'69 Mets: Win provided New York City with an escape

Karl Ehrhardt, the New York Mets fan known Karl Ehrhardt, the New York Mets fan known as the Sign Man, holds up a "Met Power" sign after Ed Kranepool hit a home run in the eighth inning of the third game of the World Series. Photo Credit: AP Photo

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When weighed against other famous New York City scenes of the late 1960s, the Mets' stunning world championship seems so simple, light and sweet.

The team gave the city a collective moment free of gravity and conflict, a form of civic and spiritual escape.

Imagine Woodstock for Rheingold drinkers.

Joan Miccio (nee Potterton) taught English at Arthur W. Cunningham Junior High School 234 in Brooklyn. Reached recently, while on summer vacation in Noyack, her Mets recollection comes easily four decades later.

"They were the reincarnation of the Brooklyn Dodgers," she said. "My father was a Brooklyn Dodger fan," a stock broker for a company that got tickets for Ebbets Field and Yankee Stadium.

They did not go to see the Yankees. "They were the fancy Dans from uptown," she says. As remembered, the Yankees' pinstriped uniforms were neat, the Dodgers', "kind of messy."

After the Metropolitans' birth, she remembers great seats for those less-than-crisply-played early games at Shea, with her dad referring to "Marvelous" Marv Throneberry as "Stone Hands."

Well before he became Mets manager in 1968, ex-Dodger Gil Hodges was a benevolent figure in Flatbush. Ballplayers were part of the community and not highly paid, Miccio notes.

She met the ex-first baseman when she was a child. She remembers meeting him, years later, at his local bowling alley, Gil Hodges Lanes: "He had humongous hands and he was an absolute gentleman."

If anyone could work a miracle, it would be Hodges, fans believed. She recalls her eventual husband, Richard - not a sports fan - telling his father-in-law-to-be not to worry, that they were going all the way.

All this was by way of explaining to one of her seventh-grade students why she taped the front page of the Daily News of Oct. 17 to the right side of the blackboard, where it remained the rest of the school year.

"World Champs!" boomed the headline. The words were floated high above a wide-angle, black-and-white photo of the on-the-field celebration, in a time often defined in news media by other crowd photos.

Look now at other crowd shots from within a two-year period to see how the Mets' underdog victories might have perked up the collective mood.

A violent police action cleared demonstrators who took over the Columbia campus in Morningside Heights. Disturbances in Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville, after the slaying of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., led Fire Commissioner Robert O. Lowery to declare a citywide emergency. People jammed St. Patrick's Cathedral for the funeral Mass for Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. The United Federation of Teachers struck and demonstrated. Gays in Greenwich Village carried out the Stonewall rebellion. Vietnam "moratorium day" put thousands into public squares. Flag-waving hardhats rallied in Manhattan.

Nobody could know to the penny what economic impact the Miracle Mets had on the city. Politically, however, it became popular lore that the Mets got Mayor John Lindsay re-elected 18 days later.

Lindsay, who wasn't a huge baseball fan, did win - but with a mere 42 percent of the vote, because his opposition was split.

Still, the "Fun City" mayor was right there, in the joyous Shea locker room, chuckling while doused in Champagne, part of the magic.

Crises would have to wait.

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