For those of you who weren’t aware, old baseball games are available for purchase on iTunes. As a goof, I started to write down some impressions of one of these games, which eventually turned into this post. If you don’t like baseball, don’t bother reading, but I tend to think of this as a version of a Bugs Bunny cartoon, in which you can learn a lot about American social history while having a laugh. Also, it is a bit long, but it was a momentous game in baseball history. Enjoy!

“Live Blogging” Game 5 1969 World Series

A bit of a warning, first. Some of these old games have picture issues, not so bad you can’t watch them, but they can be a little annoying. Know that before you spend the $1.99 for the download from iTunes.

– Oh, wow. They’ve left in the World Series Report, NBC’s 15 minute pre-game analysis show. Your hosts, Jim Simpson, Sandy Koufax and Mickey Mantle, all in their scarlet double breasted blazers, which makes them look like an annual meeting of local Budweiser distributors. Set chairs sent over from The Dating Game, set background apparently painted by Peter Max’s 11 year old son.
– Mickey admits he’s real unhappy with the Orioles being down 3 games to 1 to the Mets. Doesn’t believe in the supernatural, but the Mick is beginning to wonder if larger forces aren’t at work in this series. C’mon, Mick, it’s an afternoon game, the kids are at school, you can tell me: you’ve got some serious money on Baltimore and they’re blowing it, right?
– Sandy goes into his pregame analysis, which is cogent, but with all the emotion of a physics lecture. Doesn’t help that he is next to Mickey Mantle, who was kind of a cross between Frank Merriwell and Billy Carter, and looks like he just wants to get off the set and go get a beer.
– Discussion of the controversial bunt ending to Game 4. Sandy admits he wouldn’t have tried fielding the bunt, because he was such a bad fielder. Sandy overcame this obstacle by striking everyone out. That’s turning a negative into a positive.
– Segment ends by noting that, in Game 4, Earl Weaver became the first manager since 1935 to get thrown out of a World Series game. Unbeknownst to the hosts, this was a nice bit of foreshadowing.
– And now, out to a blustery Shea Stadium. Your broadcast team for Game 5 is the voice of the Red Sox, Curt Gowdy and the voice of the Mets, Lindsay Nelson. Curt is in regulation NBC red, but Lindsay, well, Lindsay looks like he decided to dress up like a piece of candy corn. Somewhere in Flushing, an Orange Broyhill sofa has been skinned to make Lindsay’s jacket. Memo to LN: Just because NBC is now “in living color” doesn’t mean you should abuse the privilege.
– Nooooo! Attention Mets fans, Tony Kubek is loose in Shea Stadium with his outer space head set. Make no sudden movements and he might not come over and speak to you. Please, oh please let Mayor Lindsay be at the game today so Tony can either quiz him about police issues in Harlem or the Garbage Strike. I ask for so little, baseball gods.
– Tony’s first prey: Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio. Bowie looks like an insurance adjuster from Dayton, and explains that, yes, the umps blew the call that ended Game 4, but tough darts, Baltimore fans, that’s the nature of the game. Joe, who had impeccable fashion sense and wore a suit better than 99.99% of men, talks a little about the fielding in Game 4. Tony keeps calling Joe, “Joe D”, and I know that, if the cameras were off, DiMaggio would smack him on the head. Still, DiMaggio rarely ventured into any park except Yankee Stadium. Why is he here?
– Pearl Bailey sings the national anthem, along with an military band that can’t keep time, a sound system from Radio Shack and a couple of Pan Am’s coming into La Guardia. At one point, I swore she was going to drop the mike and go strangle the band conductor. I would have cheered her on. She deserved much better.
– In a nice touch, they raise the flag in center field while Pearl is singing. I’d like to see that piece of theater come back, kind of goose bumpy.
– Ah, and now we find out why DiMaggio is there. He is throwing out the first ball. Knowing what we now know about the Yankee Clipper, I wonder how much MLB/NBC had to pay him to show up, cause Joe just doesn’t do stuff like this for free.
– Your starting pitchers are Jerry Koosman for the Mets and Dave McNally for the Orioles. Let’s play ball!
– Wow, the outfielders catch the ball with two hands. Pay attention little leaguers, because outfielders in the 1970’s had much less use for fundamentals.
– Ron Swoboda busts out the basket catch. Nice.
– So, they give us a crowd shot and panning around, it looks like every man in the lower seats is in jacket and tie. It was a different world back then.
– Several of the Mets keep their caps in their back pockets while they are hitting. That’s old school.
– Pan over by right field shows the ads underneath the scoreboard in right. Plymouth was the official car of the 1969 Mets and Royal Crown was their soda. Explain to the kids out there what a Plymouth and a RC were. Also, Rheingold Extra Dry was the Mets beer, with the slogan “The Ten Minute Head. Have You Timed It Yet?” Now, THAT is a memorable beer slogan ;)
– Well, one man isn’t wearing a tie and is sitting in a box next to the field. That man is Senators manager and Red Sox legend, Ted Williams. The Splinter is in a black suit, no tie, tousled hair, with a major bad ass-Johnny Cash vibe going on. Thing is, put that 51 year old in a uniform, put him on the field, and he’d still be the best hitter out there, except for maybe Frank Robinson. Every time I think Teddy Ballgame can’t get any cooler, he proves me wrong.
– Banners are everywhere at Shea. Lindsay Nelson talks about the Banner Days at Shea, when fans would make banners and the team would let them parade around the field. I fully expect the Wilpon family to bring that promotion to Citi Field. Ha.
– Former Mets and Orioles manager Davey Johnson is playing 2nd for the O’s and looks like he just graduated from high school. That is jarring.
– TK segment with the beautiful Nancy (Mrs. Tom) Seaver. Nothing too bad, but again, a bit of foreshadowing.
– Balloon on the infield. Mets 3B Ed Charles makes short work of it, scarring balloon fans around the world with his stomping.
– Oh, crap! Mayor Lindsay IS at the game, the crowd camera just picked him up. Mentally sending a message back 40 years to TK “GO TALK TO THE MAYOR. SHOW HIM HOW CLEVER YOU ARE BY TALKING ABOUT CURRENT EVENTS.” Hope that works.
– Favorite quote about Mayor Lindsay, “He’s the only populist I know who plays squash daily at the Yale Club.”
– First scoring of the game. Mark Belanger singles but is almost picked off first when RF Swoboda throws behind him to catcher Jerry Grote. Grote tries to push Belanger off the bag, right in front of the ump. That’s kind of cheating, Jerry. Then Dave McNally hits one into the left field seats. Orioles 2, Mets 0.
– No replay of the home run, so you better be watching this game closely, 1969 baseball fan.
– Want to know how NBC graphically displayed info during an at bat? They would write the players name, add an ellipse, then give you the blurb, all as a Chiron, but with the post ellipse reveal done by hand. The first time I saw this was during a Laugh-In party sequence. Just shows NBC knew how to recycle a good idea.
– Crowd shot of Pearl Bailey, who really was a big baseball fan. Big hat, walking stick and a hot dog. Love Pearly Mae.
– Frank Robinson just hit one into the Shea Stadium parking lot. Orioles 3, Mets 0. Again, no replay.
– TK saunters over to Pearl for an interview and asks her a question just as she takes a bite of her hot dog. Stay classy, Tony. Fortunately, Jerry Koosman doubles and by the time NBC goes back to the crowd shot, Shea ushers have shooed Kubek away, to the gratitude of the viewing audience.
– Hey, Yogi Berra was the Mets first base coach! Add to that the fact that Gil Hodges was the Mets manager, and you have to say the Mets knew how to recycle New York’s baseball glory (see acquisition of Willie Mays in 1972)
– Crowd shot of Louis Armstrong and Toots Shor sharing a box on third base. Two insanely cool men and now you’ve tipped off Tony about their presence. Why do that to America?
– By the way, if the World Series is over by Sunday, NBC will be broadcasting some AFL games. My pick to click, San Diego Chargers v. Boston Patriots. Check your local station for details.
– Yup, Tony has found Toots. Toots stayed a loyal Giants fan, even with their move to San Francisco, but he’d like to see the local nine pull this one out. And that’s all you get, Kubek.
– Going into the sixth inning, two guys from Cortland State are walking around Shea with a bedsheet banner stating their love for Nancy (Mrs. Tom) Seaver. They get 30 seconds of national air time, so Matty and John, if you’re out there, your moment of glory is now available on iTunes for $1.99. Your grandkids will think you’re cool.
– Things get a little weird in the 6th. Frank Robinson gets hit by a pitch, but the ump calls it a foul ball and Frank just loses it. Hey, here comes Earl Weaver to inject a little calm into troubled waters. Gasoline, meet fire. After pleasantries are exchanges, Frank Robinson has vanished and neither the umpires nor the broadcast team have any idea where he is. Turns out he went into the clubhouse to have the trainer numb his thigh where the ball hit him. Never seen that in a ball game before, let alone a World Series.
