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© 2008 Ron Swoboda

Ron Swoboda
1969 Miracle METS
On April 12, 1965, he made his debut with the New York Mets. He wore uniform number 14 that year. (The next year the Mets traded for Ken Boyer who took number 14, and Swoboda switched his uniform number to Ron's first major league manager was Casey Stengel. Casey managed the Mets until he broke his hip in mid-season 1965. Ron was fascinated by Stengel. Here was a boy of 20 with so much to learn being managed by a man of 75 with so much to teach. Ron remembers Casey's teaching style. While Casey appeared to be talking to the reporters - he of course loved to talk to the reporters - he would often deliver a message to his ballplayers by directing an instructive or critical remark about that player to the reporter when he knew the player was within earshot.

And then there was a less fondly remembered lesson Casey taught Ron. On May 23, 1965, in a game against the Cardinals in St. Louis, the Mets took a 3-0 lead into the 9th inning, with Mets reliever Larry Bearnarth on the mound. The bases were soon loaded. Dal Maxvill lifted a fly ball out to right field, but Ron lost it in the sun. The ball got by him, and all three Cardinal runners scored. When Ron batted in the 10th, he did not get on base. As the Mets took the field in the bottom of the 10th, Swoboda's pent-up frustration seemed to burst. When he reached the top of the dugout steps, he angrily stomped on a batting helmet with the intent of smashing it. Instead, his foot stuck in the helmet, and he continued to kick at it to shake it off while taking the field. Casey rushed over to him, grabbed him by the shirt and hollered, "When you missed that fly ball, I didn't go looking for your watch to break it. So quit busting up the team's equipment. You're done for today." In the locker room, Ron thought he just blew his major league chance. He sat there, alone, and cried.

Ron Swoboda was one of the "Youth of America," Stengel's expression for the corps of young players who would take the Mets from worst to first in four short years - players like Cleon Jones, Bud Harrelson, Tug McGraw and Swoboda, who all made their debut in 1965, Nolan Ryan, who came aboard in 1966, Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Ken Boswell in 1967, Jim McAndrew and Duffy Dyer in 1968, and Gary Gentry and Wayne Garrett in 1969. Casey Stengel said the Mets were "amazing, amazing, amazing." Swoboda knows simply - and humbly -- that he was part of something special in that amazing year of 1969: "If you're lucky enough to get into the World Series, that's a privilege. All I was trying to do was play baseball."
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