A Magic Summer

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

From their first season in 1962, the New York Mets were the joke of professional sports in America, a team that constantly found new ways to lose. As the team finished last in the National League each of its first six seasons, however, the baseball fans of New York and much of the nation embraced the bumbling Mets as colorful, lovable losers. Upon the arrival of Gil Hodges as manager in 1968, the team finally began doing some things right and finished only next-to-last. As the Mets approached the 1969 season, the players hoped to improve still further and win at least half their games. Odds makers gave them a one hundred-to-one chance of winning the National League pennant.

The Mets, however, surprised even themselves by winning twenty-seven more games than in the previous year to finish first in the National League East division and then again by easily defeating the Atlanta Braves in the League Championship Series and the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.

The team’s success was hailed as a miracle, but Stanley Cohen shows how the Mets slowly gained confidence over the course of the season, not moving into first place until their 141st game, under the astute guidance of Hodges, the manager most of the players respected, loved, and feared.

Cohen, author of two previous sports books, draws his daily account of the 1969 season primarily from NEW YORK TIMES reports, and the game descriptions are occasionally mechanical. The most interesting parts of A MAGIC SUMMER are the interviews with the players, who display surprisingly diverse personalities and varied attitudes toward the past.