It was on of the greatest games in one of the most magnificent, amazing seasons in the history of sports.
In 1968, New York’s most beloved team, the New York Mets, had finished a dismal ninth in the 10 team National League, but by July 1969, they were doing something they had never done before. They were winning games fairly consistently.
On July 8, the Eastern Division leading Chicago Cubs were at Shea Stadium to open a three-game set against the second place Mets, who trailed Leo Durocher’s team by five games.
Going to the bottom of the ninth inning, the Cubs, behind Ferguson Jenkins, led Jerry Koosman and the Mets, 3-1. Since this was 41 years ago, Jenkins went to the mound to finish the game. .
Ken Boswell batted for Koosman and doubled. It was a ball that center fielder Don Young should have caught.
“I know what happened to the kid” said Cleon Jones after the game. “The sun and the stands make it hard to see the ball.”
After Tommy Agee fouled out to first, Donn Clendenon pinch hit for Bobby Pfiel and hit a deep drive to center field that tipped off Young’s glove for a double. Boswell had to stop at third.
Everyone in the ballpark, everyone in Chicago, and everyone watching or listening to the game knew that the game was over. It was just a matter of time.
Durocher went to the mound. All he said to Jenkins was, “Battle him.” Leo Durocher would never put the potential winning run on base.
Cleon Jones promptly hit the Mets’ third double of the inning to tie the game. There was never a thought of taking out Jenkins, not in 1969.
Durocher had Jenkins intentionally walk the left-hand hitting Art Shamsky to face left-handed Wayne Garrett, who grounded out, moving Jones to third and Shamsky to second with two outs.
It had to be that way. The Mets had to be one out away from defeat, and the Cubs had to be one out away from victory.
Ed Kranepool singled to center on an outside 1-2 curve ball. Down to their final strike, the Mets win. The Mets win.
All of the Mets ran to greet Kranepool. It was an emotional celebration that was not seen often before the 1969 New York Mets followed the “Impossible Dream.”
It was the kind of celebration that is seen almost every day in 2010 when a batter lays down a successful sacrifice bunt or moves a runner up a base on an infield ground out.
The Mets had sent their message. They were not a fluke, not with a dominating pitching staff that included Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry, Nolan Ryan, and Tug McGraw and just enough offense to win most games.
The teams split the next two games,Tom Seaver pitched his infamous one-hitter the next night, but the Cubs managed to salvage the final game. It didn’t matter. These were not your big brother’s Mets.
By GEORGE VECSEY. (1969, July 9). 55,096 Watch Mets Shock Cubs With 3-Run Rally in Ninth for 4-3 Triumph :KRANEPOOL GETS DECIDING SINGLE Raps Homer Off Jenkins in 5th for Only Met Hit Until 9th — Jones Doubles In 2. New York Times (1923-Current file),47. Retrieved September 12, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 – 2006). (Document ID: 78354863).