Momentum at South Bay
Meet the Mets: Fifty years after the miracle
ISLANDIA—Jake’s 58 Hotel & Casino is hosting a celebration, next week, of the 50th anniversary of the 1969 World Series Championship team with “Miracle Mets” alumni Ed Kranepool and Art Shamsky.
Leading up to the event, the former teammates spoke with us about what the championship meant to them at the time, whether fans still recognize them all these years later, and how the game of baseball has changed in the last five decades.
Kranepool, who recently underwent a kidney transplant, courtesy of a New York Mets fan from Glenwood Landing in Nassau County, said the championship changed the entire team’s lives. “People won’t let you forget it,” he said, adding that many monumental events, like the moon landing and Woodstock, happened the same year.
The former first baseman also noted that the war in Vietnam was in full swing and the “Amazin’ Mets,” which he spent his entire Major League career with, helped a lot of people, particularly those in New York, take their minds off the more depressing issues for a little while. “Everyone was a Mets fan that year,” he said.
Kranepool pointed out that Shea Stadium only seated 54,000 people at the time, but over the years, he feels as though hundreds of thousands of people claim to have been there for the fifth and final game of the World Series. He also recalled the stories about fans charging the field (after outfielder Cleon Jones caught the final out of the series), pulling up pieces of turf and planting it in their backyards.
When asked about whether the game has changed from 50 years ago, Kranepool said, “It’s all together different.” He said he doesn’t understand why starting pitchers, in this day and age, are taken out of the game so early, sometimes after 80 pitches. “A lot of these old-time Hall of Fame pitchers got better as the game went on,” he said.
Kranepool also believes batting has become largely about hitting home runs. “Nobody wants to get on base anymore,” he said, adding that players today are “bigger and stronger” than they were when he played.
Shamsky agreed with most, if not all, of his teammate’s observations. “It’s not the game that I remember,” he said. “It’s much slower today. There’s no ‘small ball.’ It’s become all about [hitting] home runs.” Shamsky still loves the game, though. “I will always love the game,” he said, adding that his career as a ballplayer allows him to work with children and youth baseball clinics.
Going back to the 1969 championship, Shamsky said he’s “still in awe.”
The New York Mets were considered one of the worst teams in baseball after the franchise began in 1962. But, in the several years that followed, Shamsky and his teammates were able to turn that image around. He believes that while his team might not have been the best in the history of the MLB, they were “one of the most iconic.”
“What we were able to do for New York [that year] was very special,” the former first baseman and outfielder said. He also explained that when many people remember the 1969 Mets, or know his name in particular, they might not even have been born at the time. “They know about everything from their parents,” he said.
Shamsky recently published a New York Times bestseller, “After the Miracle: The Lasting Brotherhood of the ’69 Mets,” with sportswriter Erik Sherman.
References to the 1969 Mets have appeared numerous times throughout popular culture. In the movie “Oh, God!,” God, played by George Burns, explains to John Denver’s character that the last miracle he performed was the 1969 Mets.
In an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” Raymond and his brother, Robert, visit the Baseball Hall of Fame to meet the 1969 Mets, but get kicked out for trying to cut the line. In the show, Robert also has a bulldog, Shamsky, named in honor of his favorite ballplayer.
The film “Frequency,” which was released in 2000, involves a New York City firefighter and die-hard Mets fan that originally dies on the job shortly before the team’s championship win. But his fully-grown his son, in 1999, saves him and creates a new series of events when they are able to talk to each other through the father’s ham radio.
The third “Men in Black” movie also features an alien from another dimension who can see the future and said the Mets’ victory, in 1969, is his favorite moment in human history, due to “all the improbabilities that helped” lead to the famous title.
The commemorative event, featuring Kranepool and Shamsky, will be held on Wednesday, July 10, from 6-8 p.m., outside Bistro 58 on Express Drive North.
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