NEW YORK (AP) — In the 1960s, the idea of the Mets winning a World Series was as farfetched as man walking on the moon. Just 88 days after Neil Armstrong took his giant leap, the Amazin's were champions.
Now Tyler Clippard is convinced an extraterrestrial has led the Mets back to the Fall Classic.
"He's not human. He's not on this planet right now," he said of Daniel Murphy. "Another life form jumped into his body."
Heading into a World Series matchup that opens in Kansas City or Toronto on Tuesday, it seems as if it is in the stars whenever the Mets are successful.
In 1969, there were hard-to-fathom catches by Tommy Agee and Ron Swoboda in the Series against Baltimore. Cleon Jones reached first base on a hit batsman call during a Game 5 rally when manager Gil Hodges showed a ball with shoe polish to an umpire.
In 1986, there was Mookie Wilson's grounder that went through Bill Buckner's legs at first base to cap a three-run, 10th-inning rally in Game 6 against Boston after the Mets were twice down to their season's final strike.
Now there's Murphy, who has seven home runs in nine playoff games, setting a major league record by going deep in each of his last six. His first-inning home run in Game 2 against the Cubs was on a pitch a Lilliputian 1.064 feet above the ground, according to MLB's Pitch f/x system. Only one home run in the entire major leagues this year came on a ball hit lower.
"This is special. This is special. I can't stop saying it," captain David Wright exclaimed. "The '69 Mets, the '86 Mets, the 2000 Mets — we are amongst the best Mets teams to ever play, and I couldn't be more proud."
Long the second team in town, the Mets won their fifth pennant to the Yankees' 40. They were nicknamed the Amazin' Mets by Casey Stengel, their first manager, and became the upstarts, first at the Polo Grounds for their first two seasons, then at windy Shea Stadium from 1964-2008. Jane Jarvis played the organ, Ralph Kiner, Bob Murphy and Lindsey Nelson entertained fans in the broadcast booth, the Rheingold jingle played at the ballpark and Karl Ehrhardt lauded players with homemade signs from 1964-81. "THERE ARE NO WORDS" was his message after Jones caught the final out against the Orioles.
The Tom Seaver-Jerry Koosman-Gary Gentry Miracle Mets of 1969 morphed into Tug McGraw's Ya Gotta Believe Mets of 1973, who lost a seven-game World Series against Oakland. After a lean decade, the Doc, Straw, Keith and The Kid team won a seven-game classic against the Red Sox in 1986, and a Mike Piazza-led team lost a five-game Subway Series to the Yankees in 2000.
Then, after another trough that included multimillions in losses incurred by owners in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, they are back in the Series led by a brash young pitching staff that includes the Dark Knight (Matt Harvey), Thor (Noah Syndergaard), the deGrominator (Jacob deGrom) and Steven Matz, a group whose 147 regular-season career starts easily would be the fewest for a Series foursome, according to STATS. If the Mets win the Series, a shampoo endorsement deal for deGrom and Syndergaard seems inevitable. New York already promotes deGrom with a HairWeGo hashtag.
Add in Wilmer Flores' crying on the field in July when he thought he'd been traded to Milwaukee, Bartolo Colon's entertaining at-bats and behind-the-backflip toss and Yoenis Cespedes' stimulating speed and sock, and the Mets transformed from routine to riveting.
"It was a long time coming," said Wright, who signed with the Mets as an 18-year-old in 2001, made his big league debut three years later and was appointed captain in 2013. "We've been through some bad times. We've been through Septembers where you're just playing out the schedule, and that's no fun. To be able to completely reverse that 180 and now celebrate and get the chance to go the World Series, I wish I could bottle it up."
Terry Collins had not led a major league team since 1999 when was hired before the 2011 season. Now 66, the oldest manager in the major leagues, he had skippered 1,688 regular-season games before advancing to the Series for the first time.
A baseball lifer, he talked about his mother writing a sick note to school for him in the fifth grade so he could watch the 1960 World Series between Pittsburgh and the Yankees. And Wednesday night's pennant win came on what would have been his parents' 73rd wedding anniversary.
"I'm sitting there tonight thinking, holy crap, now you're in it after all these years," Collins said. "It was worth the wait. It was worth all the work."