MLB.com Columnist

Marty Noble

Charles sees 1969 Mets in 2014 Royals

Charles sees 1969 Mets in 2014 Royals

NEW YORK -- As the surprise party raged on in the Royals' clubhouse Wednesday evening -- surprise, the Royals had swept the Orioles in the American League Championship Series -- a man with strong ties to Kansas City baseball celebrated in a more modest manner in his Queens, N. Y., home. Ed Charles celebrated the AL championship as well as his own clairvoyance. He had predicted the Royals would win it weeks ago, even before the Royals were assured of a place in the postseason and before they had any sense of their eventual opponents.

"I just have this feeling," Charles said that late September Saturday.

He was waiting for David Wright, seated in a wheelchair just outside the home clubhouse in Citi Field. The current Mets third baseman and Charles, one of the men who played third for the 1969 World Series-champion Mets, had forged a relationship. As he waited, Charles made his prediction based on a keen understanding of the game, decades of observation, somewhat biased thinking and his sense that, "It'll be good for the game when Kansas City plays in the World Series."

  Date     Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 21     SF 7, KC 1 video
Gm 2 Oct. 22     KC 7, SF 2 video
Gm 3 Oct. 24     KC 3, SF 2 video
Gm 4 Oct. 25     SF 11, KC 4 video
Gm 5 Oct. 26     SF 5, KC 0 video
Gm 6 Oct. 28     KC 10, SF 0 video
Gm 7 Oct. 29     SF 3, KC 2 video

"I like the way they play, and they're coming on," Charles said. "They do a lot of things you need to do to win."

Charles, 81 years old and 45 years removed from his last big league swings, never played for the Royals. Indeed, the second Kansas City franchise didn't play its first game until Charles was beginning the final season of his eight-year big league tenure, with the Mets. He could have had a longer career in The Show -- he signed with the Boston Braves in 1952 -- but the immovable object that was Eddie Mathews and the racial quicksand of the time held him back until the Kansas City Athletics traded for him in December 1961.

Charles was 29 when his chance developed and when he batted .288 with 74 RBIs, 17 home runs and 20 stolen bases for the A's. Nice rookie run. Charles enjoyed his time in Kansas City but reveled in his three years with the Mets. He was a senior voice on the young Mets team that made a Miracle in October 1969, a miracle that has more than a few parallels to what the Royals have accomplished to this point.

"I do see the New York Mets of 1969 in these Kansas City Royals," Charles said Wednesday night.

In each case, the Orioles were a more highly regarded team -- and the victims. The 1969 O's were generally seen as the game's elite team with stellar infield defense, a world-class center fielder, terrific starting pitching, left-handed and right-handed power, a good bench and the unyielding resolve of Frank Robinson, not to mention the fire, savvy and attitude of manager Earl Weaver. They had swept Billy Martin's Twins in three games in the ALCS, just as Buck Showalter's Orioles had swept the Tigers in three games to reach the 2014 ALCS.

Moreover, coincidence developed. The Mets twice won 2-1 in their five-game World Series against the Orioles, and the scores of Games 3 and 4 of the ALCS between the Royals and Orioles were 2-1 and 2-1. And the only men named Yost to wear big league uniforms since 1894 are Royals manager Ned and -- no relation -- Eddie, the Mets third-base coach in 1969.

The more important similarities had to do with how the current Royals and the Mets of '69 accomplished what was necessary against superior opposition. They didn't steamroll the two Orioles teams, they merely beat them with resolve, resilience and resourcefulness. Reggie Jackson would call them the three R's.

It wasn't called run prevention when the Mets limited the Orioles, the team that had finished second in the AL in scoring, to nine runs in five games in '69; it was identified as pitching -- Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry and Nolan Ryan -- and defense. It certainly was run prevention when the Royals' defense and pitching held the team that had led the league in home runs to merely 12 runs in four games.

Charles used the traditional phrasing. "Both teams [his Mets and the Royals] had pitching and defense," he said. "Everyone knew about Baltimore's [defense] when we played them. They had Brooks [Robinson] and [Mark] Belanger and [Paul] Blair. In comparison, we were like a secret. But we could play, and we gained confidence down the stretch. In the World Series, we made plays like Kansas City's made. We made double plays when we had to, so did they (The Royals followed one of their two errors in the series with a double play).

"And the Royals made plays in the outfield like we did."

Tommie Agee and Ron Swoboda made plays in the Mets outfield that would warrant permanent exhibits if a museum of New York City baseball existed. And the Royals await a World Series appearance, to some degree, because of brilliant catches made in the outfield by Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon. And third baseman Mike Moustakas had his glowing moments in Game 3.

But mostly, the Royals merely played well, routinely making the routine plays. "It's hard to take advantage of mistakes when they're not making any," Orioles first baseman Steve Pearce said after Game 3. Folks finding fault with the Orioles ought to think about Pearce's words.

There's more: The Mets scored the decisive run in Game 4 when a bunt by catcher J.C. Martin was thrown away by pitcher Pete Richert in the 10th inning; the Royals scored the decisive run in Game 4 when Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph botched a play in the first inning. Both scores were 2-1.

"And the way [Mets manager Gil] Hodges used his personnel was outstanding," Charles said. "Right man in the right place. I can't say that Ned Yost out-managed Buck, but everything he asked for from his players he got. It was that way with us and Gil. He put us in the right circumstances, and we delivered. So we won."

And one final link: The Royals' championship has been characterized as remarkable, stunning and extraordinary. Charles modestly called it "What I called." He didn't consider it beyond the norm. But he conceded it could be called "Amazin'."

For now, the Royals can use the modifier Casey Stengel affixed to the Mets 52 years ago. Incidentally, Stengel's nickname was based on the name of his hometown -- Kansas City.

Marty Noble is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.