National League baseball deserted New York when the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants departed after the 1957 season. When the Mets started in 1962, they tried to claim the history of both of those teams. But most people felt the team was closer to the old Dodgers than the old Giants. With that thought in mind, it’s a shock to find out that only nine players who were once Brooklyn Dodgers ended up playing for the Mets. Not surprisingly, six of those were on the 1962 squad, two made their Mets debut with the 1963 club and one who didn’t play for the Mets until 1971!

There were seven hitters and two pitchers in this Brooklyn-Queens club. Here they are, listed in descending fWAR order of their time with the Mets:

Roger Craig (2.6 fWAR, 469.1 IP) – The starting pitcher for the last game in Brooklyn Dodgers’ history, Craig was the ace of the 1962-1963 Mets, if a team that bad could have an ace. Craig was 15-46 with the Mets before they traded him to the Cardinals for George Altman and Bill Wakefield. Craig pitched for three more seasons, with three different clubs after his tenure with the Mets.

Duke Snider (0.7 fWAR, 415 PA) – A perennial All-Star with the Dodgers in Brooklyn, Snider fell off some once the club moved to Los Angeles. He still put up some good hitting numbers but bad knees limited how much he could play the field. Snider was sold to the Mets for the 1963 season and he reached 400 HR and 2,000 hits as a member of the Mets. Wishing to play for a contender again, Snider was sold to the Giants, where he finished his career on a fourth-place team.

Gil Hodges (0.5 fWAR, 167 PA) – Even though he won two Gold Glove Awards in Los Angeles, Hodges really fell off when the club moved from Brooklyn. While his playing time was limited with the Mets, he saw a rebound with his hitting. After putting up 76 OPS+ years in both 1960 and 1961, Hodges put up a 113 mark in 1962. He played just 11 games in 1963 before being traded to the Senators, where he became their manager.

Charlie Neal (0.2 fWAR, 861 PA) – After playing parts of two seasons with the Dodgers in Brooklyb, Neal was an All-Star with the Dodgers in 1959 and 1960. He was respectable for the Mets in 1962 but fell off considerably the following season. He was traded mid-year to the Reds in the Jesse Gonder deal but Neal was even worse in Cincinnati after the trade in what turned out to be the final season of his career.

Clem Labine (-0.1 fWAR, 4 IP) – A swingman at the beginning of his career with Brooklyn, Labine went a combined 41-23 over the 1953-1956 seasons. He made just three more starts from 1957 until the end of his career in 1962, when he pitched in three games for the Mets.

Joe Pignatano (-0.3 fWAR, 58 PA) – He got into eight games with the Dodgers in their final year in Brooklyn. He was always a backup catcher and he bounced around some, playing for the Kansas City A’s and the San Francisco Giants before joining the Mets for the final year of his career in 1962. He hit into a triple play in his last at-bat in the majors. Pignatano became a coach with Hodges and the Senators and both came back to the Mets in 1968.

Don Zimmer (-0.6 fWAR, 55 PA) – Most baseball fans know Zimmer but it’s likely for his career as a manager and coach, rather than his playing career with either the Mets or Dodgers. In fact, Zimmer’s best season as a player came in 1961 when he made the All-Star team with the Cubs. He played only about a month with the Mets, as they traded him to the Reds for two players, including lefty Bob Miller, who became the team’s second player with that name.

Bob Aspromonte (-0.7 fWAR, 377 PA) – He played one game for Brooklyn in the 1956 season at age 18 and didn’t play again in the majors until 1960. Aspromonte was the third overall pick in the 1961 Expansion Draft but it was by the Astros and not the Mets. He played over 100 games for the Astros every year between 1962 and 1968. Next came two years with the Braves, where he wasn’t good at all. He was picked up by the Mets for the 1971 season, where he had a tiny rebound season but not enough to continue in the majors, as it was the last year of his career in the bigs.

Chico Fernandez (-1.5 fWAR, 157 PA) – He played 34 games for the 1956 Brooklyn Dodgers and put up a 46 OPS+ at the age of 24. Fernandez was traded to the Mets early in the 1963 season for a player and $20,000. It’s safe to say the Mets did not get their money’s worth. Fernandez, in the final year of his career, put up another 46 OPS+, giving his career symmetrical bookend seasons of rotten play.

5 comments on “The nine Mets players who were also Brooklyn Dodgers

  • Footballhead

    Thank you Chet, I learned something today. As a 69 yo Mets fan and baseball historian, that’s saying a lot!

  • Brian Joura

    I knew six of the nine. Didn’t know Labine and Pignatano played for the Mets and I’d never heard of Fernandez before.

    Aspromonte had a different career. He played 1,324 games and had 4,799 PA and just a 1.1 fWAR. The four years he played in his 30s, he had a (-2.3) fWAR. He played parts of 13 seasons in the majors and eight years finished in negative numbers and had a 0.0 in that 1956 season.

  • John Fox

    There were a few ex-New York Giants as well, Ed Bressoud, and Willie Mays at the end of his career. Ex-Giant Johnny Antonelli was picked, but he retired during Spring Training in the first year. I do have his autograph on the signed team ball I have from 1962, purchased at the Polo Grounds in July of that year.

  • Steve_S.

    As a former Brooklyn Dodger fan, I loved this article! Thank you, Chet!

    I still remember the thin (!), spunky Don Zimmer playing 2B, SS and 3B for the Bums and 3B for the new Mets!

  • NYM6986

    Nicely done! Loved the trip down memory lane.

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