As described by German Prussian politician Otto von Bismarck, politics is the art of the possible. So is baseball. When the New York Mets defeated the Baltimore Orioles to win the 1969 World Series, possible elevated to miraculous.
Once again, National League baseball thrived in New York City. It was a long wait, too. There were only two World Series between 1947 and 1957 that did not have either the Giants or the Dodgers representing the National League. After the 1957 season, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants departed for Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively. With fan bases mourning the loss of their teams, the Mets offered an outlet for those who did not want to—or refused to—switch allegiances to the Yankees. Those fans were used to excellence, however, not mediocrity. Or worse.
Débuting in 1962, the Mets leapt to new heights in futility; the team’s record was 40-120. Successive seasons offered no solace:
Rooting for the Mets, in turn, became a pastime requiring emotional endurance. That changed when Gil Hodges took the managerial reins in 1968. Though still below .500, the Mets vaulted to a 73-89 record.
Momentum continued in 1969, resulting in a 100-62 record for the so-called Miracle Mets. Tom Seaver tore through opponents like a flame through a box of Kleenex tissues, ending the season with a 25-7 record, 205 strikeouts, and a 2.21 ERA. Unsurprisingly, Seaver won the 1969 National League Cy Young Award. Cleon Jones batted a career-high .340, placing third in the National League, behind Pete Rose and Roberto Clemente. Jerry Koosman won 17 games, notched 180 strikeouts, and had a 2.28 ERA.
Though impressive, the Mets faced an American League team exploding with dominance—the Orioles ended the 1969 regular season with a 109-53 record, largely a result of phenomenal pitching:
Mike Cuellar (23-11)
Dave McNally (20-7)
Tom Phoebus (14-7)
Jim Palmer (16-4)
Conventional wisdom favored the Orioles. Conventional wisdom was wrong. The Mets won the 1969 World Series in five games.
Miracles replaced miseries.
In 1969, the Corleone family first appeared in Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather, Led Zeppelin released its first album, Richard Nixon became the 37th President of the United States, Boeing’s 747 airplane made its first flight, Willie Mays became the first baseball player in the major leagues to hit 600 career home runs since Babe Ruth, journalist Seymour Hersh broke the story of the My Lai massacre, Chemical Bank’s Rockville Centre branch unveiled the first Automatic Teller Machine in the United States, Golda Meir became the first—and, to date, only—female Prime Minister of Israel, the New York Jets upset the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, Dr. Denton Cooley implanted the first artificial heart, Sullivan County in upstate New York hosted a three-day festival called Woodstock, Neil Armstrong became the first man on the moon, and the Montreal Expos earned the distinction of being the first MLB team stationed outside the United States.
1969 was a year of achievement in politics, science, technology, sports, literature, entertainment, and journalism.
For baseball fans, however, 1969 was a year of miracles.
A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on October 16, 2014.