Sep 23, 2019

50th Anniversary of the 1969 Mets: The Amazing Mets Clinch the NL Eastern Title

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

Wednesday September 24th, 1969: At 9:06 PM on this historic night, the Amazing Mets clinched their first NL Eastern divisional title. 

In their eighth year of existence, after finishing in last place five times, the Mets were champions of their Eastern division. They were the first champions of the newly formed National Leagues Eastern Division, since divisional play was in its first year in 1969. 

The Mets & their fans were revved up tonight, as Shea Stadium was jumping with 54,928 fans anticipating the Amazing feat, the young Mets were about to accomplish. 

The Mets (96-61) hosted last years NL Champs, he St Louis Cardinals (82-74).

Gil Hodges sent out his fine young rookie Gary Gentry (11-12) to the mound, going up against future Hall of Famer, Steve Carlton (12-11). Two weeks earlier, Carlton set a record with 19 strike outs in a game but was beaten by the Mets 2-0 on Ron Swoboda's HRs.

Starting Lineups

Tonight, Gary Gentry went out and pitched a four hit complete game shutout, striking out five Cards & walking two. It was Gentry's third shut out of the year, as he went to 12-12 with a 3.53 ERA on the season.

The Mets knocked "Lefty" Carlton out in the first inning, as the offense went right to work.

Bud Harrelson led off the game with a walk, & Tommie Agee singled. 

Then the Mets slugger, Donn Clendenon blasted a three run HR, bringing the fans to their feet in a loud roar. 

The dug out jumped up & came to the field to greet a happy Clendenon on his 15th HR of the year, his 34th RBI since joining the Mets on June 15th. It was the first of two blasts for Big Donn on the night.

Ron Swoboda then drew a walk. Ed Charles "the Glider", the oldest player on the team at 36, joined in the festivities by hitting just his third HR of the year. 

"The Glider" clapped his hands as he rounded third base He later told the press "just to let the fans know, this was it & because at my age, I might not have any more left". 

Clendenon added his 16th HR, his 12th as a Met in the 5th inning.

In the 9th inning Lou Brock led off with a base hit & Vic Davalillo followed with another. Gentry then struck out Vada Pinson for the first out. 

Then it was the Cards Joe Torre, who hit into a double play (Bud Harrelson to Al Weiss to Don Clendenon) to end the game. 

The Mets players all ran to the mound area & jumped for joy to celebrate with each other. In seconds, confetti streamed down from the stands, fire crackers went off and the Met fans swarmed the field, turning it into a chaotic frenzy. The players fled to the dug out, running for thier lives. The fans ripped everything apart making the outfield grass look like the surface of the moon. There was torn up clumps of dirt a foot or more deep looking like carters of the recently landed moon. 

They Shea fans chanted "We're number one, We're Number one" as they stormed the field in celebration.

The crowd refused to leave the ballpark until the police rounded everyone up hours later, exiting them through the center field gates. Several arrests were made but few injuries were reported.

Mets VP in charge of Shea Stadium said "We'll have it back in shape for the playoffs. Fortunately the club is going on the road and we have more than a week. It's a mess, a wonderful mess."

In the clubhouse the Amazing Mets celebrated with champagne. Tom Seaver doused a smiling Manger; Gil Hodges "Here's to you skip". Jerry Koosman shook the bottle & sprayed the press. A usually low keyed Nolan Ryan poured some bubbly over Chairman of the Board; M. Donald Grant's head.

Ed Kranepool (an original Met from 1962) shouted "Here's to you Leo"  The reference was to Chicago Cubs manager Leo Durocher who's team had held on to first place most of the season. 

Kranepool had had dental surgery the day before, and had a swollen jaw said "screw the jaw, I've waited too long for this." Some of the players raised their bottles & remembered Casey Stengel saying "here's to Casey!

The Mets were in the midst of a nine game win streak to take them toward the end of the season. They were now 96-61& six games up on the Chicago Cubs with five left to play in the regular season. On October 2nd they would win their 100th game of the season. At the start of the season they were 100-1 odds to win the world series.

Tom Seaver & Jerry Koosman celebrate

Ron Swoboda -Art Shamsky & Ken Boswell on Shave Cream

Mets coach Yogi Berra celebrates with his Yoo Hoo

 cheers for Tommie Agee 

Manager Gil Hodges

Remembering Mets History: (1973) Willie Mays Night At Shea

Tuesday September 25th, 1973: It was a super special night at Shea Stadium on this Tuesday evening, the New York Mets were 1/2 game up in first place over the Pittsburgh Pirates & they were to honor the great Willie Mays. 

54,000 fans showed up to say goodbye to Mays on "Willie Mays Night" in a pre game ceremony before a very important match up with the Montreal Expos. 

 The 42 year old Mays, grew tired & was hurting by this point of the season. Mays had always said he felt manager Yogi Berra had used him too much earlier on in the '73 season. 

Mays had not been in a game since a September 9th, 3-0 win over the Expos in Montreal. He had planned to leave the team & call it quits, but the Mets owner; Joan Payson, who adored Mays, convinced him to stay with the club & finish out the season. 

