Feb 22, 2016

Mets Second Baseman On Two World Series Teams: Ken Boswell (1967-1974)

Kenneth George Boswell was born on February 23, 1946 at Austin, Texas. The six foot, left hand hitting infielder attended his home town Sam Houston College on a baseball scholarship. At first he went to school after being urged to do so by his parents, but He quickly realized he was tired of school & just wanted to play baseball. 

At the time, MLB rules required a player who started school, must graduate before signing a pro contract. But legendary Mets scout Red Murf found a way around those rules & signed Boswell in fourth round of the 1965 draft. In that same draft the Mets picked up Les Rohr (first round), Jim McAndrew (11th round) & Nolan Ryan (12th round). 

Quotes: “I signed for $8,000, which was a lot less than I would have gotten before the draft, but I guess it was more than my dad ever made,” Boswell said. “Actually, I was awfully lucky to be drafted by the Mets, because they needed ballplayers and I didn’t have to wait very long before being called up." 

In the minor leagues he hit well, hitting safely in his first 19 games in the New York / Penn. League. There he won the Rookie of the Year while batting .285. He struggled defensively in the infield, earning a good hit, poor glove title. After the 1966 season, the Mets had traded away regular second baseman Ron Hunt, with intentions of giving Boswell the position. But he got then got called away for military duty, where he'd spend his spring & summer. 

 On September 18, 1967 he made his MLB debut in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Shea Stadium. Boswell started at third base, hitting a sac fly with a double off Jim Brewer, and driving in two runs in the Mets 7-2 win. Boswell hit safely in three of his first four games & added had a three hit day in Los Angeles on September 29th.

He hit his first career HR at Dodger Stadium the next day, off Don Drysdale, on the next to last game of the season. In the last game of the '67 season he booted a grounder, allowing the Dodgers to score two runs & win the game 2-1. Boswell said many of the guys were happy the game ended, because they all had plane tickets to get away & didn't want to play extra innings. Thats the way the attitude was in the clubhouse, until Gil Hodges changed all that the next season.

 In the 1968 off season Boswell injured his ribs, after falling on ice at his home. He entered Spring Training, battling Bobby Heise for the second base job. New manager Gil Hodges also acquired Al Weis & Phil Linz who all shared the playing time. 

Boswell started out 1968 getting two hits in each of his first two games which were played on the West Coast. He began with a six game hit streak, hitting safely in nine out of eleven games, with twelve hits. At the end of the month he hit solo HRs in consecutive games at Cincinnati. 

On May 21st he got an infield hit with two outs in the bottom of the 17th inning, in a long game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Shea Stadium. Infielder (former Met) Chuck Hiller made a bad throw to first & Tommie Agee scored the game's winning run. Boswell opened June with a five game streak then suffered a broken finger which sidelines him for two months.

When he returned he got back into a groove, hitting safely in his first two games. In September he did not hit any HRs nor drive in any runs, but he did hit safely in all but five games the entire month. He finished the year hitting safely in 15 of twenty games in September. 

He also settled in to playing a steady second base, posting a .965 fielding %, making a quality double play partner for All Star Bud Harrelson st short. Boswell was named a Topps All Star rookie playing in 75 games, batting .261 with four HRs, seven doubles, 37 runs scored 11 RBIs & a .300 on base %. 

1969 Championship Season: In the Mets 1969 Championship season he started the year by making three errors on Opening Day. In the first inning his error led to two unearned runs for Mets pitcher Tom Seaver. The Mets lost their eighth opening day in a row, this time in a historic game, against the expansion Montreal Expos. It was the first International game in history, as Canada was brought into the major leagues. 

Boswell did have two hits on that Opening day. The next day he hit his first HR of the season collecting two hits.7 a walk in the Mets 9-5 win. He had a good start to 1969, hitting safely in 19 of his first 23 games, giving him a .308 average. On April 30th, in Montreal, Boswell broke a 1-1 ninth inning tie with an RBI base hit leading to a Tom Seaver 2-1 win over  the Expos. 

