The New York Mets recently purchased the AAA Syracuse Chiefs franchise in the International League. The Chiefs have an affiliation agreement with Washington for 2018, so unless any deal comes up it will be 2019 before the Met farm hands play in Syracuse, and the Mets will be the landlord for the Nat’s minor league team in 2018.
The Mets and the Chiefs rang a bell for me when I first heard about it. Checking back, this will be the second go-round for the Mets and the Chiefs. In the Mets first season of operation, in 1962, Syracuse was the Met AAA farm team, coincidentally operated jointly with the then Washington Senators. It made sense, both teams were expansion teams (Washington started one year earlier.) Neither team had enough talent to stock an AAA team on their own, hence the unusual joint operation.
As you might expect, with two new or almost new teams providing the personnel, the Chiefs struggled on the field. They posted a record of just 53-101. There were, however, a few players on the Chiefs who would go on to some degree of success with the Mets.
After serving his apprenticeship with Syracuse, Larry Bearnarth pitched four years for the Mets, mostly in a relief role. His best year was 1963 when he was in 58 games and posted a pretty good ERA of 3.43 and picked up four saves.
Joe Christopher had come up in the Pirate organization, and appeared as a pinch runner for Pittsburgh and scored two runs during their 1960 WS win over the Yankees of Maris and Mantle. Christopher hit well in his short stint at Syracuse with a slash line of .301/.414/.649. He became a productive player in the big leagues, playing for the Mets through 1965. His best year was 1964, when the outfielder played in 154 games and batted a solid .300.
Clarence “Choo-Choo” Coleman had a ghastly slash line of .195/.279/.275 in the IL, but somehow that was good enough to get him called up to the big club in mid season. Coleman played three years for the Mets. He did not have the typical catcher build, being listed at 5-9 and 165 lbs. I can still remember Bob Murphy frequently praising him for his skill in blocking balls in the dirt. That was a particularly useful talent for anyone who had to catch those Met pitching staffs in their early days.
Finally we come to Ed Kranepool, who was a High School first baseman at the start of 1962, who was then signed to a bonus with the Mets, was sent to the Chiefs, and was at late season call-up for the Mets at the age of 17. Speaking of seventeens, the Bronx-born Kranepool went on to spend 17 years with the Mets and played in two World Series for them. His best year was probably 1975, when he batted .323.
In 1963, the Mets said goodbye to Syracuse and shifted their AAA team to Buffalo, with the Chiefs remaining a Washington affiliate. Hopefully this time around the Met’s hookup with Syracuse lasts a lot longer than one season.