Remembering Mets History (1969) World Series Game #4: Tom Terrific -Ron Swoboda's Catch & J.C. Martin's Bunt

Wednesday October 15th- Shea Stadium, New York.

With the Mets up two Games to one, Shea Stadium was was filled again with 57,367 with fans ready to witness another amazing victory. 

In a rematch of Game One starters, NL Cy Young winner Tom Seaver (25-7 / 2.21 ERA / 208 Ks) would go up against the only Orioles pitcher, to have a victory in the 1969 World Series, Mike Cueller (23-11 / 2.38 ERA / 182 Ks).

Drama: Seaver's day began when he learned there were leaflets being passed around outside Shea Stadium, with his picture on it protesting the war in Vietnam. There was a quote saying, "If the Mets can win the World Series, then we can get out of Vietnam". 

Seaver said any war protest from him would not come during a World Series & it would be him as a U.S. citizen not an MLB pitcher. "I'm a ball player not a politician. I did not give them permission to use me".

More dramas arose having to do with the flying of the U.S. Flag. That day Mayor John Lindsay had agreed to fly Flags at half-staff to observe moratorium Day & honor those who had died in Vietnam. 

MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn overruled the mayor & had the Flag flown at full staff.

In a pregame ceremony, former Mets manager Casey Stengel threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The Ol' Professor had managed the Mets from their inception until the summer of 1965 when health had him retire. Stengel was the always the Mets biggest cheerleader & supporter.

Seaver started out the 1st inning striking out Don Buford. Paul Blair would single but Frank Robinson flied out to center field. Seaver closed out the inning by striking out Boog Powell looking. Cuellar put the Mets down in order in the 1st.

In the bottom of the 2nd, the eventual World Series MVP; Donn Clendenon launched a solo HR deep into the left field Orioles bullpen, putting the Mets on the board 1-0, to the delight of the Shea crowd. 

It would be the only scoring until the 9th inning, as both pitchers put on a heck of a pitching performance. 

In the 3rd inning, after a called strike on O's short stop Mark Belanger, manager Earl Weaver was barking at home plate umpire Shag Crawford from the dugout.

 Crawford had enough, he turned to the dugout shouted back & then tossed Weaver from the Game. 

The fiery Weaver who would make a career out of arguing with umpires & getting thrown out of games, became the first manager in 34 years to get thrown out of a World Series Game.

In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Al Weis led off with a base hit. After Seaver struck out, Tommie Agee singled to left field. Bud Harrelson & Cleon Jones both grounded out to end the inning. 

Seaver would not allow another hit until the 9th inning. He got stronger as the day went on. He would retire 19 of 20 batters in that period, allowing just a walk. He would also retire nine in a row from the 6th to the 9th innings. He had allowed just three hits up to that point of the game.

For Baltimore, Mike Cuellar he too had another strong outing. Cuellar went seven innings,
allowing just one run on seven hits, he struck out five & walked no one.

He allowed base hits in the 4th & 5th innings, but the Orioles solid defense turned double plays to end any chance of scoring. He tossed a perfect 6th, allowed a base hit to Ron Swoboda in the 7th, but got Ed Charles to line out & Jerry Grote to ground out to Belanger.

Cuellar gave way to reliever Eddie Watt, who had 16 saves (4th most in the AL) during the regular season. Watt retired the side in order in the 8th. In the 9th, Cleon Jones singled with one out but then Clendenon struck out for the second out. 

Ron Swoboda singled with his second hit of the day. But pinch hitter Art Shamsky grounded out to end the inning. taking the World Series to extra innings.

Seaver was beginning to tire in the 9th inning. After getting Blair to fly out, Frank Robinson & Boog Powell both singled. 

With one out & runners on first & third, manager Gil Hodges came to the mound for a visit. Hodges discussed the plan with Seaver & Grote, choosing to keep the best pitcher in baseball in the game. The Shea crowd cheered.

Brooks Robinson was the next batter, he then hit a smash toward the right center field gap. Ron Swoboda raced for the ball, he ran as far as he could, then decided to leap after it. 

He stretched out his body & reached with his glove making a remarkable diving backhanded catch. He looked in his glove, and there was the ball. The crowd roared, in disbelief they realized he had made a spectacular circus catch.

