"The truth is, I didn't belong, my being there was purely a fluke".
Outfielder Ron Swoboda played 10 years in Major League baseball, six of them for the New York Mets. Over the course of his career he maintained a batting average of .242 and hit 73 home runs. Signed off the University of Maryland campus in the Fall of 1963 by scout Pete Gebrian, he first played professionally in 1965 when he broke camp with the Mets. During that rookie year, he earned a spot in the lineup with a torrid first half "hitting fifteen homers, if I remember correctly" on his way to arguably his best year attaining season totals of 19 HRs and 50 RBI. He was an integral member of the Amazin' Mets of 1969 collecting half of his 52 RBI's in the last five weeks of the season and hitting .400 in the World Series where the Mets went on to be crowned the most unlikely of World Champions over the heavily-favored Baltimore Orioles. He even spoiled Steve Carlton's 19 strikeout performance on September 15 with 2 home runs including the game winner. It was with his glove, however, that he attained permanent deity status among the Met faithful. It was Ron's diving, sliding catch of Brooks Robinson's sinking liner in game 4 that saved the day for the New Yorkers en-route to a 10 inning 2-1 victory. The ever approachable and entertaining Ron is now a broadcaster with the AAA New Orleans Zephyrs and greatly enjoys his spring training stints with the Mets in his dual roles as both celebrity and coach.
Ron did not feel like he should have made the team at the end of Spring Training in 1965 because he shouldn't have been with the team. He made the trip north with the parent club only due to a long-since discarded major league roster rule. "Back then there was in effect a clause that was similar to the Rule #5 of today and was known as the `First Year Rule'." After a certain amount of service time, teams had to keep you with the big league club or risk other teams drafting you off of the roster. The Mets had lost Paul Blair to the Orioles this way the year before and were so upset about it that they kept four of us: myself, Danny Napolean, Jim Bethke and this little lefty name of Tug McGraw. So if it hadn't been for that silly quirk, I wouldn't have been there at all!"
Although Ron may have benefited from the lack of expectations due to his quasi-interloper status on the roster, it took a strong first half for manager Casey Stengel - spending his last year on the dugout step, to decide he belonged in the lineup, it only took Ron a game or two to decide he was in the big leagues to stay. "I really felt like I belonged after my first game against the Dodgers. During my first (pinch-hit) at-bat against Don Drysdale, I stroked a slider of his pretty well." Unfortunately, "I hit it right at second baseman Jim Lefebvre who went on to be that season's Rookie of the Year;", but to Ron it felt good, it felt right. Confirmation of his new status had to wait only to the next at-bat in game two against the late Turk Farrell. "He threw me a fastball and I hit it out for my first hit - a home run. As I rounded the bases, I thought `Yep I can definitely do this'."
During the summer of 1965, Ron Swoboda shouldn't have been in the major leagues and although he proved to the world he belonged with a torrid first half, it was a loud out that he hit off of a Hall of Fame Pitcher right at a Rookie of the Year second baseman that was the moment "When I Knew I Belonged"