Donn Clendenon has a special place in New York Mets history. In 1969, he was the team’s biggest playoff hero and their first-ever World Series MVP.
In 72 regular season games for the Amazins, Clendenon posted okay numbers. Few would have guessed that when the biggest games were on the line, he’d be the one to come through with the hits the Mets needed most.
Clendenon didn’t play in any game of the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves. His Mets teammates took care of them easily in three straight games. In the World Series, Clendenon received his chance to shine.
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In the first game of the series, Clendenon started at first base and batted fourth. He went 2 for 4 with a double in the 4-1 loss. The two-base hit was one of six the Mets had all day. It was also the only to go for extra-bases.
Game Two yielded better results for the team from Queens. A fourth inning solo shot by Clendenon started the scoring against the Baltimore Orioles. They needed one more in the ninth to pick up the win. Thankfully, they got it from an Al Weis single to score Ed Charles.
In Game Four, Clendenon returned to the clean-up spot. Just as it did in the second game of the series, a solo shot got things started. This time, Clendenon went deep in his first at-bat of the game. Until the ninth inning, the Mets held the Orioles scoreless. A Brooks Robinson sacrifice fly with one out knotted things up.
This sent the game into extra innings. A throwing error by Orioles pitcher Pete Richert ended the game with nobody out. On the play, J.C. Martin was attempting to bunt the runners over. A bad throw and the game was over with New York leading 2-1.
The Mets needed a fifth game to seal the victory. As they did three times already, Clendenon got the fourth spot in the lineup between Cleon Jones and Ron Swoboda who each had productive series themselves.
The Orioles carried a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning. As he did so many times in this series, Clendenon came up with a big hit. With Jones on first following the famous “shoe polish incident,” Clendenon took pitcher Dave McNally deep for his third home run of the series. Momentum shifted and the Amazins managed to tack on three more runs over the next two innings to take a lead and the series.
Clendenon finished the series batting .357/.438/.1.071. His hits, while not plentiful, were huge and timely. Only Jerry Grote had more than one extra-base hit. Four of the five Clendenon delivered went for more than a single.
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In a time when pitchers dominated and in a series where the Mets’ staff had an amazing 1.80 ERA, Clendenon’s bat proved itself as the team’s greatest weapon.