Apr 16, 2015

One of the Original 1962 Mets Coaches: Solly Hemus (1962-1963)

Solomon Joseph Hemus was born on April 17, 1923 in Phoenix, Arizona. Solly Hemus sounds like a name made for baseball.

He was a get in your face type player, battling with opponents & umpires all time. Hemus was a short five foot nine fiery middle infielder who originally signed with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1946.

In 1949 he was batting .328 at AA Houston getting called up to the big leagues in late August. His career began with an early five game hit streak & he finished the year batting .333 (11-33). He began the 1950 season with the St. Louis Cardinals but was sent back down in June.

By 1951 he was the Cardinals regular shortstop and hit .281 with 75 walks, good enough for a .395 on base percentage. He was also a contact hitter that didn’t strike out too often. He had a knack for getting on base; he would lead the league in hit by pitches three different seasons (1952-1953-1958).

Hemus also posted good on base percentages drawing a large number of walks. On the field he was seond in the league with a .965 fielding % at short committing 19 errors (5th in the NL).

In 1952 he was 4th in the league with 96 walks posting a .392 on base %. That season he led the league in runs scored (105) hit 15 HRs with 28 doubles & 8 triples, batting .268. At short he posted a .960 fielding % with 452 assists turning a career best 104 double plays.

In 1953 he had an even better season, as he hit 14 HRs, with career highs in RBIs (61) doubles (32) runs scored (110) (fifth most in the NL) he also had 12 hits by pitches, while batting .279. In 1954 he played in 124 games but only got 214 at bats, hitting a career best .304, with a .454 on base percentage.

He began to wind down in 1956 and before getting traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, he wrote a letter to Cards owner August Busch, the famous beer magnate. He thanked Mr. Busch for his good years in St. Louis & said he was proud to have been a Cardinal. He played two seasons in Philadelphia hitting .284 in 1958, playing in 105 games for the Phillies.

Mr. Bush remembered Hemus’ tough style of play & recalled the letter he wrote as he left the organization. In 1959 he hired Hemus as a Cardinals player/ manager. After the team had finished in seventh place in 1959, he improved the them to a third place finish in 1960.

In 1961 his Cards lost 16 of their first 19 games, and were floundering in last place in July when he was replaced as manager by coach, Johnny Keane.

In Hemus’ eleven season playing career he hit .273 with 736 hits 137 doubles 41 triples 51 HRs 261 RBIs & a .390 on base percentage, playing in 961 games. Over 11 seasons & 2694 at bats he only struck out 247 times, got hit by 62 pitches & posted a .961 fielding percentage.

In 1962 Hemus was hired by the expansion New York Mets as a coach under Casey Stengel. He served as a Met coach for the teams first two seasons at the Polo Grounds, before leaving to coach at the Cleveland Indians.

The Mets hired him back in 1966 to manage their Jacksonville Suns farm team, where he led a young Bud Harrelson, Ken Boswelll & Tug McGraw among others to a 68-79 record.

He had the tough choice of promoting either Tom Seaver or Nolan Ryan to the next level. He chose Seaver, because he felt he was further along in his development and a smarter pitcher.

After baseball he went to Houston & worked in the oil business, making more money in one year than he did in his whole baseball career. He has since retired in Texas and said he was proud to have been an original Met.

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