Wednesday, May 30, 2012

69 Mets

It's 43 years since the New York Mets won the world series for the first time. That year, 1969, the Mets went from annual losers and jesters, to champions. Players like Cleon Jones, Tommy Agee, Art Shamsky, and Ron Swoboda became heroes. Swoboda, a woeful outfielder most of the time, made one of the best catches ever during the 69 World Series against the Orioles.

 I was a serious Met fan that summer. I was home from school and working in the United States Post Office as what was called a "Mail Handler." My job was to take parcels off of a conveyor belt and trow them (you did not throw anything in my job, you trew them (or dem). You trew the parcels into bins. For this job I had to take two tests. After two months there working with assorted other summer help, I could not stop wondering where the people who failed that test were employed.

 What made the summer palatable was following the Mets. Every day from May when they started to get hot until they clinched the division I was anchored to the tv or radio hanging on every play. And, of course, I was not alone. If I speak to contemporaries about the 69 Mets, many of them can identify every player on the roster. They can tell me where they were when Tom Seaver's perfect game was spoiled by a rookie named Jimmy Qualls, and who was the unlikely mvp of the world series (Donn Clendenon).

 Forty three years ago and fans remember batting and earned run averages with greater ease than they can recall the dates of their children's births or exactly how old their youngest sibling may be. The historian Jacques Barzun is often cited with his quip, "Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball."  However, it is not only about baseball. Whoever wants to understand human behavior, must attempt to identify how come a 60 year old remembers the name Gary Gentry, but may not be able to tell you who ran as Humphrey's running mate in 1968, (Muskie) or even that Humphrey ran against Nixon.

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