NEW YORK — In the 1960s, the idea of the New York Mets winning a World Series was as farfetched as man walking on the moon. Just 88 days after Neil Armstrong took his giant leap, the “Amazin’ Mets” were champions.
Now reliever Tyler Clippard is convinced an extraterrestrial has led the Mets back to the Fall Classic.
“He’s not human. He’s not on this planet right now,” Clippard said about Daniel Murphy. “Another life form jumped into his body.”
Heading into a World Series matchup that opens in Kansas City or Toronto on Tuesday night, it seems as if it is in the stars whenever the Mets are successful.
In 1969, there were hard-to-fathom catches by Tommy Agee and Ron Swoboda in the World Series against the Baltimore Orioles. Cleon Jones reached first base on a hit batsman call during a Game 5 rally when manager Gil Hodges showed a ball with shoe polish to an umpire.
In 1986, there was Mookie Wilson’s grounder that went through Bill Buckner’s legs at first base to cap a three-run, 10th-inning rally in Game 6 against the Boston Red Sox after the Mets were twice down to their season’s final strike.
Now there’s Murphy, who has seven home runs in nine playoff games, setting a major league record by going deep in each of his last six. His first-inning home run in Game 2 against the Chicago Cubs was on a pitch 1.064 feet above the ground, according to MLB’s Pitch f/x system. Only one home run in the entire major leagues this year came on a ball hit lower.
“This is special. This is special. I can’t stop saying it,” third baseman David Wright exclaimed. “The ‘69 Mets, the ‘86 Mets, the 2000 Mets — we are amongst the best Mets teams to ever play, and I couldn’t be more proud.”
New York’s players arrived back at Citi Field at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, two motorcycle police officers in front and two more behind the team’s two buses. Standing about 150 feet from the auto chop shops across the street from right field, about 50 fans greeted the team in the parking lot.
Long the second team in town, the Mets won their fifth pennant to the New York Yankees’ 40. They were nicknamed the “Amazin’ Mets” by Casey Stengel, their first manager, and became the upstarts, first at the Polo Grounds for their first two seasons, then at windy Shea Stadium from 1964 through 2008. Jane Jarvis played the organ, Ralph Kiner, Bob Murphy and Lindsey Nelson entertained fans in the broadcast booth, the Rheingold jingle played at the ballpark and Karl Ehrhardt lauded players with homemade signs from 1964 through 81. “There are no words!” was his message after Jones caught the final out against the Orioles.
The Tom Seaver-Jerry Koosman-Gary Gentry “Miracle Mets” of 1969 morphed into Tug McGraw’s “Ya Gotta Believe” Mets, who, in 1973, lost a seven-game World Series against the Oakland Athletics. After a lean decade, Doc Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter helped the Mets win a seven-game classic against the Red Sox in 1986, and a Mike Piazza-led team lost a five-game Subway Series to the Yankees in 2000.
Then, after another trough that included multimillions in losses incurred by owners in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, they are back in the World Series led by a brash young pitching staff with its own catchy nicknames — The Dark Knight (Matt Harvey), Thor (Noah Syndergaard), and The deGrominator (Jacob deGrom). Joined by Steven Matz, the group’s combined 147 regular-season starts easily would be the fewest for a World Series foursome. If the Mets win the World Series, a shampoo endorsement deal for deGrom and Syndergaard seems inevitable; New York already promotes deGrom with a HairWeGo social media hashtag.
Add in Wilmer Flores’ crying on the field in July, when he thought he’d been traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, as well as Bartolo Colon’s entertaining at-bats and behind-the-backflip toss and Yoenis Cespedes’ stimulating speed and sock, and the Mets transformed from routine to riveting.
“It was a long time coming,” said Wright, who signed with the Mets as an 18-year-old in 2001, made his big-league debut three years later and was appointed captain in 2013. “We’ve been through some bad times. We’ve been through Septembers where you’re just playing out the schedule, and that’s no fun. To be able to completely reverse that 180 and now celebrate and get the chance to go the World Series, I wish I could bottle it up.”
Manager Terry Collins had not led a major league team since 1999 when was hired before the 2011 season. Now 66, the oldest manager in the major leagues, he had skippered 1,688 regular-season games before advancing to the World Series for the first time.
A baseball lifer, he talked about his mother writing a sick note to school for him in the fifth grade so he could watch the 1960 World Series between the Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates. Wednesday night’s pennant win came on what would have been his parents’ 73rd wedding anniversary.
“I’m sitting there tonight thinking, ‘Holy crap, now you’re in it after all these years,’” Collins said. “It was worth the wait. It was worth all the work.”
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