19: Friday, August 22 vs Astros
When telling the story of Shea Stadium, ladies and gentlemen, the chapter that drips the most magic from its pages is the one we know as 1969. No other ballpark has ever known a year like it.
There is much to remember 1969 by and it would probably take a full season to do it justice. For our Countdown Like It Oughta Be purposes, we are devoting this weekend to a dozen of the men who played with distinction as Mets in that magic summer and are asking them to do the honors in removing the numbers from the right field wall indicating how many handfuls of games remain in the life of Shea Stadium.
Our first quartet:
He came to Shea from Lost Nation, Iowa and found a home here in Flushing. A starter and reliever who persevered no matter how few runs he may have received on any given day, please welcome back Jim McAndrew.
A second baseman who grew into a record-setting defender, this Texan sparked the Mets toward the 1969 pennant with two homers and five ribbies against the Braves in the first-ever National League Championship Series. Say hi to Ken Boswell.
Another star of that inaugural NLCS, he batted and slugged a cool .538 against the Braves as the Mets swept into the World Series. An outfielder and professional hitter, give a warm Shea Stadium greeting to Art Shamsky.
And leading our first foursome from 1969 to take down number 19, he was one of the premiere backstops in all of baseball, a two-time All-Star and a clutch enough hitter to have touched off the winning rally that put the Mets up three games to one in the World Series. As friendly now as he was competitive then, welcome the starting catcher on the world champion New York Mets of nearly four decades ago, Jerry Grote.
18: Saturday, August 23 vs Astros
It's another evening to honor four members of the 1969 World Champion New York Mets, ladies and gentlemen, so let's get to it.
On the cusp of the era of the closer, this reliever was Gil Hodges' go-to guy when he needed a righthander to slam the door on opposing batters. He saved 13 games for the '69 Mets and has come to the aid of his fellow man more than a few times in his post-baseball life as a physician. The distinguished team doctor from the Toronto Blue Jays, please give a big hand to Ron Taylor.
The 1969 Mets' signature was strong, young pitching. Nobody fit that description any better than the Arizona State graduate who burst into Gil Hodges' rotation as a rookie and won 13 regular-season games. He topped off his freshman year by winning the first-ever World Series game played at Shea Stadium, even doubling and driving in a pair of runs off future Hall of Famer Jim Palmer in the process. Welcome home Gary Gentry.
His stay as a mainstay of the Mets began in earnest on Opening Day in 1969 when as a pinch-hitter, he socked a three-run, ninth-inning home run versus the brand new Montreal Expos. New to the big leagues himself, he helped catch Rube Walker's staff of flamethrowers in '69 all the way through 1974. A real fan favorite, say hello to Duffy Dyer.
Every team has tough decisions to make when forming a postseason roster, and the '69 Mets were no exception. Gil Hodges could take 25 players, meaning somebody was bound to be the 26th and ultimately omitted. To remove number 18 from the right field wall, we try to do a little justice to someone who simply fell victim to baseball's version of musical chairs. In 1969, he didn't get to the World Series although, interestingly enough, his glove did. The Secret Service borrowed it to protect Pat Nixon, the first lady of the United States, in Baltimore. But by the time the Mets were back in New York and finishing off the Orioles, he was as recognized as anyone who carried the title of World Champion.
Ladies and gentlemen, the splendid utilityman from the 1969 Mets, Bobby Pfeil.
17: Sunday, August 24 vs Astros
Today, ladies and gentlemen, we continue our tribute to the 1969 Mets with four more members of that unforgettable club.
Leading off, he came to the Shea Stadium from Franklin Square, Long Island by way of the Chicago White Sox. And he came to Met immortality by choosing the fifth and deciding game of the 1969 World Series as the occasion for the first and only Shea Stadium home run of his big league career. A .455 hitter in the Fall Classic, New York will never forget Al Weis.
He laid down the most famous bunt in Mets history, made all the more glorious by his trek to first base. Was he running inside the foul line? Was his wrist where it was supposed to be? In the end, did any of it matter? J.C. Martin's at-bat resulted in the winning run of Game Four of the 1969 World Series and that is what counted. We are delighted to welcome him back.
Really now, you can't invoke that famous bunt and errant throw that struck J.C. on the wrist without mentioning who it brought home. An outfielder by trade, he gained lasting fame as a pinch-runner who never stopped hustling until that fourth game was won. We're glad he hustled back to Queens today, ladies and gentlemen, his name is Rod Gaspar.
Finally, folks, we have the elder statesmen from a team of wide-eyed kids, a veteran of the buses and bushes who got his big break in the majors far later than he deserved, but Mets fans couldn't be happier that his moment in the spotlight came in the final season of his career, 1969. The lasting image of the man who will remove number 17 is him rushing the mound from third base in the seconds after the World Series was won. The Glider…the Poet Laureate…in so many ways the heart and soul of the Miracle Mets — Ed Charles.
16: Monday, August 25 vs Astros
All weekend long, ladies and gentlemen, the Mets were honored to bring back members of their 1969 world championship club. We are certain no two Mets fans were happier to see those familiar faces than the duo that will remove number 16 from the right field wall.
They have jobs today that keep them from being fans first and foremost, but make no mistake that their professions in 2008 are very much tied to what they were doing at Shea Stadium in the summers of '69 and the years directly before and after it, knowing and loving their favorite baseball team in a way that only true fans can. They took the knowledge they gathered and the passion they oozed and parlayed it into a life's work sharing the Mets gospel with everyone within the sound of their voices. When you listen to what each of these men has to tell you about the New York Mets, you know what you're hearing is drenched in the experience of fandom. That's why you've come to trust them, that's why you're happy to have spent countless hours with them.
It is the Mets' great pleasure to present, as a tandem once more, this generation's voices of New York Mets baseball, Gary Cohen and Howie Rose.
Numbers 22-20 were revealed here.