by guest blogger Garry B. Spector
We just celebrated the 1969 World Champion New York Mets with a marvelous ceremony at Citi Field. Unfortunately, Tom Seaver could not be there. It was announced in March that Seaver, suffering from dementia caused by Lyme Disease, was retiring from public life. But he was there in spirit–and with his daughters and grandchildren in attendance, when the Mets announced the new address for Citi Field at 41 Seaver Way in a ceremony last week.
There are countless memories of that 1969 season that remain with me. Maybe the most exciting one of all took place 50 years ago tomorrow–July 9, 1969, when Seaver took a perfect game into the 9th inning against the first place Cubs, a team with 3 Hall of Famers in their starting 8 (Santo, Banks, Williams). The Mets had won the day before with 3 runs in the 9th inning off another Hall of Famer, Ferguson Jenkins. A crowd of over 59,000–far beyond the seating capacity of Shea Stadium, was there to witness Seaver’s gem.
The Voice of the Mets, Howie Rose, was in attendance that night and wrote about it brilliantly in his book, Put it in the Book. He had been attending Mets games since 1962, and had never seen anything like it.
Seaver retired the first 25 batters, needing only 2 more outs to achieve perfection. To that date, 50 years ago, there had only been seven perfect games pitched in the modern (post-1900) era. In fact, there had been no perfect games pitched in the regular season between 1922 (Charlie Robertson of the White Sox) and 1964 (Jim Bunning of the Phillies against the Mets at Shea); Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1956 World Series was the only one that took place in 42 years. This eleven year old Mets fan knew enough baseball history to realize what was happening, and how rare the feat actually was.
After Randy Hundley tried to bunt his way on base leading off the ninth (Seaver threw him out), Jimmy Qualls, a rookie, stepped to the plate. He was playing only because Don Young, the regular CF, had been castigated by Leo Durocher and his Cubs teammates for losing the previous day’s games. Qualls ruined the perfect game by slicing a line drive single to left center field. Seaver got the next two outs and completed a one hit shutout.
Luckily, the game was televised in the Albany, NY, area where I grew up.
My mother assured me that I would see a Mets perfect game someday (I’m still waiting). And this eleven-year-old cried himself to sleep.
No July 9 has passed since without my remembering that game. What a thrill it was then–and it remains so today.