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So Gramps, where were you when the Mets outraced the Cubs in 1969?

The Chicago Cub's bench chuckles when that traditional

The Chicago Cub's bench chuckles when that traditional omen of bad luck, a black cat, wandered in front of their dugout during the first inning of an NLCS game against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium on Sept. 9, 1969. The Mets won, 7-4. Credit: AP / Dave Pickoff

There is no escaping history when talking about the Cubs at this time of year, but no matter how much fans and media members try to dwell on the past, the current Cubs and Mets are a bit more focused on the NLCS task at hand.

That includes any looks back at 1969, when the Mets stormed past the Cubs in September in a division race Cubs fans over 50 still have not gotten over.

"I wasn't even a thought in 1969," said the Mets' Matt Harvey, who will start Game 1 Saturday night.

What was so remarkable about the 1969 Mets? Well, their best previous season was 1968, when they went 73-89. In their first seven years of existence, they finished 10th five times and ninth twice, compiling a 394-737 overall record, an average season of 56-105. But they went 100-62 in 1969, a 27-game improvement over the previous year.

On Aug. 14, 1969, they were 10 games behind the Cubs. After that, they went 38-11 to the Cubs' 18-27 -- think 2015 Mets and Nationals -- and finished eight games ahead of Chicago, an 18-game turnaround in the span of seven weeks. They wound up upsetting the heavily favored Orioles in five games in the World Series.

Harvey's general manager, Sandy Alderson, 67, is old enough to remember the Mets' run to their first championship. But he was a bit preoccupied that October.

"I was stationed at Quantico taking Marine training at the time," he said. "The field radios that we used, they were called PRC-25s, could pick up the audio from the television broadcasts. So a few of us would go out in the bush and hide and listen to the game. That's my only memory. I was kind of cooped up in a Quonset hut at the time."

Mets manager Terry Collins, 66, was a student at Eastern Michigan then but said he had "no idea" what was going on in the NL East.

"I was trying to graduate from college," he said. "I don't remember any races at that particular time . . . That was the '60s. I was worried about going to war more than anything else."

Cubs manager Joe Maddon, 61, who is from Hazleton, Pennsylvania, also is old enough to recall '69, including the Mets' sign man, Kiner's Korner and Cleon Jones, who he said was one of his favorite players.

"I remember very clearly," he said of the '69 race. "It was quite a time, man, the way they came back. It was a pretty special moment for the Mets just as a young baseball fan.''

But that's a 60-something man speaking. For the players, history will be little more than background noise once the first pitch is thrown Saturday night.

Asked if he hears much from fans about the Cubs' flop in 1969, Game 1 starter Jon Lester said: "I'll be honest with you: I haven't . . . I don't know about that series or anything like that. I just know Cubs fans are pumped up."


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