Ed Kranepool’s Amazing Mets Memories Make New Book a Must-Read
I knew that by the time Ed Kranepool retired as a New York Met at the end of the 1979 season there were no surprises left for him surrounding the organization. All of his successes and troubles throughout his career are brilliantly explained in the former first baseman's recently released autobiography - The Last Miracle: My 18-Year Journey with the Amazin' Mets.
As a longtime Mets fan, I thought that I knew the ins and outs of nearly every major happening that has popped up surrounding the team. I couldn't have been more wrong. Kranepool sets the record straight on so many big stories; the Tom Seaver trade during the 1977 season, slugging teammate Tim Foli in the dugout during a game in 1971, the team's climb to a World Series championship in 1969, the death of manager Gil Hodges, and the hiring of managers Yogi Berra and Joe Torre.
Year by year, beginning from the team's inaugural season of 1962, Kranepool offers a first-person perspective on how the organization was constructed.
Readers learn how, as a 17-year-old living in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx, Kranepool grew up living in a single-parent home (Ed's dad was killed three months before he was born during World War II in France), and was able to sign an MLB contract that included a $80,000. bonus.
The Last Miracle, Kranepool's story is one that quickly has you rooting for the kid from the South Bronx right from page one. From playing ball at his local playground to becoming a drawing card at James Monroe High School, the New Yorker was meant to play professional baseball. Even with the pressures of playing for the same high school that Hank Greenberg (National Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 1956) began his slugging legend, Kranepool remained focused on his capabilities, all which eventually had a few MLB clubs tracking his every hit and catch.
Among the more fascinating chapters of Kranepool's career that is told in The Last Miracle is when, after two days from signing with the Mets, off he goes to be with the team in Southern California. 17-years-old and never been on an airplane, Kranepool finds himself on the Mets' bench, sitting next to iconic managed Casey Stengel. His introduction in 1962 to big league ball is the game at Dodger Stadium, when on June 30, Sandy Koufax no-hits the Mets.
The 1969 climb to facing the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series, the improbable chase to the National League pennant in 1973 with the Mets finishing the season with an 82-79 record, to Willie Mays joining the ball club in 1972, and how then coach Yogi Berra is hired to replace the late Mets' manager Gil Hodges, who passed on April 2, 1972, Kranepool delivers an education to all who crack open The Last Miracle.
But, Joe Torre, obtained by the Mets from the St. Louis Cardinals for the 1975 season, first as a player then as a player-manager, is the most fascinating topic that Kranepool offers opinions on. Wow. The book is worth the price for this topic alone.
Friends, teammates, roommates, as Kranepool tells, he and the future Yankees' manager and hall of famer were tight as brothers. Then, promises from the Mets' manager are broken. The ill-will felt back in the mid-1970's, from Kranepool's perspective, remain.
Kranepool's relationship with former Mets General Manager Joe McDonald is also front and center in The Last Legend. The story Kranepool tells of the Mets' Chairman of the Board M. Donald Grant ordering McDonald to offer him a three-year contract is classic. The details surrounding how this went down is priceless.
Other names prominently written about in The Last Miracle are pitcher Tug McGraw and outfielder Ron Swoboda, two of Kranepool's teammates, and also best friends. Their camaraderie adds levity to several subjects that put on display the ugliness of the business side of baseball.
Kranepool, who played briefly with the Syracuse Chiefs in 1962, paints the most in depth picture of the Amazin' Mets of 1969 that I have come across. 1969 was about Woodstock, the New York Jets winning Super Bowl III, Vietnam War, and assassinations of President John Kennedy, United States Senator Robert Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King. The ascension of the Mets, from last place losers to MLB champions in October 1969 is one of the best fell-good stories in the game's history. Kranepool's account on how it all unfolded makes the story even more heartfelt.
Mets fans, put away your yearbook collection, and read The Last Miracle. So much of what you always wanted to know, or thought you knew about the early years of the club are explained. If you were a fan of "Steady Eddie" Kranepool during his playing days, you are surely going to hold him up on a higher pedestal after reading The Last Miracle.
Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter from the Mohawk Valley, now living in Florida. He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio, and on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at WIBX950.com. Don can be contacted via email at Don@icechipsdiamonddust.com.
Ed Kranepool was a guest on WIBX's First News with Keeler in the Morning talking about his latest book, stories from his career and the game, and his thoughts on the current game and the most recent rule changes.
We spoke with Ed about his close friends from the original Mets, Buddy Harrelson and Al Jackson. Was it Pete Rose who punched Buddy at 2nd base or Buddy who punched Pete, asked Keeler.
Not surprising was the fact that Kranepool watches the Mets often, and even during a recent interview on the Mets TV broadcast, he said the Mets problem this year is that "there's nobody leading this team. They're all playing for themselves."
Kranepool also reveals who his favorite team was growing up. You might be surprised.
Listen to the interview below from YouTube.
The Keeler Show airs weekdays on WIBX950 via the WIBX950 App, or streamed live every morning on YouTube.