The year was 1969, a landmark year, perhaps the most incredible year of the 20th Century. Rob Kirkpatrick wrote all about in in 1969: The Year Everything Changed.
Here’s a Top 10 list of accomplishments, events, trends and happenings of 1969:
1. Man on the Moon
3. Amazin’ Mets
4. Nixon and Vietnam turmoil
5. Movies – Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
6. Rock and Roll – Beatles last concert, Led Zeppelin, Altamont and the Rolling Stones
7. Joe Namath and the guarantee
8. Student demonstration time
10. Charles Manson and the Zodiac Killer
The 1962 New York Mets
Really now, just how bad were the 1962 New York Mets? Pretty darn bad.
The Mets, an expansion team in the National League along with the Houston Colt 45s, had a rather inauspicious debut. After half the team got stuck in an elevator at the Chase Hotel in St. Louis, the Mets lost their inaugural game to the Cardinals 11-4. They proceeded to lose their first nine before beating the Pirates. The Mets later had losing streaks of 11, 13 and 17 games….and they were 40-70 in their other games en route to a 40-120 record, setting the record for most losses by a single team in a single season in the 20th Century. Only the Cleveland Spiders, who went 20-134 in 1899, ever lost more games in a season.
The Mets were managed by the lovable Casey Stengel, who led to Yankees to 10 pennants and seven World Series in 12 years before being fired after the 1960 World Series. “I just know I’ll never make the mistake of being 70 again,” he is reputed to have said after the Yanks dismissed him.
Two years later, he was asked to take over the Mets, The Amazins’ first draft pick in expansion draft was Hobie Landrith, and as Stengel said “You have to have a catcher or you’ll have a lot of passed balls.”
Early on, it was apparent the Mets were going to have trouble competing in the National League. “Been in this game one-hundred years, but I see new ways to lose ’em I never knew existed before,” said Casey after one particularly disheartening loss.” “Can’t anybody here play this game?” he asked after another setback, a phrase that Jimmy Breslin later used as the title for perhaps the best book about the 1962 Mets.
Early in the season, when a reporter asked Stengel where he thought the Mets would finish, he said “We’ll finish in Chicago.”
Mercifully, the Mets were eliminated from the pennant race in early August. Casey called a team meeting. “You guys can relax now,” he told his ballclub, “We’re mathematically eliminated from the pennant. You can loosen up now.”
The relaxed Mets won a total of 11 games in the last two months, and finished in 10th place, a mere 60 1/2 games behind the pennant-winning San Francisco Giants.
(I’ll blog more about the Amazin’ Mets….lots of great stories there.)