It was 1962. At the tender age of 9, I loved baseball. I loved to play it, I loved to listen to pro games on the radio. Inside the family’s dairy barn wasn’t always the best venue for listening, but the drudge of barn work was much better wiled away by an entertaining game.
In fact, well before my day, baseball had been a steady diet of Yankees in post-season play. Later on, when whichever National League team won the pennant, who did they play in the World Series? Chances were, the NY Yankees. Much to their credit, it was a steady drumbeat… Yankees, Yankees, Yankees.
As a kid, I had no particular allegiance to any team. Often a youngster follows his Dad’s baseball preference, but my Dad was from Michigan. He could have cared less about the Detroit Tigers, much less the Yankees.
So when an expansion team was born to the National League, I was due to root for them. Not that they were close to home, but the New York Mets were close enough. It wasn’t as though I’d ever be going to a live game, anyway. Anyone who doesn’t understand that, never milked cows.
At least the Mets would be a needed diversion from the same old Yankee drumbeat. I was in. So was older brother, Dave. We’d root for the New York Mets.
It is here, I realize, that some readers may take leave of me. After all, the ‘62 Mets were one hapless baseball team. I invoke the words of their beleaguered Manager, Casey Stengel, “Can’t anyone here play baseball?”
Indeed, the Mets record for that year was 40 wins/120 losses. Nevertheless, fans loved them. The National League hadn’t had a New York team since 1957. Fans took a leap of faith that their Mets would improve.
They did. You may recall a pejorative reference to “the greatest miracle since the ‘69 Mets.” They did beat the Baltimore Orioles that year, 4 games to 1 in the World Series. That is still considered one of the greatest upsets in World Series history.
Nonetheless, I still harken back to those original Mets. Perhaps you were with me in those days. If so, you will recognize names like Marv Throneberry, Chris Cannizzaro, Elio Chacon or Frank Thomas. Oh, lest I forget, Choo Choo Coleman.
Frank Thomas hammered 34 home runs that year with 94 RBIs, a season otherwise obfuscated by the team’s dismal performance. Thomas and Chacon did display some colorful fielding antics born of their respective languages.
Thomas, in left field, would be focusing on a very short fly ball that he had to run like hell to catch, but he got there. He was calling the catch, “I got it. I got it.”
Chacon, the short stop, had hustled to catch the same fly ball. He, also, was calling the catch. “Yo la tengo. Yo la tengo.”
Thomas knew not a word of Spanish. Chacon knew not a word of English. The two of them collided in spectacular fashion, neither of them catching the ball.
That very scene magically encapsulated the first season of the Amazing Mets in 1962. Since then… well, it’s been a tough row to hoe. They won it all again in ‘86. They’ve won 5 National League pennants. 6 National League East Division titles.
And, yes, as I write it is early in the 2022 season. For now, the Mets command the best record in baseball. Would it be presumptuous to suggest that the Mets have come full circle?