They Said It Couldn’t Be Done: The ’69 Mets, New York City, And The Most Astounding Season In Baseball History, by Wayne Coffey
You know the type. You go to a sports bar and watch a few games on the television screens scattered across the room and someone wants to relive old glory to assuage the hard truth that their team has seldom been very good. Mets fans are like that, all the more pressed than most fanbases since they have maybe the third or fourth (or perhaps even fifth) most illustrious baseball history within their own hometown. The Yankees are pretty good nearly every year, and a down year for them has them barely missing the Wild Card game. The Mets are the sort of team whose fans cheer on any playoff appearance because they are so few and so far between, and this book captures the feeling of what it was like to be a Mets fan in 1969, with a legacy of failure and the sort of success that helps save the career of an embattled mayor who had lost a primary because of the poor response the city showed to a blizzard. But supporting the Mets in their year of glory in 1969 was enough to get him another term in office. Imagine if baseball meant anything close to that today.
This book begins with a prologue that discusses the sad-sack history of the early Mets. After this there are four chapters that discuss the season that the Mets went through, showing how a scrappy team of players was able to play respectable ball that ended up turning increasingly good as the season went on the team gelled under able management and showed considerable promise, thanks especially to its stellar pitching and defense and opportunistic hitting. After that there are three chapters that show the Mets and their progress through to the playoffs thanks to a late-season push as well as their victory in the playoffs over the Braves. After that the rest of the book, which takes up more than 100 pages of the book’s total length of almost 300 pages, discusses the five-game series in which the Mets shocked and then dominated the Orioles through superior offense as well as timely defense and pitching in key situations that saved a lot of runs. The epilogue to the book urges readers not to consider the Mets’ win a miracle, but it was a striking win and the author is clear to demonstrate the glory of that season for New York’s other baseball team.
Admittedly, I am a reader who comes to this book somewhat fond of baseball as a whole but mainly a fan of a team about which few books are written (the Pittsburgh Pirates). I have no active animus towards the Mets, despite not being in general a bit fan of New York or the sports of the city in particular. This book, though, is the sort of volume that is very well aimed at one part of the baseball reading demographic that is very likely to find this book compelling, and that is the sort of reader who loves a good underdog story. Few teams who play in New York or any other city that massive appear as underdogs, but that is certainly the case for the Mets in a way that is not the case for teams like the Yankees or Dodgers with their massive payrolls. The Mets had a magical year in 1969, and this book does a very good job in discussing that season and what allowed a team with stellar pitching and just enough offense to win put all the ingredients together to win the World Series and bring a great deal of encouragement to their part of New York City.