The 1969 season will never go away.  It gives a particular flavor
to life, and it will be taken as a treasure to the end.  No one could
have foreseen what we saw.  It stands apart from all other sports
miracles.  Baseball historians can point to a few examples of
teams leaping from terrible to great in a single year.  But
none of these are comparable to the 1969 Mets because no other
suddenly great team had spent so long in the cellar, and no other
team had ever become such a symbol of futility.

 1969 began like all of our other seasons, with a loss on opening
day.  We lost to an expansion team.  Nothing was surprising in
April or May.  Our pitching was good and our hitting was weak,
just as they had been in 1968, when we poked our heads into ninth
place.   The Mets seemed to be headed for the fifth place finish
everyone had predicted, in the first year of divisional play, the
first year of the Expos.  But around Memorial Day, something
happened that at the time seemed as weird as the discovery of
crop circles or a story of an alien abduction.  
The New York Mets won eleven games in a row.  

 I remember how this felt.  Something had cracked.  The Mets had
never done anything like this.  When a team wins eleven games in
a row, it alters your sense of what is possible.  At the end of that
eleven game streak, the Mets were five games above .500.  It was
June, and my eye didn’t need to look for my team
at the bottom of the list.  They were in second place.  And for the
very first time in my eight years of looking at the standings, the
two-digit number on the left was larger than the two-digit number
on the right.  

 Suddenly the Mets could imagine that they were in a pennant
race, with the Chicago Cubs of all people, another Cinderella team
emerging from years of mediocrity to dominate a division that
everyone thought should have been dominated by the Cardinals.  
The Mets held steady.  The Cardinals slept.  And then in July, the
Mets played the Cubs in the first series they ever played that
actually mattered.  They played it for all it was worth.  In the first
game, they came from behind in the bottom of the ninth.  Seaver
almost pitched a perfect game in the second.  Then the Mets
flubbed the third game with fielding errors, prompting Cubs
manager Leo Durocher to call the clumsy team of the third game
“the real Mets.”   

 This crack, from Durocher’s notorious lip, opened the
floodgates.  The worried Cubs despised us, and we would hate
them back.  Here were America’s two biggest and oldest baseball
cities.  Here were two teams of great character, and no history of
success.  Only one could win.  It was a shame.  But boy it was
fun.  It was tense and it was wild, and as the season progressed it
turned into a full scale carnival, with brushback pitches, black
cats, and taunting cheers.  It was hand-to-hand combat between
two desperate and deserving dreams.  In the second Cubs series
in July, at Wrigley, the Mets once again won two out of three.  
They were only three and a half games out of first place.   In mid-

 Then it all collapsed.  It had to.  How could it possibly have
happened?  How could we have dared to hope for this?  By mid-
August, after a rough month, the Mets were nine and a half games
behind the Cubs.  They were in third place, as the Cardinals had
finally woken up.  And the Pirates were gaining.  We would
probably finish fourth.  It was okay.  It had been more fun than any
Mets season had ever been.  I wasn’t crushed.  I was only 14, but
I knew something about how the world worked.

I don’t know how to describe what happened next.  It is the best
baseball memory I have.  Imagine lightning.  Imagine the silence
after the flash.  Imagine a swell of sustained thunder.  Imagine the
heavens opening and the rain loud and sweeping and drenching
the earth.  Imagine a baseball team winning thirty-eight
of its last forty-nine games.  Imagining all of the other teams
crumbling with fear, dissolving into irrelevance.  Imagine two
young aces winning eighteen of their last nineteen starts.  
Imagine a team that has always been bad suddenly playing
as no team ever has.  Imagine the largest city in the world fully in
its thrall.  There are no words adequate to this.  There are not
even numbers.

 There is only the bursting of all boundaries.  There is only the
image of thousands of fans spilling over the line that had kept
them off the field on which the miracle has happened.  There are
flying corks and foam on the camera lens.  There is the emotion of
millions watching the Mets in their wet dugout singing all
of the baseball songs they can think of.  There is the memory of
the hung-over Mets recording the songs in a studio the  next day
and all of us rushing out to buy the quickly-pressed record.  There
was a pure and powerful happiness that waved a wand over the
last seven years.  The bad years would no longer be laughed at,
or cried about.  They were lifted up out of the gutter and given a
place of honor at the table.  They gave the moment of triumph its
luster.  They were the preparation for the launch. They had been
worth it.  But you only knew it now.  Everything had happened as
it was supposed to happen.  This was the real meaning of the

 After the Mets won the NL East and celebrated, you needed to
remind yourself that, for the first time in history, the team that
had won more games than any other in the league still had to win
a few more to claim the pennant.  After the way they had played,
the Mets were still not favored to win the National League
Championship Series.  It was as if nothing they could do could
render what they had done believable.  But they beat the Braves
quickly and easily, in three games.  Even that didn’t make them
the favorites to win the World Series.  The 1969 Orioles were one
of the best teams of all time.  I wasn’t in a mood to be greedy.  I
was happy with the pennant.  

 In those days, the World Series was played in the daytime.  This
made it a public event.  You could see what it really meant to
people.  There were radios in every classroom and every office.  
You could hear the game in every street and every shopping
center.  It seemed to me that the Mets were all that anyone
anywhere was talking or thinking about.   

 Seaver lost the first game.  Seaver lost.  Our team did not look
frightening.  None of them could hit like Frank Robinson and none
of them could field like Brooks Robinson.  Some of them could
pitch as well as Mike Cuellar, but not this time.  How had the
Mets managed to win so many games?  I felt, at the end of
the glum and sobering first game, as if I was beginning to forget.

 But the second game reminded me.  The Mets won by scoring
more runs than the other team.  But just barely.  To do this with
their lineup, they had to have spectacular pitching.  They got it
this time.  Koosman almost pitched a no-hitter.  Clendenon hit a
home run.  The Orioles tied the game.  But the Mets, with
three little singles, went ahead in the ninth, and held it.  

 In the third game, the Mets win was decisive, the only decisive
win of the Series.  Gentry and Ryan combined for a shutout.  
Tommy Agee made two catches that have changed my
understanding of how the human body can move.  The Mets won, 5-
0.  They had the momentum again, and the rumbling sound you
had heard all season long was back and it seemed as if it had
never gone away.  It swelled as Seaver returned to form in the
fourth game, as Clendenon hit another home run, and as Swoboda,
stinky fielding Swoboda, made a tumbling catch as great as either
of Agee’s the day before.  In the tenth inning, a fated and
probably wrong base running call gave the game to the Mets.

 The Orioles struggled mightily in the fifth game.  They knew they
did not deserve to lose.  They could not understand what was
happening.  Surely, the Orioles must have thought, this thing
could be prevented.   They had eyes and minds and arms.  They
had will.  And so they scored three runs before the Mets
could do anything.  Then in the bottom of the sixth, Cleon Jones
reached first because Gil Hodges convinced an umpire that the
shoe polish on a ball belonged to him.  Clendenon hit another
home run.  Al Weis, who could not hit home runs, hit one to tie the
game in the seventh.  A wave came out of the crowd and pushed
the Mets in front in the eighth.  Human beings could not stop this,
or anything else that had to happen.  Davey Johnson would some
day become the most successful manager in Mets history.  But
now, with two outs in the ninth, the Orioles second baseman hit a
line drive to left.

 In what seemed like slow motion, Cleon brought the dying ball
into his glove.  He squeezed it tightly.  He dropped to his knees.   

Mets Fan by Dana Brand (McFarland, 2007)
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