Wednesday July 9th, 1969: On this date back in 1969, the New York Mets ball club made it's mark on the baseball map. It was the first night that the ballclub was recognized as a true contender. It is one of the most important nights in Mets regular season history, as well as one of the greatest Mets regular season games ever pitched or played.
The Mets were an expansion team in 1962 and had lost a record 120 games. The team consisted mostly of washed up veterans & below average young players who never had a chance to develop. By 1969 they had finished last all but one season, but Manger Gil Hodges brought a new attitude to New York, it was about playing hard to win. They now had some good young players who came through their system as well as some of the best young pitching arms in baseball.
By July 9th 1969, the Mets were playing the best baseball they had ever played in their eight year history. The Mets were rolling along on a seven game win streak, as they hosted the first place Chicago Cubs. The Mets were in second place just three & one half games behind the Cubs, whose manager was the old New York Giants legendary skipper; Leo Durocher.
The Cubs were the best team in the NL at that time, with future Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, Billy Williams & slugger Ron Santo. They also had former Met Jim Hickman (21 HRs) as well as Todd Hundley's dad Randy Hundey at catcher & twenty game winner, New Jersey born; Bill Hands.
But the Mets were creeping up to the Cubs in the standings, especially now as the Cubs were on a five game losing streak.
The Mets were surprising everyone & were the talk all around baseball. The Cubs didn't take them seriously and many others outside of New York also thought they were a farce. On July 9th 1969 that all changed.
The previous night, Jerry Koosman beat Fergie Jenkins putting the Mets just 3 1/2 games behind the Cubs in the standings.
Going into the second game of the series 51,079 Mets fans piled into a wild Shea Stadium to witness Tom Seaver pitch one of the best games of his career, now known as "The Imperfect Game". His opponent that night was Chicago's; Ken Holtzman.
|Chicago Cubs||New York Mets|
|1||Don Kessinger||SS||1||Tommie Agee||CF|
|2||Glenn Beckert||2B||2||Bobby Pfeil||2B|
|3||Billy Williams||LF||3||Cleon Jones||LF|
|4||Ron Santo||3B||4||Donn Clendenon||1B|
|5||Ernie Banks||1B||5||Ed Charles||3B|
|6||Al Spangler||RF||6||Ron Swoboda||RF|
|7||Randy Hundley||C||7||Jerry Grote||C|
|8||Jim Qualls||CF||8||Al Weis||SS|
|9||Ken Holtzman||P||9||Tom Seaver||P|
Trivia: Mets All Star Short stop & Tom Seaver's room mate; Bud Harrelson was away in the Military Reserves.
The Mets wasted no time supporting Seaver, lead off batter;Tommie Agee led off with a triple . The number two hitter; Bobby Pfeil doubled to left field to score Agee, with the first run.
The Shea fans were up & excited right away not even dreaming of the treat they were in for. In the top of the 2nd inning, Seaver struck out the side, sending Santo, Banks & Al Spangler down.
In the bottom of the 2nd; Jerry Grote & Al Wesi both reached on infield errors, from Santo & Don Kessinger. Tom Seaver then helped his own cause with a single to right field bringing in Grote. Next, Tommie Agee doubled to right, bringing home Al Weis; making it 3-0 Mets. Cleon Jones would add a solo HR in the bottom of the 7th, making it 4-0, as by this time the crowd was going crazy.
Tom Seaver said he felt like he could throw the ball where ever he wanted that night, hit every corner & have every pitch go exactly where he wanted. His fast ball was completely over powering. In the 3rd he got two fly outs & then struck out relief pitcher; Ted Abernathy.
In the 4th, he struck out Don Kessinger looking then got to east ground outs to third base. In the 5th he got Santo to fly out, Ernie Banks to ground out & then struck out Al Spangler. That night, Spangler struk out three times, Ernie Banks, Don Kessinger, & Ted Abernathy all went down on strikes twice each.
In the 6th Randy Hundley & Jim Qualls grounded out & Abernathy went down looking. In the 7th; Kessinger & Beckert both flew out, with Billy Williams grounding out to third base. Seaver had not allowed any hits, nor any walks along the way.Through seven he had a perfect game going.
In the 8th inning, Ron Santo led off with a fly out to Agee in center. Seaver then struck out Banks & Spangler for his tenth & eleventh strike outs of the night. The Shea crowd were on their feet with excitement of every pitch. It was an incredible night for Mets fans.
In the top of the 9th with the Shea crowd on their feet, catcher Randy Hundley led off & cowardly attempted to bunt for a hit. But was the ball was played cleanly by Seaver, he tossed to Clendenon at first for the out. The next hitter was Jimmy Qualls.
Qualls was playing in just his 18th career game & Seaver wasn't familiar with him. Seaver was a genius in knowing the hitters, their weakness & how to get them out. But with Qualls he had never faced him nor had any scouting reports on him.
Qualls singled to center field ruining the no hit bid as well as the bid for a perfect game. Seaver just put his hands on his waist & then slapped his glove, going about his business. The home town Shea crowd gave him a huge standing ovation.
The next batter pinch hitter; Willie Smith, popped up for the second out. Then Don Kessinger flied out to Cleon Jones for the third out to end what became known as "Tom Seaver's The Imperfect Game".
Quotes: Tom Seaver: "After the game my wife, Nancy, met me in tears, but the fact that I kept my composure and got the last two outs showed we were a team of maturity—a team ready to play more "big ones". Seaver explained that he told his weeping spouse, "What's the matter? I just pitched a one-hit shutout, didn't walk anybody and struck out 10."
The Mets fell as far as ten games back on August 13th, 1969 but from there on went 33-11 the rest of the way. On September 9th, 1969 they took over first place & never lost their lead. The "Amazing" Mets / The "Miracle" Mets- went on to win the 1969 NLCS & the World Series as one of the biggest underdog stories in sports history.
Tom Seaver went on to win his first Cy Young Award that Year leading the league in wins (25) going 25-7 with a .781 winning %. He struck out 208 batters (tenth in the NL), the first of a record setting nine straight seasons with over 200 strike outs. He posted a 2.21 ERA (4th in the NL) with 18 complete games (7th in the NL), five shut outs (6th in the NL) 273 innings pitched & 36 starts.
July 9th, 1969 was the first of five one hitters thrown by Tom Seaver & the third in Mets history up to that point.
He would get traded to the Montreal Expos in April 1970 & play most of the year in the minors. He played in just nine games getting one hit in nine at bats. He spent the next two years in the minors while getting traded to the Chicago White Sox where he played 11 games in 1972 going 0-11.
Qualls ended his career in the minors in 1973 as Tom Seaver went on to win his second Cy Young Award. Qualls was a lifetime .223 hitter.