Rich Reminisces: 1962 Mets

I mentioned in my previous column about how much I enjoy the YouTube page “Classic Baseball on the Radio“. While they have some games such as the World Series and All-Star games that you would expect them to have, the regular season games they also have are sometimes famous in their own right. One of those games is from the 1962 New York Mets season. Now when a team loses 120 games in a season, usually the fans leave in droves. But because those Mets were so lovable, they actually drew more fans than you would expect, considering how bad they were and the Polo Grounds location.

I say all that because there is a 1962 Mets/Cubs game saved which actually had two memorable moments before the 1st inning was even concluded. I had read about one of those moments when I was very young, but never knew it was not an apocryphal story, while the other was noted but still difficult to believe. By the way, last article’s subject Roger Craig does not appear in this game. In case you want the spoiler, here is the Retrosheet recap of the game on June 17, 1962.

The first of those two events occurred in the top of the 1st inning. You see a Cubs rookie by the name of Lou Brock deposited a homer into the Polo Grounds center-field bleachers.

Now it may not seem like hitting a homer into the bleachers is so special, but remember just eight years earlier, the most famous catch in baseball history occurred in those vast expanses of the Polo Grounds. If you have not seen this play and are a baseball fan at all, I’m shocked. The most amazing aspect of this catch was not just how far Willie Mays  ran to catch the ball, but the amazing spin and throw immediately afterwards. There was a runner on second base and despite how far the ball was slugged, the runner only got to third base.

Mays was such a great center fielder for so many years. More than 15 years later this next catch occurred. In some ways, this is a harder catch than the more famous effort:

The great aspect of the 1954 catch is how it is immortalized on this 1959 Topps card:

But going back to Mr. Brock, while today we think of him as a singles hitter who accumulated more than 3,000 hits in his career, during those early stages he would constantly be in double digits for doubles, triples and homers. During the 1967 season, which may have been his best season, Brock garnered 65 extra base hits, with 21 of those having left the ballpark.

He continued his hot hitting in the 1967 World Series, leading the Cardinals to their second World Championship in just four seasons. This 1968 card show his effect on those games:

When he retired,Brock had set the record for most career stolen bases. He was later elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

With that, the top of the first has been concluded but the real fun stuff occurs in the bottom of the first inning. As we noted, those 1962 Mets were on their way to 120 losses, and among their highlights they never won a game on a Thursday that season. While Roger Craig is the Dallas COMC official player, the most popular player on those Mets was a man named Marvin Eugene Throneberry whose initials spelled out MET. Somehow that all seemed appropriate as Marv was a decent player until he got to the Mets and then just imploded as a player.

Sadly, although some of the later additions to the 1962 Mets are immortalized on cardboard, we would have to wait until 1963 for Marv to receive his Mets card. Why is this 1962 game important to Marv’s legend? You see, in legging out a triple, Marv missed both first and second base on his way to third. When the appeal play at second worked, famed manager Casey Stengel went out to challenge the call, but one of the umpires informed him he also missed first base. The radio broadcast and retrosheet actually verifies this seemingly impossibility. Now, as a fledgling dealer in the 1980’s, I would have loved to have seen Marv on a 1962 card for today’s affordability reasons. I’m kind of glad he has attainable 1963 cards instead.

And almost 60 years later, having proof of both of these events saved on tape showed what I had heard about as a young child but always assumed was not true when it came to “Marvelous Marv”.  Thankfully Marv had a nice renaissance in his later years as he became one of the famed Miller Lite spokesmen. While he passed at the early age of 60, Marv is still a beloved figure for those who liked those early Mets teams.

Rich Klein can be reached at RichKlein@Comc.com

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