1969 World Series preview: New York Mets vs Baltimore Orioles:
But on paper looking at the AL Champion Orioles, the Mets almost seemed like they had no chance.
The Orioles managed by Earl Weaver were 110-53 in the regular season & had swept the Minnesota Twins in the ALCS. The O's were heavily favored going into the World Series.
They were cocky, Manager Earl Weaver said prior to the series" I hear the Mets have six good pitchers, well we've got ten". The Orioles, their press & the city of Baltimore, all felt they were going to sweep New York in four straight. And don't forget to see Frank Robinsons comments below.
Just to remind you how good the Orioles were in those days, they had won the 1966 World Series, sweeping the L.A. Dodgers. The following year was a sixth place disaster & then a second place finish in 1968.
From 1969 to 1971, the O's were in the World Series every year winning it in 1970 over the Big Red Machine. With the start of divisional play in 1969, the O's won five AL East titles in the first seven years.
Pitching: The 1969 Mets strength was their pitching & in a short series all they needed were three starters, Tom Seaver (25-7 / 208 Ks 2.21 ERA) was the Year's Cy Young winner. Jerry Koosman (17-9 180 Ks 2.28 ERA) was the Mets best post season pitcher ever & young Gary Gentry who held his own (13-12 154 Ks 3.43 ERA) along with a Hall of Fame long reliver Nolan Ryan (6-3 / 3.53 ERA/ 92 Ks in 60 innings) & Ron Taylor (9-4 13 saves 2.72 ERA).
The Orioles staff actually had a better season ERA (2.83) than the Mets staff (2.99 They had two twenty game winners, Mike Cuellar (23-11/ 182 Ks / 2.38 ERA) Dave McNally (20-7 / 166 Ks / 3.22 ERA) & a Hall of Famer, Jim Palmer (16-4 / 123 Ks/ 2.34 ERA) in their rotation. Tom Phoebus was 14-7 with a 3.52 ERA. In the bullpen Eddie Watt (5-2 16 saves 1.65 ERA) & Pete Richert (7-4 12 saves 2.20 ERA).
1st Base: The Mets platoon of Ed Kranepool (11 HRs 49 RBIs .238 Ave) & Donn Clendenon (12 HRs 37 RBIs .252 Ave.) had some of the biggest pop in the Met lineup, but was nothing compared to Boog Powell (37 HRs 121 RBIs .304 Ave). Clendenon would prevail, winning the Series MVP Award- 3 HRS & bat .357.
2nd Base: Ken Boswell had hit HRs in the NLCS but only 3 all year, although he did hit for a decent average (3 HRs 32 RBIs .279 Ave). Al Weis who turned out to see the most action at second base in the Series, only hit 2 HRs all year.
He would hit a big one in the World Series & somehow bat .455. But at the start, advantage had to go to the future Mets manager, Davey Johnson (7 HRs 57 RBIs .280 Ave).
Short Stop: This position featured the two best glove men in their leagues, Bud Harrelson & Mark Belanger the AL Gold Glover. Belanger who was once known as the out man, hit a career high .287 in 1969.
3rd Base: The Mets platoon of Wayne Garrett (1 HR 39 RBIs .218 - 124 games) & Ed Charles (3 HRs 18 RBIs .207 Ave- 61 games) certainly didn't match up with the O's mighty Hall of Famer, Brooks Robinson, maybe the best defensive third baseman ever (16 straight gold gloves) also hit well (23 HRs 84 RBIs .234 Ave.)
Right Field: Frank Robinson (32 HRs 100 RBIs .308 Ave) a two time MVP had a big mouth & this Met fan still hates him.
Before the World Series as he laughed at the thought of playing the Mets in the World Series, was quoted as sarcastically saying " Bring on Ron Gaspar, Who the hell is Ron Gaspar anyway". His team mate Merv Rettmund corrected him saying, "It's Rod Gaspar stupid".
Robinson still trying to be funny said " ok bring on Rod Stupid".
Looking like a buffoon, Mr. Robinson would learn who Rod Gaspar was when he crossed the plate with the winning run of Game #4, as New York went up 3-1 in the Series. Gaspar (1 HR 14 RBIs .228 Ave) would see action in three World Series game (0-2).
The Mets platooned in right field with Ron Swoboda (9 HRs 52 RBIs .235 Ave) seeing most of the action against the Oriole lefties. Swoboda would also make one of the greatest catches in World Series history in Game #4. Art Shamsky (14 HRs 47 RBIs .300 Ave) was second on the club in 1969 in HRs & Average.
Left Field: The Mets finally had an advantage with matchups, the NL's third leading hitter Cleon Jones (.340 12 HRs 25 doubles 75 RBIs 16 steals) over Don Buford (11 HRs 64 RBIs .291 Ave 19 steals).
Catcher: Once again the Mets had the better position player, Jerry Grote (6 HRs 40 RBIs .252 Ave) was one of the games best defensive catchers, throwing out 56% of would be base stealers (.991 fielding %).
Elrod Hendricks also a fine backstop had thrown out 46% of would be base stealers. (12 HRs 38 RBIs .244 Ave)
Bench: The Mets advantage was in their platoons, so the bench was always strong. For Baltimore, Merv Rettmund (4 HRs 25 RBIs .247 Ave), Curt Mutton (6 HRs 21 RBIs .303 Ave) & Andy Etchebarren (back up catcher) were their bench's best.