Thursday, November 28, 2013

1969 World Series Fantazy Cards - Game Four

For game 4 of the 1969 World Series the Mets had the Baltimore Orioles right where they wanted them. They were up 2 games to 1, playing home at Shea, and had their righty ace Tom Seaver on the mound. Game 3 had been pivotal but the Mets and their fans felt that this was the one game they had to win. Tom Terrific, the Franchise, was pitching!
The guy was in no small way one of the main reasons the New York Mets went from lovable losers to wonderful winners. We HAD to win!

After the game one loss in Baltimore some were trying to tag Tom with the title of choke artist, claiming he couldn't win the big games. This was the biggest game in Tom Seaver career. A win and the Mets were in the drivers seat. A loss and suddenly things would be even again at 2-2 and they would not be able to avoid a trip back to Baltimore.

Tom would not only prove that he could go the distance. He would prove that he could go farther.

Mike Cuellar had bounced around the Majors and Mexican leagues from 1959 until he found his groove playing for the Houston Astros in 1966. He went 12-10 that year but his 2.22 ERA was second in the N.L. only to Sandy Koufax. Cuellar was traded to the Baltimore Orioles in 1968 and slipped nicely right into the O's rotation.

He and Seaver had a couple of things in common in 1969. Both won the Cy Young Award that season, Cuellar sharing it with Denny McLain. And both of them lost no-hitters in the 9th inning during the season. On August 10th Cuellar took on the Minnesota Twins. A clever pitcher with an excellent screwball and curve ball, he wasn't blowing em away. Still, he had 8 Ks that day. He was pitching to contact and setting them down one after the other. The Twins remained hitless until the 9th when Caesar Tovar broke up the no-no. That was his 15th win and Mike went on to win 23 with a 2.38 ERA.

Leading off the second inning Met slugger Donn Clendenon deposited a Cuellar fastball into the Orioles bullpen for a solo homer. The Mets were on the board.

Donn was exactly what the Mets needed in '69. An experienced righty slugger. They picked him up in August and he was the last piece of that 1969 puzzle I'm always talking about.

In the Baltimore second Seaver got in a jam. Facing the bottom of the lineup he gave up back to back singles to shortstop Mark Belanger and Oriole pitcher Mike Cuellar. Cuellars hit was a perfectly executed swinging bunt that blooped over Harrelson's head at short.

With no out Met manager Gil Hodges expected another bunt attempt from Don Buford and had his corner infielders in tight at first and third. Baltimore skipper Earl Weaver tried to cross him up and had the leadoff batter swing away. Buford hit a high hard chopper that should have ended up going into right field for a hit.

But Donn Clendenon was somehow able to leap up and snatch it in mid air. He turned, threw and got the force at second. The great play still left runners at first and third, one out. Weaver continued to burn the book and had Paul Blair also bunt. Ace Tom Seaver played the bunt like a pro, allowing it to land softly and firing him out at first.

Tom still had to get past the much feared
Oriole outfielder Frank Robinson, now
with two in scoring position. Seaver kicked it up a notch and got him to foul out to Clendenon, getting himself out of a tough one. 
The score remained 1-0 Mets.

Leading off the 4th Mark Belanger hit a looping line drive to left. Cleon Jones was a very good fielder. Consistent, not too flashy. He was great at coming in on balls just like this one. He showed why as he slipped under the ball and gloved it cleanly denying Baltimore of yet another hit. Defensively the Mets were outshining even the greatest expectations. With the exception of the game one homer that Swoboda just missed and the ball trapped by Cleon in game 3, if a Met could reach the ball, he caught the ball.

This must have been a very frustrating series for Bird manager Earl Weaver. Hardly anything went their way and the Mets were playing like a well oiled machine. His guys were hitting the ball well enough but practically nothing was dropping in. The Mets were known for their good defense but this was ridiculous.

I liked Earl Weaver. He was a spunky character and I've always enjoyed managers like that. He was fiery and animated and quick of step, the antithesis of Gil Hodges. His arguments with umpires were always classic performances. Sometimes he would pantomime rolling up his sleeves while shouting and it appeared as if he was ready to punch out the official. Many times, like pictured, he would try to beat the ump to the punch. He was a great act. And a great manager. So he must have been frustrated.

