This’ll be fun. The Mets are back in the World Series.
Every time they get there, it becomes a memorable affair. And if you argue that every Series is memorable, fine. Let’s say a Mets Series stands out as more memorable than most.
Here’s some remarkable symmetry to get us started. The Mets have appeared in four previous Series. Their record: 12-12. They’ve won and lost a seven-game Series. They’ve won and lost a five-game Series.
They’ve come from behind to win, and gone from ahead to lose. But every time, it’s been a memorable, fun event. They always leave an indelible memory, something utterly unforgettable, as their calling card.
The greatest triumph in Mets history came in 1969. In their seven previous seasons, the Mets had never soared higher than ninth place, nor amassed more than 73 wins. That April, they were 100-to-1 shots to win it all.
And once they defied the odds by reaching the Series, they faced the mighty Baltimore Orioles, winners of 109 games during the regular season. When their ace, Tom Seaver, lost game one, 4-1, a sweep seemed in store.
A sweep indeed occurred, but the Mets held the broom. Jerry Koosman no-hit the Orioles into the seventh inning in Game 2. An improbable string of two-out, none-on hits by Ed Charles, Jerry Grote, and Al Weis in the ninth gave the Mets a 2-1 win.
The Series shifted to Shea Stadium for Game 3 and the Tommie Agee Show. Agee led off the game with a homer off of Jim Palmer.
The Orioles had two runners on in the fourth when Elrod Hendricks drove a Gary Gentry pitch to deep left-center. Agee sprinted across the outfield, lunged, and caught the ball in the webbing of his glove as his body slid along the outfield wall, just under the 396 feet sign.
Then, in the seventh with the bases loaded, Paul Blair drove a ball deep to right-center. Agee made a diving, tumbling catch on the warning track. His catches saved five runs, and the Mets won 5-0.
The next day, Ron Swoboda, a right-fielder never known for his defensive prowess, made his still famous full-length, diving catch of a Brooks Robinson drive. His catch kept the Orioles from taking the lead. The Mets won, 2-1, in the bottom of the 10th, on a sacrifice bunt by J.C. Martin. Pete Richert’s throw to first hit Martin, and Rod Gaspar scored from second.
Game 5 featured the famous Shoe Polish Incident, when Mets manager Gil Hodges proved to umpire Lou DiMuro that Cleon Jones had indeed been hit on the foot by Dave McNally’s pitch. Donn Clendenon followed with a home run. An inning later, Weis, who hadn’t homered at Shea in his two years with the Mets, added another.
Soon, Jones was catching Davey Johnson’s fly to left, and half of New York was storming the field, celebrating the Mets amazing triumph.
The Mets only had to wait four years to make it back to the Series. The ’73 team rallied around Tug McGraw’s exhortation, “Ya Gotta Believe!” They were dead last in the NL East with a month left in the season, but won the division with an 82-79 record. That remains the worst record of any Series participant. They faced the defending champion Oakland A’s.
This time, the second game provided the lasting image. That would be Willie Mays, closing out his 22-year Hall of Fame career, on his knees near home plate, pleading for a safe call from umpire Augie Donatelli.
That’s actually the kindest image we retain of Mays from that game. He entered the game as a pinch runner for Rusty Staub in the ninth. He misplayed two fly balls, stumbling and falling after one. In the 12th inning, he fell rounding third, but managed to stagger home and score.
The Mets won, 10-7. It took 4:13, the longest Series game played to that point.
The Mets won Games 4 and 5 at Shea, and flew back to Oakland with a 3-2 Series lead. After lobbying manager Yogi Berra to start on short rest, Seaver lost to Catfish Hunter, 3-1, as Reggie Jackson knocked in two runs. The next day, Bert Campaneris and Jackson each hit two-run homers off of Jon Matlack, and the A’s won the second of their three straight Series.
The Mets’ next Series appearance came in 1986.
Game 6: Mookie Wilson.
The scoreboard at Shea was already congratulating the Red Sox on their first world championship since 1918. The Sox led, 5-3, with two out and none on.
Then Gary Carter singled. As did Kevin Mitchell. And Ray Knight.
Bob Stanley replaced Calvin Schiraldi, and The Steamer threw a wild pitch to Wilson, tying the game.
Wilson then hit a ground ball to Bill Buckner at first.
The Mets won game seven, 8-5, for their second Series title.
In 2000, the Mets faced the Yankees in the first Subway Series since 1956.
Game 2 again provided the imagery, as Roger Clemens broke Mike Piazza’s bat with a pitch. When part of the bat flew toward the mound, Clemens pounced on it — and hurled it at Piazza.
Game 5 marked the final Series game played at Shea, and the first time an opponent clinched a Series win there.
And now we have the Mets in the Series again.
What memories and fun await?