In the first game of a May 4th double header at Wrigley Field, Boswell broke a 1-1 tie with a 5th inning base hit off the Cubs Bill Hands. The Mets would win the game 3-2, in another Tom Seaver victory. In the second game Boswell's double, scored the first run of the game as the Mets went on to another 3-2 win & a sweep of the Cubs in Chicago. This sent an early message to their NL East rival, that New York was going to be for real. In June Boswell served two weeks in the military reserves & then returned during a road trip to Philadelphia.

 On June 19th he helped the Mets complete a series sweep of the Phillies, with a 9th inning base hit off Turk Farrell, driving in Don Clendenon & Ron Swoboda with the games winning runs. The next day in front of 54,083 fans at Shea Stadium, Boswell had two more hits, including an RBI triple off the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer; Bob Gibson, helping Nolan Ryan to a win as well as getting his record to 3-0. 

On July 8th in an epic battle against the first place Chicago Cubs, Boswell hit a his famous 9th inning pinch hit bloop double off future Hall of Famer; Ferguson Jenkins. With the Mets down 3-1 in the 9th, Boswell blooped a pop fly to short left, it fell in front of Cubs outfielder Don Young & the hustling Boswell ended up on second base. Donn Clendenon would also reach base & Cleon Jones would double bringing in Boswell & Clendenon to tie it. Ed Kranepool ended it with a base hit, as Don Young made another miscue in left field. Art Shamsky who had walked, came home & scored the game's winning run, as the Shea crowd of 55,000 went wild. The walk off win brought a huge excitement to Mets fans & all of baseball were believing more in those Miracle Mets. 

The Mets/ Cubs rivalry was bubbling over as the Mets were proving to they were really contenders. On the road in Chicago, he hit a HR in a 5-4 Mets win & then had a pair of hits the next day, helping New York take two of three from the Cubs at Wrigley Field.On the year he killed the Cubs, batting .365 against them. 

Boswell then made a few base running mistakes as well as some mental fielding errors, which put him in Gil Hodges dog house. In the first game of that series at Wrigley Field he was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double, in the 8th inning of the 1-0 loss. 

He also was thrown out at third base trying to advance on an infield ground ball in the 12th inning of a one run loss against the Cincinnati Red a week later. He also made crucial errors in two games at Shea, against Houston at the end of the month. The Astros went on to sweep the Mets in the heat of the pennant race., Boswell sat down, spending some time on the bench, the lesson seemed to work. 

Boswell remembered “He had such a high level of concentration; he was thinking about the game all the time, and he tried to get the players to think that way. Gil changed the whole attitude on the club. He was a real disciplinarian, too.” 

He was hot down the pennant stretch, batting over .400 from the end of August through September, hitting safely in 21 out of 27 games. On September 10th, he drove in the winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning, with a walk off single off Expos pitcher Bill Stonemann. It came during the first game of a double header. In the second game, Boswell had three hits with a run scored & another RBI, in the sweep. It was on this historic night, the Mets moved into first place after the 7-1 victory. 

 During the Amazing 1969 season, Boswell hit .328 with runners in scoring position & tied for the team lead with ten game winning RBIs. boswell hit a career high .279 and leading the club with seven triples (9th in the NL). 

He hit 14 doubles, with three HRs, 32 RBIs and 48 runs scored playing in 102 games overall. He was the team’s main second baseman playing 96 games at second base in a platoon with Al Weis. He posted a .959 fielding %, making 18 errors turning 51 double plays, mostly due to the superb play of Buddy Harrelson at short. 

 1969 NLCS: In the 1969 NLCS, Boswell tore up the Atlanta Braves pitching staff. He played in all three games batting .333 (4-12) hitting two HRs and leading the team with five RBIs. In Game #1 he drew a walk in the second inning & scored on a Phil Niekro passed ball with Bud Harrelson at the plate. 

