Last year, New York Times bestselling author Wayne Coffey enthralled a group of New York Sports Tours guests with a story about a deadly 1969 snowstorm and New York City Mayor John Lindsay’s reelection bid the same year.
“The Mets rescued him after that snowstorm,” said Coffey, author of They Said It Couldn’t Be Done, about the New York Mets improbable 1969 World Series championship. Referred to citywide as “Lindsay’s Snowstorm,” the nor’easter had hit the city that February and became a symbol of failed government response. Queens, home to the Mets, was hit harder than the city’s other boroughs. Snow clogged streets there for a week.
“The outcome of the race was arguably in the Mets’ hands,” Coffey noted.
The mayor was already struggling politically. He would later remark that 1968 “was the worst year of my political life,” with strikes, slowdowns by police and firefighters and a significant spike in crime among the reasons. A Republican, the mayor lost his party’s primary in June 1969, but stayed in the race as an underdog independent.
A boarding-school and Yale graduate associated with Manhattan’s wealthy Upper East Side, Lindsay attached himself to the Mets. In turn, he started to draw a larger swath of middle-class supporters. The mayor cheered in the stands and was in the middle of the locker room celebrations when the Mets won the National League pennant and the World Series, both at home.
After the former victory, The New York Times reported of the mayoral campaign, “Television is the name of the game,” and invaluable time on local newscasts was granted Lindsay “in the Mets’ clubhouse with pennant champagne running down his face.”
Then on October 16, the “Miracle Mets” — in only their eighth season, with a loss compilation of 100 or more games in five of those years — upset the Baltimore Orioles to take the World Series. In the winners’ crazed locker room, sportscaster Lindsey Nelson asked the mayor on national television what the victory meant for the city.
“They’ve given us the biggest lift we’ve had in a thousand years,” replied Lindsay, who would host a rousing World Series victory parade and City Hall ceremony that attracted a sea of Mets fans.
Fifteen days after the parade, the Mets helped deliver another come-from-behind miracle — the reelection of Lindsay. Down a dozen percentage points in the polls at one point of his campaign, the mayor defeated his closest challenger by more than eight and a half.
This story was published in a special Election Day issue of New York Sports Tours’ newsletter. For more original stories, sign up for the complimentary newsletter here.