Down 1-0 with Mark Belanger at the plate in the 5th Weaver, shouting from the bench, had some colorful things to say to the home plate ump Shag Crawford. Shag approached the Baltimore dugout and instructed the manager to be quiet. Weaver claims he could not hear Crawford because of the loud Shea crowd and followed him back to the plate to ask him what he said.
The home plate ump must have been shocked to turn around, look down, and see Weaver standing there. 
The official didn't wait for an explanation, just threw up his arm, tossing Weaver from the game. The last time a manager was thrown out of a World Series game before this was in 1935.

The Mets could not get past first base in the middle innings. Cuellar had settled down and made way for Eddie Watt in the 8th with the Mets still hanging on to a one run lead.

From the 5th to the 9th Seaver was cruisin'. No one was touching him. Only Paul Blair reached on a walk in the 6th. Then in the top of the 9th the Met pitcher was severely tested. Blair flied out to start the inning, then Frank Robinson hit a single to left that Cleon could not pick.

Boog Powell followed with a bouncer through the hole at second, a clone of his game three seeing eye single and once again, F.Robinson moved to third.
With a 1-0 lead and the tying run 90 feet away, New York needed two outs. Seaver was not about to hand over the ball to the pen. Gil Hodges might have considered it. He hesitantly visited the mound after the Boog Powell single and had some words with the young Met pitcher. He had faith in Seaver and just wanted to make sure Tom shared that faith. As long as the ace was able to battle, he would be on the front line. And he wasn't about to leave this game until his arm fell off. Brooks Robinson came to the plate and Seaver challenged him.
On Seavers first pitch Brooks, hitting out of the shadows, stroked a rope of a liner towards dead right center. Not high and hard enough to make it thru the gap but too soft and shallow to ever get to.

Any sane fielder would have went around behind it, letting it land but easily keeping it from splitting the gap. Ron Swoboda was many things, and I don't know if he is clinically insane, but what he did here was both crazy and wonderful.

He went for it. Full tilt he ran right to the spot where the ball was coming down. He could not reach it running, he knew that as soon as he started after it. At that moment he knew he couldn't reach it and he also decided he couldn't let it drop.

Swoboda raced across right and closed the gap by diving, fully extending himself and sticking his arm out before him. With a backhanded stab of his glove he picked the sinking drive off right before it touched the outfield grass. Momentum took him into an unavoidable tumble.

Aware of the situation, Rocky popped to his feet and threw the ball to the plate. Frank Robinson, who was on third, was able to tag and tie the game but if that ball off Brooks bat had landed it could have been much worse. If it made it through the gap and had gone all the way to the wall the Orioles would have scored two runs and taken the lead.

All the Mets were making the plays out in the field. People today still talk about Tommie Agee's two catches in game three. Tommies catches were so crucial, both rally killers, making the third out each time. They were incredible. 
But this catch....this was the impossible catch.

I have seen many great plays over the years, in World Series and regular season. As far as the catch alone, disregarding the situation, this still stands as one of the most awesome catches ever made in the history of post season baseball. If this had been the third out of the inning and this World Series game ended with a score of 1-0 Mets there would be no argument. Imagine that!

But it was only the second out and the Birds had tied the score at 1-1. Seaver was still in a pickle as he had two men on. He got Oriole catcher Ellie Hendricks to hit a deep fly to right center that was also intercepted by Swoboda, this time on the run.

With the score tied 1-1 the Mets threatened in the bottom of the 9th but could not plate a run to end it. Singles by Cleon Jones and Ron Swoboda put runners at first and third with two out. Art Shamsky was called on to pinch hit for Ed Charles but could only top a grounder to second.

Not to be outdone in the drama department the Birds also threatened in the top of the 10th. Wayne Garrett had just entered the game to play third and, like they always say, the ball found him and he booted a Davey Johnson grounder leading off the inning. Seaver got Belanger to foul out to Grote but could not get a pinch hitting Clay Dalrymple who hit a sharp single up the middle making it first and second. The Orioles had the top of the line up now. Don Buford hit a long fly to deep right which enabled Dave Johnson to tag up and take third. The go ahead run was 90 feet away as Paul Blair came to the plate. Here in the 10th Tom Seaver rose to the challenge and struck him out to end the inning.

