After assuring at least a tie of the NL East pennant with a win over the Cardinals on September 23, an unnamed member of the Miracle Mets told the press pool, "Bring some extra clothes tomorrow, fellows, because that's when the big party's going to be."
Whoever said it (McGraw? Swoboda? Jack DiLauro?), proved to be prophetic. At 9:07 p.m. on September 24, 1969, Gary Gentry got Joe Torre to bounce a ground ball in the direction of Bud Harrelson. The shortstop scooped it up, flipped it to second baseman Al Weis, who fired on to Donn Clendenon at first for a game-ending, pennant-clinching double play. In addition to recording the final out, Clendenon was personally responsible for two-thirds of the runs scored by the Mets in the 6-0 triumph, blasting a pair of two-run bombs.
The win capped an incredible six week streak that saw New York turn a 9.5 game deficit in the National League East standings into an insurmountable six game lead over second place Chicago. In celebration of the feat, fans in the stands (as well as those who flooded the field in search of a souvenir hunk of turf) chanted "We're number one!" for a good twenty minutes after the clincher became final and only started heading for the gates when the stadium lights were shut off.
Of course, the players were doing their fair share of vandalism, too. They just did it to the clubhouse and with champagne. By all accounts, the party got a big crazy, which was fitting. Asked during the celebration if he thought, at the start of the season, that the Mets could be contenders, Ron Swoboda said, "Hell no, they would have locked me up."Birthdays
- Bill James said of Hubie Brooks, who turns 56 today, "He was a lot more valuable in reality than on paper; every team has a hole somewhere, and Brooks was a player who could fill that hole and not hurt you in the process." Hubie played every offensive position for the Mets except first, center, and catcher, the last one being the team's biggest hole going into the 1985 season. Since putting Hubie behind the plate wasn't an option, the role he filled most valuably for the Mets was trade bait for Gary Carter.
- Bernard Gilkey is 46. Oh, what could have been. Gilkey's 1996 season is one for the Mets record books. His 44 doubles remain tops in franchise history and, according to Baseball Reference, the only outfielder to post a higher WAR while wearing the orange and blue was Carlos Beltran. Sadly, during the 1997 season, a fly ball struck a distracted Gilkey in the head and he was never quite the same player.
Game of Note
Like the 2012 Mets, the 1991 team jumped out to a fast start and stayed in contention through the All-Star break before crashing hard in the second half. While this year's model has R.A. Dickey's quest for 20 wins to keep things interesting in lieu of meaningful September games, Mets fans in 1991 had Howard Johnson to root for. On September 24, in an otherwise unremarkable 10-8 loss to the Pirates, Hojo went deep for his career-high 37th home run of the year. The blast also established the record (since broken) for homers in a single season by a National League switch-hitter, surpassing the previous mark of 36 held by...Howard Johnson. Haij (as Keith Hernandez calls him for some reason) could turn on a fastball pretty good, you guys. He'd finish 1991 with 38 jacks and 117 RBI, both league leading figures.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
On this date in 1664, the Dutch peacefully ceded control of the New Netherland colony to the British, who rechristened the territory in honor of the king's brother, James Stuart, the Duke of York. Had the name change not occurred, then roughly three centuries later, the National League would have expanded to include the New Amsterdam Mets.