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Ed Kranepool, Art Shamsky make a Father's Day visit to rehab center

1969 Mets World Series champions Ed Kranepool and Art Shamsky spent time at a barbecue with their fans on Father's Day at Momentum at South Bay, a rehab and nursing facility in East Islip. (Credit: James Carbone)

Ed Kranepool walked around and mingled. He laughed with people and signed autographs. He thrilled listeners with stories and wished everyone a happy Father’s Day.

“It wasn’t very long ago that I found it tough walking five feet,” said the 1969 Miracle Mets’ first baseman, who received a kidney transplant on May 7 after about a 2 1⁄2-year wait. “I feel much better in terms of getting around and breathing. I got my first miracle in 1969 and I got my second miracle a few weeks ago.”

Kranepool and 1969 Mets teammate Art Shamsky paid a visit to the many Mets fans at Momentum at South Bay, a rehab facility in East Islip. The two will be with their teammates again when the 50th anniversary of the championship season is celebrated later this month at Citi Field.

Said Shamsky, “We’re here because we’ve gotten such an outpouring of love from Mets fans during this season that we wanted to try to give a little back.”

Shamsky pointed out the mingling Kranepool at one point during the event and said, “When I look at him, I feel like I have a lot to be thankful about. He’s moving in a way I haven’t seen in years, and you can tell he’s feeling better.”

Kranepool said everything in his recovery from the surgery has gone well and the “anti-rejection drugs are working.”

His doctors recently pared him down from two follow-up visits per week to one. He added that with the new kidney functioning well, he just needs to work on rebuilding his strength and endurance.

Kranepool and Shamsky enjoy replaying moments from the 1969 season with the fans they delighted a half-century ago. Shamsky said that some favorite moments for the people at Momentum were Tom Seaver’s near-perfect game and the World Series clincher at Shea Stadium.

“I’ve had about 150,000 people tell me they were there when we won it at Shea, but I only remember the place seating about 55,000,” Shamsky said with a smile. “It’s nice to know that we brought so much happiness to so many people.”

“I can’t believe how many people have told me that they have a piece of the turf taken from Shea Stadium [after the clincher] planted in their Long Island yards,” Kranepool said with a grin. “I like seeing the way people light up talking about 1969.”

“I had always been a Yankees fan, but we all made room for the Mets that season,” said Edward Logigian, 98, of East Northport. “In my town at that time? Everyone was talking about them.”

Luigi Devenuto and his son Frank exchanged greetings with Kranepool and Shamsky. Later, surrounded by Frank’s family, Luigi said, “Tom Seaver was my favorite.”

Frank recalled that his dad always used to like watching Tug McGraw on television, too. “He’d say, ‘That’s the enthusiasm you should play with,’  ” Frank Devenuto said.

Eddie Ruland of East Islip was with his son Steve when they met Kranepool. “We talked about playing first base,” Ruland said. “That was my position, too.”

“I think Father’s Day and baseball are a perfect fit,” said Joe Aplustille, the assistant administrator at Momentum at South Bay. “We wanted to give the people who stay with us and their families — many who watched the 1969 Mets win together — a chance to meet the players.”

By any account — and judging from all the autographed Mets gear being donned — the visit from Kranepool and Shamsky was a hit.

“Giving and doing for others is a great thing,” Kranepool said. “Believe me. I know.”

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