Roosevelt’s Mike Lum made history in Braves’ first NLCS in 1969

Mike Lum’s Topps baseball card in 1969, the year he became the first player from Hawai’i and first Asian-American to play in a Major League postseason game.

As the World Series moved to Atlanta this weekend, it brought to mind the first Major League Baseball player from Hawai’i to appear in a postseason game.

On Oct. 4, 1969, former Roosevelt High School quarterback and 1963 ILH Back of the Year Mike Lum made history by trotting out to left field for the Atlanta Braves against the visiting New York Mets in Game 1 of the first-ever National League Championship Series.

In front of 50,122 fans at Atlanta Stadium (later renamed Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium) and with the Braves clinging to a precarious 5-4 lead, Lum replaced future NL All-Star Rico Carty to start the eighth inning and was immediately forced into action when the Mets’ Wayne Garrett led off wth a double into left field. That ignited a big inning for New York, which scored five runs on four hits and two errors to grab a 9-5 lead.

That’s how the score remained when Lum came to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, immediately following future MLB home run king Hank Aaron’s fly out to left field and with Felix Millan at first base. This would be the first ever MLB postseason plate appearance by a player from Hawai’i, and Lum made the most of it by promptly going oppo for a double to left off reliever Ron Taylor, advancing Millan to third base.

Alas, the game would end soon after when Hall of Fame first baseman Orlando Cepeda popped up a fly ball to second for the third out.

Things did not get better in Game 2, as the Mets continued their hot hitting and rolled past the Braves, 11-6, for a commanding 2-0 series lead as the NLCS moved to Shea Stadium in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.

Lum did not play in Game 2, most likely because with New York ahead by five runs late, the Braves needed to keep Carty’s bat in the lineup. Carty hit .342 that season, with 16 home runs — compared to Lum, who batted a modest .268 with only one round-tripper.

Interesting to note, there was no “travel day” back then, even as the series moved 880 miles from Atlanta to Queens. So despite Game 2 ending past 7 p.m. EDT on that Sunday, both teams apparently hopped on a plane for the two-hour plus flight to New York the same night and got whatever rest they could for a scheduled 1 p.m. first pitch at Shea Stadium the next day.

It did not appear to bother the Braves, who jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Hank Aaron’s two-run homer with one out in the top of the first inning. Atlanta clung to a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the fifth, when the Mets exploded for three runs on four hits to jump ahead 6-4. New York added a run in the sixth to make it 7-4, and then Lum was inserted as a pinch hitter for catcher Bob Didier facing future legendary Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan with two outs and Carty at first base in the top of the eighth inning.

Lum again came through, again going oppo with a single to left, advancing Carty to second base. Felipe Alou then stepped in as a pinch-hitter for Gil Garrido, representing the tying run at home plate.

But Alou lined out to shortstop Bud Harrelson to end the rally, and Ryan went on to close out his seventh (!) and final inning of relief to earn his first-ever postseason victory.

For Lum, his appearances were brief, but certainly productive: He can honestly say he led the series in batting average (1.000; 2-for-2) and slugging percentage (1.500; one double, one single in 2 AB).

And again, it wasn’t against Tom Tomatocan. Ron Taylor went a career-best 9-4 that season with a 2.72 ERA, and Nolan Ryan was a 22-year-old stud in the early stages of a phenomenal career that eventually produced 324 wins and an MLB record 5,714 strikeouts.

Most significantly, Lum broke a significant barrier as the first player from Hawai’i and the first Asian American to reach Major League Baseball’s postseason.

And he did it in a big way.

So as we watch Atlanta chase its first World Series championship since 1995 this weekend, let us stop for a moment and tip our hat to a great all-around athlete from Roosevelt who made MLB history and helped the Braves reach their first-ever postseason appearance back in 1969.

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