 Met catcher Jerry Grote led off New York's 10th frame with a pop up to short left. Oriole left fielder Don Buford broke back for a second leaving Mark Belanger with the only shot at it.
The shortstop took a round-about route to the ball and it dropped just beyond his grasp. Ironically the 1969 Baltimore Orioles were playing baseball like the 1962 New York Mets. New York had a man on second no out. If they could plate this run it's game over. Sounds easy but fans of the game, and maybe especially Met fans, know that nothing comes easy. Baseball is a wacky game where nothing should ever be taken for granted.

The wheels were turning in each managers mind. Gil Hodges had a more fleeter Rod Gaspar run for Grote at second. I imagine in a game of this magnitude Earl Weaver was still calling the shots from in the Oriole locker room.

The Birds issued an intentional walk to Al Weis, setting up the double play. Now was the end of the road for Tom Seaver. J.C. Martin was sent up to pinch hit in a possible bunting situation. The winning run was in scoring position and Hodges had three shots to end it now. He went for it, and he would have two shots to spare.

Martin laid down the most famous bunt of, certainly his life, possibly of Mets history. It was a simple bunt. A fine bunt, not a great one. As far as moving the runners over it was perfect. It dribbled in front of the plate to the right side. They would get him at first easy enough. You would think.
Baltimore catcher Ellie Hendricks came out of the crouch and called the ball. He and relief pitcher Pete Richert converged on it at the same time, almost bumping heads.

It was an easier play for the catcher, with it in front of him, but the pitcher Richert grabbed the ball and being a lefty, spun and threw along the edge of the infield grass. It was a good throw, on it's way to Dave Johnson covering first.

But runner J.C.Martin had drifted a little to his left while running up the baseline. Lil' bit. The ball struck his left wrist and shot toward the vacated area of second base.

Rod Gaspar was running on contact and took off around third and all the Oriole infielders could do, none anywhere near the ball, was watch as Gaspar streaked across the plate with the winning run.

This didn't go by without controversy as film of the play showed Martin was not in the running lane of the first baseline. He was outside it by over a foot and as a result the ball caught his wrist on its path to first. But even with the cries of unfair play the umpires said that in their judgement what the Met runner did was not intentional and it was the correct call. As in many games throughout baseball history, the human factor played a part.

Baseball has a human element that is slowly being removed from the game. Some could point to this play and use it to support the pros and cons of the new review system being implemented by MLB next season, and I believe both sides could use it equally.

The Mets had done it again! They won game 4 of the 1969 World Series in dramatic fashion, their ace pitcher Tom Seaver going beyond the call of duty in securing it. The Mets were one win away from the world championship.

Ellie Hendricks stands shocked and dejected as the Mets celebrate. No Oriole coach or player ( Weaver was tossed earlier) even argued the play. As a matter of fact no-one questioned the umpire's call until photos of the play were printed in the newspapers the following day(watch the pre-game interview with Micky Mantle and Sandy Koufax on the video of GAME 5 on the Fantazy Game Five page).

Swobodas catch and game five double.

The J.C. Martin bunt.

The New York Mets 50th Anniversary Collectors Set & MLB Films- 1969 Mets Highlights Segment
Getty Images
The pictures used on the cards of Ron Swoboda's freakin' awesome catch are not actual photographs and were photoshopped & colorized using actual images of the catch.

This wire photo of the J.C. Martin bunt was colorized for use here.

Friday, November 22, 2013

1969 World Series Fantazy Cards - Game Three

Thanks to Johnny Murphy's ship building and under Gil Hodges calm tutelage the Mets had evolved into a team that knew how to win. It took 7 years (from when they were established in 1962 until Sept 11th 1969) for the Mets to field a first place team. They were only in first 23 days and here they were in New York at Shea Stadium for game three of the World Series. It was a cloudy overcast day with gusty, and inside Shea, swirling winds.

