Happy Birthday, Rocky!
Former Mets right fielder Ron Swoboda is 62 today. But as my friend and fellow Mets fan Lucy said after she saw him at Shea several years ago, "he’ll always be 24 to me." His 9-year major league career, which included a stint with the cross-town rival Yankees, never achieved the level a lot of people, including Casey Stengel, had hoped. Rocky had trouble with curve balls and stuck out alot. (647 Ks compared to 642 hits and 299 BBs). Some folks, including my father, thought Swoboda was brought up from the minors too soon.
Nevertheless, he has a ring. Ron Swoboda was part of the 1969 World Championship Mets team, as our fellow blogger Brooks Robinson probably remembers all too well. In the 9th inning of Game 4, Swoboda took an extra-base hit from Robinson with a stunning diving catch that was
all the more spectacular for the fact that Rocky wasn’t known for that sort of thing. Casey Stengel had said of Swoboda, "Amazing strength, amazing power - he can grind the dust out of the bat. He will be great, super even wonderful. Now, if he can only learn to catch a fly ball." Rocky sure caught that one and the catch helped prevent the Orioles from breaking open that game. Stengel, doing newspaper commentary in New York for the Series was very proud and named Swoboda the hero of the game.
Rocky batted .400 (6/15) in that Series. He hit a double that drove in the fourth run in championship-clinching Game 5. That run broke a 3-3 tie and proved to be the gamer as the Mets won 5-3. The RBI is featured in the MLB highlight video of the Series. Click here and look for the 1969 clip.
I had just started high school when the 1969 World Series took place. Latin was required in freshman year, and I was having trouble. Latin not only has verb conjugations but noun declensions. Thus, the nouns change endings as well as the verbs, depending on what case the noun is in. It’s all rather complicated. Since the Romans did not have ESPN, FOXSports or MLB.tv, sports in Rome, such as chariot races, gladiator matches and Lions vs. Christians interspecies wrestling, were all live events. So the spectators didn’t have much to do after a day at the Coliseum except eat, have orgies, and develop complicating nuances to their language. I couldn’t grasp the details until I used Swoboda’s name as a mnemonic for the first declension, and when that proved...