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In 1962, the New York Mets spent their first year in existence racking up the worst record in baseball history. Things scarcely got any better for the ensuing six years–they were baseball’s laughingstock, but somehow lovable in their ineptitude, building a fiercely loyal fan base. And then came 1969, a year that brought the lunar landing, Woodstock, nonstop antiwar protests, and the most tumultuous and fractious New York City mayoral race in memory–along with the most improbable season in the annals of Major League Baseball. It concluded on an invigorating autumn afternoon in Queens, when a Minnesota farm boy named Jerry Koosman beat the Baltimore Orioles for the second time in five games, making the Mets champions of the baseball world.
It wasn’t merely an upset but an unprecedented, uplifting achievement for the ages. From the ashes of those early scorched-earth seasons, Gil Hodges, a beloved former Brooklyn Dodger, put together a 25-man whole that was vastly more formidable than the sum of its parts. Beyond the top-notch pitching staff headlined by Tom Seaver, Koosman, and Gary Gentry, and the hitting prowess of Cleon Jones, the Mets were mostly comprised of untested kids and lightly regarded veterans. Everywhere you looked on this team, there was a man with a compelling backstory, from Koosman, who never played high school baseball and grew up throwing in a hayloft in subzero temperatures with his brother Orville, to third baseman Ed Charles, an African-American poet with a deep racial conscience whose arrival in the big leagues was delayed almost a decade because of the color of his skin.
In the tradition of The Boys of Winter, his classic bestseller about the 1980 U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team, Wayne Coffey tells the story of the ’69 Mets as it has never been told before–against the backdrop of the space race, Stonewall, and Vietnam, set in an ever-changing New York City. With dogged reporting and a storyteller’s eye for detail, Coffey finds the beating heart of a baseball family. Published to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Mets’ remarkable transformation from worst to best, They Said It Couldn’t Be Done is a spellbinding, feel-good narrative about an improbable triumph by the ultimate underdog.