Back in 1969 Divisions were a new thing, two teams were added to the league and the NY Mets had suffered through 6 years of humiliation. However, they were poised to make some noise with stellar young pitching, riding the arms of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and a guy they thought would never harness his control, Nolan Ryan.
The late season rally past the Chicago Cubs wasn't on anyone's radar. In fact, some pundits felt the newly minted Montreal Expos would finish higher in the standings than the hapless Mets. We all know what happened, of course. Donn Clendenon arrived and the team started winning with an improbable August and September that propelled them into the National League's first ever championship game. (Division Series would debut in 1994 and then wildcard teams would join in during 2012).
Like Terry Collins, Gil Hodges was very platoon oriented. Only two players – outfielders Tommie Agee and Cleon Jones – played more than 125 games, yet this formula worked and he finished the season with a 100-62 record.
The playoffs were a great unknown. Empirically you could say the Mets had the advantage with a better overall record and a dominating one head-to-head against the powerhouse Braves. Still, any team that featured the likes of Hank Aaron, Orlando Cepeda, Rico Carty and Felipe Alou had to be respected when by comparison the Mets were trotting out players on a regular basis like Rod Gaspar, Ed Charles, Bud Harrelson and Ken Boswell. In addition to the All-Star offensive talent, the Braves were riding a tidal wave of momentum, winning 17 of their final 21 games to wrest the title away from the San Francisco Giants. Oddsmakers had the Mets as big underdogs.
While everyone figured there was a slim chance that the strong arms of future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver and future 20 game winner Jerry Koosman who would propel the upstart Mets to victory. However, they simply outslugged the Braves, batting a robust .327 over the three game sweep, clubbing six home runs. In the same year man walked on the moon the Mets went to the World Series.
Writing this piece on Thursday evening, we don't yet know what stories will emerge from the end of the nine-year post-season drought, but as history has taught us anything can happen.
Let's go Mets!