This is the story of how the worst team in baseball history became known as the “Miracle Mets” in 1969.
The sixties in America were a time of great change and resistance—a time of innocence lost.
We lost a leader in 1963 in Dallas, and another a few years later on a hotel balcony in Memphis.
The Cold War nearly turned into a nuclear war.
The Beatles invaded America.
We went to Woodstock.
Civil rights were won at the cost of many young men and women. Americans lost faith in institutions of inequality and sacrificed their lives for a better future.
“The first guy through the wall always gets bloody. Always.” –Aaron Sorkin
It seemed the country was coming apart at the seams.
As it had for decades before, baseball remained an important institution in America. With everything going on around the world and at home, we needed a pastime. And like everything else baseball was changing too. Baseball expanded west, once-beloved ball parks were torn down and forgotten, astroturf was invented, and a team that some say was the worst in baseball history became champions in 1969.
In 1912 on the site of a garbage dump in Brooklyn called “Pigtown,” Dodgers owner Charlie Ebbets broke ground on a new baseball park. Thirty-five years later Jackie Robinson would play his first game at Ebbets Field.
Home of the Brooklyn Dodgers for 43 years, Ebbets Field was torn down in 1960 after the team moved to Los Angeles, a move that prompted the long-time crosstown rival New York Giants to follow suit.
Americans were moving west and so was baseball. After the Giants and Dodgers came to California, Los Angeles welcomed a brand new team called the Angels.
The Washington Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins.
Not long after, the new Senators moved once again from the nation’s capital and became the Texas Rangers.
Major League Baseball also added two new teams to the league: the Houston Colt .45s and the New York Metropolitans.
The New York Metropolitan Baseball Club expansion team was founded in 1962 after the city lost two of its three big league clubs to the west coast. The “Mets” adopted Brooklyn Dodger Blue and New York Giants Orange as their primary colors.
And boy were they bad.
Casey Stengel, the affable 72-year-old former Yankees skipper, was talked out of retirement to come manage this team of rag-tag second and third stringers.
“Come see my ‘Amazin’ Mets. I’ve been in this game a hundred years, but I see new ways to lose I never knew existed before.” –Casey Stengel
The Mets went 40–120 their first season, an astounding feat that no team had accomplished since 1899, and likely no team will accomplish again.
Yet the fans were fanatic. They adored their Mets, who consistently drew bigger crowds than the Yankees.
The Mets finished last or second-to-last in their division every year for the first seven seasons. But there was something special about 1969.
We went to the moon. We went to Woodstock. And the Mets won 38 their last 49 games, finishing first in their division. Then they swept the Atlanta Braves to win the National League pennant.
They’d face the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series, a team that was nearly flawless in 1969. Led by superstar Frank Robinson, the O’s won 109 games that year—a single-season record that remained unbroken until 1998.
The Orioles breezed by the Mets in Game 1 of the ’69 World Series beating them 4–1, exactly as everyone expected.
In Game 2, however, Mets pitcher Jerry Koosman pitched six innings of no-hit baseball and the Mets won 2–1.
In Game 3, with the series tied 1–1, Mets center fielder Tommie Agee had what Sports Illustrated called the greatest single performance by a center fielder in World Series history. He hit a leadoff home run in the first inning that turned out to be the game-winning hit and RBI. Agee also made two miraculous catches in the outfield that potentially saved five runs. The Mets shut out the Orioles 5–0.
Tom Seaver pitched a gem in Game 4 and the Mets won that game 2–1.
In front of 57,397 fans at Shea Stadium in Queens, NY, the Miracle Mets beat the Orioles 5–3 in Game 5, winning the World Series and solidifying one of the most stunning upsets in the history of sports.
Completely stunned and ecstatic, thousands of Mets fan rushed the field at Shea Stadium forcing the teams to retreat to the clubhouse.
Fans ripped up large portions of the outfield grass as a souvenir of the amazing feat they had just witnessed.
This is why I love baseball. It is humanity on display. When a team of underdogs bind together and achieve something remarkable it makes us all feel like we can do the same.
And this is why Gameball exists. Perhaps a simple app on our smartphones could actually help us remember these amazing moments better.
The ’15 Mets start Game 1 of the World Series tonight against the Kansas City Royals.
What new stories will be written this year?