Ron Swoboda’s eighth-inning double capped a typical comeback rally that started with a smudge of shoe polish Thursday and the New York Mets, baseball’s 100-to-1 shot, won the World Series with a 5-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
Victory by the once woebegone Mets, four games to one, touched off a wild celebration on the field by Mets fans who sang, shot off firecrackers, ran up flags, tore up the bases and even the grass of Shea Stadium, and painted “New York’s No. 1” on the fence.
The Mets, who’d never even been above ninth place before this season, wiped out a 3-0 deficit on a two-run homer by Donn Clendenon in the sixth and a solo homer in the seventh by Al Weis, a .215 hitter, and won the game on Swoboda’s run-scoring double in the eighth.
The shattered Orioles, who’d won 109 games during the regular season, then let in an insurance run for the Mets by committing two errors.
A crowd of 57,397 — the largest paid crowd ever to see a game at Shea Stadium — started running onto the field as leftfielder Cleon Jones was taping his glove before catching the fly by Dave Johnson that ended the Series. It was the third wild celebration by fans who celebrated the same way when the Mets clinched both the division crown and the playoffs at home.
The Mets, who’d been a baseball joke for much of their existence, became the first team to lose the first game of the Series and then win four straight since the St Louis Cardinals did it to the Yankees in 1942.
Jerry koosman, rocked for a two-run homer by Orioles starting pitcher Dave McNally in the third inning, settled down to pitch a five-hitter and he became the only pitcher to win two games in the Series. The Orioles got only 23 hits in the series, the lowest total ever for a five-game series.
The only team in recent history that has come close to duplicating the Mets’ feat was the 1967 Boston Red Sox, 100-1 shots who rose from ninth to the American League pennant. But the Red Sox lost the World Series in seven games to the St Louis Cardinals.
The Mets, though, ignored all the odds and completed one of the most incredible success stories in sports history in a way that would have to be considered almost normal for them.
It began with that spot of shoe polish.
Jones, leading off the sixth inning, claimed he was hit by Dave McNally’s first pitch but umpire Lou DiMuro ruled he hadn’t been hit.
Just a few minutes earlier, in the top of the inning, Frank Robinson of the Orioles had claimed he had been hit in the leg. DiMuro also ruled he hadn’t been hit, despite a vigorous protest by Robinson, who went into the dugout for treatment after the argument.
While Jones was protesting, Met manager Gil Hodges walked out of the dugout holding the ball. He showed a stain of shoe polish on it to DiMuro — and the umpire changed his mind and ruled that Jones had been hit on the foot and awarded him first base.
The change of decision brought Orioles manager Earl Weaver bouncing out of the Oriole dugout to protest but DiMuro ruled Jones was safe.
That incident was still on the minds of many of the fans when Clendenon rapped a 2-2 pitch for a two-run homer that made it 3-2. It was the third homer of the Series for Clendenon and the last time that was done by a National Leaguer was in that 1957 series when Ed Mathews did it for the Braves. Carl Yastrzemski did it for Boston in 1967.
The homer helped win Clendenon the automobile given to the player of the Series and the feeling at that point was that the Mets would now rally to win even though they were still behind 3-2. The only question was how.
Leading off the seventh inning was Al Weis,the .215 hitter who won the second game for the Mets. He promptly homered to tie the game 3-3. Naturally, he had never hit one in Shea Stadium before and it was only his third of the season.