Tom Seaver is probably siting in a nice quiet spot in his Northern California vineyard, rehashing the events of July 9th 1969 in Flushing, NY
Another hot and humid New York City summer day on July 9th 1969, I’m up early just like every day in the summer time. Eat some cereal, lace up the Chuck Taylors, grab my stickball bat and Spaldeen and head for the P.S. 105 school yard. Meet up with the rest of the fellas’ to begin our day. Stickball from 8AM to 10AM, then basketball inside the 105 gym (as broke as the city was back in those days they still had summer programs. We played basketball for the P.S. 105 over 5’2” team in the District 20 league) after that lunch at the corner deli and then to the Dust Bowl for baseball until dinner time.
During our lunch of ham and cheese heroes and Nedicks orange sodas, I grab a NY Post (the city’s afternoon paper) to check out the pitching lines for tonight’s MLB games. “Hey guys, Seaver ‘ pitching tonight against Kenny Holtzman” I yell out, the response from the Mets fans in the group was “yeah fuckin’ Seaver he’s gonna kick the Cubs ass tonight”. A few Yankee fans in the gang asked “whose goin’ for the Yankees tonight”? in unison the young Mets fans reply “Who gives a fuck about the Yankees”? Hahahahahahahaha!
The night before Jerry Koosman beat Ferguson Jenkins to cut the Cubs lead over the Mets in the brand new NL East 4 ½ games. This was all new to Mets fans as it was July and the Mets were in a pennant (division?) race.
“Yeah I gotta watch this one tonight” I say. The game as always was on WOR Ch9. One of the constants of life back then was WOR was the home of the Mets, Knicks and Rangers (plus the Million Dollar Movie and The Joe Franklin Show) and in the summer every night was watching the Mets with the narration by Lindsay Nelson, Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner. They were the sun rising in the east and setting in the west.
I don’t remember all of the particulars of this game. What I remember is it was unbearably hot and humid that night. We had an air conditioner in the living room but the wiring in the 3 story walk up we lived in was so bad that my dad kept a box of fuses next to the table that held his most important possessions, a pack of Marlboros, lighter, ash tray and a cold Rheingold.
The Mets did their damage in the first two innings (thank you Retrosheet) scoring a run in the first and two more in the second to run Hotlzman out of the game for Ted Abernathy.
The game went by quickly after that. At the 7th inning the Cubs went down 1-2-3, you could hear a lot of talking outside on our block. You could just feel it, this was not just any hot summer night, this had the feel of an historic summer night.
In the 8th inning Gill Hodges makes some defensive changes, Bobby Pfeil goes to 3rd base Ed Charles comes out of the game, Wayne Garrett comes in to play 2nd and Rod Gaspar replaces Ron Swoboda in RF.
As the Mets bat in the 8th, I can see my father is getting anxious about this game. A NY Giants fan from the time he arrived in NYC from County Sligo Ireland in 1931, was lighting up another Marlboro, he looked over to me and said “Buddy, Seaver is the best I’ve seen pitch since Hubble, did I ever tell you about Carl Hubble” Yeah pop about 1,000 times. King Carl Hubble was one of my dad’s favorite Giants along with Mel Ott, JoJo Moore, Willie Mays and of course Bobby Thompson . As the Cubs come to bat in the 9th my head is spinning. There is so much commotion outside on the street with everyone watching this game with windows open, screaming to neighbors on every pitch. Lindsay Nelson and the 50,000 fans at Shea ratcheting up the anticipation of what looks to be the greatest game in 8 year history of the New York Mets.
The bottom of the Cubs order is due up, Randy Hundley, some tomato can name Qualls and the pitchers spot. Seaver gets Hundley on a comebacker for out 1. Just two outs away from a perfect game. Srcubeanie Qualls and a pinch hitter just standing in Tom Terrific’s way.
I’m at the edge of my seat; I’m tempted to ask the old man for a Marlboro that’s how nervous I was. “Com’on Tom 2 more baby, 2 more” It’s like a circus now outside my window most of the block has there TV’s set to Ch.9 everyone waiting for what should a wild celebration. Lindsay Nelson sets it up, “Seaver checks the sign from Grote, he winds and deals.. the pitch………….a base it to left field………………….
Jimmy “Fucking” Qualls. I hated you on July 9th 1969 and I still hate you today.