First, the narrow statistical fact: a half century ago on this day in 1969 – with 22 games remaining in the regular season – the New York Mets beat the Montreal Expos twice in a double-header.

The Mets had never finished higher than ninth place in the seven-season history of the franchise. Indeed, they had been 9½ games behind the Chicago Cubs just four weeks earlier. But on September 10, 1969, the Mets took the lead in the National League’s East Division. They would go on to win the pennant and – in five games – the World Series.

But for those of us who grew up rooting passionately for the Brooklyn Dodgers in their golden age – the late 1940’s through their first World Series championship in 1955 – the Mets taking first place on September 10 was, well, almost enough to heal the great psychic wound we suffered when the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles at the end of the 1957 season.

Redemption of an antic sort had begun, for us, in 1962, the Mets’ first season. And what a season it was! They won 40 games, lost a record 120 – and we loved them for it. That year, you started to hear people saying, “I been a Mets fan all my life.” And at season’s end, a little-known New York sportswriter named Jimmy Breslin immortalized the ’62 Mets in one of the great sports documents of all time, Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?

Thus, the 1969 season was our deliverance – and we can assure you that those Mets were anything but a miracle. They were far and away the best coached team in either league, by the immortal Gil Hodges. Theirs was a season to which every single member of the team – from superstars to journeymen – made meaningful contributions, and at the perfect time. Hodges’ genius was always matching the man to the moment.

The ultimate chronicle of this epic season has just been published. It’s They Said It Couldn’t Be Done: The ’69 Mets, New York City, and the Most Astounding Season in Baseball History, by the veteran sports journalist Wayne Coffey. Even if you weren’t born in 1969, much less a heartbroken Dodger fan, you’ll find this a hugely enjoyable, entertaining and even enlightening sports story.

A footnote: there are still those of us who grew up loving Gil Hodges as a player – see Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Wait Till Next Year. We believe the ’69 Mets were his transcendent achievement, and we regard it as a crime that he isn’t in the Hall of Fame. We cling to the hope that he’ll make it in this year’s balloting, borne aloft by the memory of his triumph, 50 years ago.

© 2019 Nick Murray. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.