Game five of the 1969 World Series. The New York Mets are up on the Baltimore Orioles three games to one. At this point anybody who had rooted for any sports team anywhere was paying attention. Could these lowly upstart Mets go all the way?
New York was relying on their lefty All Star pitcher Jerry Koosman to shut the door. Koos was masterful in game 2 of the series and at this point all the Oriole players were singing words of praise in regard to the Mets mounds-men. Brooks Robinson, the only Baltimore batter to record an RBI since the series came to New York, when asked how good are these Met pitchers?: "They are plenty good. These are the hardest throwing set of pitchers I've ever hit against."
O's starter Dave McNally was hoping to keep the series alive for a return to Baltimore. As a lefty he would face the Mets righty line up.
Just a year before, in the 1968 World Series, the Detroit Tigers were down three games to one and came back to beat the Cardinals in 7 games. This was a fresh reminder of how anything is possible in baseball.
After the Orioles went down in order in the top of the first, the Mets got off to an exciting start. Tommie Agee drew a base on balls to lead it off. As 2nd batter Bud Harrelson was rung up on a questionable called 3rd strike Agee made a daring steal of 2nd base.
New York had clean up hitter Donn Clendenon up. Donn was blistering the ball when he made contact and O's pitcher McNally avoided that by walking the slugger. With men on 1st & 3rd it was up to Ron Swoboda. McNally went 2-0 on Ron and then came back with 3 straight in the zone, ending the threat with a clutch strike out. The Oriole pitcher had a long inning however, going 3-2 on three batters and throwing a total of 28 pitches.
After the rocky first inning McNally found his control and began to cruise. He set the Mets down in order in the 2nd and 3rd innings.
Mark Belanger led off the top of the 3rd inning with a line single to right. As Belanger rounded first Met catcher Jerry Grote, one of the best at backing up first base on all plays, snuck in behind him at the bag.
Right-fielder Ron Swoboda saw the opportunity, scooped up the safe hit and fired the ball to Grote at first. Belanger got his foot back in the nick of time, almost falling over as Grote tried to push him off the base. First base ump Lee Weyer was all over the play calling Mark safe and reprimanding Grote for his aggressive actions.
Belanger was not on first for long. With Oriole pitcher Dave McNally up & no out the Mets were looking for the bunt. Baltimore manager Earl Weaver knew McNally had a little pop. Lil bit. Dave had hit four 4-baggers over the last two seasons.
Earl, desperate for a break, let him swing away. McNally popped one out and finally something was going the Birds way. Two batters later O's outfielder Frank Robinson got all his weight behind a Koosman fastball and launched a booming homer over the makeshift pavilion behind the left field wall. In a game Baltimore had to win to stay alive, they had a 3-0 lead.
After the bumpy 3rd Jerry Koosman recovered and pitched like the All Star pitcher that he was. For the rest of the game the Orioles would only get one hit. Big Boog Powell got a cheap check swing single in the 6th. Koos was in command and it was a joy to behold. He kept the Baltimore batters off balance and off the bases.
F. Robbie argued vehemently and animatedly but to no avail.
Manager Weaver joined in to protect his best hitter and vented his frustration in a marginally comical way, maybe a 5 to 6 on the Wild Weaver Meter. As Earl argued Frank Robinson, already hobbled with a limp from a previous injury, left the field.
When DiMuro called for play to resume the Oriole hitter was no where to be found. He had gone into the trainers room to be treated for his wound, delaying the game for over 4 minutes.
Broadcaster Lindsey Nelson said he received a report that the Baltimore trainer said Robinson had a "goose egg" on his leg. Lindsey also ventured to wonder if the delay would in any way effect the pitchers, specifically Dave McNally on the bench.
When Frank Robinson finally did return the wait did not seem to have effected Koosman at all. He struck Robinson out in short order.
Replay showed that indeed Robinson was hit by the pitch, which, deflecting off his thigh, proceeded to strike his bat. Home ump DiMuro did hear it hit wood, and he thought it had to be a foul ball. Once again the human factor played a part in another situation and it did not go the Orioles way.
In the bottom of the 6th Cleon Jones was leading off for the Mets. McNally's first pitch sent him sprawling onto the ground. Was Jones hit by the pitch? He was acting like he was and started off towards first base.
But once again home plate ump Lou DiMuro thought otherwise. He made no call. The ball itself, supposedly having hit Jone's foot, ricocheted to the right side, ending up in the Mets dugout. It had to hit something to change its direction to the backstop.
Cleon was about to toss his bat aside when he realized there had been no call. He stopped and stood there, not arguing, just looking towards the Met bench. On deck batter Donn Clendenon approached the ump and began jawing. Yogi Berra came down from the coaches box and added his two cents. There was going to be no changing DiMuros mind.
With this hectic scene surrounding him Met manager Gil Hodges calmly and quietly rose and walked from the Met dugout towards the the ump holding a baseball in his hand.
He approached plate ump DiMuro and displayed the ball to him, apparently attempting to point something out.
There was no argument. Just a conversation regarding the condition of the ball, which had a smudge of shoe polish on it. Hodges claimed this was the ball that struck Cleon's shoe and the shoe polish smudge proved that the pitch had hit his foot.
