The New York Mets had been a woeful franchise during their first seven years, never finishing higher than ninth in their division. That changed on this day in 1969, when they defeated the Baltimore Orioles to win the World Series.
Just the fact that the New York Mets were in the postseason was a bit of a miracle in its own right. The franchise had yet to finish better than ninth in any of their first seven seasons, and had prompted such quotes as when Casey Stengel asked “Can’t anyone here play this game?” Even in 1969, when the Mets were over .500 for the first time, they needed an epic collapse from the Chicago Cubs to reach the postseason.
Facing the Baltimore Orioles, the Mets were quite the underdogs. Although they had an excellent rotation fronted by Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, the Orioles had the star power and the experience. It was almost a foregone conclusion that the Orioles would take the championship, and as Baltimore won the first game, that conclusion appeared correct.
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However, someone forgot to tell the New York Mets. They stormed back in the series, taking a three games to one lead heading into Game Five. The “Miracle Mets,” as they were dubbed, were one game away from one of the most surprising seasons in MLB history.
The Orioles were not going to go away that easily. Dave McNally, pitching for Baltimore, and Frank Robinson both homered in the third, giving the Orioles a 3-0 lead. It seemed as though they would stave off elimination and force the series to head back to Baltimore.
However, the Mets began their comeback in the sixth inning. Cleon Jones led off the inning after being hit by a pitch, a controversial ruling where he was given first when manager Gil Hodges showed the umpire that there was shoe polish on the ball. Donn Clendenon followed with a home run, cutting the lead to a single run.
The Mets tied the game in the next inning. Al Weis, who hit all of seven home runs in his Major League career, tied the game as he led off the seventh, sending McNally’s pitch to deep left field. Momentum was fully on the Mets side. New York then took advantage of the Orioles bullpen and defense, jumping on Eddie Watt. Cleon Jones led off the eighth with a double, and scored on a one out double from Ron Swoboda. Boog Powell and Watt both made errors on Jerry Grote‘s grounder, allowing another run to score as the Mets took a 5-3 victory.
That was the second time that a Baltimore team lost to a heavy underdog that year. Back in January, the New York Jets defeated the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Similarly to how the Jets legitimized the AFC, the Mets proved that an expansion franchise could win, if given enough time and patience to accumulate talent.
The New York Mets completed their miracle season on this day in 1969, capturing their first World Series title, and stunning the Baltimore Orioles in the process. Yes Casey, there were a few players that could play baseball in that locker room.