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.
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)
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.
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,...you'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.
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.
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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.
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 :).
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.
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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.
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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.
"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."
"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.
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?
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'.
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.
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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._________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
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
The Ultimate Mets Database
William J. Ryczek
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.