The atmosphere was electric. Everyone was getting caught up in the story of the amazin' Mets. They were becoming a cultural phenomenon. But that still could all crumble like a house of fantazy baseball cards if the Mets fell apart. If the Orioles played like even they expected themselves to, which was better. But baseball is a game of wonder and amazement. No team showed this more.

Most people think Game 3 of the 1969 World Series was all Tommie Agee. It was to a very large extent but there were other noteworthy performances that took place in Tommies formidable shadow.

Four players who were in the starting lineup for the Mets in Baltimore would not be starting game three. Manager Gil Hodges was sticking with the strategies that got him to the big show. He platooned a number of players all season. As a result Donn Clendenon, Ron Swoboda, Ed Charles and Al Weis were out. Ed Kranepool, Art Shamsky (this day was his 28th birthday), Wayne Garrett and Ken Boswell were in.

The game started with a BANG! as Met centerfielder Tommie Agee crushed Jim Palmers 4th pitch of the game for a home run over the centerfield wall and Shea was rockin'.
Look at the photo in the card. Agee didn't even get his arms extended on that lead-off shot, which went out in straight center. He attacked fastballs like a cobra.

In this photo we see a classic baseball scene. Agee's the focal point, running around third, clapping with the fans and about to shake Met Coach Ed Yost's hand. Yost, always the professional, is in position to accept. Brooks Robinson looks down dejected, not acknowledging Tommie. Maybe he spits in the dirt and rubs it around with his shoe as a dis. The umpire, ever observant, makes sure to see Agee touch third, his base. The crowd itself, so boisterous, on their feet clapping and waving, becoming part of the scene. That's one fantastic baseball photo. It would make a great baseball card.

Actually six cards covering Agees opening blast (hey, that's a 4 card puzzle!) is a lil crazy. Lil bit. Seven cards would just be *insane.
(*see card near bottom)

Met pitcher Gary Gentry was a 22 year old rookie righty in 1969. He won 13 games during the season and none more important than his four-hit, 6-0 shutout against the St.Louis Cardinals to clinch the National League East title for the Mets on September 24th. His 13 wins were most by a rookie in the National League that year.

Gentry was known as a hard thrower who could easily fall apart when rattled. He gave up 24 round trippers in 1969. Sometimes he pitched masterfully and sometimes he would hit a bump and lose his focus. When he didn't have his stuff he would not make it deep into games. Gil Hodges knew this and would act accordingly, like he did in the playoffs. In the N.L.C.S. Gentry had to be bailed out after two innings by a masterful relief performance by Nolan Ryan. Of course the Met manager would rather Gary was on his game. Hodges felt when Gentry was "on" he had the best three pitchers in the National League.

In 1966 Baltimore starting pitcher Jim Palmer became the youngest pitcher to ever pitch a complete game shut-out in a World Series at age twenty.

In 1967 and '68 he suffered arm problems. He started 9 games in '67, pitching a total of 49 innings and going 3-1. Thanks to surgery, and spending the entire 1968 season in minor league rehab and winter ball, he regained his form. The Orioles were not sure he would ever be the pitcher he was, and left him unprotected in the 1969 expansion draft. However, neither the Kansas City Royals or the Seattle Pilots picked him up. That's what a question mark Jim was going into the 1969 season.
His first outing after returning to the team (April 13th 1969) was a 5 hit shut-out. Mid season he was in fantastic form , winning 14 games in a row including a no-hitter against the Oakland Athletics on August 13th.

In the '69 World Series Palmer opened the game by giving up that lead-off home run to Agee in the first. That wasn't so bad, just one run. All miracles aside the Orioles could never be counted out of a 1-0 game. But in the second Palmer, nicknamed "Cakes" for his penchant for a stack of pancakes before a start, had problems with the bottom of the Mets lineup.

With two out in the 2nd Met catcher Jerry Grote worked a 5 pitch walk. It's about this time that Palmer seemed to be having problems with the pitchers mound at Shea. He had tossed one really wild pitch to Grote that went to the backstop and glanced down at the mound as if to cast blame on it. NBC broadcaster Curt Gowdy noticed this saying, "Palmer looks,'ve seen twice now [ ], as if he doesn't like that mound. Well, he's stuck with it."

