Friday, December 3, 2010

THE BLACK CAT AT SHEA- 09/09/1969


Another of the great moments in Shea Stadium occurred during the Miracle Mets season of 1969. A talented Chicago Cubs team had led the newly formed National League Eastern Division by nine games in August. The Mets never gave in, and relentlessly closed the gap.

On September 9, 1969 the two clubs squared off in New York. During the first inning of the game a black cat crossed the field and entered the Chicago dugout. The feline passed the legendary Cub, Ron Santo who was waiting on deck. "I knew right away we were in trouble," said Ron. "I wanted to run and hide." The bad luck omen was good luck for the Mets who won the contest that night to pull within a half-game of first place. They would take the division lead the very next day with another win. When New York went on to not only win the N.L. East, but also the World Series the incident became celebrated as a turning point.

"There's no doubt there was a letdown," Santo remembered years later. "You try to put it out of your mind, but it's brought up by the media and you put more pressure on yourself. In 1970, I thought we were just as good and we were right there, but it never leaves you."

The cat was not a stray that found it's way onto the field. There were many feral cats that lived at Shea Stadium over the years. Neighborhood Cats, a rescue group estimated that 20 to 40 of the animals lived in the ballpark at any given time. The kittens would on occasion make other more comical appearances. Visiting Washington Nationals player, Robert Fick adopted the cat he discovered hiding in a camera bay in 2003. "It was so small that it looked like a hamster, so young it's eyes were still closed," said Fick. "I named it Shea, because that's where I found him."

The charismatic Ron Santo was well known for hating Shea Stadium with a passion. He even offered to push the plunger for it's demolition. That may have been true, but no baseball fan could hate him. "Ronnie" became a major-league star despite a life-long battle with diabetes, and recaptured the Cub fans’ hearts as their beloved announcer. "Until adversity hits you, and I had open heart surgery and lost both my legs, you think I can't get through it," Santo said in 2008. "But really, you do what you have to do. I say that to everybody. You only have one way to go, and that's the positive way." Ron passed away from complications of bladder cancer on December 3, 2010.

Ron Santo signed his card in the set from a request sent to Major Memories, where he collected donations for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, on August 2, 2009.

2 comments:

  1. Hello, I know you from Wrigley, and how fitting is it that I finally found the piece of paper with your site on it than a few days after Ron Santo died. Awesome card...its too bad you didn't have it signed in person, I would have loved to know what his reaction to this was.

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  2. Great to hear back from you!

    I agree that every autograph is so much better in person. This would have been even more so than most.

    You do know that Ron Santo signed many copies on this photo for people throughout the years? Even more evidence of the humility possessed by a true gentleman of the game.

    -Lee

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