The 1962 Mets, the Old Professor, and “Marvelous” Marv

Written by sports  |  22. April 2006

It can only happen once in a lifetime. Fans being excited and not caring about wins and losses. Attending games at an abandoned ballpark. Cheering on their new home town heroes, who just happened to finish tenth and a mere 60.5 games back. No matter. This is the Amazin' Mets we're talking about. The 1962 season gave the National League two new teams that joined the eight established clubs. Expansion teams were placed in Houston and New York. The Colt .45's (now Astros) and Mets started filling their rosters in the expansion draft on October 10, 1961. The Mets won the coin toss and picked first, tabbing San Francisco Giants catcher Hobie Landrith. Two things stick out in the minds of Mets fans about him. First, the statement by Mets manager Casey Stengel about why he chose Landrith, "If you don't have a catcher, you'll have a lot of passed balls." Or the fact that Landrith was traded one month into the season to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for "Marvelous" Marv Thornberry. Other notable draft picks were Brooklyn favorites Gil Hodges (first base) and Roger Craig (pitcher) from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Don Zimmer (third base) from the Chicago Cubs, and Clarence "Choo Choo" Coleman (catcher) from the Philadelphia Phillies. The Mets tried to capture the magic that the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants left behind when they packed up and moved to California in 1958. The team's logo was the same 'NY' that the Giants used and the team colors, blue and orange, was a combination of the old teams'. The Mets played at the Polo Grounds their first two seasons, inhabiting the old ballpark at Coogan's Bluff that the Giants called home for over four decades. Joining Hodges and Craig as returning Brooklyn heroes were pitcher Clem Labine and catcher Joe Pignatano. The Mets even brought back Duke Snyder the following season, who stated that he never felt comfortable playing home games at the Polo Grounds after all those years being a visiting player with Brooklyn. Who could forget utility man "Hot" Rod Kanehl? Or "Vinegar Bend" Mizell? And leftfielder Frank Thomas? Don't be mistaken by the name. He was not the same slugger known as "The Big Hurt" who currently is playing for the Oakland Athletics after a long career with the Chicago White Sox. The Mets did have one All-Star in their inaugural season. Outfielder Richie Ashburn, the former Phillies star, hit .306 in his lone Met season. The 1962 Mets went 22-58 at home and 18-62 on the road. They drew 922,530 fans to the Polo Grounds. They had a .240 team batting average and a 5.04 ERA. Opening day starter Roger Craig went 10-24, Al Jackson 8-20, Jay Hook 8-19, Craig Anderson 3-17, and Bob Miller 1-12. With a pitching staff like that, is it any wonder why they lost a modern day record of 120 games? The Mets did not avoid a 100-loss season until 1966, when they went 66-95. By then they were already playing at Shea Stadium in Flushing. The MLB All-Star game was held there in 1964, the first season that it was open. In case you were wondering, the National League prevailed by a score of 7-4. Mets second baseman Ron Hunt was voted to the NL starting line up and went 1 for 3. Brighter days were ahead for the Metropolitans, who went on to defeat the Baltimore Orioles in the 1969 World Series and the Boston Red Sox in the 1986 World Series, with both clinching games coming at Shea. Regardless of what has happened since that first season, New Yorkers will always hold a place in their heart for that group of lovable losers from 1962.

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