1969 NLCS: The Mets Sweep The Braves

Baseball entered a new era in 1969. For the first time, the two leagues had been split into divisions, meaning a postseason round would have to be played prior to the World Series. The first edition of the 1969 NLCS featured the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves. In a series that was then best-of-five, both lineups came out swinging and put runs on the board. But every game ended with New York on top and the Mets continued what was already a magical season.

You can read more about both teams, their key players, and their season-long journeys to win division titles at the links below. This article will focus exclusively on the games of the 1969 NLCS:


Homefield advantage was done on a rotation basis, and the format would be 2-3. Play would open with a pair of games in Atlanta, with the balance of the series played in New York’s old Shea Stadium.

The 1-2 finishers in the NL Cy Young Award race were on the mound for Saturday afternoon’s opener. It was two future Hall of Famers, Tom Seaver for the Mets, and Phil Niekro for the Braves.

New York struck in the top of the second. Art Shamsky singled and Ken Boswell worked a one-out walk. Jerry Grote’s single scored a run and put runners on first and third. A passed ball gave the Mets a 2-0 lead.

Atlanta immediately got one back. Rico Carty started the bottom of the second with a double and then took third on an error at second by Boswell. Clete Boyer picked up the RBI with a sac fly. And one inning later, the Braves took the lead. Felix Millan, Tony Gonzalez, and the great Henry Aaron all doubled in succession to make it 3-2.

After Carty was intentionally walked, a passed ball gave Atlanta runners on second and third. There was still just one out and the game was on the verge of getting away from Seaver. He got Orlando Cepeda to fly out, and it wasn’t deep enough to score Aaron. Seaver kept the game at 3-2.

And it didn’t take long for the lead to change hands again. A two-out rally in the top of the fourth started with a single from Ed Kranepool. After Grote worked a walk, Bud Harrelson cleared the bases with a triple and put the Mets up 4-3. Gonzalez answered for the Braves in the bottom of the fifth with a solo blast that tied it 4-4.

Seaver and Niekro remained in the game. In the bottom of the seventh, Aaron hit a solo blast. Atlanta had a 5-4 lead. Between this, and the seventh-ranked Georgia Bulldogs football team routing South Carolina across town, it was set to be a great day for sports fans across the Peach State.

Until the top of the eighth. Wayne Garrett doubled to lead off the inning and Cleon Jones’ single quickly tied the game at 5-5. And the Mets kept coming. Shamsky singled. With runners on first and second, Jones boldly stole third. That put him into position to score  the go-ahead run on a ground ball to first. Cepeda’s throw home went awry and runners ended up on first and second.

A productive out by Grote moved the runners to second and third. J.C. Martin came off the bench to bat for Seaver and he singled to center. It was 8-5. A subsequent error by Gonzalez in centerfield brought Martin all the way around. In the blink of an eye, the game was blown open. It was 9-5 and New York reliever Ron Taylor closed out the final two innings without further incident.

Major League Baseball was still the national pastime in 1969, so the LCS games in both leagues overshadowed pro football on Sunday. Although Mets fans had a pretty interesting team to root for in Joe Namath’s New York Jets—they had stunned the sports world the prior January when they upset the Baltimore Colts and won the Super Bowl. The Jets would knock off the Patriots today. And the Mets were cooking up a similar journey of their own. For the local fans, the Falcons were across town at Grant Field (home of Georgia Tech) losing to the Colts.

On the baseball field, New York was sending Jerry Koosman to the mound to face Atlanta’s Ron Reed. Tommie Agee led off the game with a base hit against Reed, and Garrett drew a walk. After a double steal, Jones was walked to load the bases with none out. Reed bore down and got two strikeouts. On the verge of blowing it, the Mets got a base hit from Kranepool that made it 1-0.

A one-out walk to Koosman got Reed in trouble in the top of the second. Agee followed with a home run. With two outs, Jones doubled, Shamsky singled, it was 4-zip, and Reed was sent for an early shower. One inning later, an error by Cepeda was the lynchpin of a two-run rally that pushed New York’s lead to 6-0.

The Mets continued to surge. Boswell hit a two-run blast in the fourth. Atlanta got a run back in the bottom of the inning, but New York answered right back with a double from Garrett and an RBI single from Jones in the top of the fifth. It was 9-1 and Koosman was cruising.

Until the bottom of the fifth. Koosman got the first two outs. Then Millan singled and Gonzalez walked. Aaron unloaded with a three-run blast. It was 9-4. Still, no reason to worry. But Koosman walked Carty. Cepeda doubled to put runners on second and third. Boyer singled. It was 9-6.

Now, there was reason to worry. One out shy of qualifying for the win, Koosman was pulled. Taylor came on. He, along with Tug McGraw stabilized the ship and the Braves didn’t threaten the rest of the game. A two-run homer from Cleon Jones in the seventh gave the Mets insurance and they won 11-6.

There was no travel day, and there was also no night baseball in postseason play yet. So, both teams were back at it on Monday afternoon in Shea Stadium, with New York looking to wrap up the pennant.

Atlanta wouldn’t go quietly. With one out in the first inning, Gonzalez singled off Met starter Gary Gentry and Aaron homered again. Brave starter Pat Jarvis was staked to a 2-0 lead.

Agee homered with one out in the third to cut the lead in half. In the fourth, Shamsky’s single was followed by a Boswell homer to give the Mets the lead. Atlanta still didn’t roll over. Carty worked a two-out walk in the fifth that set up Cepeda to go deep. It was 4-3 Braves.

A 22-year-old fireballer named Nolan Ryan came out of the New York bullpen to try and calm the game down. He did so, and Ryan also made things happen with his bat. He singled to lead off the bottom of the fifth. Garrett homered. New York had the lead back. Then Jones doubled. Jarvis was out, but George Stone couldn’t calm the waters. A single from Boswell made it 6-4.

In the bottom of the sixth, Grote doubled to right and was bunted over to third. Ryan was allowed to bat for himself, but he couldn’t pick up the run. Agee could—a two-out single made it 7-4.

That extra run of insurance loomed large when Atlanta put two on with two out in the top of the eighth. Felipe Alou lined out. That was the Braves’ last real gasp. In the ninth, Ryan induced Gonzalez to hit a ground ball to third. Garrett threw to Kranepool and the Mets had won the pennant.

The offensive fireworks meant there were heroes galore. Shamsky, a part-time player during the season, collected seven hits, while Jones had six. Agee’s five hits included two home runs. Garrett, a 21-year-old, had knocked five hits of his own. Boswell went for 4-for-12 and homered twice.

There was no MVP award given out in NLCS play until 1977. Who would you have taken? I’d lean Agee, whose home runs in Games 2 & 3 came at big points. Although if you’re willing to look at the losing team, it’s hard to ignore Aaron’s three blasts and seven RBIs. Gonzalez, Millan and Cepeda also swung the bats well for the Braves.

For Atlanta, this would be goodbye to the postseason for a while. The Braves disappeared from contention and didn’t return until 1982. And not until 1991, did they win an NLCS round.

But for New York, the good times would keep going. They played the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. And in a repeat of the Super Bowl, the “second team” from New York upended a heavyweight from Baltimore. The 1969 NLCS was just one part of a journey that would give this team its place in baseball lore as “The Amazin Mets”.