Tom Seaver, who died on Sept. 2, 2020 at age 75, won the first of his three Cy Young awards in 1969 as the ace of the Amazin’ Mets. For Seaver, that extraordinary season was the start of a Hall of Fame career that included 311 wins and 3,640 strikeouts. He is on a short list among the greatest pitchers of all time.

The ’69 Mets themselves maintain a special place in baseball culture. The team that had been so terrible since beginning play in 1962, routinely losing more than 100 games per season, improbably rallied to become World Series champion. 

LIFE was along for the ride during that 1969 season, chronicling the exploits of Seaver—a young righty just discovering his ability to dominate batters—and also other characters of that miracle team. In its story LIFE called Seaver, then 24, “the team’s first superstar,” and the news of his death 51 years later had many proclaiming him the greatest player ever to wear the New York Mets uniform.

Liz Ronk edited this gallery for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.

Tom Seaver, 1969.

Ace pitcher Tom Seaver, 1969.

Co Rentmeester/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Tom Seaver, 1969.

Tom Seaver won 25 games, the most in the majors, as the leader of the Miracle Mets in 1969.

Co Rentmeester/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Shortstop Bud Harrelson, 1969.

Co Rentmeester/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Ed Charles, 1969 Mets

Third baseman Ed Charles, 1969 Mets.

Co Rentmeester/Life Pictures/Getty Images

First baseman Donn Clendenon, 1969.

Co Rentmeester/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Outfielder Ron Swoboda, 1969.

Co Rentmeester/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Tom Seaver, 1969.

Tom Seaver won 25 games, the most in the majors, as the leader of the Miracle Mets in 1969.

Co Rentmeester/Life Pictures/Getty Images

1969 New York Mets.

1969 New York Mets.

Co Rentmeester/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Manager Gil Hodges, 1969 Mets.

Manager Gil Hodges, 1969 Mets.

Co Rentmeester/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Donn Clendenon, 1969.

Donn Clendenon, 1969

Co Rentmeester/Life Pictures/Getty Images

1969 New York Mets.

Pitcher Jerry Koosman (No. 36) and teammates in the Mets dugout.

Co RentmeesterLife Pictures/Getty Images

Art Shamsky, 1969

Outfielder Art Shamsky, 1969.

Co Rentmeester/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Gil Hodges 1969

Manager Gil Hodges (right), 1969 Mets.

Co Rentmeester/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Ed Kranepool slides against the Pirates, 1969.

Ed Kranepool sliding in with the Pirates’ Jose Martinez in air, 1969.

Co Rentmeester/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Tom Seaver, 1969.

Tom Seaver, 1969.

Co Rentmeester/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Manager Gil Hodges (right), 1969 Mets.

Manager Gil Hodges (right), 1969 Mets.

Co Rentmeester/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Ed Charles scored past Pirates catcher Manny Sanguillen, 1969.

Co Rentmeester/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Tom Seaver dominated in 1969, when he won the first of his three Cy Young awards.

Co Rentmeester/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Pittsburgh's Willie Stargell slides against the Mets, 1969.

Pittsburgh’s Willie Stargell slid against the Mets, 1969.

Co Rentmeester/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Mets vs. Pirates, 1969.

Co Rentmeester/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Donn Clendenon, 1969.

Donn Clendenon, 1969

Co Rentmeester/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Ed Charles, 1969 Mets.

Ed Charles, 1969 Mets.

Co Rentmeester/Life Pictures/Getty Images

1969 New York Mets.

From left to right: outfielder Tommie Agee, first baseman Donn Clendennon, shortstop Bud Harrelson, and outfielder Ron Swoboda.

Co Rentmeeste/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Tom Seaver, 1969.

Co Rentmeester/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Catcher Jerry Grote, 1969.

Catcher Jerry Grote, 1969.

Co Rentmeester/Life Pictures/Getty Images

J. C. Martin, 1969 Mets.

Catcher J. C. Martin, 1969 Mets.

Co Rentmeester/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Yogi Berra, Tom Seaver, Al Weiss, 1969.

From left to right: coach Yogi Berra, pitcher Tom Seaver, shortstop Al Weis, 1969.

Co Rentmeester/Life Pictures/Getty Images

More Like This

arts & entertainment

Jaws: The Shark Movie That Changed the World

arts & entertainment

Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s First Wrappings, 1968

arts & entertainment

The Beatles: Shining On

arts & entertainment

Gone With the Wind: The Great American Movie

arts & entertainment

Little Women: Quietly Revolutionary

Mister Rogers arts & entertainment

Mister Rogers’ Beautiful Days