Shamsky relives memories with Mets fans

Shamsky relives memories with Mets fans

MIDDLE VILLAGE, N.Y. -- Art Shamsky made history less than six miles from this location, and he showed up Tuesday to make new friends and share old memories.

Shamsky, a member of the 1969 Miracle Mets, came to a Citibank in Queens on Tuesday to shake hands and sign autographs, and he said he was impressed by fans of all ages. There were some who had seen him play and others -- like a local Little League team -- who only knew of him.

"I enjoy coming out and doing these things. I'll be at the ballpark tonight," said Shamsky. "For me, [it's fun] just to say hello to the fans, some of whom weren't even born when I played, but they know about the '69 Mets and know my name for various reasons. It's always good to be with fans and to talk about some wonderful things, some great memories. And the Mets are doing OK now, too!"

More than 100 fans greeted Shamsky and Mr. Met at Citibank on Tuesday, including students from a local public school, and the Mets staged a similar event with Shamsky's former teammate, Ed Charles, in Manhattan. Earlier in the year, Ron Swoboda came back to share some memories.

Shamsky grew up in St. Louis, but now resides in Manhattan, and he said that baseball will always be a part of his life. And it's been a sport that has taken him all over the world, from a year of college at the University of Missouri to his post-playing stint as a manager in the Israeli Baseball League.

The former outfielder batted .253 with 68 home runs in his big league career, and his greatest feat occurred in 1966 while playing for the Cincinnati Reds. Shamsky entered a game in the eighth inning and became the first sub in big league history to hit three home runs in a game.

Two of those home runs came in extra innings -- both extending the game -- and the bat he used was later displayed at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. But Shamsky is usually associated with the '69 Mets, and he wrote a book on the subject called "The Magnificent Season."

Shamsky was 27 years old in 1969, and he batted .300 with 14 home runs in 100 games for the Mets. And now, all these years later, he never gets tired of talking about the team that changed his life.

"What's really amazing about that team is, I meet people who weren't even born [but] who know about it from their parents and their grandparents," he said. "I find that to be a really amazing thing, because it was a team that I believe may not have been the greatest team to win the World Series, but it was certainly one of the most memorable and remarkable. That legacy lives on forever because of the magnitude of what we accomplished in a year where the Jets won the Super Bowl ... and the Knicks won the NBA championship all for the very first time. It was very special and people remember that."

Shamsky, a member of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, said it was an honor and a privilege to manage in Israel, which he did during the lone season of the now-defunct Israel Baseball League. The sport is still catching on in Israel, he said, but could get a substantial boost in September.

Israel will be one of 16 teams invited to play in a qualifying tournament for the World Baseball Classic, and Shamsky thinks a good showing there could inspire people to take note. Shamsky, who served as manager of the Modi'in Miracle, said that he'd love to see baseball take root in Israel.

"Unfortunately, they only did it one year, but I will be involved with the team that's going to try to qualify for the World Baseball Classic," said Shamsky. "I will be there in some capacity as an ambassador. I know Brad Ausmus, the former catcher, is going to be the manager, but I'll be involved in it."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.