In order to forget all about the 2009 season, the Mets will be paying tribute to the greatest underdog in American professional sports: The 1969 New York Mets. An on-field reunion of the team will take place before their game against Philadelphia on Saturday night. Everybody’s seen the highlights from that memorable World Series—the Tommie Agee and Ron Swoboda catches, the Cleon Jones shoe polish play, the J.C. Martin running inside the baseline play, Bobby Pfeil sitting around wondering why nobody will let him play—but here are some little-known (or maybe not-so-little-known) facts and stats about the 1969 season:
The Mets battled and overtook the Cubs to win the division, but when all was said and done, the race turned out to be a romp—the Mets won the NL East by eight games, finishing with a 100-62 record. A 45-18 August/September/October did the trick. The team had a winning record against every team in the National League except Houston (2-10) and Cincinnati (6-6). They went 10-8 vs. the Cubs and feasted on expansion Montreal and San Diego, going a combined 24-6 vs. the new clubs.
The 1969 team was known for their pitching and defense. The team finished second in the NL in ERA, with a 2.99 mark (St. Louis was first, at 2.94, and Baltimore led the majors, at 2.83). The Mets were third in the league in saves (35), fourth in K’s (1,102) and let up the fewest hits in the NL (1,217).
They also threw 51 complete games. Yes, 51. But that was only good for fifth in the league (a parade was thrown for Livan Hernandez earlier this year when he threw the Mets’ only complete game of 2009; he was also given the keys to the city, but when his ERA soared to 5.47 this month, Mayor Bloomberg changed the locks). Defensively, they made the second fewest errors, with 122, and tied for first in fielding percentage (.980).
Of course, the ‘69 Mets were also known for their weak hitting (hey, just like the ‘09 Mets, except this year’s team doesn’t have Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry, Jim McAndrew, Don Cardwell, Ron Taylor, Tug McGraw and Nolan Ryan to pick up the slack for them). How weak was the offense? They had a .242 batting average (seventh in the NL), .312 OBP (10th), .351 slugging percentage (11th), scored 632 runs (9th) and hit only 109 home runs (8th).
As for individual stats, Cleon Jones led the team in just about every category except homers and RBI’s. He finished third in the league in batting, with a .340 average, had a .422 OBP and .482 slugging percentage. He also swiped a team-leading 16 bases.
Leadoff hitter Agee led in home runs (26) and RBI’s (76, beating out Jones by one). The team had four other players with double-digit home runs: Art Shamsky (14), Jones, Donn Clendenon (12) and Ed Kranepool (11). They only had three players with more than 100 hits: Jones, Agee and Ken Boswell. Their right-field platoon was a good one, though. Swoboda and Shamsky combined for 23 home runs and 99 RBI’s.
On the pitching side, the staff featured three double-digit winners: Seaver (a league-high 25, with 18 complete games), Koosman (17, 16 complete games) and Gentry (13, six complete games). Taylor and McGraw led the bullpen in saves, with 13 and 12, respectively.
Other odds and ends: Amos Otis appeared in 48 games for the Mets that season, batting .151 with four ribbies and no homers. Infielder Bob Heise had the fewest at-bats for the team, with 10 (though he batted .300). Les Rohr pitched a team-low 1.1 innings (and sported a Tim Redding-like 20.25 ERA).
And obscure infielder Bobby Pfeil racked up 211 AB’s (batting .232). He would only have 70 more at-bats in his career, with the 1971 Phillies. He was so obscure that, according to baseball-reference.com, he came to the Mets from the Cardinals in “an unknown transaction.” Maybe he just showed up at Shea one day, in a Mets uniform he purchased at a costume shop, and started playing and nobody ever caught on.
The Mets turned into an offensive juggernaut in their three-game sweep over the Braves. They scored 27 runs, while their pitching staff also did a complete reversal, allowing 15 runs.
World Series MVP Donn Clendenon did not appear in the National League Championship Series, while Tug McGraw did not throw a pitch in the World Series.
In the five World Series games against Baltimore, Met starting pitchers threw 39.1 out of a possible 45 total innings. Only three relievers were used by the Amazin’s—Taylor (2.1 innings), Ryan (2.1 innings) and Cardwell (one inning). Koosman pitched a complete game in the clincher and almost went the distance in game two, lasting 8.2 innings. Seaver pitched a 10-inning complete game in game four.
And for the first time ever, we will reveal the real first names of some of the nicknamed ‘69 Mets (not even their parents know their true names): Derrel “Bud” Harrelson, Joseph Clifton “J.C.” Martin, Don “Duffy” Dyer, Albert “Rube” Walker, Frank “Tug” McGraw and, of course, George Thomas Seaver.