The New York Mets Encyclopedia|
by Peter C. Bjarkman
Sports Publishing, Inc., 2001 | Buy the book
1969: FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP CELEBRATION
Photos of Shea Stadium taken moments after the Game 5 World Series clincher
against Baltimore looked strangely like scenes from the aftermath of another
landmark event that had transpired in New York State only a few months
earlier, the weekend-long August rock `n' roll lovefest at Woodstock. But for
all the chaos that broke out on the field that afternoon, the joyous
celebration was still remarkably innocent. There was the obligatory hysterical
clubhouse celebration with wild backslapping and champagne baths all around.
Fans climbed over the railings and dugouts and did their best to tear up the
infield dirt and the outfield turf. It was a city's shared delirium in
response to an impossible dream coming true in a single afternoon. Most on the
scene could hardly believe what had just transpired before their eyes. It was
an eruption of joy not surpassed in New York City since the Times Square
celebrations that rang out World War II. But all this would change drastically
the next time a championship was celebrated on the same field at the
conclusion of an NLCS showdown with Cincinnati four years later.
Before the final out of the 1973 NLCS was recorded at Shea Stadium by Tug McGraw, an ugly grandstand scene had already been brewing for several innings.
The Pete Rose and Bud Harrelson affair of two days earlier was still simmering
for vengeful New York rooters, and with the Mets comfortably in front 7-2 with
three frames remaining, the boisterous crowds were already pushing toward the
field. The temporary wall of on-field box seats was knocked down, causing a
game delay and evacuation of the official Cincinnati entourage in the seventh;
firecrackers were echoing throughout the stands. With McGraw's final pitch,
the players fled the field and the wild hordes descended, bent on destruction.
While Rose raced for safety, his teammates stood on the dugout steps armed
This time around, it was anything but a pure celebration marked by
innocent joy; this was an embarrassing excuse for a full-fledged riot. Damage
was so severe by the time the mobs were cleared that the field was barely
repaired in time for the World Series home opener six days later. Baseball has
always been one of our society's most perfect mirrors. The Mets and the nation
as a whole had entered a very different epoch by fall 1973, and the NLCS Shea
Stadium uprising was ample evidence, if any more were needed, that a great
deal of America's innocence had been lost forever.
From The New York Mets Encyclopedia by Peter C. Bjarkman.
Copyright © by Peter C. Bjarkman. Excerpted with permission.