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The 1969 New York Mets were, in one respect, like a lot of other phenomena from that long-ago, undead decade: even people who weren’t yet born “remember” that championship team, in much the same way they “remember” Woodstock, the moon landing, MLK’s assassination, Altamont, the release of The White Album and other cultural and political touchstones of the era.
The ’69 “Amazin’ Mets” of Seaver, Clendennon, Koosman, Kranepool, Jones, Agee, Grote and the rest are part of pop-culture lore as surely as Electric Ladyland and the police riots at the Democratic convention in Chicago in 1968 — not because they were the most dominant team of the age, but precisely because they weren’t. They were the Bad News Bears of the majors . . . except that, in the Mets’ case, they actually won it all in the end.
Here, at the beginning of another hopeful, already troubling season in Queens — with the Mets scraping by, playing .500 ball — LIFE.com remembers the marvelous 1969 team with a series of color photos made late in the summer of that celebrated, improbable season.
So much about the game of pro baseball has changed in the four-plus decades since these pictures were made — from the fit of the uniforms to the players’ body types to the use of extraneous batting, running and fielding gear (hardly any back then, and so much these days) — that one might almost be forgiven for thinking the photos in this gallery document an entirely different sport than the one played today.
But look a little closer, and the core elements of the pursuit remain unchanged: bat, ball, glove, grass, dirt, sweat and — perhaps above everything else — camaraderie. Those guys on the Miracle Mets genuinely seemed to be having fun while working their tails off, against all odds and expectations, in the pursuit of a World Series title.
They seemed, in other words, to really like one another. Simply amazing.
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.