The New York Mets incredible 1969 season catapulted Tom Seaver into superstardom.
Very little was expected from the New York Mets heading into 1969. It was understandable – the franchise had only finished as high as ninth in the National League twice in their existence and their 73-89 record in 1968 was their high water mark. But the cupboard was not bare – the Mets had some solid players and a pair of excellent young arms in Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman.
Seaver, in particular, appeared as though he would be the Mets’ first star. He already had two impressive seasons, making the All Star Game both years. The 1967 NL Rookie of the Year had produced a 32-25 record with a 2.47 ERA and a 1.085 WHiP, striking out 375 batters with 126 walks in his 529 innings. As bad as the Mets may have been, Seaver was becoming a franchise player.
He took that next step forward at the start of the year, beginning the season with a 6-3 record, along with a 2.44 ERA and a 1.164 WHiP in his first 11 appearances of the year. However, the Mets continued to struggle, with an 18-23 record after their loss on May 27, sitting in fourth place, nine games out in the newly created NL East.
Then came the game that turned the season around. The Mets won a 1-0 contest over the Padres in 11 innings, the winning run coming on a walk-off hit by Bud Harrelson. New York won 11 games in a row, including another 1-0 walk-off victory, this time in 15 innings, climbing up to second in the standings.
As the Mets continued to surge during the summer, Seaver took another leap forward. Not only did he establish himself as the Mets’ ace, but he proved that he was one of the best pitchers in baseball. As the Mets blew past the reeling Cubs in September that year, Seaver’s 7-1 victory over Fergie Jenkins was essentially the dagger, putting the Mets just 0.5 games back before they would take the divisional lead for good.
The season ended with the Mets toppling the heavily favored Orioles in the World Series, and with Seaver showing that he was without peer on the mound. He posted a 25-7 record that season, along with a 2.21 ERA and a 1.039 WHiP, striking out 208 batters with 82 walks in 273.1 innings. Seaver won the NL Cy Young award and placed second in the MVP vote, getting edged out by Willie McCovey in the final balloting.
1969 served as a springboard for Seaver. He would go on to become one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, a 12 time All Star and three-time Cy Young winner. He posted a lifetime 311-205 record with a 2.86 ERA and a 1.121 WHiP, striking out 3640 batters. Seaver ranks sixth all time in strikeouts and 18th in wins, with his 106.0 bWAR the seventh best of any pitcher in MLB history.
The 1969 season was magical for the New York Mets. For Tom Seaver, it was the year that he catapulted forth as a superstar.