In Game #2 at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, Boswell hit one of three Mets HRs on the afternoon. It was a two run 4th inning shot off Milt Pappas in the Mets 11-6 romp. He homered again in Game #3 at Shea Stadium, another two run shot, this time of Pat Jarvis. The HR put the Mets ahead 3-2 in the fourth inning. In the 5th inning he singled, driving in Cleon Jones with another run in the Mets 7-4 win, completing the Series sweep. Coach Joe Pignatano dropped Boswell’s HR as it landed in the right-field bullpen, Boswell told him after the game “Hey, Piggy, you’ve got hands like me.” 
Tommie Agee Ken Boswell & Cleon Jones

World Series: Due to Gil Hodges platoon system & the Baltimore Orioles left handed pitching rotation, he only saw action in one game (Game #3) of the 1969 World Series, going 1-3. 

 Trivia: After the first two World Series games, he returned to New York with his father showing him around New York city. He pointed out the girls in their see through bras & short miniskirts, which amazed his dad. After the Mets won the World Series, fame came to Boswell as well as the other players. 

He was still a bachelor and received a lot of mail from girls asking him over for dinner. Boswell remembers: "The girls from Brooklyn keep writing and inviting me to go try their spaghetti, but they'd have a better chance if they made spare ribs" said the Texas born Boswell. "When I get home to Austin they are going to have a Welcome Home, Ken Boswell Parade. I hope they mean me and not some other Ken Boswell." 

During Spring Training 1970, Manager Gil Hodges told Boswell he believed he could be a solid second baseman. Boswell worked hard, to prove his manager correct, turning himself into a superior second baseman. He gave all the credit to Hodges for believing in him. 

He was spectacular at times, setting an MLB fielding record; going 85 games without making an error at second base. He finished up the year committing just two errors in 450 chances, setting a Mets fielding record at the position, leading the league with a .996 fielding %. 

He had a good start at the plate as well, hitting .300 into mid May. On May 30th the Mets rallied from being down 3-1 to the Houston Astros. After New York tied the game & knocked out pitcher Larry Dierker, Boswell hit an infield single off Ron Cook, scoring Cleon Jones from third base in what turned out to be the winning run. He then hit safely in 10 of 12 games in June while driving in ten runs in the month. 

On Saturday June 19th, he had a three hit, three RBI day in the Mets 13-3 win in front of 44,000 at Shea Stadium. Four days later at Wrigley Field he drove in two runs, to tie up the game in the top of the 9th inning, with a two out game tying base hit off Phil Regan. The Mets won the game in the tenth inning, and Boswell had himself another three RBI day, that included an earlier bases loaded walk. He missed three weeks of action in July with an injury & in mid August Boswell had a great five game stretch getting 11 hits, and driving in five runs. 

On an early September home stand he had another three RBI day on September 8th in a 10-5 win over the Montreal Expos. Then on September 10th he had a big four hit day, against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Mets fell short of another Eastern title in the final weeks of September in that 1970 season. Boswell played In 105 games batting .254, with five HRs 13 doubles a career high 41 walks, a .331 on base % & 44 RBIs. 

In 1971 he was rewarded for his efforts the previous year, by seeing more playing time, 116 games overall with 109 games at second base. He posted a .973 fielding %, making 12 errors in 437 chances turning a career high 56 double plays. On the down side, Boswell didn't hit much, although he did have some big hits as he did in 1969. On May 22nd with the Mets down 7-6 in the bottom of the 10th inning to the Atlanta Braves, Boswell tied up the score sith a single off Cecil Upshaw of the Atlanta Braves. New York won it in the 11th on a Donn Clendenon walk off base hit. On June 28th his single in the top of the 8th inning off Philadelphia's Rick Wise broke a 1-1 ties and proved to be the winning runs in the Mets 3-1 win. 

