I spent this past summer poring over baseball boxscores — not from this season’s games, but from the otherworldly World Series run by the 1969 New York Mets.
Newsday printed these boxscores under the title “1969 50th Anniversary.” That feature culminates Wednesday with the publication of the boxscore from Oct. 16, 1969, when the Mets won the fifth and deciding game of the Series against the Baltimore Orioles.
The publication of those statistics — which sum up the events of each game through a compact presentation of numbers — was a pointed throwback for me personally, because the only way I could follow much of the 1969 season was through boxscores in the International Herald Tribune.
My wife, Ellen, and I were married in 1968, and in 1969, we took a belated honeymoon trip to Europe for two and a half months. In a tour of eight countries, I was excited to show her all the great things I had seen during an earlier trip I had taken to Europe.
I grew up a Brooklyn Dodgers fan, but when they packed up and went west in 1958, I could not bring myself to root for the Yankees. When the Mets were created in 1962, I came on board. Being used to those great Dodgers teams, it was hard for me to get used to the Mets’ losing ways and the clownish manner of manager Casey Stengel. But I was a baseball fan and even attended some Mets games at the Polo Grounds and beginning in 1964 at Shea Stadium.
A bright sign for the Mets was a young pitcher named Tom Seaver, who had won a remarkable 16 games in 1967 and was named Rookie of the Year. In 1968, one of my old Dodgers heroes, Gil Hodges, became manager and the team did better, winning 73 of 162 games. Seaver won 16 games again in 1968.
Before we left for Europe in 1969, there were hints that things might be improving. In May, bolstered by great pitching, the Mets reached .500 for the first time at that stage of the season. In early June, my wife and I were in London. I sensed I might be missing something extraordinary as the Mets ripped off 11 wins in a row from May 28 to June 10. The excitement was transmitted through boxscores in the Herald Tribune, the daily paper many Americans read in Europe.
By July, we had made our way south to Madrid. On July 20, we celebrated my wife’s 23rd birthday by going to a bullfight and then watching the moon landing on a grainy black-and-white television set in our Madrid hotel. That day, the Mets split a doubleheader with the Expos in Montreal. They were just five games out of first place.
In August, there were no English-language newspapers to be found as we drove through what was then Yugoslavia to Greece. Two weeks on the Greek island of Hydra were magical, with breathtaking views of the beautiful blue ocean and wine-soaked nights. But I could only wonder whether the Mets were still in the pennant race. During a harrowing ride back through Yugoslavia, we were arrested by Serbian policemen who took our passports and demanded to my wife in German that they wanted money. We satisfied their extortion by handing over the equivalent of about $50. (We had to borrow money for the rest of the trip from a friend we met in Venice!)
By late August, we were back home in our garden apartment in Central Islip. Indeed, the Mets were still in the race — and coming on strong.
We all know how the season ended. Seaver had a remarkable season, going 25-7. Of course the pitching of Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry, Tug McGraw and others, the hitting of Cleon Jones and Tommie Agee, and the defense of Bud Harrelson and Jerry Grote, all were indispensable to the Mets winning 100 games in the regular season. Then the Mets swept three games from the Braves in the National League playoffs and beat a very good Orioles team to become world champions.
What a trip. What a season! Thanks, Newsday, for those memories!
Reader Steven C. Klipstein lives in Stony Brook.