Mets honor '69 champs with special ceremony

Attendants include 15 team members, families of Seaver, Hodges

June 29th, 2019

NEW YORK -- Fifteen members of the 1969 Mets had a day that they will never forget. On Saturday afternoon, almost 50 years after upsetting the Orioles in the World Series, members of that Miracle Mets team were given a parade at the team’s new address, 41 Seaver Way, and then given the keys to the city by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“What an honor to be in the company of these heroes, and this is an amazing day for New York,” de Blasio said at a news conference.

The Mets then honored the 1969 team on the field before this year’s Mets took on the Braves at Citi Field. Although half the team was in attendance, the rest of the team was not forgotten. Tom Seaver’s grandchildren threw out the first pitch. Seaver’s wife, Nancy, announced some time ago that Seaver, 74, is dealing with dementia, and therefore the couple was unable to attend the ceremony.

Also present were families of the deceased players and coaches who were on that 1969 roster. Joan Hodges, wife of the late Gil Hodges, was in attendance. Hodges was the manager who led the Mets to their first World Series title.

Almost to a man, every player on that team credited Hodges for the miracle that occurred.

“He was everything. If not for Gil Hodges, we would not be here today,” said Cleon Jones, who played left field for the Miracle Mets. “If you knew him as a player, then you would understand him as a manager. He had a plan and he made sure that plan was put together in Spring Training. Winning comes from the top down. [General manager] Johnny Murphy, Gil Hodges put all the pieces together. The puzzle was in place.”

Said left-hander Jerry Koosman, one of the aces on the Miracle Mets, “Gil Hodges is the reason we won. He was a great manager. He molded us into a smooth-running machine, and we all knew what our positions were. He just asked us to be ready. Don’t worry about anybody else’s job. Just take care of your own and show up on time. Pretty simple rules.”

Before the 1969 season started, the Mets' odds to go all the way were 100-1, and for good reason. During their first seven years of existence, the Mets won no more than 73 games in a season, and it looked like they were going nowhere fast during the summer of ’69.

In fact, the Mets were more than 10 games behind the Cubs 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 National League East title before sweeping the Braves in the NL Championship Series and upsetting the heavily favored Orioles in five games in the Fall Classic.

“How can you not forget us?,” asked Wayne Garrett, who platooned with Ed Charles at third base that year. “We were the team that wasn’t supposed to win.”

Ron Swoboda, who played right field for the 1969 team, turns 75 on Sunday. He is grateful to be around and be part of the 50th anniversary of the Miracle Mets.

"It is special, because you get to 75 and you're faced with some mortality issues that you're just glad that you can move around with freedom, and your mind is still there for you,” Swoboda said. “Some of us guys aren't here anymore. I told somebody whether you're here now, with us now or not -- like Fred Shero said with his hockey team way back before that Stanley Cup one time. He wrote on the blackboard, 'You win this one, boys, and we walk together forever.' And when I heard that story, I went, 'Yeah, that's where we are as the guys from that '69 team.'

"Whether we're living or not, we're walking together forever."