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The Amazin’ Mets is the name given to the 1969 New York Mets team, which emerged from the shambles of a previously mediocre setup, to win the National League pennant and the World Series. Prior to that season, the Mets had been the laughing stock of the league, losing over 100 games in five seasons.
The turnaround that catapulted them to World Series Glory was so dramatic that many people rank it alongside the Apollo 11 moon landing and the MLK and JFK assassinations as one of the highlights of the decade. The Mets’ success was mainly anchored on stellar pitching from the likes of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Nolan Ryan, and the man management skills of Coach Gill Hodges.
Build-up to the 1969 Season
The Mets had come into being during the league’s 1962 expansion and had spent the following few years as the league’s doormats. Led by Manager Casey Stengel, the Mets’ fans and players almost reveled in their bogus reputation and the team seemed to find new ways to lose. In 1962, they lost a record 120 games and over their first six years, lost an average of 108 games. Things started to look up in 1968 amidst the emergence of a new wave of young players who were keen on banishing, the Mets’ losing image.
In order to cement this discipline the Mets traded in Coach Gil Hodges from the Washington Senators in 1968. For the 1968 season under Hodges, the Mets finished with their best record yet, 73-79, but that was just good enough for ninth place in the ten team NL. There were signs of improvements but the conventional wisdom among pundits was that the Mets would even be trounced by the first year Montreal Expos during the 1969 season.
The 1969 Season
The league debuted the Divisional play in 1969, with the Mets being placed in the NL East Division. Their first game of the season was an 11-10 loss to the Montreal Expos, something that did not project much hope for the season ahead, but the Mets composed themselves to put together a decent showing over the next few months. By June, they were still sub-.500 but they then went on an eleven game winning streak.
Still, no one thought much of them as pennant contenders, with the Chicago Cubs in prime position. By mid-august, the Cubs were 9.5 games ahead of the Mets and the Mets’ talented yet unproven stars seemed to be no match for the superstars that packed the Cubs roster.
New York however surprised everyone when they won 38 of their final 49 games, which included two victories over the Cubs. The Cubs, overcome by fatigue to their overworked starters faded away and finished 16-25 down the stretch. Against all odd, the Mets wiped out the gap with the Cubs and clinched the NL pennant with a 100-62 record, eight games ahead of the Cubs.
In the NL championship series, the Mets played the Atlanta Braves who had won the western Division. Still, most pundits still favored the Braves over the Mets on account of their superior playoff experience. The Mets would prove them wrong once again by sweeping the Braves in three games.
American League Baltimore Orioles, the Mets’ World Series opponents were all together a different proposition. The Orioles had won 109 games 19 games ahead of second place Detroit Tigers in the AL East. Finally, it seemed that the Mets had finally ran out of luck. The Orioles’ 4-1 victory in game 1 only cemented this notion further but the Mets recovered to win game two 2-1. A 5-0 win in game three followed and another 2-1 win in game four. The Mets defense continued to frustrate the Orioles and a 3-0 win ensued in game six.
As they had done when their team won the pennant, Mets fans descended on the Shea Stadium pitch to celebrate with their heroes. Although the Mets did not descend into the mediocrity of previous seasons it was not until 1986 that they won another World Series.
Three members of the 1969 roster- pitcher Tom Seaver, Yogi Berra and Nolan Ryan- would go on to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Living in the shadows of their vastly more successful neighbors, the Yankees cannot be easy, but Mets fans will forever be grateful to the Amazin’ Mets for cementing their team’s place in baseball folklore.