A MAGIC SUMMER: The '69 Mets by Stanley Cohen

A MAGIC SUMMER: The '69 Mets

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A literate and likable reprise that recaptures much of the excitement generated by baseball's New York Mets in their first championship season. Cohen (The Game They Played, 1977; The Man in the Crowd, 1981) offers a week-by-week account of how the National League Club ended seven years of futility by winning the pennant and then beating the Baltimore Orioles four straight times, after dropping the opener, to win the 1969 World Series. To qualify for the Fall Classic, the team had finished eight games ahead of Leo Durocher's Chicago Cubs and then taken three in a row from the Atlanta Braves in the first divisional play-offs. In effect Cohen points out, the lovable losers (who'd never come close to breaking even in seven previous pennant races) bypassed mediocrity on their way to the top. With the benefit of hindsight, Cohen goes on to say that the odds-against triumph seems a lot less unlikely than it did at the time. For one thing, the expansion club had talented youngsters on the threshold of stardom, plus productive veterans and role players--Don Cardwell, Cleon Jones, Jerry Koosman, Tug McGraw, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, et al. For another, manager Gil Hodges proved a master at juggling lineups and keeping his charges fresh throughout a long season. Of the 25 players on the Mets' 1969 roster, Cohen interviewed all but two (Tommie Agee and Donn Clendenon). Comparatively few, he found, were at all involved in the latter-day ups and downs of their successors. As a practical matter, he concludes, ""the continuity of a franchise resides most enduringly in the collective memory of its fans."" While not perhaps in a class with Roger Kahn's groundbreaking The Boys of Summer, Cohen's evocative text provides fine fare for nostalgia buffs as well as for Mets' rooters.

Pub Date: April 28th, 1988
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich