Monday, July 15, 2019


July 15, 1969--a day like any for that foreign war, Brock Hanke's broken back, and the impending launch of Apollo 11. Baseball had a day that looks oddly like what we see on a daily basis fifty years later: more HRs than games played (32 in 26 games, led by four from Reds' masher Lee May, who drove in 10 runs as Cincinnati split a doubleheader with the Braves in which 31 runs were scored).

Even the Houston Astros scored in double figures this day, their 10-7 win coming despite a poor outing from starter Don Wilson, who gave up seven hits and six runs in 2 2/3 IP. (Truth told, the Astrodome actually played as a slight hitters' park in 1969--the only time that ever occurred.) Wilson, who'd die at age 29 in a tragic, mysterious accident five years later, was taken off the hook thanks to 4 1/3 innings of stellar relief by erratic lefty Skip Guinn, who earned his lone major league win as a result.

In Seattle, Jim Bouton (who passed away a few days ago at age 80), mopped up in a game that his soon-to-be-infamous team, the Pilots, lost in an unusual way--opposing pitcher John (Blue Moon) Odom drove in four runs with a 3-run HR and a single as the Oakland A's stayed in the chase for the lead in the AL West (1969-first year of divisional play). Odom was a very good hitting pitcher--he hit .266 with 5 HRs and a .503 SLG in 1969. Bouton came within a strike of fanning four batters in an inning (Rick Monday reached first safely when Jim's knuckleball eluded catcher Jerry McNertney), but Jose Tartabull (father of Danny) grounded out with two strikes on him to keep Bouton out of the record books.

But the truly unexpected event occurred at Wrigley Field, when the Mets' Al Weis hit a three-run homer off the Cubs' Dick Selma (a former Met) in the fourth inning. Weis, equally adept at SS and 2B, was subbing for starting SS Bud Harrelson that day. It was just his fifth lifetime HR. His keystone partner that day, second baseman Ken Boswell, connected against Selma in the next inning, and that proved to be the decisive run in the game (the Mets would eventually win 5-4).

Weis would also homer the following day as the Mets took it to the Cubs again, 9-5. It was the only time in his career that he hit homers in consecutive games.

The Mets hit 109 HR in 1969: a total that, fifty years later, several reams have managed to hit in just two months. In 2019, here's no longer such a thing as an unexpected homer unless it's hit by a pitcher...

Weis' "moonshots" were a prelude to the incredible events that followed; first, the moon landing; second, Woodstock; third, the Mets' surreal stretch run. July 15 was a pumped-up prelude to all that, but even in that context the raw offensive numbers (.269 BA, .431 SLG, .161 ISO, .598 ISOBA) are not distended in shape--they're natural progressions of what would occur in a day of clustered good hitting (as evidenced by the unusually robust .347 aggregate OBP). It was a premonition of 1996 or 2000, not 2019. Looking back to that time, we can more clearly see how our new "whack" is really out of whack.