Wednesday, October 14, 2009

40 Years Later: The 1969 NY Mets - Rod Gaspar

He was #17 before #17 was #17. He was a kid, 23, when he made the 1969 NY Mets because Art Shamsky was out with a sore back. What a rookie year Rod Gaspar had for the Miracle Mets. He scored the winning run in game 4 of the 1969 World Series; the play where JC Martin laid down a bunt, ran inside the first base line, and was hit by the throw from Oriole catcher Pete Richert, allowing Martin to reach first, and Gaspar to score the winning run.

"It was so much fun and didn't last long enough," said Gaspar about the 1969 season. Continuing, Gaspar said, "In spring training, Shamsky hurt his back and (Manager) Gil Hodges took me on a road trip to replace him, started me, and I had a 13- or 14-game hitting streak, so they kept me on the roster."

"It all started with Hodges. He did a great job with a bunch of young kids. We only had a few veterans on the team, and he used his roster the best way possible. He didn't wear any of us out. He gave young guys a chance to contribute.

"He played me a lot, and ahead of guys who all deserved to play. But we got along so well as a team that no one ever complained. Once we got rolling, all we wanted to do was win."

Gaspar’s career didn’t last long, and even less with the Mets. After completing the 1969 season as a World Champion, Gaspar , instead of working out during the offseason, went to Switzerland after winning the prize on The Dating Game .

Gaspar recounts, "I was very immature. I was a single guy with a nickel brain who thought he'd be in New York for the next 10 years. No excuses."

"That was the first year I didn't work out year-round. I used to come home and play with the Long Beach Rockets, which was always good training since there were so older guys on the team.

"I paid the consequences. Next spring, I couldn't hit and couldn't judge a fly ball. I deserved to be cut. Life is attitude. Sometimes people think they're owed something, and that was my attitude. I messed up in a big way."

In 1970, after making the club in 1969, Gaspar was sent to the minors. He only played in 11 games for the Mets, and then was traded to San Diego. He only played in 33 games for the Padres in 1974, and spent two more years in the Padres farm system in Hawaii.

Since retiring from baseaball, Gaspar has had a successful career in insurance and retirement planning.

Forty years ago tomorrow, October 15th, Gaspar scored the winning run in game 4 of the 1969 World Series. Forty years ago this Friday, we will celebrate the Mets first World Championship team. Forty years seems like an eternity after suffering through this season.

It’s hard to believe there has been a bigger Championship drought since 1986 than there was between ’69 and ’86.

Maybe, just maybe there can be another Miracle in Flushing in ’10. As Gaspar said, teams used to underestimate the Mets, and think they were push overs. "Most of us were too young to care or feel any pressure, because we hadn't been through it before," Gaspar said.

Maybe, just maybe some of that childish wisdom can rub off on the 2010 Mets.

Source: Bob Keisser - Press Telegram

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