Seaver, Reggie and the Mets Land in First Place in NL East After Spoiling Montreal Expos’ Franchise Debut
OPENING DAY – April 8, 1969
NEW YORK, NY – Tom Seaver allowed only 2 earned runs over 6 2/3 innings and Reggie Jackson homered in his first plate appearance of the season as the New York Mets toppled the expansion Expos of Montreal in the first game of the 1969 baseball season.
For the New York Mets, this marks the first time in franchise history the team has won on Opening Day. Consequently, with a record on the season of 1-0, this also marks the first time in franchise history the team has ever held a share of first place.
“The Mets are in first place. Let it never be said that miracles don’t happen,” said manager Gil Hodges.
Les Expos, as Major League Baseball’s first Canadian franchise is known to its Quebecois fans, began their own franchise history inauspiciously when the first batter of the season, former NL MVP shortstop Maury Wills, struck out against the 24-year-old fireballer from Fresno, Tom Seaver. Their fortune quickly turned however, when second basemen Gary Sutherland reached on an Ed Kranepool error. After Rusty Staub singled and Mack Jones popped up behind home plate the Expos were staked to a 3-0 lead when Seaver hung a breaking ball to Montreal first baseman Bob Bailey who promptly deposited it over the Shea Stadium centerfield wall.
Not to be outdone, in the bottom of the first Cleon Jones singled to start the Mets’ half of the inning. Jones was erased on a 6-4 fielder’s choice, but with Tommie Agee on first base and Reggie Jackson at the plate Mudcat Grant grooved a fastball that Reggie’s powerful left-handed swing didn’t miss. The resultant home run was measured at 465 feet, one of the longest Shea stadium has ever seen.
The Expos held the Mets to a 3-2 score until the bottom of the 4th. That’s when the Mets plated three more runs on a series of walks and base hits that sent Grant to the showers. Seaver helped his own cause with a single that added two more runs in the bottom of the 5th against Expos reliever Dan McGinn.
A seventh inning rally brought Montreal within two, but Cal Koonce and Ron Taylor shut the door on Les Expos. Reggie Jackson narrowly missed a second home run of the night when he hit a long fly ball in the 8th inning that would have cleared the fences in most other stadiums.
“It was a good day for Reggie,” said Jackson. “And when it’s a good day for Reggie, it’s a good day for the fans.”
This game was played with Strat-O-Matic Advanced rules and charts, including clutch, weather and ballpark effects.