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Ed Kranepool is waiting on a miracle, but the Mets great knows all about Amazin' finishes

Ed Kranepool has beaten seemingly insurmountable odds before.

As a member of the 1969 Miracle Mets, Kranepool completed a seven-year journey that started with a team that lost 120 games in its inaugural season, a record for baseball futility that still stands, and ended with a ticker-tape parade up the Canyon of Heroes.

So he knows as well as any athlete who has ever played in this town that what people say is impossible rarely is. Still, his search for a suitable donor for a kidney transplant, now dragging into its second year, sometimes seems as if it will never end.

“You just have to keep positive, because what’s the alternative?" Kranepool said Wednesday at Citi Field, where he and former teammate Art Shamsky were appearing to mingle with fans at a blood drive in commemoration of that Mets championship team, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

“The alternative is to give up, and you don’t want to give up," said Kranepool, who turned 74 in November. “Life is fun. Life is good. And you can’t just grab a kidney off the shelf. There’s a lot of testing involved and it’s tedious. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s frustrating at times but what can you do?"

In recent years, Kranepool has faced a series of health challenges. An insulin-dependent diabetic since his playing days, Kranepool lost two toes off his left foot in 2015, and the remaining three two years later. He can get around OK with a cane – festooned with Mets logos – but standing for any extended period is a problem.

Then, a little more than a year ago, his kidneys began to fail on him. For the past six months, he has been on a transplant list, but because of his age and overall physical condition, he is more likely to find a kidney through a private donor.

Dozens of people have been tested, including his son, Edward Keith Kranepool, but until recently, Kranepool had been unable to find a suitable match. Then, this past December, he thought he had one – a longtime friend and business associate who offered up one of his kidneys. After extensive testing, everything was a go, and surgery was scheduled for January 7.

But about three weeks before the surgery, the potential donor was found to have an enlarged prostate and the operation was cancelled.

“He was as disappointed as I was," Kranepool said. “Hopefully, his problem is just temporary and can be cured with medication. There’s nothing easy about this process."

Then again, there was nothing easy about overcoming a 10-game deficit in mid-August to overtake the Chicago Cubs in the NL East, who had four Hall of Famers (Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Ferguson Jenkins) on their roster and another, Leo Durocher, as their manager.

Nor was there anything likely about a team who in the first seven seasons of its existence had finished last five times – they rallied twice to finish ninth – and had a cumulative record of 394-737 and a winning percentage of .348.

Still, those Mets wound up winning the division going away, before sweeping the Braves of Hank Aaron, Orlando Cepeda and Phil Niekro in the first ever NLCS before shocking the Baltimore Orioles, who had won 108 games, in the 1969 World Series.

And they did it with one bonafide great – Tom Seaver – and a bunch of role players. Nolan Ryan was on the pitching staff, too, but at the time, he was a flame-throwing middle reliever, used essentially the way the current day Yankees use Chad Green.

“Going into that August, if you even thought about possibly winning the division, let alone the pennant or a World Series, it was a pretty farfetched thing," said Shamsky, who has written book chronicling the season, “After the Miracle," that will be released in March. “But by the middle of August we started to play incredible baseball. We were almost unbeatable. In fact, if you think about all the great teams in the history of New York City baseball, the '69 Mets have to be right up there with the '27 Yankees and the '47 Dodgers."

In terms of the excitement they brought to this town, especially in light of its improbability, it is tough to outdo the '69 Mets.

In a way, what that team accomplished mirrors what Kranepool, who spent all of his 18 big-league seasons with the club and is still among the all-time top 10 in many of the Mets offensive categories, is trying to accomplish in his later years. He now hopes for one more miracle in a baseball life that began with Casey Stengel, who played in a World Series against Babe Ruth, and ended with Joe Torre, who managed Derek Jeter.

Last year, Kranepool reconciled with the Mets organization, with whom he had been feuding over some words exchanged with owner Jeff Wilpon at a team banquet five or six years ago. They invited him to throw out the first pitch at a game in August, and have been active in trying to locate a kidney donor for the man who played more games, 1,853, in a Mets uniform than any other player.

That effort has resulted in scores of total strangers, Mets fans who wanted to help out a former player in need, volunteering to be tested. Despite the fact that none have yet proved suitable, Kranepool has been touched by the response.

“Oh, it’s great," he said. “You read about it all the time but it’s great to learn that there are people in this world who give back. There’s good people in the world, and miracles do happen."

Kranepool should know that better than most. A half-century ago, he was in the middle of one. Who’s to say he won’t be again?

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