Now the Mets were in a pennant race & Mays, truly an inspiration to the young players, would get to go out a winner, on the National League Champion Mets. He would end playing in the World Series in the two cities that defined his career, as the Mets took on the Oakland A's of the San Francisco Bay area. 

In the 1973 NLCS against the
Cincinnati Reds, Mays would have an RBI single at Shea Stadium in clinching Game #5. In the Fall Classic he would get his final career hit, an RBI game winning single in Game #2 at Oakland. 

In the pregame ceremony on September 25th, 1973, Mays was joined by his wife May Mays & their son Michael, donning a military cap & uniform. Mets broadcaster; Lindsay Nelson hosted the ceremonies in which Willie was showered with gifts from the organization. 

Some former New York Giants team mates as well as respected rivals were on hand standing behind Mays, to honor the future Hall of Famer. Former Giants Bobby Thompson, Monte Irvin & Ralph Branca along side Brooklyn Dodgers: Duke Snider & Pee Wee Reese. Also on hand was Joe DiMaggio, Larry Doby (now a coach with Montreal), Roy McMillan (now a Mets coach), & Mets manager Yogi Berra. 

As Lindsey Nelson said "Ladies & gentleman Willie Mays" in his classic drawl, the crowd went wild. 

An emotional Mays stepped up to the microphone saying: "I hope that with my farewell tonight, you would understand what I'm going through right now. Something that I never feared I was to ever quit baseball, but as you know they will always come a time for someone to get out. And I look at these kids over here, the way they are playing & the way they are fighting for themselves, tells me one thing. Willie say goodbye to America." 

He stepped back, wiped a tear from his eyes as other rolled down his face. The crowd cheered & he tipped his cap to the Shea Stadium fans. He then walked over to greet Mrs. Joan Payson. It was a big emotional night for all. 

 After the ceremony an important game was scheduled between the New York Mets & Montreal Expos. The NL East standings now said:

New York Mets 79-77 - 
Pittsburgh Pirates 77-76 / 0.5 games back 
St. Louis Cardinals 76-80 / 3.0 games back 
Chicago Cubs 75-80 / 3.5 games back 
Montreal Expos 75-80 / 3.5 games back 
Philadelphia Phillies 69-87 / 10.0 games back

Starting Lineups

Jerry Koosman (12-15) would go up against Steve Rogers (9-4).

 Koosman was 4-1 in his last five decisions, but had recently taken a loss & three no decisions since September 3rd. Prior to that he had set a Mets record that lasted thirty nine years, pitching in 36 consecutive scoreless innings, going 4-0. He would finish out the year going 6-1 from mid August on through the pennant drive in September. 

The revved up Shea crowd watched Koosman shut out Montreal through the first five innings. On the other side, Steve Rogers held the Mets down through the first four innings. 

In the Mets 5th they produced a run, playing their style of small ball. Bud Harrelson led off with a base hit & was sacrificed over by a Koosman bunt. Wayne Garrett then singled but Harrelson was unable to score from third. Then the steady Felix Millan hit a sac fly to left field, getting Harrelson home from third, making it 1-0. 

In the top of the 6th, Montreal also scrapped for a run as Ron Woods singled & stole second. Bob Bailey drew a walk & then Manager Gene Mauch called for a double steal.

 Bailey was nailed at second but Woods stole third. Hal Breeden then hit a grounder to Harrelson, but the usually sure handed short stop made an error, as Woods scored tying the game. 

 In the home 6th, the Mets took the lead right back as the hot hitting Cleon Jones hit his 9th HR of the year. Jones had missed almost two months with injuries, in the first half of the season. 

 Jones was now healthy & was the clubs best hitter in the final two weeks of the season. In the last ten games of the year, he blasted six HRs with 14 RBIs & had ten hits. In 92 games he hit 11 HRs with 13 doubles 48 RBIs & batted .260. 

 In the top of the 7th, Koosman gave up a pair of two out singles & with Felipe Alou coming to bat, Yogi Berra went to his bullpen ace; Tug McGraw. McGraw was now one of the best pitchers in the league, since August 22nd he was 5-0 with ten saves, allowing just three earned runs in 38 innings. 

McGraw quickly put out the fire, getting Alou to fly out to left field. He pitched two more scoreless innings, getting Ron Fairly to fly out to end the game. He walked off the mound, tapping his glove on his upper thigh, earning the save (his 24th). 

Trivia: The glove tapping on the thigh after a big out or win, was a secret symbol of love, to his wife Phyllis.

On this night in Pittsburgh, the Phillies & Steve Carlton beat the Pirates 2-1 on HRs by future Mets hitting coach Bill Robinson, as well as Mike Anderson. 

The Mets had their biggest lead of the season, up by 1.5 games. In St. Louis the Cubs beat the Cards dropping them four games back & out of the race. The Cubs had some life, 3.5 games out, with a four game set to be played against the Mets on the final days of the season at Wrigley Field.