The casual fan of the game might know Ron Swoboda for "The Catch" in the 1969 World
Series, or for his home run heroics in a game against Hall of Famer Steve Carlton,
or for Casey Stengel's early summation: "He will be great, super, even wonderful.
Now if he can only learn to catch a fly ball." The true fan of the man will also
know Ron Swoboda for his wit, heart and humility, and for his drive to become the
best outfielder he could be.
Ronald Alan Swoboda was born in Baltimore on June 30, 1944 to John and Delores Swoboda.
His father was a waist gunner in World War II, a mechanic, salesman and teacher.
His mother was a secretary, case manager and supervisor in social services. At Sparrows
Point High School, he played three sports. Ron's baseball coach was Andy McDonald.
In addition to baseball, Swoboda played basketball and helped take his team to the
State title, and soccer where he was the goalkeeper and captain of his team. He played
goalkeeper for the freshmen soccer team at the University of Maryland as well.
But of course baseball was his game, and Ron started playing at age 9. He played
15-to-17-year-old amateur baseball for Sterling "Sheriff" Fowble, acclaimed Baltimore
City coach and scout for the Cincinnati Reds and New York Mets. When he was 18, Swoboda
played on the Dolphin Club. At 19 he played on Leone's Boys' Club, where his coach
was Walter Youse, a scout for the Baltimore Orioles. But somehow, Walter let Ron
get away. In 1963, the summer following his first year at the University of Maryland,
he played in the AAABA tournament in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Following a wonderful
performance in that tournament, Swoboda was offered a $35,000 contract to sign with
the New York Mets and scout Pete Gebrian, which he did on September 5, 1963.
Ron was invited to major league spring training in 1964 and made a fine showing with
a home run outburst. He was assigned to the Mets' Triple-A club, the Buffalo Bisons
in the International League. In his first professional game, Swoboda had three hits
including a home run in five at bats. In his second game, he struck out four times.
When he reflected on that somewhat inauspicious start to his professional baseball
career, Ron would say, "That's about how my career went. That was it in a microcosm."
Later on in the summer of 1964, he played for the Williamsport Mets in the Eastern
League, the New York Mets' Double-A club, but returned to Buffalo for the playoffs
later that summer.