 In mid July he drove in eight runs from July 15th through July 25th in the midst of a ten game hit streak. On July 25th, his bottom of the 8th inning single put New York up 7-4 against the Astros and it seemed meaningless. But Houston scored two more runs & Boswell's run proved to be the one that gave the Mets the 7-6 win. 

On August 7th he hit a grand slam HR off Atlanta's Mike McQueen, and drove in five runs in the Mets 20-6 romp over the Braves in Atlanta. Over the early August, two week road trip, Boswell had a ten game hit streak, drove in ten runs & hit three HRs getting his average to its highest point of the season at .283. 

In September his season was cut short by a shoulder injury, when he couldn’t even swing the bat due to the pain. He finished up hitting .273 with a career high 20 doubles. He hit five HRs with 36 walks 40 RBIs & a .334 on base %. 

At the end of Spring Training 1972 the Mets were stunned by the sudden passing of Gil Hodges. Boswell struggled at the plate finding himself under the .200 mark, most of the year until mid September. On May 29th, he won the game with a top of the 9th inning three run HR off the Cardinals Tony Cloninger, breaking the 3-3 tie in St. Louis. In the month of July he had just one hit in 34 at bats, spending a bit of time on the bench to regroup. He showed a power surge from August 27th through September 8th, hitting four HRs, that included a four hit day in Houston on September 2nd. 

He finished up the season with a career high nine HRs but his average fell to .211 & his on base % was just .274. The Mets used utility man Ted Martinez more at second base that season & they were concerned about Boswell’s shoulder entering the 1973 season. In the off season they acquired All Star second baseman Felix Millan from the Atlanta Braves (along with pitcher George Stone) for Gary Gentry & Danny Frisella. 

1973 Mets Pennant Season: In the Mets 1973 NL Championship season, Boswell saw action in just three games at second base, behind the steady Millan who played in 153 games at the position. Boswell played 17 games at third base & saw the most playing time as a pinch hitter. He was 12-51 as a pinch hitter; bashing the only two pinch hit HRs the team had that year. Both HRs came in Mets losses on the road, at Los Angles & Chicago. 

On April 22nd in the first game of a double header, Boswell pinch hit for Tom Seaver in the bottom of the 9th, with the Mets down 1-0. He singled to center off one of the games best relievers, Montreal's Mike Marshall. Jim Fregosi scored the tying run but the Mets would end up losing the game after former Met; Tim Foli, singled off the Mets short termed reliver Phil Hennigan in the 10th. In the second game, he would enter the game in the 6th inning & came through with another RBI single. The Mets trounced the Expos 13-3 in that one.

In May during a four game stretch at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Boswell had two more successful pinch hit at bats. On May 24th, the Mets & Dodgers went into the 19th inning with a 3-3 tie. Rusty Staub broke the tie with a double scoring Cleon Jones. Boswell then pinch hit & singled home Staub giving the Mets a 5-3 lead. He would score on Ed Kranepool's double & the Mets went on to a n eventual 7-3 win. On May 27th, Don Sutton had shut out the Mets into the 8th inning & was holding on to a 2-0 lead. Boswell belted a pinch hit HR to bring the Mets within a run, but they lost it 2-1.

On August 1st he got a start at third & he drove in a pair of runs with a two hit game, at Pittsburgh in a 5-2 win over the Pirates. On August 26th Bowsell had a bottom of the 9th inning, two run pinch hit single off San Francisco's; Elias Sosa, but the Mets fell short by a run losing to the Giants 5-4. 

Boswell had a quiet September playing in just 11 games  but did go 3-8 with three walks & one RBI. as a pinch hitter. In the famous "Ball on the Wall Game" which was a big night for the Mets on their way to taking over the NL East from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Bowell led off the bottom of the 9th inning with a pinch hit base hit, representing the tying run on base. He would score on Duffy Dyer's double sending the game to those famous extra innings in which the Mets won 4-3. In the 13th Boswell drew a walk to reach base again.

