Considering their play on the field in their first steps as a franchise in 1962, it remains astounding that the New York Mets won the 1969 World Series over the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles and became known as “The Miracle Mets.” Those early seasons since their inception were some of the worst in baseball history. Their play was laughable at best, and that’s being charitable. But their strategy of putting together as many young players as possible led to a cohesion that would pay off in ways none believed before 1969.
Ron Swoboda was a fine player in his day. Never a superstar, he was the epitome of the working class player, the “Every Man” on the field. But his passion for the game, and that of his teammates as well, is what made this team grow up, grow together, and startle the sports world. In a delightfully self-deprecating style, Mr. Swoboda recaptures the moments and memories in his new book, HERE’S THE CATCH: A Memoir of the Miracle Mets and More
From the beginning of Ron Swoboda’s first season with the Mets in 1965, any “miracle” would have simply been a winning streak of more than three games. The team averaged 100+ losses per season in their first six years. However, things changed in 1968 when legendary Brooklyn Dodger Gil Hodges took over as manager. Wins became more frequent, and the confidence of the young team grew.
At the start of the 1969 season, the young core of the team -Tom Seaver, Cleon Jones, Tommie Agee, Ed Kranepool, Jerry Koosman, and Ron Swoboda – began to see in themselves a team that could surprise the experts. Mr. Swoboda takes the reader on a memorable journey, day-by-day and game-by-game. He introduces us to some of the more colorful characters the game has known, and builds the drama of that incredible season through all the peaks and valleys. To the reader, it almost feels as if you are in the dugout with the team.
For younger or even casual fans, the stories will be an eye-opener. Players didn’t make $20-30 million per season 50+ years ago. $100,000 was a huge headline-grabbing salary. The life of a ball player Mr. Swoboda talks about is that of a generation when some of the players had to work second jobs in the off season. Teams really were more of a family back then, with players’ wives and kids helping each other with daily life events. And as Mr. Swoboda relates, a real underdog like the Mets reflected the psyche of America in the late 1960s. Between the tragic assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, and the violent street protests in the U.S. against the Vietnam War, the country really was looking for some type of feel-good story, and underdog to rally the cause.
And then came the magical moment in October 1969 at Shea Stadium: The Mets were about to clinch the World Series win. Mr. Swoboda – who had endured ups and downs as a player for the previous two seasons, could finally feel a sense of great pride: his RBI (run-batted-in) was the clincher in the deciding game, and the previous day he made the greatest catch in the field in Mets history. For a moment, the “Every Man” was “Superman.” The importance of that moment was so unique to that franchise that today a steel silhouette of Mr. Swoboda’s amazing catch greets visitors at the right field entrance at the Mets’ new stadium, Citi Field.
Smart, funny and insightful, HERE’S THE CATCH will have all fans giving a rousing standing ovation.