Swoboda: Cats Living Under Shea Would Chase Rats

Ron Swoboda dropped by The DA Show to discuss the Miracle Mets, the 1969 season, his new book and more

The DA Show
July 01, 2019 - 12:49 pm

The New York Mets lost 100+ games in five of their first seven seasons before winning the World Series in 1969. The most enduring image from that season, perhaps, is a black cat scurrying around the Cubs’ dugout at Shea Stadium amidst Chicago’s September collapse.

“That cat was under the stands,” former Mets outfielder Ron Swoboda said on The DA Show. “There were other cats under the stands. It came out from underneath there. Something spooked it. It was absolutely freaked out, and what does it do? It runs back and forth.”

The Cubs went 8-18 over their last 26 games, while the Miracle Mets went 23-7 to win the division by eight games.

“If you look at what happened in our series with the Cubs – who were the team we had to beat in 1969 – the games broke on a little play here, a little crawl there, a base-hit that Ed Kranepool gets in the 9th inning to beat them,” Swoboda recalled. “Little things divided us from the Cubs in our season series. We played tough, intense baseball, and things had not moved in the Cubs’ direction – and here late in September when they’re already in trouble and they’re skidding is this black cat. It underlined everything. Now we got voodoo on our side.”

While many were stunned to see a cat on the field, it seems Mets players were not.

“They chased the rats down under the ball park,” Swoboda recalled. “They didn’t have to feed them. They were feeding on the mice and the rats underneath the stadium. And of course there wasn’t a lot of love lost between the Mets coaching staff and (former Cubs manager) Leo Durocher. When everybody saw that happened, we went, ‘You know, these guys are already going through a bad streak and now they’re looking at this black cat going, yeah, here’s why.’”

Swoboda, 75, played for the Mets from 1965-70 and recently authored, “Here’s the Catch: A Memoir of the Miracle Mets and More.” He reflected on the turbulent time of that era, which served as the backdrop of the Mets’ first World Series title.

“It was very fractious back then,” Swoboda said. “Identity politics, women’s lib and civil rights and the Stonewall Inn riots and the Vietnam war and the huge anti-war demonstration – and in the middle of that, the Woodstock love generation. They were having fun, and we looked at Woodstock and went, ‘Wow, wouldn’t it have ben fun to be there for about an hour-and-a-half?’”

There was also, of course, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing on the moon on July 20, 1969. The Mets were in Montreal when that happened.

“We got to see it live because our charter had mechanical problems,” Swoboda said. “We went upstairs to the lounge and over a couple of drinks we watched it live on TV. It was an amazing thing. I was a big fan of space flight and aircraft in general. Those astronauts were heroes of mine on a higher order, and here you’re seeing this incredible achievement and we’re in this hunt. The irony was not lost, I don’t think, that we can’t get from Montreal back to New York, and here’s Neil leaving footprints on the moon. It’s like, wow, we got a little journey in front of us, too.”