After Tommie Agee's two spectacular catches the day before, America was witnessing why the Mets were Amazing. It was Swoboda on this day, who etched himself in Mets history, forever with one of the best catches in World Series history.

Swoboda who was never known for his glove, erased all those memories away. Seaver would earn his first & only World Series victory thanks to Swoboda's catch.

Quotes- Ron Swoboda: "I want to thank the Rawlings people for making such a fine glove. You know that if you catch the ball, you aren't going to throw anybody out, but you have to try."
Trivia: A silhouette of Swoboda making his famous catch, is designed on the right field gate entrance at Citi Field in his honor.

Although Frank Robinson tagged up from third base and scored the tying run, there is no doubt that Swoboda's grab prevented the go-ahead run from scoring. 

That would have put the Orioles ahead with a runner on third & just one out. 

Now with two outs & order restored in the universe, Seaver got the final out of the inning, as Elrod Hendricks lined out to non-other than Swoboda in right field. Ron Swoboda had a good day at the plate as well, collecting three hits. 

Overall, on the day for Tom Seaver, he went ten innings, allowing one run on six hits, struck out six & walked two. He would get credit for the win. 

Trivia: In four career World Series games, this was his only credited victory. Overall, he was 3-3 with a 2.77 ERA in eight career post season games. In the 1969 post season he was 2-1 with a 4.70 ERA 11 strike outs & 6 walks.

Jerry Grote also was hitting well in the Series; he led off the 10th inning with a double off O's reliever; Dick Hall. The ball got him on the fists & dropped in left center field between Don Buford & Mark Belanger. 

Next, Al Weis was walked intentionally to get to the pitcher's spot. Gil Hodges put in pinch runner Rod Gaspar at second, and called on backup catcher J.C. Martin, to pinch hit for Seaver. Pete Richert came in to pitch for Baltimore.

J.C. Martin got the bunt sign and bunted perfectly back to the pitcher's mound. Richert chose to field the ball, instead of letting catcher Elrod Hendricks handle it. His throw to first base hit Martin in the arm as he was running down the base line. 

The ball ricocheted off his arm & into right field. In the meantime, Rod Gaspar was rounding third base & scored the unbelievable game winning run.

After the game the Orioles protested that Martin was running inside the baseline, which could have resulted in an interference call. The umpires said they didn’t make an interference call because they felt Martin didn’t intentionally interfere with the play. 

Catcher Elrod Hendricks was yelling he had it to the pitcher; Richert. Richert said " I just went for the ball, he might have yelled; first base or he might have yelled I got it. With all those people yelling, if I stop to listen I don't make the play."

Manager Gil Hodges congratulates J.C. Martin
Quotes- J.C. Martin: "I knew it was a good bunt. As I was going down to first, I knew it was going to be a close play. Davey Johnson was getting down real low to take the throw., so I came in high, hoping the ball would hit me & I tried to swell up. When it hit me on the left wrist, it was the greatest feeling in the world."

Trivia: Prior to the 1969 World Series in an interview a very cocky Frank Robinson said he had heard just about enough of the New York Mets hype. He also said " And who the hell is Ron Gasper anyway?"  Mr. Robinson sure knew that the correct name was Rod Gaspar (not Ron,) when Gaspar crossed the plate with the winning run in Game #4.

Quotes-Tom Seaver: " I saw him hit the plate & I said to myself, my God I have won a World Series game. This is the most exciting moment of my life. When the run scored, I was a kid again & my entire life flashed before my eyes. I have wanted this since I was nine years old." 

In the dugout Seaver whispered to Jerry Koosman the scheduled Game #5 starter "get em tomorrow, stuff it down their throats, one more!" 

After the game, in the Shea visiting dugout, an ejected manager Earl Weaver complained about the call but MLB Commissioner; Bowie Kuhn stated that the game was official.

After the game Seaver was interviewed by NBC broadcaster, Sandy Koufax. Koufax asked Seaver if he thought God was a Mets fan? Seaver's reply was "no but he might have an apartment in New York". 

Quotes- Tom Seaver: "They overestimated themselves & underestimated the Mets. One more game will really prove it."


Jim T said…
I was thrilled to see the 69 Mets games on MLB network this morning, I was 13 all my life in the Bronx when in 1970 relocated to the Midwest.

I missed Swoboda's miracle catch in Game 4. Does anyone have a video clip of that? I checked youtube...

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