On the season he was still solid on the field making only one error in 37 chances (.973 fielding %). Overall as a reserve player he appeared in 76 games, batting .227, with two HRs two doubles 14 RBIs & a .303 on base %. 

 1973 Post Season: Boswell went 0-1 in the 1973 NLCS against the Cincinnati Reds. In the World Series against the Oakland A's he went a perfect 3-3 (.1000) as a pinch hitter tying a pinch hit World Series record. 

His hits came against future Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers (Game #1) & Catfish Hunter (Game #6). In the 8th inning of Game #6 at Oakland, he singled to right field & advanced to third on Wayne Garrett's base hit. He then scored a run on Felix Millan's base hit, bringing the Mets within a run. 

 In his post season career (eight games) Boswell batted .421 (8-19) with two HRs two runs scored & five RBIs. 

In 1974 manager Yogi Berra said he wanted Boswell for his bat & thought about using him in the outfield. That lasted just seven games, but he did see more time at second base (28 games) & third base (20 games) . Boswell was once again, one of the teams main pinch hitters, going 9-42 in that role (.213). On May 5th, he pinch hit for Bud Harrelson, in the bottom of the 9th, with the Mets down by a run against the San Diego Padres. Boswell tapped a base hit up the middle, scoring Teddy Martinez with the tying run. New York won it on a John Milner walk off HR. On August 5th he hit a 7th inning, two run pinch hit HR off Montreal’s Dennis Blair, to tie the game the Mets would go on to win 10-4. 

 In 96 games he hit just .216 with two HRs six doubles 15 RBIs & a .277 on base%. On October 29, 1974 he was traded back near his home in Texas, going to the Houston Astros for Bob Gallagher. 

That winter the Mets took a baseball tour of Japan, Boswell, along with Duffy Dyer & Ray Sadecki, all declined to make the trip. That winter GM Joe McDonald traded all three players away, many felt it was because they didn't make the trip. 

Boswell left the Mets as the all time club leader in games played at the second base position up to that point in time. Boswell spent eight seasons with the Mets, batting .250 with 528 hits, 31 HRs 74 doubles 15 triples 26 stolen bases 193 RBIs & a .312 on base %, appearing in two World Series. 

He played for Houston through 1977, hitting a high of .262 with eight doubles & 18 RBIs in 1976, becoming one of the league’s top pinch hitters. He batted .308 in that role setting a team record that stood until 2006 with twenty pinch hits. 

Boswell finished his eleven season career hitting .248 with 625 hits 31 HRs 91 doubles 19 triples 27 stolen bases 244 RBIs 240 walks & a .313 on base %. At second, he posted a .979 fielding percentage in 566 games played at the position. He turned 280 double plays making 52 errors in 2440 chances. He played 82 games at third base & eight games in the outfield. 

 On a sad note, Boswell was not on hand for the 40th anniversary of the 1969 team due to a misunderstanding with the organization. Boswell claims he had a hard time acquiring tickets during the 2006 season when the Mets visited Houston on a road trip. He also stated that he wasn’t invited to the team's locker room to meet any of the players, especially #12, manager Willie Randolph. 

Randolph a fellow second baseman claims that he wore the uniform number 12 because Ken Boswell was his favorite Mets player when he was a kid growing up in Brooklyn. 

 Retirement: As of late, Boswell is a rancher & sells antique autos in Austin, Texas.

1 comment:

Stu Paul said...

Great article! However, on July 8, 1969, Boswell lead off with a bloop double to CENTER FIELD and that's what Don Young played that day and Ken did not score the winning run. Cleon Jones did! Jones also tied the game when Boswell and Clendenon both scored on Cleon's double and then Ed Kranepool's bloop single scored Jones and the Mets won it! I watched the game on WOR-TV, Channel 9 that afternoon. The next night, of course, Tom Seaver had his near perfect game against the Cubs at Shea Stadium!