Jul 29, 2012

Original 1962 Mets Player: Felix Mantilla (1962)

Felix (Lamela) Mantilla was born on July 29, 1934 in Isabella, Puerto Rico. Mantilla was one of the first Puerto Rican players to be signed. He was signed one year after Roberto Clemente in 1952.

In 1954 he hit 16 HRs at AA Toledo, & then batted over .270 the next two seasons. In 1956 he came up as a reserve infielder with the Milwaukee Braves and was Hank Aaron's roommate during his time there.

Mantilla spent six years with the Braves mostly as an all around utility man, winning a World Series in 1957 & a pennant in 1958. He played in five World Series games going hitless in ten at bats. Mantilla played all infield & outfield positions and hit better in his later years. In 1959 Mantilla came into a game late as a pinch runner against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He came to bat in the 13th inning and broke up Harvey Haddix’s perfect game while reaching on an error. He eventually scored the winning run when Joe Adcock hit a three run HR. Adcock was only credited with an RBI single because Hank Aaron failed to run out the bases.

Mantilla was then drafted by the New York Mets as the 12th pick in the 1961 expansion draft, becoming an original 1962 Met. He seems to be a forgotten Met through time, possibly because he only spent one season in New York. He was primarily the Mets main third baseman in their inaugural season, playing 95 of his 141 games at the hot corner. He started at third base and batted in the second position in the first Mets game ever at St. Louis Sportsman’s Park in April 1962. After grounding out in the first inning, he walked in the third inning & scored the second run in Mets history on Frank Thomas’ sac fly.

Mantilla started out the year well, hitting safely in 21 of 25 games and was batting .329 in mid May. On May 20th in Milwaukee, the Mets came into the 7th inning tied 3-3 with the Braves. Charlie Neal led off the inning with a HR, then Jim Hickman singled & Elio Chacon walked. Next up, Mantilla hit a three run HR, keading New York to a 9-6 victory.

He also had four different four hit games throughout the year and a dozen multiple RBI games as well. One of his best days was a four hit, four RBI day against the Dodgers in Los Angeles in late May, during a 17-8 loss.

Mantilla was second on the’62 Mets team in batting average (.275) & led the team in sac flies with seven (5th most in the NL). He hit 11 HRs with 17 doubles 4 triples 59 RBIs, scored 59 runs & posted a .330 on base %.

At third base he posted a .948 fielding % making a career high 14 errors. He also played in 25 games at short stop & 14 games at second base. At the end of the season, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Tracy Stallard, Pumpsie Green & Al Moran.

Mantilla had his best years in Boston hitting at Fenway Park. In his first year 1963, he hit a career high .315 with a .384 on base % playing in 66 games. In 1964 he had a career year, hitting 30 HRs (9th in the league) batting .289, with 20 doubles, scoring 69 runs & driving in 64 runs.

In 1965 he made the All Star team, while driving in a career high 92 runs (4th most in the AL) hitting 18 HRs with 79 walks (3rd in the AL) 147 hits & a .374 on base %.

In April 1966 he was traded to the Houston Astros for Andy Kasco, and finished the year batting .219 in 77 games. He was sent to the Chicago Cubs but was soon released.

In his 11 year career batting .261 with 707 hits, 89 HRs, 97 doubles, 360 runs scored 330 RBIs & 256 walks.

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