Remembering The Magic Of 1969

This week, Sports Illustrated magazine has come out with their annual “Where Are They Now” issue. There are two articles in the issue that are so good, I feel the need to comment on them.

Article number 1 deals with the most special of all the Met teams, the 1969 World Champions. In the article there is a picture of Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan wearing Mets jackets (Ryan even has a Met on). Maybe I’m just a sentimental old fool, but there’s something about seeing the Franchise wearing Mets blue and orange that gives my the goose bumps. The article gives brief accounts on what players like Art Shamsky, Ed Kranepool, Bud Harrelson, Ray Charles, and coach Joe Pignataro are up to now.

What the 1969 Mets did was nothing short of a miracle. This was a team that in 1962 set a record for the most loses in a season. From 1962-1968 the Mets averaged 105 loses per season. They won 100 games in 1969. They had a great blend of young and old players, and some really great pitching arms. Most importantly they had a true leader as their manager in Gil Hodges.

When you hear Seaver, the most important player in franchise history say how Gil Hodges was like a father figure to him, the man who had the most impact on his career, you realize how much of a true leader Hodges was. Bud Harrelson is the only Met from 1969 that still wears a uniform. He is part owner and first base coach for the Independent League Long Island Ducks. In the changing room at Citibank Park, home of the Ducks, Harrelson has a picture of Gil Hodges hanging up in the changing room. Gil managed the Mets to a championship 40 years ago, and his picture hangs in the changing room of the Ducks. I bet he sure had a huge influence on Bud Harrelson’s career too.

When the Mets went down to Baltimore earlier this season, I wrote here about how the Orioles were a team to be reckoned with back in the late 1960’s and 1970’s. I wrongfully skimmed over the contributions of their field manager Earl Weaver.

The second good article in S.I. this week gives a really interesting look at Earl Weaver. I remember how good those 1970’s Orioles teams were, and a lot of that success was due to their manager. Weaver believed that his team was given 27 outs, and each out was precious. He didn’t believe in wasting outs, ie. bunting, and hit run. Weaver believed in pitching, defense and the three run home run.

When Weaver first became manager of the O’s he asked the public relations director to provide him the stats of how the Orioles players did against the opposition and vice versa. Before each game Earl was given a hand written list of the match-ups (remember this was well before the computer era). Weaver would use this match-up information to set his starting line-up. He truly was so far ahead of the rest of the pack.

Weaver wanted to win more than anything else. So much so that he never shook hands with a winning pitcher after the game. He didn’t want anything to do with emotion or friendship, he just wanted to win games.

This is really just a brief summary of two worthy articles to be read, in this week’s S.I. The articles were so good in fact, that I almost forgot S.I. had the Mets listed under the “NOT HOT” section this week.