With Bud Harrelson at the plate the pitcher seemed unfocused. Buddy lined a base hit right back up the middle that just missed Palmers head. That brought up pitcher Gary Gentry.

During the season Gary batted .081. In 74 at bats he had 6 hits and 1 RBI. Here in the World Series, in the biggest game of his life, he swings at the first pitch he sees, a Palmer fastball on the outside corner, and lashes a deep fly to right center.

Normally a reachable drive, Oriole outfielders Paul Blair and Frank Robinson were playing so shallow they had no chance to catch up to it. It dropped just short of the warning track and bounced all the way to the wall! Grote and Harrelson scored with ease as Gentry pulled up at second with a stand up double. And just like that the Mets had a 3-0 lead.

It was at this point that Curt Gowdy, seeing Karl Ehrhardt's sign in the stands, exclaims:"Incredible is right. Gentry knocked in only one run all year and he doubles on the first pitch, a very weak hitting pitcher. No wonder they call them 'The Amazin' Mets'."

In the top of the 3rd Ed Kranepool made a very nice grab on a foul ball near the Mets dugout. It was a good catch and I'll always make a card of a good catch if I can get a photo. And it's steady Eddie!

When the Birds came to bat in the top of the fourth the score was still 3-0 Mets. Gentry started off the inning well enough, striking out Paul Blair on a called third strike. Next up, multiple triple crown winner Frank Robinson, lined a base hit to left that Cleon Jones lunged in for but could only short-hop.
Click to enlarge
F.Robinson was on with the first hit of the game for the Orioles. Big Boog Powell then took Gentrys first pitch and slammed a hard grounder through the hole between first and second and F. Robby went to third. The Mets were in trouble.

Men on the corners, only one out.

Gentry bore down and got Brooks Robinson to swing and miss at some wicked high hard cheese for strike three.

Gary could get out of this. He needed one more out.

Baltimore catcher Elrod Hendricks was up. During the season Ellie only batted .244 but he did pump out 12 homers in a little over 100 games. Gentry went after him. He threw nothing but strikes and with an 0-2 count Gary tried to get one more fastball past Hendricks. Elrod got to one that was high on the outside corner and hit a rocket deep to left center.

Not deep enough.

Every Met fan knows what happened next (and I don't know one Met fan who doesn't enjoy reliving it) and if you're a new fan just learning, that's very cool. That's what this blog is here for :).

Met centerfielder Tommie Agee was shaded way towards rightfield for the Baltimore backstop, expecting him to pull one. He took off at a gallop and streaked through the grass like a gazelle. He ran across the field towards the gap in left/center at full steam and then started tailing back toward the wall. The ball was coming down too far from him. There was no way he could get there in time!

As he crossed the warning track he reached out and strained to reach out even further, opening his glove and with a backhanded swipe the ball caught leather. It fell into one of the open squares that formed the pocket. It almost went through the webbing! Tommie was aware of this and he attempted to steady his glove with his other hand in full preparation of slamming into the outfield wall.

He tried his best to cushion the blow, afraid he would lose his tenuous hold on the baseball. If it popped out when he hit the wall it would be nothing but a great try and two runs would easily score. He put on the brakes and allowed his entire body to land up against the wall as equally as he could and did soften the blow, his glove remaining steady and away from contact.

He needn't have worried. The ball was stuck, lodged there in between the leather strappings of his webbing. It wasn't going anywhere. On his way running in to the dugout he held his glove aloft, the ball still in it peeking out thru through the back of the pocket. This was just an amazing and totally clutch catch.
In the bottom of the 4th the NBC booth and Shea Stadium were still buzzing over Agee's robbery of Hendricks. Palmer got two quick outs and then walked Bud Harrelson on a 3-2 pitch. With Gary Gentry up he tried to pick off Buddy and threw it down and away, the ball skipping by both Buddy and O's first baseman Boog Powell. Bud took off for second and Boog took off for the ball at the same time while trying to occupy the same space. Boog took up way more space than Buddy.

