Before I get started, for those who do not care for long articles you may want to skip this one. As I write it, I'm not sure just how long it will be, but it will focus on many things that have bothered me throughout the 48 seasons I've have watched, grown up, and loved, the New York Mets.
It was April 10th 1962. The very next day I would celebrate my 17th birthday. I was a Senior at Midwood High School in Brooklyn New York and my life was well again because baseball, real National League baseball, was back in New York City where it truly belonged.
My boyhood team, the Brooklyn Dodgers abandoned me at the end of the 1957 season seeking out greener pastures in Los Angeles California which for me at the tender age of 12 was as devastating a heartbreak that I could recall in my life.
My Dad, a lifelong Giants fan got the tickets for opening day at the Polo Grounds where he, as a kid himself, watched some of the all time greats play there in the '30s through the '50s.
He was my hero and at 17 I was not ashamed to tell anyone that I got my love of baseball and life through him. Little did I know that in a little more than two years later he would be gone from me forever.
I was so excited because the weather forecast for the Mets opener said mild and sunny with high's in the upper 50s with zero possibility of rain. I awoke early knowing that I would be at the game in a few hours and I was happy to miss a day at school.
Hell I was a senior, I had been accepted at Northeastern University in Boston as well Albany State College and Long Island University in Brooklyn. I was holding out for my first choice, Syracuse University but I knew I had to make a decision soon.
Back to the weather. When I awoke around eight it was raining like cats and dogs and the revised forecast was forgetaboutit, the game was postponed by 11:00AM. Now what?
Game two, scheduled for my birthday, was not a sellout so that hero of mine made a couple of calls and told me all was well and we would still be able to catch an opening game-day to remember.
I now see where this is going so I have decided this will be way too long for one single article, so I know pronounce this a "series" with I'm not sure how many parts, so please if you love baseball and the Mets in particular, bare with me.
So on April 11 1962, my Dad and I got on the D train and headed into "the city" to Meet the Mets. The 1962 team came about as each National League team left a few unprotected players which the Mets and the Houston Colt.45s would chose from.
These were not front line players by any stretch of the imagination and the two clubs differed on how they would stock their team.
The Houston club would stock their team with young, unproven and not well known players. Given this was Houston's first time in the majors it made perfect sense. The Mets were owned by Joan Payson and George Weiss, the man who built the Bronx Bombers of the '50s and '60s was the Mets first general Manager.
Weiss knew that by bringing in former Dodgers and Giants despite the fact that they were well past their prime would draw fans to Coogans Bluff.
Little did I know at the time that this first stroke of lousy ownership and General Manager ineptitude would be the stamp placed on this franchise that still permeates today 48 years later and the reason behind the motive to chronicle this series.
Former Brooklyn Dodgers on that 1962 Mets team. Don Zimmer, Roger Craig, Charlie Neal,and Clem Labine. Former New York Giants included, Hobie Landrith, Ray Daviault, Johnny Antonelli, and Joe Pignatano.
The starting lineup for the 1962 New York Mets.
Richie Ashburn CF
Felix Mantilla SS
Charlie Neal 2B
Frank Thomas LF
Gus Bell RF
Gil Hodges 1B
Don Zimmer 3B
Hobie Landrith C
Roger Craig P
Now if this were the lineup say five to seven years earlier they had some fine all stars in this group loaded with speed and power and decent defense. I think the average age was around 48 or so, at least it seemed to me that day. Did I care? no. With a hot dog in one hand and a Needix Orange Drink in the other I felt as alive as I have ever been.
The game itself was over before I knew what I had to eat. The Mets lost and another eight straight after that. As so many fans know, they went on to lose 120 games that year and I was 1-8 but couldn't care less.
If I remember correctly that year, I saw Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Roberto Clemente, Eddie Matthews, Ernie Banks, and Hank Aaron. Not too shabby at all.
I was turned down at Syracuse and decided to go to Northeastern University in Boston. Early that fall of 1962 I got to go to Fenway Park for the first time and was completely blown away. Love at first sight.
Coming soon...Anatomy of a Franchise: The New York Mets, Pt. 2—Lost in Space.