Remembering the 1962 Mets

I was a junior at Richmond Hill High School in 1962 and I was quite excited that Queens was getting its own baseball team. I grew up a Dodger fan and had my first slap of reality when the trucks left town.

It would have been hard enough to root for the Giants, but they left too. And becoming a Yankees fan was simply not an option.

A friend of mine told me that the Mets were holding tryouts at the Polo Grounds during their first road series. Coaches Cookie Lavagetto and Solly Hemus were left back to handle the mob, so I grabbed my third baseman mitt, hopped on the A train, and walked in with the rest of the kids. It seemed strange not getting on the A-22 bus on Atlantic Avenue to Brooklyn, but those days were over.

It also didn’t matter I was 15-years old or I wasn’t on the high school baseball team because I had to work every day after school. No, I just wanted my fair shot.

I think one high school player was signed from that and the rest of us all went home, but we had a baseball team to root for again!

The team?

General Manager George Weiss made the decision to sell seats rather than wins games. He chose Yankee legend Casey Stengel to be the manager, who brought along Lavagetto, Hemus, Rogers Hornsby, and Red Ruffing as coaches.

Next came the expansion draft, which took place on the same day another team (the Houston Colt 45s) were brought into the league. Houston chose to concentrate on ‘prospects’ and stayed away from the list of old war horses supplied by the other teams.

The Mets didn’t and continued to draft, trade, or sign “big names.” Ex-Dodgers Roger Craig, Clem Labine, and Gil Hodges were joined by household names like Richie Ashburn, Gus Bell, and Don Zimmer, but all were past their prime. The action served its purpose, generating a gate of 922,530 which was good enough for 7th in the National League that year.

It’s interesting to look back and see how much this game has changed. The Mets operated that year with four starters. Jay Hook (8-19, 4.84), Roger Craig (10-24, 4.51) and Al Jackson (8-20, 4.40) started 115 games. Bob L. Miller (1-12) started the majority of the others, but we always got him confused with Bob G. Miller, who was also a pitcher on this team. Mets fans in 1962 didn’t need more confusion.

The Mets finished the season 40-120. Houston came in at 64-96. Yes, we had a team back but it was our Dodgers that finished 102-63, one game behind the San Francisco Giants at 103-62.

The 1962 Mets. Seven years away from 1969. The only sign of things to come came on June 27th when the Mets signed amateur free agent Ed Kranepool.

The team also made a couple of decent trades early on. The traded a PTBNL to the Milwaukee Brewers for OF-1B Frank Thomas who went on to a 34-HR, 94-RBI season for the 1962 team.

And the Mets traded Hobie Landrith (their first pick in the expansion draft) to the Orioles for 1B Marv Throneberry, who became a Mets legend despite only playing 130 games for the club.

How would you like to have Landrith’s legacy of being discarded by your original team in the expansion draft, playing for the world’s worst team, getting traded because you’re not good enough for even the worst, and the player you’re trade for turns out to be someone that made Ron Swoboda look like a Golden Glove candidate?

I still remember that first home game. I have some great photos of Choo Choo Coleman and Jackson and actually got then WABC-radio reporter Howard Cosell to say something to me. He walked in front of the gate I snuck up to in order to take the pictures and I said sarcastically “this is Howard Cosell…”. He looked at me and said, “Indeed, it is…” and kept walking.

You see, the thing is, we weren’t Mets fans yet. We still were ex-Dodgers and Giants fans trying to get it up for this new team playing in a miserable stadium. We thought this was going to be a good team because most of the starting team had been stars in the past. The reporters wrote that this was a dawn for New York baseball and there was no place to go but up, which, by the time the season ended, proved profoundly correct.

Those of us that lived in Queens followed the progress of Shea Stadium, a brand new stadium for our brand new team. No more 483-ft center field wall? The fact is no home run was ever recorded to have gone over dead center in the Polo Grounds. And, if you think that was bad, this was a cut back from a previous version of this stadium built in 1890 that had it as deep as 500-feet.

Look, 1962 was the bomb for kids that lived in Queens. We didn’t know that the team we now had down the block would win the whole enchilada in their 8th season ever, nor did we know they would only win it once more time until today. I haven’t lived in New York for 32 years and I’ve become an expert on what non-New Yorkers think of this team. General baseball fans believe this is one of the most proven unsuccessful teams in professional sports. How can you have a team in the largest city in the country with a population large enough for four teams and consistently come up this short?

I’m constantly asked why there is no heritage on this team. I’m reminded a large portion of the best players ever were mired in drug and alcohol abuse, while the rest were traded away so they could end their all-star career with someone else. They laugh when Mets blogs write about ‘The All Time Mets Team’, when none of these guys ever finish the race in Queens.

And, as someone reminded me this week… “here you go again, first Reyes and now, possibly Wright”.

There was no past in 1962, and the future was just that, the future.

New York City had a National League baseball team. What’s better than that?

17 comments for “Remembering the 1962 Mets

  1. Mack Ade
    October 7, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    (I guess the comment box was turned off…)

  2. kjs
    October 7, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Speaking of, Mack, I live in upper Manhattan now and there are a few old Baseball Giants fans still about. How did those ex Dodger and Giant fans who converted to Metsdom get along in 1962? I remember at mt first game in 1970, they sold SF and LA yearbooks at Shea on the old subway turret.

