Maybe you were in New York that summer and fall, rooting for the Mets, the lovable (cue team jingle here) M-E-T-S Mets. You've been an optimist ever since. Of course you are. The club was a baseball comedy act from the year of its premature birth, 1962, right through 1968, losing an average of 105 games a season. And then came the surprise of '69. Elsewhere it was a horrible year, but New York witnessed a miracle: the Mets winning 100 games in the regular season, then beating the Baltimore Goliaths in the World Series. The miracle of Flushing Meadows, Queens.
Art Shamsky had no idea how lousy a year it had been. Not then. Shamsky, sharing duty with Ron Swoboda, patrolled Shea Stadium's rightfield, the first swath of green you'd see coming off the number 7 train. Shamsky was in his own little world that baseball season, 40 years ago, when Tom Seaver was a rising pitching god and Nolan Ryan a wild-armed reliever and spot starter and Jerry Grote, Texas badass, caught them both. Shamsky was a Jewish kid from suburban St. Louis, living in Manhattan, hearing kids (you?) scream Art Shamsky! as his big old Lincoln Continental entered the Shea Stadium players' lot, then going out after the game with the brothers—Cleon Jones, Tommie Agee—listening to jazz, wearing shades and long sideburns and striped pants, sipping house reds. It was many years later that he started making regular trips to the New York Public Library, in midtown, researching a book, twirling microfilm, making lists, catching up.
Good News, 1969: Man on the moon.
Bad News, 1969: Vietnam War, Manson murders, Hurricane Camille, the Chicago Seven trial, Chappaquiddick, inflation....
Shamsky is the unofficial class secretary of the '69 Mets, a regular when his teammates come together for parties, reunions, fantasy camps, golf tournaments, barbecues, card signings. Weddings. Funerals.
They gathered to bury Agee, centerfielder and leadoff hitter, in 2001. Agee—who'd almost single-handedly won Game 3 of the Series with a first-inning homer and for-the-ages catches on drives by Elrod Hendricks and Paul Blair—died of a heart attack, age 58, in his office on Second Avenue in midtown Manhattan, where he worked in the title search business. Shamsky was best man at Tommie's second wedding, in 1985, when he married Maxcine Green, a New York schoolteacher. O.K., not precisely best man. Best-man-on-deck, ready to pinch-hit if Cleon didn't show, and for the longest time that day it looked as if Cleon wouldn't show. But then he slipped in, cool as ever, saying, "Told you I'd get here." Rest in peace, Tommie.The article is pretty interesting and points out how many young players were on that team that went on to have great careers. We're thrilled to have Art joining us in New York City on one of our upcoming baseball road trips. For a chance to meet Art Shamsky and other big league ball players, join us on any of our baseball tours for an unforgettable vacation.