Mar 22, 2019

Remembering Mets History: (1962) The First Meeting Between The Mets & the AL New York team

Spring Training- March 22nd 1962: The brand new New York Mets, were an expansion team in their first Spring Training. A rag tag bunch of has been players beyond their prime & some very young new kids made up the team, headed by manager Casey Stengel. 

Stengel had been fired from the AL New York team after losing the 1960 World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates. These Mets were about to head North, bringing Nation League baseball back to fans who had lost their Giants & Dodgers to California just five years prior.

This was the first meeting between the two New York clubs, the first subway series game, albeit a spring training exhibition one. Casey's Mets were 5-7 that spring, not bad for a team that would lose 120 games in the regular season. On the other side, Casey's old team was 10-1 just coming off a World Series win. For Casey this was a big game, he wanted some kind of revenge.

There already was some drama going on, even in 1962 with the Mets not even have played a game in New York yet. There were many fans who gravitated toward the Mets, mostly National Leaguers of the old Giants & Dodgers. There were even some AL fans that switched allegiances. 

Rogers Hornsby
In Florida there always was snow bird New Yorkers or transplants, and these fans were at Al Lang Stadium on this day. All of a sudden what was the long time home of those AL guys, were now rooting for these new Mets.

The Mets hitting instructor then, (there were no official batting coaches yet) was the great Rogers Hornsby, one of the game's all time best hitters. "Rajah" as he was known, was a life time .358 hitter (second only to Ty Cobb) who had batted .400 or better three times. 

In his new book, he commented on slugger Roger Maris, who had just hit 61 HRs in 1961, saying "he's a mediocre hitter, who couldn't bat .400 if you added all his averages up.

Quotes- Rogers Hornsby: "It will be unfortunate if Ruth's record is broken by a .270 hitter."

Then there was Casey's anger at his old club, as well as George Weis who had also been fired with Stengel & was now the Mets president.

 When Casey was seen on the field the 6000 fans in attendance cheered him on & the newspaper men followed him all around the field. He greeted his old team & their new manager Ralph Houck greeted Casey warmly, after all he was his mentor.

The Mets started Roger Craig the former Brooklyn / L.A. Dodger pitcher who would lead the NL in losses in the next two seasons. He faced off against Bill Stafford. The AL New York team were sloppy & made a few errors to say the least. The Mets were ahead 3-2 going into the 9th inning, but a pinch hit HR from Tommy Tresh tied it up at three.

In the bottom of the 9th, the Mets Joe Christopher tripled. Casey sent, maybe his best hitter, the first Met to bat .300, Richie Ashburn to the plate to pinch hit for Howie Nunn. He wanted to win this one. 

Richie Ashburn
Ashburn delivered with a base hit, in what is now known as a walk off hit. The game winner gave Casey & the Mets some bragging rights in the two teams first meeting.

After the game, Casey was holding court in his usual hotel, stocked with booze & deli foods. He rambled on as he usually did, entertaining the newspaper men & baseball people. He said that he was never more excited to win a ball game.

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