    • Mack Ade
      October 7, 2012 at 9:20 pm

      Giants and Dodgers fans really disliked each other, but both hated the Yankees.

      There was a bar on the corner of the subway exit by Polo Grounds that Dodgers fans just didn’t go into.

      I don’t remember anyone disliking each other once the Mets came along. The fans were looking for a solid reason to put behind them their loyalty to either the Dodgers or Giants. Oh, we still sneaked a look in the paper each night for the box score, but I’ll never admit that.

      • kjs
        October 8, 2012 at 10:59 am

        Seems when I go to Citi (neo-Ebbetts Field) these days, the ironic thing is that more New York Baseball Giant fans show up for SF games than old New York Brooklyn Dodgers hangers-on delusionists show up for LA games(I could never continue to root for a team that absconded on me). Even in the 2006 NLDS, LA Dodger fans from Brooklyn were rare, old, and silent.

        One of the weirdest thing as a Football Giants season-ticket holder is “sharing the love” with Yankee and SF Giant fans at the Meadowlands.

        A documentary on NL Baseball in Exile and The Fans 1958–1961 would be interesting.

  3. Charles
    October 7, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    Their first yr was in 62, and 19 yrs later I was born.

    • Mack Ade
      October 7, 2012 at 10:06 pm

      1981… I had left NYC in 1980 where I was Assistant General Manager of WKTU-FM (“Disco 92). The station was sold as the first station Infinity Broadcasting owned (VP was Mel Karmarzin).

      I moved to Pittsburgh in early 1980 and became General Sales Manager of WTAE-AM/WXKX-FM, where I remained until the end of 1981, when I became VP/General Manager of KLUV-FM, Dallas-Ft. Worth.

      I never worked with the Mets when I was in NYC. All my promotional work was with a willing NY Yankees, under the SID of Barry Landers.

      A lifetime ago.

  4. October 8, 2012 at 9:20 am

    Mack,

    Carle Place, New York, circa 1972.

    Kids taking the bus to school: Met fans sat on one side, while Yankee fans sat on the other.
    The twain did not meet.
    A kid who said, “I root for both!” was ostracized from all.

    This divide was strong on Long Guyland.

    Peter

  5. October 8, 2012 at 11:42 am

    Great stuff, Mack.

    I’m 48 — 1st game was 1973, Ron Schueler threw a 1-hit shutout at the Good Guys — and it’s getting rarer and rarer to hear from people who were there at the beginning. Thanks!

  6. TJ
    October 8, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    Mack,
    Awesome. Like Charlie, at 48, 1962 and 1969 were before my time, so it’s great to hear first hand what it was like from a fan’s perspective.

    • Mack Ade
      October 8, 2012 at 2:50 pm

      I loved the urinals at the Polo Grounds.

      Middle of room… a communal circular rectangle shaped pit of running water in which you had to piss in front of everyone facing you on the other side of the cesspool.

      Was very embarassing for us… err… “Irish kids”… (you figure it out…)

      • October 8, 2012 at 4:03 pm

        I know of whence you speak, unfortunately…

      • Artie Anderson
        November 17, 2014 at 12:36 pm

        Do you remember the ice, Mack? I seem to remember that.

        Oh, and my first game was Sat, April 28, 1962. The second Mets win ever, and the first time the Mets ever won at home!

        Artie

        Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

  7. NormE
    October 8, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    Mack, hope you continue to get better.
    I’m a few years older than you (in my fourth year at Hunter College in the Bronx in 1962). Like you, I was a Dodger fan. Since it was impossible for me to switch to the Yankees, I reluctantly accepted the Mets. George Weiss’ strategy of signing Gil and Duke won me over even though they were over the hill.

    The Polo Grounds was a dump even back in the ’50′s. One thing about your recollections—I believe (Billy) Joe Adcock, Lou Brock and possibly Hank Aaron did hit balls into the centerfield bleachers.

    • Mack Ade
      October 8, 2012 at 7:41 pm

      The saddest of those signees was Clem Labine. He really had nothing left.

      About dead center, that’s interesting. I did do the research on my statement and what I found was no one ever hit it “dead center”. My research said: “No player ever hit a fly ball that reached the 483-foot (147 m) distant center-field wall, which fronted a part of the clubhouse which overhung the field”…

      I just saw the quote on baseball-reference which listed your three names (Adcock 2x)… hmm…

      Thanks for the clarification.

    • Artie Anderson
      November 17, 2014 at 12:38 pm

      June 17, 1962, I was in the stands to see Lou Brock hit the ball into the right centerfield bleachers.

      And yes, Hank Aaron hit one there too . . . the very next day!!! And Joe Adcock, I believe, did it twice.

      (Luke Easter of the Negro Leagues allegedly hit one as well, but I’m not sure of details.

      Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

  8. Doug Parker
    October 10, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    The headline in that Daily News led me to baseball-reference to confirm that Sherman Jones did indeed pitch the home opener… on Friday the 13th, in front of 12,447 fans.

    The odd thing is that they opened the season in St. Louis on the 11th. I wonder if weather issues cut that series short.

    Great read, Mack!

  9. Mack Ade
    October 10, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Sherman “Roadblock” Jones :)

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