October 12, 1969: Koosman leads Mets to first World Series win in Game Two
After the Baltimore Orioles won the first game of the 1969 World Series by a score of 4-1, most fans and sportswriters were expecting them to dominate the NL champions. The two teams returned to Memorial Stadium on the afternoon of October 12 to face off in the second game of the Series. Both teams had an abundance of excellent pitchers and this game seemed as though it could shape up as a pitchers’ duel.
Mets manager Gil Hodges chose Jerry Koosman to start the second game. Koosman had finished the season with a 17-9 record and a 2.28 ERA. Earl Weaver, the Orioles manager, went with one of his trio of aces, Dave McNally. McNally finished fourth in the Cy Young Award balloting that year, losing to teammate Mike Cuellar.
The game started out as expected with both pitchers getting the side out in order in the first inning. McNally didn’t allow a ball out of the infield. He struck out leadoff batter Tommie Agee. Then he got Bud Harrelson to ground out on a ball back to the mound and forced Cleon Jones to hit a pop fly that was caught by Boog Powell in the spacious foul territory of Memorial Stadium. Koosman was equally commanding. He struck out Don Buford, star of the first game. Then Paul Blair and Frank Robinson went out on fly balls to left field and right field respectively.
The game was scoreless for the first three innings. McNally showed a few signs of things to come when he allowed runners to get in scoring position in the second and third, on a walk and a wild pitch in the second and on a single and a walk in the third. Koosman remained in solid control, giving up only a walk to Davey Johnson in the second inning.
Donn Clendenon led off the fourth inning with a solo home run to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. His blast went over the right-field wall in almost the exact location where Buford had given the Orioles the lead in the first game.1 McNally recovered and got the next three Mets out on a strikeout and two groundballs to the middle of the infield.
Meanwhile, Koosman continued to dominate the Orioles lineup. He kept Baltimore hitless through six innings. But in the seventh the Orioles got two hits and tied the score.2 Blair led off the inning with a single to left field. Koosman retired Frank Robinson and Boog Powell on a liner to center field and a pop fly to shortstop. With Brooks Robinson at bat, Blair stole second base. Robinson then hit a single to center field that scored Blair with the tying run.
Koosman and McNally continued their pitching duel until the top of the ninth inning. McNally got the first two Mets batters, Clendenon on a strikeout and Swoboda on a grounder to first. But the next three batters, Ed Charles, Jerry Grote, and Al Weis, singled, with Weis’s hit driving in what turned out to be the winning run.
Koosman came entered the bottom of the ninth looking for a complete-game victory. He came close. Buford flied out to right and Blair grounded out to shortstop. But Koosman, on the verge of victory, walked Frank Robinson. With pinch-runner Merv Rettenmund replacing Robinson at first, Koosman walked Powell. Hodges brought in Ron Taylor from the bullpen. Brooks Robinson hit a Taylor offering sharply down the third-base line. Charles fielded the ball then threw it in the dirt to first but Clendenon gloved it and the Mets had their first World Series win.3
Game Two was a harbinger of things to come. The Orioles were thoroughly shut down. The excellent Mets pitching set the tone but the Mets defense made the difference. The combination confounded the powerful Orioles and astonished the nationwide television audience.4 With the Mets victory, a squad that had been given only 100-to-1 odds of winning the World Series suddenly looked as if they might have a chance.5
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, Baseball-Reference.com, Baseball-Almanac.com, and Retrosheet.org websites were used for box-score, player, team, and season pages, pitching and batting game logs, and other pertinent material.
1 “A Look Back at Some Memorable Moments in Mets World Series History,” WABC-TV.com, October 24, 2015.
2 Matthew Silverman, Best Mets: Fifty Years of Highs and Lows From New York's Most Agonizingly Amazin’ Team (Lanham, Maryland: Taylor Trade Publishing, 2012).
3 “A Look Back.”
4 Ed Attanasio, “1969 The Amazin’ Mets,” This Great Game.com, accessed December 8, 2016.
5 “Best Mets.”