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Cleon Jones, Ron Swoboda and Bud Harrelson Set the Stage for the Miracle of 1969

Harold FriendChief Writer IFebruary 14, 2012

NEW YORK - AUGUST 22:  Cleon Jones speaks at a press conference commemorating the New York Mets 40th anniversary of the 1969 World Championship team on August 22, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The 1965 New York Mets finished in 10th place. They lost 112 games, which was the fourth time in their four seasons as a major league team they lost more than 100 games.

Now, I am a New York Yankees fan. Nineteen-sixty-five was the year that the Yankees streak of five consecutive pennants ended. It was the second time that the Yankees won five consecutive pennants (1949-53).

While the 1965 Yankees couldn't match the Mets futility, some individuals could sense that the Yankees were on the way down and the Mets just might be on the way up.

In 1965, Cleon Jones, Ron Swoboda and Bud Harrelson joined the team. It was the beginning of what would become the greatest miracle in sports history.

Jones, who had great potential, made his Mets debut on Sept. 14, 1963.  He batted 15 times the remainder of the season.

After spending all of 1964 at Buffalo where he did well (.278/.338/.442), Jones appeared in 30 games in 1965. He didn't do much that season, but he did show occasional flashes of brilliance.

Swoboda, at the age of 21, had the best season of his career. He batted only .228 but he hit 19 home runs in only 399 at-bats.

Swoboda was a home threat his entire career, but he was the Smead Jolley of the 1960s.

To be fair, Swoboda never was as good a hitter as Jolley but he wasn't as bad a fielder as Jolley either.

The Yankees wanted to sign Bud Harrelson in 1963, but they were the defending world champions. They had Tony Kubek at shortstop with Phil Linz as his backup.

Harrelson decided that he would have a better chance if he signed with the Mets.

Harrelson was an erratic fielder in the minors, but he improved greatly to become one of the best in the National League.

During the miracle season, Harrelson hit only .248 with a more than respectable .341 on base percentage. He slugged only .306 without  hitting a single home run.

It is important to note that the Mets of the late 1960s and early 1970s made clutch hitters out of many .240 hitters, including Harrelson. Their pitching was so dominant that almost every Mets game was low scoring.

Harrelson or Dave Marshall or Ken Boswell, average or below average hitters at best, would occasionally get a hit, score a run or drive in a run or two. Most of the time, that would be enough for Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry or Jon Matlack.

Jones, Swoboda and Harrelson were not great players, but they were an integral part of a team that pulled off three tremendous upsets in 1969.

They overcame the Chicago Cubs to win the first Eastern Division title ever, they swept the favored Atlanta Braves in the playoffs and after Seaver lost the World Series opener, they swept the next four games from the Baltimore Orioles.

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