– Bottom of the 6th. TK introduces “Satchmo”, who obliges Tony with no insights whatsoever. Leave the musical genius alone, Kubek.
– Now, for the shoe polish incident. Mets CF Cleon Jones gets hit with a pitch, but the ump doesn’t call it. Mets manager Hodges comes out and shows the ump the shoe polish from where it hit Cleon’s cleats. Ump awards Jones first base. Rebuttal, Mr. Weaver? They calm Earl down eventually and get him back to the dugout just in time for him to turn around and watch Don Clendenon put one into the LF seats for a two run homer. Orioles 3, Mets 2, Earl’s Blood Pressure 180/120. Always keep your shoes shined.
– Apparently, this is not the first time a shoe polish incident happened in a World Series. Nippy Jones of Milwaukee pulled it off in the 1957 Series against the Yankees. Nobody names their kids Nippy anymore and thanks for the trivia question, Lindsay.
– Hey, why not spend Saturday Night with Andy Williams? Andy’s guests are Don Knotts, Ray Charles, Cass Elliot, the Osmonds and THE Credence Clearwater Revival (didn’t know they took the definite article) 7:30 Eastern, 6:30 Central. Somewhere in Branson, Missouri, an idea is born.
– Tony interviews someone who has stumped even my knowledge of American popular culture, Peter Dooce? Goosen? Billed as pianist/band leader. Anyone have an idea who this is?
– Bottom of the 7th, Mets second baseman Al Weis, who hit two home runs all season, ties it up with a home run. Orioles 3, Mets 3.
– As we head into the bottom of the 8th, Tony finds Averill Harriman to talk about the game. Ever the diplomat, he references Tony’s playing days with the Yankees. In a classic moment, Toots Shor comes back to his seat, which was right next to Harriman’s, shoots Tony a look and I swear, I saw a thought bubble above Toots’ head that said, “What is that jackass still doing here?” Should have sat with Pearl, Toots.
– Eddie Watt is in for McNally in the bottom of the 8th. How different was it then? Quote from Lindsay Nelson, “We don’t have a pitch count for McNally.” Nowadays, my mom knows the pitch count.
– Mets score two in the bottom of the 8th, on two doubles and a double error on a ground ball to Boog Powell. Mets 5, Orioles 3.
– Top of the 9th sees the heart of the Baltimore order. Frank Robinson walks, Boog Powell grounds into a force out, which would have been a double play if Frank Robinson hadn’t hip checked the SS Bud Harrelson into left field. Two fly balls later and your New York Mets are the improbable 1969 World Series champs.
– Now, things get out of control On the last out, there is a swarm of fans that pile on to the field, and neither the police nor the ushering staff are too be seen. Fans digging up souvenirs (about 20 people were trying to dig up home plate), and lighting smoke bombs (not kidding). Apparently some of the skills they learned fighting “The Man” transferred to celebrating the Met victory. Such crowds were not to be seen in baseball again until the Yankees started winning in the late 70’s.
– And now, the post game. Bowie Kuhn presents the trophy to Mrs. Jean Payson, owner of the Mets and apparent model for every society dowager in The Three Stooges oeuvre. I know she had opera glasses with her.
– Mets manager Gil Hodges gives a very classy thank you speech and seems to be the only sane person in the locker room. He got all of his craziness out in 1955 after Brooklyn beat the Yankees, so this is old hat.
– The “We’re number 1!” chant. No, really.
– Mrs. Gil Hodges saunters up to the stand, wearing a lime stole and a pair of goggles stolen from Los Alamos. Blah, blah, happy for her husband, blah blah blah.
– Catcher Jerry Grote gives Lindsay Nelson a Cold Duck shampoo and then towels his head. Don’t rub too hard, Jerry, we don’t know what’s keeping LN’s hair on right now.
– Various Mets come up and talk a fair amount of trash about the Orioles. Tom (Mr. Nancy) Seaver manages 10 clichés in about 30 seconds. That media training is paying off, Tommy.
– And finally, Mayor Lindsay makes an appearance, deeply relieved he shook off Tony Kubek. Promises a big celebration on Monday (4 days later) and yes, those are Yale crests on his necktie, thanks for asking. Gets doused with champagne by the Mets. Initially shocked, but realizes it’s domestic, so no harm done.
– By the way, Mayor, there is a civil disturbance about 200 feet behind you. You might want to call the Chief of Police and find out who is going to put an end to the riot on the field. Just a thought.

That’s it. A really great game that went right down to the wire and a tremendous piece of baseball history. Jerry Koosman pitched brilliantly and got clutch hitting and nice defensive work. Five out of five stars.

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