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A Year of Futility: The ‘Amazin’ Mets’ First year, 1962!
“Come see my Amazin’ Mets. I’ve been in this game a hundred years, but every day I see new ways to lose I never knew existed before!” – Mets’ manager, Casey Stengel
Fifty-five years ago yesterday, April 13, 1962, the expansion New York Mets played their first home game at the Polo Grounds. Only 12,000 fans showed up on a wintry day to see the return of the National League to New York, following the move of the Giants and Dodgers after the 1957 season. In a portent of the bad things to come, the Pirates scored the decisive run on two eighth inning wild pitches, beating the Mets, 4-3. The “Lovable Losers” proceeded to lose the next seven games, starting the season 0-9.
How bad were the Mets that first year? They went a rousing 40-120 in 1962, setting a modern record for losses in a season. They had losing streaks of 17, 13, and 11 games. Between July 7 and August 7, they went 3-22. The pitching staff was the worst in baseball, giving up the most runs and hits. The staff posted the highest ERA in the majors, with two pitchers losing more than 20 games. In addition, the Mets committed the most errors and had the league’s worst fielding percentage. The offense was last in the majors in hits and batting average (.240), while opponents outscored them by 331 runs. All told, a formula for last place.
Here’s a few funny anecdotes about the Mets’ miserable first year:
- Famed New York restauranteur Toot Shor made his son watch the Mets lose game after game, “So the lad would know what the Depression was like.”
- In a mound meeting during the 1962 season, Stengel asked his starting pitcher, Bob Miller, how he felt. “I’m not tired,” Miller said, to which the Old Perfessor replied, “You might not be, but your outfielders sure are!”
- Bill Veeck, former owner of the lowly St. Louis Browns, “They are without a doubt the worst team in the history of baseball…and I speak with authority!”
- Mets first baseman “Marvelous” Marv Throneberry tripled…only to be ruled out for failing to touch firstand second base!
- Stengel once announced to the team, “There will be two buses to the park from the hotel today. Thetwo o’clock bus is for those who need a little extra work and then there will be an empty bus leaving at five o’clock.”
- The award for worst talent evaluation of all time goes to pitcher Jay Hook, winner of the Mets’ first game, who famously said: ““I never thought we were as bad as we turned out to be. I thought every time we went out, we had a shot at winning…”
The Mets didn’t win their first game until April 23 in Pittsburgh, but by Mothers’ Day, they were 13 ½ games out. By the All-Star break, they were 23-59, 31½ games back.
Roger Craig started the season as the ace of the staff, but wound up losing 24 games, the most in the majors. He was followed by Al Jackson, who lost 20. Richie Ashburn, at the tail end of his career, was the team’s lone All-Star, but he didn’t appear in the game. The Mets went 19-37 in one-run games, won only 17 games in the second half of the season, and by the end of the year were buried in last place, 60.5 games behind the pennant-winning Giants.
Polo Grounds “Mets Firsts”
|Game||04/13/1962||Pirates 4, Mets 3|
|Umpires||Bill Jackowski, Ed Sudol|
|Al Forman, Tom Gorman|
|Managers||Casey Stengel, Mets|
|Danny Murtaugh, Pirates|
|Starting Pitchers||Sherman Jones, Mets|
|Tom Sturdivant, Pirates|
|Batter||Bill Virdon (ground out)|
|Hit||Smoky Burgess (single)|
|Home Run||Frank Thomas|
|Grand Slam||Jim Davenport (06/01/1962)|
|IPHR||Gil Hodges (05/16/1962)|
|Stolen Base||Julian Javier (04/18/1962)|
|Sacrifice Hit||Bob Friend (04/15/1962)|
|Sacrifice Fly||Bob Skinner (04/15/1962)|
|Cycle||Jim Hickman (08/07/1963)|
|Shutout||Al Jackson (04/29/1962)|
|Hit by Pitch||Wilmer Mizell hit Felix Mantilla (04/14/1962)|
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