We all know this Met season has not gone the way the Met fan base or the organization wanted it to transpire. But this weekend is a special one–we honor the Miracle Mets of 1969 complete with a look back at that wonderful year.
I can safely tell you as a 9 year old living in the Bronx back in 1969 these are moments I will never forget. But to me it is more than just baseball. It united a city that was filled with social unrest and for me as a nine year old, it become the foundation of my life. It proved to me that dreaming of great things is not only OK–it is ABSOLUTELY mandatory. It is what prevents us from quitting when times get tough or when the rest of the world thinks your dreams are ones that will never be fulfilled.
Every time I am in the midst of a tough moment in my life (and there have been plenty of them) I think of Gil Hodges and Tom Terrific and Kooz and Cleon and Buddy and Kranepool and Swoboda and all the others, and I get inspired to go that extra yard. In my life, no hurdle was too high to leap over because that team showed me overcoming hurdles is what life is all about and with your friends and colleagues no dream is unattainable.
I remember growing up and telling my parents I wanted to sit in that press box at Shea Stadium and become a reporter covering this team. And that taught me to get what you want –yes you need talent–but also drive to get to the goal line. And not a day passes by when I don’t think of something from that season, that motivates me to try harder. Sometimes it is the game Steve Carlton struck out 19 Mets but Ron Swoboda homered twice to beat him. Or maybe that game in July the day before the Jimmy Qualls near Seaver perfecto when the Mets plated 3 runs off Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins in their final at-bat for a 4-3 win. Or maybe the fact on August 17th the Mets were 9.5 games out of first but never stopped believing they would be playing deep into October.
My point here is every day of my life I need to be inspired and that team has a plethora of moments that has helped me through tons of tough times–family illness, my own health issues, job searches or even how to help a teammate that I work with every single day.
This is a team that never won their opener and never won more than 73 games in their history and won 100 games beating a high octane offense in the Braves during the NLCS and upset an Oriole team in The World Series that possessed one of the best rosters ever assembled. Ad all of it was orchestrated by the great Gil Hodges who deserves to be in Cooperstown.
And a man named George Thomas Seaver led this team with his ability to pitch better than any hurler I’ve ever seen in this town but more than that–he reached the Met fan in a way nobody ever had or ever will. He always had a clear understanding of the jokes Met fans had to hear for years and he and Gil–2 Ex Marines–made sure the silliness was over.
When I returned from Philly on Thursday Night, I pit in a DVD of Game 4 of that 69 Series and Shea Stadium was electric with a celebrity presence but in all honesty, the real Met fans were the story–passionate, loyal, and elated to be involved in this historic NY moment. As a 9 year old, I knew I was seeing something special and that year was my introduction to the great game that I report on every day for ESPN and NY SportsDay.
And I never met Gil Hodges but I am so proud I walk through the Gil Hodges Plaza every time I walk into the press entrance. But on this weekend, I plan on stopping and getting close to those photos of #14 because I know Gil watches over all of us from above giving us the courage to handle life as he taught his young players to do back in 1969.
And the honor of being able to chat with Tom Seaver about pitching and life in general early in my reporting career taught me so much about how baseball is much like life–success never comes instantly–it must be earned–and you only learn about yourself when times are tough.
The 2019 version of the Mets is in the middle of tough times but this roster has talent and should look at that 1969 story that occurred 50 years ago. Things did not come easy for that team but belief in yourself is the only way to turn failures into success. You need to close the outside noise and focus on things in a very direct fashion. This is not easy to do when the world is calling for you to change things. But changing things is not always the answer and I firmly believe the Mets must resist knee-jerk decisions because outside forces are calling for them.
That 1969 team never resorted to that and yes 50 years is a long time ago but we can always learn from our predecessors. The starting rotation of that team was its strength but their best moments took place in the months of July, August, September and of course October. My point here is if this Met rotation reaches the level it should be at it will help every other aspect of this team.
I readily admit even a 500 mark seems like it is miles away from the reach of this team and the failures of the first half of the season will not go away quickly because those issues evolved over a few months. And I know my take on this team is not a popular notion but I could care less. 50 years ago I saw a team not only turn around a season but an entire perspective that an organization had over the first 7 years of their existence.
So I hope the 2019 Mets listen to the stories of events that occurred half a century because I know it will inspire them in the same way thinking about that miracle inspires me every day of my life. It is like having the memory of a best friend long after they are gone. Their words and actions will always be in your memory and forever inspire you.
When will the 69 Mets stop inspiring me? Well maybe the moment I stop breathing but I get the feeling it will inspire me in the afterworld to look down on the people I love–including every Met fan I met in my life because that is what Gil Hodges taught me. Simply put, in life it does not matter what you do alone–it matters how you inspire, protect and coach the people around you.
That is why the 1969 Mets will be loved forever. They gave us so much and continue to give us so much every day of our lives for those of us that live in Met-Nation. It defines the Met fan in EVERY way whether you are young or old.
Enjoy the weekend celebration.and let it inspire you to attain the dreams in your life.