Click to enlarge

Harrelson went down and a call of obstruction on Powell was called almost immediately. There was a pretty big argument from Ellie Hendricks and Orioles manager Earl Weaver but it was clearly a good call. First Boog had his arm around Buddy, then he was up against him pushing him away from 2nd, then he was over the top of him, and then, to top it off, he tripped him. They should'a gave Buddy 2 bases! Now this was a horrible throw by Palmer. But it wasn't scored as an error by the Oriole pitcher. The error was given to Boog Powell, the obstruction garnering most of the attention.

We can jump up through time, turn forward the clock a few years, for a fun peek at a future fantazy card. Buddy sometimes got into mischievous events on the big stage.

Buddy, who we ALL know was safe at home in the 1973 World Series, has been involved in some of the Mets most interesting post season moments. That bad call hurt bad (see video).


The score remained 3-0 Mets through the 5th and into the 6th. Ken Boswell led off the bottom of the 6th with a grounder in the hole between first and second. Oriole (& future Met manager) Dave Johnson made a heck of a play getting to the ball and a decent throw to Palmer covering. But Palmer made an overcompensating stretch which brought his foot off the bag and Ken was safe. It was scored a basehit although Palmer believed the culprit was the first base bag, which he stared down with the evil eye.
Click to enlarge
That brought up Mets first baseman Ed Kranepool. With the count 1 and 2 on Kranepool something entirely Metly happened. Ed was just about to step back in the batters box after a foul ball when he heard a commotion from the crowd. Glancing around something caught his eye.

Here's the play by play from the NBC booth, which awesomely had one of our regular broadcasters on their crew for the games in New York.

Lindsey Nelson:"Well there are parts of a Met banner floating down from one of the upper decks. I guess it's a kite. I thought it was a banner, (laughing) it's a kite!"

Curt Gowdy:"It's a kite that was carrying a Met sign. The sign has fluttered on the ground."
Lindsey Nelson (I'm gonna say he said this proudly):"Such happenings are not unusual at Shea Stadium."-(a pitch) "Low, it's 2 and 2."

Curt Gowdy:"Next thing we know some fan will be flying over the field."

Lindsey Nelson:(laughing) "Don't bet against it!"

Flash Forward to the 1986 World Series
>See. Even fans evolve. Mike Sergio was a pretty serious fan.

Kranepool grounded to second but Ken Boswell was on the move and could not be forced out. He pulled up at second as Davey Johnson's throw went to first. Met catcher Jerry Grote once again was clutch. With 2 strikes on him he took a Palmer looping curve ball and whacked a line drive double over Brooks and down the third base line. Kenny Boswell came home easily and the Mets now had a 4-0 lead.

Gary Gentry was pitching a fine game up to this point. He hit a few bumps and did not come undone. The Orioles only had two hits and the Mets had a healthy lead. Ellie Hendricks led off and again cracked a deep fly. This time the outfield shift worked as intended and Tommie was standing on the warning track in right/center waiting
as the ball came down softly in his glove. 2nd batter Davey Johnson met with similar fate. Agee was right on the spot in center and, although he slipped and almost fell on the shoddy outfield sod, he caught it for out #2.

With 2 out and facing the bottom of the Baltimore lineup Gary Gentry's wheels suddenly just fell off. He was still throwing hard but he lost the plate. He walked Mark Belanger. He walked the Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer. And then he loaded the bases by issuing his third free pass in a row to leadoff batter Don Buford. Gil Hodges had seen enough. He turned to the pen and called on his secret weapon, Nolan Ryan.

Ryan came on in the biggest pressure situation a pitcher could face. Bases loaded in the World Series. Baltimore all-star outfielder Paul Blair was batting. Nolan threw a wicked fastball right over the heart of the plate for a called strike. He reared back and threw another highly heated fastball. This time Blair swung but Ryan had blown it by him. With two strikes it looked like the Oriole batter was over-matched . Never one to waste a pitch intentionally, Nolan went with more smoke on the outside corner. Paul Blair got his bat on it, a tad late, and drove a drive to deep right center.

