Three days after the major league baseball season began, Ed Kranepool, an original Mets player and native New Yorker, who was part of the 1969 World Series championship team, visited Congregation Sons of Israel in Woodmere.
Kranepool, 74, who broke Hank Greenberg’s high school home run record at James Monroe High in the Bronx, spoke to an audience of roughly 100 people at the Five Towns synagogue on March 31.
The veteran of 17 Mets seasons, he was a late September call up in 1962, the first Mets season, Kranepool was joined by author and Adelphi University adjunct professor Brett Topel, who has written four books, including “Miracle Moments in NY Mets History” and “So, You Think You’re a NY Mets Fan?”
Wearing a No. 7 Mets jersey with his surname on the back, temple member Randy Alpert spoke about that 1962 team calling it “pretty pitiful” as laughter traveled across the room from the knowledge that the squad finished 40-120, the standard for baseball ineptitude. Noting Kranepool’s Mets longevity, Alpert said, “He’s the real-life Mr. Met,” alluding to the team’s mascot whose head is a huge facsimile baseball.
Nicknamed the “Amazing Mets” by the team’s first manager Casey Stengel, the National League squad never completed a season above ninth or 10th (last place) until 1969. A franchise known for bobbling the ball on the field and squandering draft choices on lesser ball players, matured into a powerhouse 50 years ago.
Topel recalled that oddsmakers had the Mets at 100 to 1 to win the World Series in 1969, When he asked Kranepool if the team thought it was going to the Series, Kranepool responded with a long “no” that generated laughter from the audience.
“It was a team effort,” Topel said, “the roster, no one really stood out as a superstar at the time,” noting that pitcher Tom Seaver did rise to that level and the leadership of manager Gil Hodges made a huge difference.
Synagogue member Neal Romanoff, for whom Kranepool worked for in sales, said that “1969 was a very magical year for New York,” beginning with the Jets winning the Super Bowl, the moon landing in July and in August, as the Mets started their pennant run, his first daughter was born.
Kranepool took the microphone and stood for nearly 20 minutes before taking a seat. His diabetes has caused his kidneys to fail and he is waiting for a kidney donation. He has lost the toes on his left foot because of the diabetes and wears a special boot.
The former Met said he is happy that so many people remember the ’69 team and that Stengel was a “tremendous guy” and that he learned from everyone he played under. Speaking freely, Kranepool said that Seaver “changed the outlook of the club” and the Mets should have recognized the Hall of Fame right-hander long before the announcement of his illness. Seaver is suffering from advancing dementia.
On this year’s Mets, Kranepool said he was encouraging first basemen Peter Alonso and Dominic Smith to do their best. “I’m hoping the Mets get off to a good start, he said, “it’s a lot more fun when you are on a winning team.”
Nat Meyer, 11 and Eli Appel, 9, were two of the youngest fans to snare a Kranepool autograph. “It was exciting, I got to meet a baseball player from the World Series in 1969,” Meyer said. “It was cool to meet an All Star player,” Appel said. In unison both said the Mets will be “amazing” this season.