Home plate ump DiMuro must have respected Gil an awful lot to not question this claim and to consequently award Jones first base. The ball had been out of the umps sight for a period after it rolled into the Met dugout and that would be reason enough to stick by his call. Would DiMuro had taken Weavers word? I wonder. He took Gils. Cleon was on first with no outs. Donn Clendenon stepped up to the plate.
Up to now Orioles southpaw Dave McNally was on cruise control. After a shaky first he held the New York line up to 3 hits over 5 innings. The only Met player to reach second was Met pitcher Jerry Koosman who doubled leading off the 3rd. Maybe that delay of game by Frank Robinson did effect McNally.
The lefties first pitch of the inning hit Cleon and then he did something to Donn Clendenon that one should never do unless they want to see how far a ball will go off a bat. He hung one.
The Yankees had a 2-1 lead in the series. The Braves were winning 4-1 in the ninth inning of game 4 with starter Warren Spahn still on the mound. He gave up a dramatic 2 out, 3 run homer to Elston Howard and the Yankees tied it up. Spahn stayed in and was still on when the Yanks took a one run lead in the 10th on a Hank Bauer triple. In the bottom of the 10th Milwaukee sent up Nippy Jones to pinch hit for Spahn.
The first pitch to Jones looked to be in the dirt and umpire Augie Donatelli called it ball one. Nippy insisted that the ball hit him in the foot. Donatelli was unconvinced.
Jones retrieved the baseball and displayed it to the home plate ump. There was a small smudge of shoe polish on the white surface. Augie accepted this as proof and Nippy was awarded first base.
Future Met Felix Mantilla ran for him and was knocked in on a Johnny Logan double making the score 5-4 New York.
All time great third baseman Eddie Mathews then stroked a 2 run walk-off that evened the series out at 2-2. The Braves would beat the Yankees in 7 games and become '57 World Champs.
A smudge and a blast! It was shoe polish that made the difference and both men it happened to in the World Series were named Jones. Now how about that!
Baltimore held a 3-2 lead in the 7th inning. Jerry Koosman set the Orioles down in order. McNally was not so fortunate.
Met second baseman Al Weis was your typical 8th batter in any line-up. He had over 200 at bats at Shea Stadium during his two seasons with the team. He had never hit a home run in his home park, and hit a total of three on the road.
Throw all that stuff out the window. This is baseball. This is the World Series. These are the 1969 New York Mets. They need one run to tie the game. Al Weis wacks one over the left field wall and Shea shakes as New York pulls even 3-3.
Again New York hurler Koosman pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the 8th. In the Mets half of the inning Dave McNally , pinch hit for in the 8th, was relieved by Eddie Watt. Watt was greeted with a blast off Cleon Jones bat that missed being a home run by 3 feet, smacking off the wall in left/center by the 396 marker. Jones pulled into second with a stand up double and the Mets had the go ahead run in scoring position with no outs.
Donn Clendenon just missed and extra base hit, foul by inches, and then grounded out to Brooks at third. Cleon did not advance and now it was Ron Swoboda who was called on once again to step up and be a hero, and he did and he was. He pulled a looping drive toward the left field corner.
The ball was catch-able but only if Bird leftfielder Don Buford laid out for it, which he didn't. He tried to backhand it on the run and could only short-hop the baseball. Jones scored easily and Swoboda had his own stand up two base hit. And the Mets had the lead!
The fifth Met adventure in scoring was a charitable affair as first baseman Boog Powell gave the Mets a gift wrapped insurance run. Jerry Grote hit a bouncing bolt to Boog and he blew it.
The ball deflected off him and Grote's hustle combined with Watt's lack thereof enabled Swoboda to come around all the way from second to cross the plate. Baltimore was able to end the rally there as Al Weis went down on strikes. It was the top of the 9th.
Southpaw Jerry Koosman was still on the mound for the Mets. He had won a reprieve in the 7th. With Al Weis leading off the inning and Koosman on deck, manager Hodges had Tug McGraw warming up in the Mets bullpen. He was going to pinch hit for the pitcher when Al Weis wacked his solo shot. With the game tied Gil decided to keep Kooz in the game and he batted for himself. Now here he was with a two run lead, needing three more outs to put the Mets on top of the world.
He walked big Frank Robinson to open the inning. Robbie was erased quickly as big Boog Powell hit into a force at second. Frank tried to flatten Buddy Harrelson going into second but he missed him by >< that much.
One out. Man on first. The other Robinson, Brooks. He lifts a weak fly to right that Rocky Swoboda swallows up for out #2.
Shea is bubbling.
It's left to lil Davey Johnson.
There were four players on this field that would become Met managers in the future. Yogi Berra, George Bamburger, Bud Harrelson and lil Davey Johnson. Johnson would manage the 1986 Mets to new heights. But here in 1969 he's just the last out of the World Series and a neat future trivia question.
It was fitting. The ultimate Cinderella story had come to it's happy ending. The Mets had gone from worst to first in the blink of baseball's eye, surprising even their most ardent and faithful fans, not to mention the world. During the 1967 season Tom Seaver said that he wanted the Mets to be taken seriously. By the end of the 1969 season, they seriously were.
Game Five from intros to clubhouse celebrations courtesy of classicMLB11.
The Ultimate Mets Database
KlickerChick via/flicker for the awesome crowd/scoreboard photo her dad took at the 1957 World Series.