It was Wednesday, October 15th 1969, and the crowd at Shea Stadium in Flushing, Queens New York was roaring, causing the building to shake with excitement.
The reason was that New York Mets right fielder Ron Swoboda had just made one of the most amazing catches in major league baseball history, fully extending his body to make a diving grab with only three inches to spare.
“I knew I had made one hell of a play.” Swoboda said.
However, the catch came as a surprise, not just to everyone watching, but to Swoboda himself.
“Conventional wisdom had it that I wasn’t a good fielder,” Swoboda said, but I worked really hard at being a better outfielder.”
This was not a catch that would be forgotten quickly, as Swoboda still finds himself signing pictures of him making that diving play 30 years later.
“It’s 45 years later, and I didn’t know I’d still be making money off this catch!” Swoboda remarked.
The irony behind that catch? It came off of Swoboda’s baseball hero. Swoboda hails from Baltimore Maryland, and growing up, Brooks Robinson, the Orioles star third baseman and an MLB Hall of Famer was the player that Swoboda had always strived to become.
Swoboda had not played in the previous series against the Braves. While that may not have been a promising outlook, perhaps it was destiny that led Swoboda to not only be a hero in the outfield, but dominant at the plate, hitting .400 in the Series. He connected for five base hits in the last two games of the five game World Series, the last of which driving in the World Series winning RBI. The Mets had stunned the baseball world.
“Everybody picked them to beat us,” Swoboda said.
The Mets had been the underdogs, yet through great pitching, teamwork, Swoboda, and a little bit of luck, they had become world champions.
Despite leaving the game in 1973 after playing for the New York Mets, Montreal Expos, and New York Yankees, the 1969 World Series champion still reflects on his identity and his contribution to the game.
“I started with the Mets, I signed with the Mets. I will always identify as a Met,” Swoboda said.
This continues today, as even though the Miracle Met lives in New Orleans where his career in sports casting has taken him, Swoboda continues to avidly follow baseball and his New York Mets, suffering right along with the rest of us. Yet Swoboda feels that there is reason to hope for the New York Mets, and is quite excited for the upcoming 2016 season, his optimism revolving around their star studded pitching rotation. Swoboda calls the current pitching staff the “heart and soul of the Mets,” which is a huge compliment coming from the orange and blue slugger, as he played along with the likes of Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry, and Tom Seaver.
He remembers being asked “how long are you gonna make a living off of one catch?”
His response? “Well, how long do I still got?”
This kind of humor and charisma, not just his skill, is what defines the nearly 72 year old Swoboda, and is the reason that he will forever live on in the minds of fans as one of the greatest men to ever put on a Mets uniform.
By Joseph Salemo
Joseph is an avid (and sometimes manic) New York Mets and Jets fan who looks forward to, yet cringes, at every upcoming sports season. He graduated St. Joseph’s College in May of 2016 with a BA in History and in Journalism and New Media Studies.