Once again Tommie Agee took off like the wind. By the way, the wind was swirling around Shea the whole game. It was making dust devils and rippling uniforms. The drive by Blair got caught up on it and to Tommie the ball must have looked like it was riding a wave. It was going up but it crested, the wind pushed against it and it started down, spinning and tailing away from the centerfielder. Approaching the warning track Tommie started punching the pocket of his glove with his right hand. Any Met fan knew what this meant. It meant he had it. 
Or at least he thought he did.

The only time Agee fisted his mitt like that was when he was sure he could glove the fly ball, and I don't remember any one time that he did that where he did not make the catch. He was preparing the pocket for the projectile. But watching, did anyone think he was going to catch this ball? 

Still going full speed he lunged forward with two hands as the ball sliced away from him, grabbing it before it could hit the ground, leaving his feet and skidding across the edge of the warning track.

He did it again! He saved the game. Again! With two out all three runs would have scored. Take away Tommie's two catches in game three the score would now be 5-4 in favor of the Orioles. Amazin'!

In an interview the following day Tommie said this catch was the easier of the two because it was on his glove side. And he didn't tap-fist his glove on the first. He didn't think he was going to get that one. But still, two catches like this in big pressure situations. In a World Series! Oh, & he hit that leadoff homer too. Amazin'.

If the stadium was buzzing before now it was reverberating. And it still was the following inning. Dave Leonhard had taken over for Jim Palmer in the 7th and was still on the mound in the 8th when all time Met hometown favorite Ed Kranepool got a hold of one and launched a solo home run to centerfield. He smiled as he rounded the bases for the same reason we all were. Here was Ed Kranepool, the kid who joined the Mets at age 19 in 1962 right out of high school running around the bases after a World Series round tripper. Who could have imagined it even just a few months before? What's the word I'm thinking of? It starts with an A and ends with an '.

DEJA VU! Look at Brooks and the ump.>
Look at Agee's lead off HR photo above.^

Young flamethrower Nolan Ryan was still on to wrap it up, but not before some drama. In the 9th with 2 out, Ryan got a little antsy. Lil' bit. He walked Mark Belanger and gave up a pinch hit single to Clay Dalryimple. Al Weis almost made a fantastic play on the Dalrymple grounder up the middle but could not get the force at second.

Click to enlarge
The Mets had a five run lead and Gil Hodges was going to give Ryan every chance to close it out. But now, after almost giving up an opposite field homer that was foul by a few yards, the righty walked leadoff hitter Don Buford, loading the bases. While rubbing the ball Ryan glanced over his shoulder at the dugout. He expected the hook. But the Birds still couldn't tie the game with one swing of the bat so Gil intended to stick with him. Gil picked up on the pitchers uncertainty and decided to visit the mound and tell Nolan that he was the man.

It took him maybe 30 seconds. And 20 seconds of that time was Hodges walking cool and slow to and from the dugout. After the visit Ryan calmed down and blew away Elrod Hendricks with two heaters and a curve, locking him up as the ump rang him up. The Mets had won game three of the 1969 World Series! Truly a game for the ages, especially for Agee.

I used to love when Bill Gallo did his Hero-Goat bit in the newspaper.
Unfortunately the drawings in the Hero-Goat picture were not by Bill. Fortunately they are by the equally great Bruce Stark and Alan Studt.

*Insanely awesome!

Game Three , complete and unabridged.
Courtesy of classicMLB

All of Nolan Ryans outs pitches in game three.

The New York Mets 50th Anniversary Collectors Set- Game three DvD
MLB Films
The Ultimate Mets Database
Getty Images
William J. Ryczek
Bill Gallo
Bruce Stark
Alan Studt
Magnum Photos
Google Search

The Jim Palmer 1966 World Series game 2 card displayed in this post is an actual Topps baseball card.

I went a little overboard on this one. Lil' bit. 14 cards for one game. But come on, it's game three and Tommie Agee and allAdat. This is actually the short version, I cut a bit. Also the New York games seemed to have generated more circulated photos as far as the internet goes.

BTW, The New York Mets 50th Anniversary Collector Set is a must for any serious Met fan. If you can find it, buy it. 10 DvD's of Met history and a pretty cool display book.

Stay Tuned for game four scheduled for sometime next week.