SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- Donn Clendenon, the power-hitting first
baseman who was the most valuable player in the New York Mets' 1969
World Series victory, died Saturday after a long fight with
leukemia. He was 70.
A spokesman from the George Boom Funeral Home confirmed the
Clendenon hit three home runs and had four RBI in the Mets'
five-game victory over the Baltimore Orioles. He hit .274 with 159
home runs and 682 RBI in 12 seasons in the major leagues with
Pittsburgh, Montreal, the Mets and St. Louis.
"He was a true gentleman and an integral part of the 1969 team.
We knew he had been sick a long time, and on behalf of the Wilpons
and the entire Mets organization we send our condolences to his
entire family," Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz said.
Clendenon spent his first eight seasons in the majors with
Pittsburgh, began the 1969 season with Montreal and joined the Mets
in a midseason deal.
"The one thing I remember was hearing that he could have been a
pro athlete in three different sports -- baseball, football or
basketball. He was that gifted of an athlete," former Pirates
pitcher Steve Blass said Saturday night. "He was a prototypical
first baseman. He was big with a big reach and gave you a big
In the 1969 World Series, the Orioles were ahead 3-0 in Game 5
when Mets manager Gil Hodges emerged from the dugout to argue that
a ball thrown by Baltimore's Dave McNally hit Mets outfielder Cleon
Jones in the foot.
Hodges grabbed the shoe-polish smudged ball and proved that
Jones was indeed struck, setting the stage for Clendenon. The first
baseman stepped to the plate and hit a two-run homer, and the Mets
eventually went on to win 5-3.
"When we got him, we became a different team," said Bud
Harrelson, shortstop for the '69 Mets. "We never had a three-run
homer type of guy.
"He was always humble, never cocky. We were still young kids in
that era. He was a veteran that came in and made us better. When
you threw him into the mix with the rest of us, we became a
dangerous force. We knew we had a good team with him, but we didn't
know quite how good. Gil thought we were better than we were.
"He was the MVP -- a very dangerous player."
Clendenon recounted the 1969 season in his book, "Miracle In
New York," in which he also talked about growing up in Atlanta,
earning his law degree and battling drug addiction as he neared his
After retiring from baseball in 1972, Clendenon earned a law
degree and moved to Sioux Falls in the summer of 1987. He said in a
1987 interview that he worked at law firms in Washington, D.C., and
Chicago before "getting tired of the big cities."
Clendenon, born in Neosho, Mo., told The Associated Press in
1989 that he has used his varied experiences to help young people.
"I like working with kids," Clendenon said. "I've played
major league baseball, I'm a lawyer, I've had an education, I'm an
addict, so I can related to them."