Casey Stengel always said the Mets would win when they put a man on the Moon. Both miracles happened in 1969.
The whole world didn’t stop on July 20, 1969, when astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the Moon. It just seemed that way.
For even as astronaut Neil Armstrong was landing on the powdery surface of the Moon that day, uttering 11 of history’s most famous words — “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” — the sports world carried on.
That famous Sunday featured a full schedule of baseball games, with many teams playing doubleheaders as was the norm in those days.
In Montreal, Bobby Pfeil’s bunt single in the 11th inning scored Ron Swoboda and gave the Mets a 4-3 win over the Expos and a split of their doubleheader. Montreal won the opener, 3-2.
The Mets, who would go on to miracles of their own that October, fell five games behind the Cubs in the National League East. Chicago’s Ferguson Jenkins and Dick Selma both pitched complete games as the Cubbies beat the Phillies, 1-0 and 6-1, at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia.
In Atlanta, Pat Jarvis pitched a six-hit shutout as the Braves maintained their one-game lead over the Giants and Dodgers in the NL West.
Orioles Rule AL East
Meanwhile, Syd O’Brien’s two-run triple in the eighth inning led the Red Sox to a 6-5 win over the Orioles. Despite the loss, Baltimore still led Boston by 11 names in the AL East.
And a shutout by Jim Perry, Gaylord’s brother, helped the AL West leading Twins to a 4-0 win over the Seattle Pilots and a four-game lead over Oakland.
The same day that Eagle landed on the Moon, Oakland left-hander Vida Blue, who went on to win the AL MVP and Cy Young award in 1971, was the losing pitcher in his major league debut. The A’s and Angels split a doubleheader that day.
In the Bronx, Gene Michael’s single drove in Roy White with the winning run as the Yankees beat the Washington Senators, 3-2, in 11 innings. Walk-off win was not yet part of the baseball vernacular.
This was the first year of divisional play in the majors. Four new teams — the Seattle Pilots and Kansas City Royals in the AL and San Diego Padres and Montreal Expos in the NL — joined baseball in 1969.
On that Sunday, July 20, Rod Carew of the Twins at .364 and Matty Alou of the Pirates at .354 and were the batting leaders. Oakland’s Reggie Jackson led the AL with 37 home runs; San Francisco’s Willie McCovey was tops in the AL with 30. Atlanta’s Phil Niekro led the majors with 15 wins.
Jacklin Celebrates British Open Win
In other sports, Tony Jacklin was still celebrating his win in the British Open the week before, first by an Englishman in 18 years.
And in football, Joe Namath and the rest of the Super Bowl champion New York Jets were gearing up for training camp at Hofstra University.
That same weekend, a car, shown above, driven by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., plunged off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island near Martha’s Vineyard. Kennedy managed to escape the submerged vehicle, but his passenger, 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned. (Kennedy subsequently pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and received a suspended two-month jail sentence.)
In 1969, the average family income in the United States was $8,389.00, and the price of gasoline ranged between 29 and 35 cents a gallon. A six pack of Coca Cola was selling for 59 cents and Hershey bar was .10 cents. The cost for a new Ford Mustang was a whopping $2,832.00 for a standard model.
Richard M. Nixon was President of the United States, Woodstock was on the horizon and man was on the Moon.