Remembering Mets History (1969) The Black Cat Game

Tuesday September 9th, 1969: The night after Jerry Koosman's fine pitching performance, the Amazing Mets were hosting the Chicago Cubs for the final matchup of the two teams for the season. 

The Mets had gone 10-8 head-to-head with the Cubs in some of the biggest games of the year.

 The Mets were red hot, they had won three straight & were now just 1.5 games out of first place behind Leo Durocher's Cubs (84-57).

Tonight, 51,448 paid fans came to
Shea Stadium, but an estimated 58,000 plus, actually got into the ballpark to see the Amazing's. This was the hottest ticket in town. And one creature got in free & became the star of the night, going down in history, not even knowing it.

On the mound, two future Hall of Fame pitchers went at it. The best pitcher in the game, Tom Seaver (20-7) for the Mets went up against the Cubs, Fergie Jenkins (19-12) looking for his twentieth win.

This famous game has gone down in Mets history as "The Black Cat Game". While the Cubs slugger, Ron Santo was in the on-deck circle, a black cat appeared on the field. 
The cat walked over to Santo, then did a semi-circle around him over toward the Cubs dug. 

The cat stopped in front of their dug out peered in & then scampered on. In a superstitious world as baseball is, a black cat is bad luck. Manager Leo Durocher was a very superstitious man, to him this had to mean doom.

Quotes- Ron Santo: " I knew right away we were in trouble, I wanted to run & hide."

It was ironic the cat walked by Santo; he was one of the most arrogant of all 1969 Cubs. Santo had a ritual of clicking his heels after a Cubs win that season. Something many players, especially the Mets thought was a bush league move & they had commented on earlier in the season.

Cats & Shea: In the 1960's cats were plentiful & had always lived around Shea Stadium. It was estimated that as many as forty neighborhood cats could be at Shea on any given night.

Quotes- Ed Kranepool: " There were so many cats around under the stadium because there were so many rodents under the stadium. Every time we walked to the clubhouse; you had that runway & there was so much garbage thrown beneath the seats too. But this was the first time I recall seeing one on the field during a game & it's a black one at that. 

Donn Clendenon felt the grounds crew may have released the cat & nudged it toward the Cubs dugout, but no one ever admitted to it.

In the 1st inning, the black magic started for the Cubs. Fergie Jenkins had control issues, he walked Tommie Agee & Cleon Jones. With two outs, Ken Boswell doubled scoring both runners making it 2-0 Mets. 

In the home 3rd inning, Cleon Jones, one of the NL's top hitters, led off with a single. Art Shamsky grounded into a force play. 

Shamsky was then picked off first base, but in the run downplay the Cubs botched it & Shamsky
slid safely into second. Donn Clendenon then hit his 13th HR of the year, a two-run shot making it 4-0 Mets in a wild Shea Stadium.

In the 4th, Tom Seaver doubled & got to third on Agee's grounder to short. Wayne Garrett added a sac fly to make it 5-0. In the 5th inning, the Mets kept on coming, Art Shamsky connected with a solo HR, making it 6-0, it was his 13th of the year. 

In the 7th inning, the lights at Shea Stadium briefly went out. As play was stopped, the big Mets crowd started waving white hankies & singing "bye bye Leo- bye bye Leo, we hate to see you go". It was all part of the strange vibes of the nightmare for Leo Durocher.

In that 7th, with the crowd buzzing, Ken Boswell singled with two outs. Donn Clendenon was then hit by a pitch & Jerry Grote doubled to right field scoring Boswell with the Mets 7th run.

As for Tom Seaver, he rolled along, entering the 9th inning allowing just a run on four hits. In the 9th, Seaver got Paul Popovich to pop out & Billy Williams to fly out to right field. 

Then Ron Santo collected his second hit of the night. Seaver then got Willie Smith to fly out to right field to end the game. Mets catcher Jerry Grote ran to the mound to congratulate Seaver on the fine victory.

For Tom Terrific, the complete game victory was his 21st win of the season (21-7). Seaver allowed just one run, an RBI single by Ron Santo who did have some luck that night. The Cubs were limited to five hits & one walk, as Seaver fanned five. His ERA was now 2.38.

It was the Mets fourth straight win & they were now just a half game behind the Cubs.

Trivia: A plaque honoring this night is on the Citi Field Fan Walk. 


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