Denny (Ribant) and the Mets, a notable 50th anniversary

Dennis RibantThe year 2016 has been celebrated all year as the 30th anniversary of the 1986 World Champion Mets. But 2016 is the 50th anniversary of another Met team, the 1966 Mets. While not nearly as successful as the ’86 club, that ’66 team did notch a few milestones.

The Mets had played four seasons before 1966, and every one of those teams had lost at least 100 games. In their first season of 1962 the team recorded 120 losses, in ’63 there were 111 losses, in 1964 (the first year at Shea Stadium) it was 109 losses, then 112 for 1965. But 1966 was different.

The Mets improved their record to 66-95 that year. Their starting pitching made strides, Dennis Ribant was 11-9 with a 3.21 ERA, and Bob Shaw was 11-10 with a 3.91 ERA. This was the first time the Mets ever had a starter with a winning record, let alone two, and another starter, Jack Fisher, was decent with an 11-14 record and a 3.68 ERA.

The offense showed improvement too, including a few players who would make some noise in 1969. Cleon Jones became a starting outfielder in ’66, and he batted .275 with 16 stolen bases. Ed Kranepool smacked 16 homers to lead the team, and Jerry Grote took over as the catcher. Ron Swoboda played some outfield, and a young Bud Harrelson put in time at shortstop.

Contributors who would not be around for the ’69 championship season included long-time Cardinal Ken Boyer and Ron Hunt, rebounding from an injury plagued 1965.

The Mets not only had less than 100 losses for the first time, it was also the first Met team that did not finish 10th. Somehow this team finished ahead of the Chicago Cubs, who ended with a 59-103 record. The Cubs had three future Hall of Famers as everyday players, Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Billy Williams. All had good years, and in Santo’s case it was an outstanding year. The Cubs even added future Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins during the season via trade with Philadelphia, and he pitched very well. That Cub team has to be one of the great under achievers of all time.

One other point about the 1966 season. Incredibly the Mets finished higher in the standings than the 1966 Yankees. The Yanks, who had won pennants from 1960-1964, had dropped to sixth place in 1965. But nobody expected them to tumble all the way to tenth in 1966, but they did.

Even better days were on the horizon for the Mets. Ribant, however, would not be around for the glory days to come. He was traded, along with Gary Kolb to the Pirates for Don Cardwell and Don Bosch. The Mets would add Tom Seaver in 1967, Jerry Koosman in 1968, and amazingly, a World Series banner in 1969. Lets go Mets!

12 comments for “Denny (Ribant) and the Mets, a notable 50th anniversary

  1. Michael
    December 7, 2016 at 10:22 am

    I remember Dennis Ribant very well . Pitched rather well for some lousy teams and I was really upset when he was traded. I am even more upset now that you reminded me that he was traded for Don Bosch. Bosch was supposed to be our CF for years to come but unfortunately could not hit a curve ball (or any other pitch, quite frankly) to save himself. I think they gave him 2 years to come around and he never did.

  2. JIMO
    December 7, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    Don Cardwell was an important pick-up though….him along with Ron Taylor helped the team.

    • Michael
      December 7, 2016 at 12:33 pm

      Very true about Cardwell and Dr Ron. Remember when Cardwell and Koos swept a DH with 1-0 gems and each drove in the winning run to boot? Cardwell could hit and Koos could not. Only blemish on Cardwell was his fight with Swoboda wearing love beads. Ah, the good old days.

      • John Fox
        December 7, 2016 at 2:48 pm

        Cardwell was a productive back of the rotation starter for the Mets in his three years with the team. In the ’69 series he pitched a perfect inning in relief against the Orioles and would have gotten a start if the series had gone to seven games.

        • Jimmy P
          December 7, 2016 at 3:19 pm

          Interesting thought of the 69 Series. I assume you mean that Cardwell would have pitched Game 6 over Gentry? Surely Seaver gets Game 7.

          Tough call. Gentry threw 6.2 shutout in Game 3, lost control, and had to be bailed out by Ryan (and Agee).

          Would be tempting to imagine Ryan in that start, but he was so erratic. Maybe Cardwell would have gotten the call, but it never occurred to me until you wrote it here. I liked him, btw.

          • John Fox
            December 7, 2016 at 10:53 pm

            Jimmy, on the SABR biography site in their bio of Cardwell they quote him as saying Gil Hodges told him they would go with a rotation in the World Series of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Gary Gentry, but if it came to a game 7 Cardwell would start.

            • Jimmy P
              December 8, 2016 at 7:54 am

              John, while I believe you, I don’t believe it. Not for a second.

              Seaver must get that ball on Game 7. He would have demanded it.

              It would be like not giving Jimmy Chitwood the last shot.

  3. Mike Walczak
    December 7, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    What a great article. The 66 Mets. I first became a big fan at age 7 in 68. This team had the seeds of the 69 championship team.

    • Jimmy P
      December 7, 2016 at 12:59 pm

      Same time frame here. First game, age seven, a 16-inning affair vs. Hank Aaron’s Braves in May of ’68.

      Mets banged out 4 hits, Art Shamsky went deep, and my insurance man father marveled at all the foul balls in the stands. Remember him keeping a tally. Dad never cared for sports.

      A year later I attended Game 5 of the 1969 World Series, something I never get tired of saying.

  4. December 7, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    Excellent article 🙂 The seeds of the 1969 team are being planted.

  5. Jim OMalley
    December 7, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    I am looking at the 1966 Yearbook. The “Down on the Farm” section at the end touts the following up-and-comers: Jack Tracy, Dan Napoleon, Dave Smith, Les Rohr, Jim Bethke, Kevin Collins, Al Yates, Jerry Hinsley, Greg Goossen, and Derrel Harrelson.

    Ribant shared a page with fellow teammates, Bill Murphy, and Bill Hepler.

    • Jimmy P
      December 8, 2016 at 3:39 am

      That’s great info, Jim. I fondly remember turning to those yearbook pages, waiting for Danny Frisella and Don Hahn to led us to new heights.

      If the Internet was around back then, I guess we’d see top ten lists and long, gushing profiles featuring those same players.

      Fans full of hope for all the wrong reasons.

      OTOH, if the new statistical analysis was around, brought in part by a new widespread access to deep statistical data, I wonder if sharp guys like Dave and Brian would have been able to identify more compelling prospects.

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