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This Day in Baseball - The Daily Rewind


This podcast is for the baseball fan with a curious mind. We bring you one event from each day in the calendar and go well beyond the box score. Our stories are brief and fun and come with some surprises.

Oct 16, 2020

Uninterrupted full game broadcast of the New York Mets and the Baltimore Orioles. Game 5 of the 1969 World Series. 

 

Dave McNally shut out the Mets through five innings and helped himself with a two-run homer in the third inning. Frank Robinson homered in the inning as well, and the Orioles looked to be cruising with a 3–0 lead.

The Mets, however, benefited from two questionable umpire's calls. In the top of the sixth inning, Mets starting pitcher Jerry Koosman appeared to have hit Frank Robinson with a pitch, but plate umpire Lou DiMuro ruled that the pitch hit his bat before hitting him and denied him first base. Replays showed, however, that Robinson was indeed hit first — the ball struck him on the hip, then bounced up and hit his bat.

In the bottom of the sixth, McNally bounced a pitch that appeared to have hit Mets left fielder Cleon Jones on the foot, then bounced into the Mets' dugout. McNally and the Orioles claimed the ball hit the dirt and not Jones, but Mets manager Gil Hodges showed the ball to DiMuro, who found a spot of shoe polish on the ball and awarded Jones first base. McNally then gave up Series MVP Donn Clendenon's third homer of the series (a record for a five-game World Series that was tied by the Phillies' Ryan Howard in the 2008 Classic and by Boston’s Steve Pearce in the 2018 Series) to cut the lead to 3–2.

However, the renowned "shoe polish" incident may not be such a simple, straightforward matter. On August 22, 2009, at the 40th anniversary celebration of the Mets' 1969 Championship, held at their new stadium, Citi Field, Jerry Koosman stated in several media interviews that, in actuality, Hodges had instructed him to rub the ball on his shoe, which he did, and after that Hodges showed the ball to the umpire. Koosman's claim doesn't necessarily mean that the ball didn't strike Jones on the foot, nor does it even mean that the polish on the ball seen by the umpire was put there by Koosman — it's certainly conceivable that there was already a genuine spot of polish on the ball, which easily could have escaped Koosman's notice as he hastily created the fraudulent one. In any case, Koosman's allegation at the very least adds an intriguing layer of uncertainty and possible chicanery to an already legendary event. Koosman was known for his sense of humor, and his love of practical jokes when he was an active player. Therefore, his claim of having scuffed the ball against his own shoe could be a ruse. Besides, there are other stories which have been told about that incident, by other players who were in the Mets dugout that day. One of those stories comes from Ron Swoboda, who said during an interview on the Mets 1986 25th Anniversary video, that when the ball came bounding into the Mets dugout, it hit an open ball bag under the bench, and several batting / infield practice balls came spilling out on the dugout floor. According to Swoboda, you couldn't distinguish the actual game ball from any of the ones that spilled out of the bag. Hodges quickly looked down, grabbed a ball that had a black streak on it, and walked it out to the home plate umpire, who then awarded first base to Jones. In any case, this incident provided baseball with yet another entertaining legend, about which the absolute truth will probably never be known.

The Mets then tied the score in the seventh on a home run by the unheralded and light-hitting Al Weis. Weis hit only seven home runs in his big league career; this was the only home run he hit at Shea Stadium and, in fact, was the only home run he hit playing for the home team in any major league park. Weis led all batters in the series with a .455 average.

The winning runs scored in the eighth as Game 4 defensive hero Ron Swoboda doubled in Jones with the go-ahead run. Swoboda then scored when Jerry Grote's grounder was mishandled by first baseman Boog Powell, whose throw to first was then dropped by pitcher Eddie Watt in an unusual double error. Jerry Koosman got the win, his second of the series. With two outs in the top of the ninth inning, Koosman faced Orioles second baseman Davey Johnson (who, coincidentally, later managed the Mets to their second World Series championship in 1986). After taking a pitch of two balls and one strike, Johnson hit a fly-ball out to left field which was caught by Cleon Jones. After a shaky third inning, Koosman settled down to retire 19 of the next 21 batters he faced, giving up a single and a walk.