What would you say was the turning point of the Mets 69 season? Was it the emergence of Tug McGraw as their closer ? Was it when the young arms of the Mets pitching staff started to gain confidence in themselves ? Maybe it was when that black cat stared down Leo Durocher !! All I know is from everything I ever heard or read points to when the Mets acquired player number 36 on this countdown that June of ’69, Don Clendenon , and it catapulted the Mets into a higher lever of winning .
It is quite funny how the Mets came to obtain Donn from the Montreal Expos. Donn’s original team, the Pittsburgh Pirates ( the team where he became one of the premier first basemen in the game ) left him unprotected for the 1968 Major League expansion draft. The Expos snatched him up. On January 22, 1969 the Expos tried to traded Clendenon and infielder, Jesus Alou to the Houston Astros for Rusty Staub. Clendenon refused to report to the Astros, because they had hired Harry Walker, Donn’s former manager when he was with the Pirates, and who Donn could not stand playing for.
The commisioners office would step in and force both teams to work out a new agreement, and Donn would join the Expos soon after.
Clendenon wasn’t happy playing with the team from Montreal. Three months into the season he was batting just .240 with four homers and fourteen RBIs. He would soon be traded to the New York Mets in exchange for pitcher,Steve Renko, utility infielder, Kevin Collins and minor league prospects Jay Carden and Dave Colon.
When the Mets acquired Donn, they were already were in second place, nine games back of the Chicago Cubs in the National League East. Donn was platooned with fan favorite, Ed Kranepool at first base, Slowly but surely Donn’s batting average started to creep back up to acceptable levels. Donn would start to become the driving force both on the field and in the clubhouse. He would give advice to the younger players , and instruct them on how to play the game ” the right way“.
But Clendenon’s bat did most of the talking. Case in point , When the Cubs came back to Shea for a two game set that September two and a half games up on the Mets, Clendenon hit a two run homer which would propel the Mets to a 7-1 victory and a half game out of first place.
By late September Clendenon was on fire, knocking in runs left and right. It culminated that September 24, when Clendenon single handedly beat the St. Louis Cardinals with a two home run, four RBI game which clinched the Mets their first N.L East divisional title.
Clendenon would not appear in the Mets’ 1969 National League Championship Series which saw the the Mets sweep of the Atlanta Braves in three games to reach the World Series.
Clendenon did appear in four of the five games of the World Series against Earl Weaver’s Baltimore Orioles. He batted .357 with three homers and four RBI’s to power the Mets to their first World Series crown ever. He was named World Series MVP.
1970 Donn was still a force in the Mets line up, slugging twenty two homers while driving in 97 while playing 121 games.
In 1971, Donn would only play in 88 games for the Mets. he did bang out eleven homers and 37 RBIs while batting .247 in limited duty for the Mets that year. He was released that off season , and signed with the Cardinals, but he was far removed from his glory days.
After retiring, Donn went to school to pursue a degree in law.He would set up a practice in Dayton, Ohio.
Donn also authored a book called “ Miracle In New York” in which recounted the 1969 New York Mets season.
Donn passed away at the age of 70 in 2005 after a long bout with lukemia.
Donn was a integral part of the ’69 team and is missed dearly.
Tomorrow we will profile number 34, which is another beloved member of that ’69 Championship team.
And with that said…. HERE COMES THE INFAMY !!!!
Mets alumni celebrating birthdays today include :
September call up from the ’92 season, pitcher, Joe Vitko is 41 (1970) .
Mets reserve outfielder from the ’98 season, Rich Becker is 39 today (1972) .
New York Mets claimed reserve outfielder, Endy Chavez on waivers from the Detroit Tigers on February 1, 2002. Endy would not make his Mets debut until the ’06 season, and we will always remember him for “ The Catch “ !
The Oakland A’s signed reserve outfielder, Ricky Ledee of the New York Mets as a free agent on February 1, 2007.
The Kansas City Royals signed spot starter, Brian Lawrence of the New York Mets as a free agent on February 1, 2008. In his six games with the Mets in the ’08 season, Brian would go 1-2 with a putrid ERA od 6.83.
And while you plot to track down and kill your local weatherman, just remember that there are just 59 days to go until the Mets open the 2011 season against the Florida Marlins in Miami and only 66 days until the Mets 2011 home opener against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field.
Mo Vaughn is trying to get a group of investors together so he can buy the Mets. So far he has lined up Bobby Bonilla, Vince Coleman and Tom Glavine , and he is waiting for a call back from Victor Zambrano and Carlos Delgado !!!