removes Cleon Jones From Left Field

50th Anniversary of the 1969 World Champion "Amazing Mets"

Wednesday July 30th 1969: Gil Hodges second place Mets (55-42) were playing good baseball thru July, chasing the first place Chicago Cubs. But on this day they dropped a twin bill to the team that gave them the most trouble in 1969, the Houston Astros.

 The Mets manager Gil Hodges, demanded that his players gave it 100% at all times, no matter what the score or situation was. He also demanded discipline from his team as well.

On this day, he sent a message to his team, that no slacking off would be tolerated, not even from his teams best hitter, who was chasing the NL batting title. The incident has become legendary in Gil Hodges lore & in the 1969 Mets story.

Harry Walker's Houston Astros (52-49) came in to play a double header in a wet rainy Shea Stadium in front of 28,922 fans. 


Starting Lineups




In the first game of the twin bill, the Astros destroyed the Mets 16-3,with an 11 run 9th inning that featured grand slams from "the toy cannon" Jimmy Wynn & Dennis Meneke. It was the first time in the 1969 season that the feat was accomplished by an NL team. In the AL, Harmon Killebrew & Bob Alison of the Minnesota Twins had hit two slams in a game just two days prior.

The Astros grand slams came off the Mets Cal Koonce & Ron Taylor. The inning featured seven hits & four walks. Overall Houston bashed 14 hits & drew nine walks, shocking the Mets fans. They also got a stellar outing from their star pitcher, Don Wilson.

Night Cap:

Starting Lineups




The second game was no better, as the Mets took an 11-5 loss, to Larry Dierker who allowed five runs on twelve hits. The Astros had another huge inning, a ten run 3rd inning, in which Gary Gentry gave up eight runs, five hits & three walks, plus a wild pitch. Nolan Ryan came in & allowed two more runs. Strangely, the Mets out hit Houston 13-12.

In the top of the 3rd, it was already 7-0 as Nolan Ryan replaced Gary Gentry on the mound. Next, Astros catcher Johnny Edwards doubled to left field scoring Doug Rader. 

Mets left fielder Cleon Jones who had been nursing an ankle injury, slowly went after the ball and weakly tossed it to the infield.

Next thing everyone saw, was manager Gil Hodges coming out of the dugout. He started walking to the mound, but Ryan had just pitched to one batter & wasn't on the hook yet. Hodges didn’t want him & walked past the mound.

 Short stop Bud Harrelson thought "oh no he's coming to get me", but couldn’t figure what he had done wrong. Hodges had no problem with the short stop & walked past Harrelson toward left field.

Cleon Jones, who origianlly thought Hodges was going to Harrelson, now knew he was coming for him. The rest of the team held their breath. Mets pitcher Tom Seaver thought to himself, “I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of this”.

According to Cleon Jones, when Hodges arrived in left field, he said to him “I don't like the way you went after that ball, is that ankle still bothering you? You better come out, if you’re nursing it like that”.

At first Jones said “ I told you I can play through it Gil, the grass is just wet.”

Hodges then sternly said "No you better come with me" & pulled him from the game. Hodges turned around, walking back toward the dugout with a dejected Cleon Jones. His head hung low, a few feet behind the manager.

Hodges just proved a point to his team, he would not settle for anything else than 100% from his players, always, no matter what the score or situation is. 

It must be noted that at the time of the incident, Jones was leading the N.L. in hitting. The rest of the players got the message, if the manager can remove the league’s batting leader he could remove any of us. 

From this day forward on the 1969 Mets would go 45-19 the best record in baseball.

Trivia: Years later, Hodges widow Joan, speaking at an event in Brooklyn, said that later that night when she asked why he would do that to the young man in front of everyone, Hodges said, he realized after he walked past the mound he couldn't go back!

2 comments:

youngjet said...

Could you imagine a manager trying that stunt today? He'd be fired dealing with today's egomaniacs.

The Mets allow players, coaches and executives to by-pass superiors to talk with the owners. Wonder why they drop balls and throw balls away?? No accountability..

Long live Gil!!!

Seamus O Riley said...

It was before money took over the dignity of the game.