1969 Mets: Remembering them as we approach their 50th anniversary
By Judy Kamilhor
A Postseason for the Ages
Keys to winning in the postseason: great pitching, platooning at four positions, stability up the middle
Very few teams before or since had the quality of pitching in the postseason rotation: Seaver, Koosman, Gentry and bullpen: McGraw, Taylor, Ryan.
They platooned at four positions in the postseason. There were four starters that played every game: Cleon Jones in left field, Tommie Agee in center field, Bud Harrelson at shortstop, and Jerry Grote, the catcher.
Strength up the middle, as the saying goes. Agee, Harrelson, and Grote played three of the four key defensive positions and played them well. Jones played his position well, too.
The right-handed hitting platoon of Clendenon at first base, Weis at second base, Charles at third base, and Swoboda in right field rose to the occasion when it counted most, in the World Series with Clendenon winning the World Series MVP, Weis getting some key hits, and Swoboda playing exceptional defense.
The left-handed hitting platoon of Ed Kranepool at first base, Ken Boswell at second base, Wayne Garrett at third base, and Art Shamsky in right played more during the season, but only started one of the five World Series games, because Mike Cuellar and Dave McNally started four of the five games.
In the NLCS it was the left-handers who dominated vs. the Atlanta Braves, who used three righty starters in three games. Despite the Mets’ relatively average offense and superior pitching, the Mets outscored the Braves 27-15 in their series sweep.
World Series composite box score
Player Notes and Quotes
From SABR article by Maxwell Kates: Diligence and luck, along with talent, were essential ingredients in the Mets’ 11-game winning streak in late May and early June. For every player, there was a different highlight that augmented their confidence, but for Seaver, it was an extra-inning clutch hit to win the contest on June 4 in Los Angeles.
“We were in a scoreless game until the 15th inning. Then Wayne Garrett hit a ball up the middle with [Agee] on second. There was going to be a close play at the plate. Willie Davis came charging in and the ball was under his glove. The winning run scored. There was real electricity. I remember going into the clubhouse and making eye contact with Grote,” Seaver said. He described the experience as “the last ounce that tipped me over into believing we could win.” Kates, quoting from Maury Allen. After the Miracle: The Amazin’ Mets – Two Decades Later (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989), 236
From SABR article by John Saccoman: “What happened with the shoe-polish incident? Did Hodges bring out the actual game ball with a shoe-polish smudge? Ed Kranepool, on the bench because a lefty was pitching, said that Hodges brought out a smudged ball from a bucket of discards. Hodges asserted that it was the actual ball with the actual smudge. Koosman recalled that he picked up the errant ball and Hodges told him to rub it on his own shoe, perhaps to enhance the mark that was already there. Jones acknowledged that “Gil Hodges would never do anything dishonest.” Saccoman quoting Tom Clavin and Danny Peary, Gil Hodges: The Brooklyn Bums, the Miracle Mets, and the Extraordinary Life of a Baseball Legend (New York: New American Library, 2012), 344.
From SABR article by Talmadge Boston: “Angels pitching coach Tom Morgan broke down and overhauled Ryan’s delivery, taught him how to throw a sharp breaking curveball, and provided the moral support the young right-hander had never received with the Mets.”
“There was this one field that we put some old shirts down for bases. Behind right field there was this little creek and behind left field, well, man, it just went on and on for miles. We played our games there and after a couple of games, I had lost four or five balls when I hit them left-handed into the water. We didn’t have too many real baseballs so when the other guys came to me and said, “You better stop doing that or we ain’t got no more baseballs here,” I just turned around. That’s how I became a right-handed hitter. I just wanted to save those balls.” Cleon Jones told Maury Allen, quoted by Fred Worth from the SABR Biography Project.
“On the gridiron, Agee was an end and his friend Cleon Jones, a halfback. MCTS football had a stellar record—only one loss during Tommie’s three years with the squad. He would remember fondly, ‘We had a play that we called number forty-eight, and it was a halfback option play. The quarterback would hand off to Cleon and he had an option of running or passing to me. During the 1960 season, we made five touchdowns on that play alone.'” John Vorperian of the SABR Biography Project