NEW YORK -- In two weeks’ time, they will begin filtering into New York City from points across the nation. For months, the 1969 Mets have held mini reunions in New York, in Florida and at various other locales. But this is the big one. From June 28-30, nearly every living member of that team will descend upon Citi Field for a 50th anniversary celebration.
“I think our mortality is more apparent with all of us in our 70s, some of us in our 80s, some of us aren’t here anymore,” said outfielder Ron Swoboda, who released a memoir entitled “Here’s the Catch” earlier this year. “You feel fortunate, those of us who want to be there and can be there. It’s a smaller number. And maybe because of that, it’s more poignant.”
Swoboda echoed the sentiments of other Mets who have said they can’t believe 50 years have passed. He put the Mets’ season into the context of all that occurred in 1969 -- the moon landing, Woodstock, the Stonewall riots, the Vietnam War and its protests, and so much more.
“It seemed like a time when everything could happen, and probably the least predictable thing to happen was the New York Mets winning the World Series,” Swoboda said. “But it did. And so in the context of those times, it’s overwhelming to think back to what was going on, and how you had a little piece of that, and how it sticks in peoples’ minds all these years later. Half a century is a long time.”
The Mets have held reunions of the 1969 World Series team before, but understand this will be the grandest and possibly last formal gathering of that team. In addition to Swoboda, stars including Cleon Jones, Jerry Grote and Jerry Koosman will attend. Some, such as Nolan Ryan, have not spent much time in the Mets’ community in recent years. They’ll be embraced by a fan base entranced by what that group accomplished in 1969.
That summer, the Mets found themselves double-digit games back in the National League East as late as Aug. 13, before going on one of the more miraculous runs in Major League history. The Mets won 38 of their final 49 games to win the division by eight games, then won seven of eight in the postseason to capture their first title.
“I can’t wait to see the fans react to it,” said Gil Hodges Jr., son of the late manager who led the Mets throughout that run. “A lot of them never saw these guys. But a lot of them did. And the ones that didn’t have read about them. The Met fans are Met fans. There’s nothing like it in baseball.”
The elder Hodges headlines a short list of those deceased or otherwise unable to attend, along with Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, who has retired from public life as he battles dementia. Those two and others will be on the minds of the thousands in attendance -- a number Swoboda expects to be significant. Earlier this year, Swoboda attended a 1969 Mets event in Connecticut, and came away overwhelmed at the reception he received. Hodges Jr. said he is routinely floored by the interest in his father and the team -- not only from Baby Boomers, but also younger fans who never saw the 1969 Mets play.
“In a lot of ways, these are tougher times for people, I think,” Swoboda said. “I think this feel-good thing of 1969 is just what folks need.”