This is the 50th anniversary season of the team that plays in Flushing. Through the decades there have been lots of chills, ills, and thrills connected with the franchise.
The first run they ever scored came on a balk. They lost the first nine games they ever played. Rumor has it they picked the name of arguably their best pitcher ever out of a hat on April Fools’ Day. That was “Tom Terrific” Seaver.
They were supposed to be the replacement for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants. They could have been the New York Continentals, Burros, Skyliners, Skyscrapers, Bees, Rebels, NYBs, Avengers, or even Jets (all runner-up names in a contest to name the National League team that began playing baseball in 1962).
But as the press release dated May 8, 1961, proclaimed, the name was “Mets … just plain Mets.” They have never been anything to their fans but amazing—the Amazin’ New York Mets.
In 1960 Casey Stengel managed the New York Yankees to a first-place finish, as the team recorded a .630 winning percentage, winning 97 games and losing 57.
By 1962, Stengel was in place as the skipper of the New York Mets. They finished 10th in a 10-team league. They finished 60.5 games out of first place, losing more games (120) than any other team in the 20th century.
Richie Ashburn batted .306 for the Mets that season and then retired. He remembered those days, “It was the only time I went to a ballpark in the major leagues and nobody expected you to win.”
Once they were losing a game 12–1, and there were two out in the bottom of the ninth inning. A fan held up a sign that said, “PRAY!” There was a walk. And ever hopeful, thousands of fans started shouting at the Polo Grounds (where they played while Shea Stadium was being built), “Let’s Go Mets!!”
A bumbling collection of castoffs, not quite ready for prime-time major league players, paycheck collectors, and callow youth, the Mets underwhelmed the opposition. But Casey loved the young players on the team, who he called, “the youth of America.”
They had pitcher Jay Hook, who could talk for hours about why a curveball curved (he had a Master’s degree in engineering), but couldn’t throw one consistently.
They had “Choo-Choo” Coleman, a terrific low-ball catcher. The only problem was that the Mets had very few low-ball pitchers on their staff.
They had “Marvelous Marv” Throneberry, a Mickey Mantle look-alike in the batter’s box, and that’s where the resemblance ended.
Day after day Casey Stengel would watch the Mets and be amazed at how they could find newer and more original ways to beat themselves.
In desperation—some swore it was on the day he witnessed Al Jackson go 15 innings yielding but three hits, only to lose the game on two errors committed by “Marvelous Marv”—Casey bellowed out his plaintive query, “Can’t anybody here play this game?”They were 100”1 underdogs to win the pennant in 1969, and incredibly came on to finish the year as World Champions.
There are many who think it will happen again soon.
Time will tell the tale. But don’t bet on it.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, Harvey Frommer has written many sports books, including timed to 2012 and the 100th anniversary, “Fenway Park: An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of the Boston Red Sox.” His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men’s Heath, The Sporting News, Bleacher Report, and of course, The Epoch Times, among other venues and publications.
Visit his website here: http://harveyfrommersports.com/remembering_fenway/
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