On Opening Day 1969, the Las Vegas sports betting line listed the New York Mets as a 100-to-1 to win the World Series. Six months later the Mets defied the odds, beating the Baltimore Orioles in five games to win their first-ever World Series title.
Gil Hodges shook off the gamblers. “We have good young players like Swoboda, Harrelson and Agee, all whom had good seasons in the past,” he said. “My feeling is that they are young enough to come back.”
Hodges’ confidence in his young, talented roster of hopefuls would eventually pay off. The Mets manager had many of the same names, but a new attitude in the clubhouse. Apathy would no longer be tolerated. He would nuture and reward players who would hustle and prod and vilify those who underachieved.
During Spring Training 1969, after watching Ed Kranepool’s sluggish play at first base, Hodges benched Kranepool for Cleon Jones. One week later, Kranepool returned to the Mets lineup with a new energy. Kranepool tore up opposing pitchers.
Still, the season opened with an 11-10 loss to the newest National League team, the Montreal Expos. Tom Seaver looked rusty, allowing five runs in six innings. Fans muddled their way out of the ballpark thinking, “Same ol’ Mets.”
Mets fans, media and opponents couldn’t have been more wrong. The 1969 Major League Baseball season is one of the most talked about, written about and chronicled than any other team or season in the game’s history.
The season recap published above is written by David Russell and published in his book, Fabulous to Futile in Flushing: A Year-by-Year History of the Mets. Do you love Mets history? Pick up this book online at your favorite bookseller and enjoy season-by-season historical recaps, Mets highlights and challenging trivia that will send you on a fun journey through the Mets rich franchise history.