Jay Hook: The Pitcher Who Won the First Game In Mets History (1962-1964)

James Wesley Hook
was born November 18, 1936, in Waukegan, Illinois. He was the only boy growing up with two sisters. His parents owned a local pharmacy & his uncle a lumber yard in the small community of about 2,000 people. 

Hook was a star player at Northwestern University, but he was also very intelligent, earning a mechanical engineering degree. 

The six-foot two right-handed pitcher was signed as a bonus baby by the Cincinnati Reds in 1957, making his MLB debut later that same year.

MLB Career: Hook made his debut pitching two innings of relief against the St. Louis Cardinals on September 3rd. On September 25th he made his first star, getting knocked out in the third inning after allowing seven runs (five earned) against the Chicago Cubs. He appeared in only four games over the next two seasons going 0-2 with an ERA over eight. 

By 1959 he got a starting role in the Reds rotation and went 5-5 with a 5.13 ERA.

In 1960 he went 11-18 (second most losses in the NL) allowing a league leading 31 HRs with a 4.50 ERA striking out 105 batters in 222 innings pitched. 

1961 Reds Pennant Season: Hook was put in the bullpen as a reliever for Reds 1961 NL Pennant season, going 1-3 in 22 games posting a 7.76 ERA, allowing 14 HRs in 62 innings. 

He did not appear in the ’61 World Series. 

Mets Career: A few days after the World Series, Hook & his wife were driving back to Evanston & they heard on the radio that he had been chosen by the New York Mets as the third pick in the 1961 expansion draft.

Trivia: The Old Professor himself Casey Stengel would actually call Jay Hook professor since he was a student at Northwestern University.

Hook not only knew how to throw a curve ball but understood the science of how it worked.

Quotes- Casey Stengel: "If Hook could only do what he knows."

On April 17th, 1962, he made the fourth start in Mets history, going eight innings at the Polo Grounds against the Houston Astros. He allowed two runs and struck out five earning no decision that day. 

First Mets Franchise Win: Hook's next outing turned out to be a historic one. On April 23, 1962, Hook took the mound for an 0-9 Mets against a 9-0 Pittsburgh Pirates team at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. 

Hook threw a complete game five hitter, allowing only one run while striking out two, in a Mets 9-
1 victory. He gets credit for 
earning the win in the first victory of New York Mets history.

In the 2nd inning, Hook came to bat with the bases loaded & lined a single to center field driving in two runs.

The Game Ball: After the game Jay wrote first Mets win on the ball & put in a drawer at his parents' house. 

In 1967 he had it put in a display case & gave it back to the Mets in a pre-game presentation. The ball was displayed at the Shea Stadium Diamond Club for many years. Apparently, Mets owner Mrs. Joan Payson's family next took possession of the ball, going to her daughter & then two granddaughters until recently. 

They donated the ball to Rusty Staub for his Foundation & after his passing the estate put it up for sale, when the Mets bought it back. It is now displayed at the Mets Museum in Citi Field.

After that win in 1962, Hook was knocked out of the 1st inning of his next start, after allowing four runs to the Philadelphia Phillies. In his fourth start he lasted just into the 4th inning, as he took a loss the Cincinnati Reds 8-2. 

On May 8th, he got another complete game victory beating the Cubs at Wrigley Field 3-1. 

Hook was used as both a starter & as a reliever. He would have a few bad stretches on the year, on a bad team that didn’t score many runs. He had two four game losing streaks, one in May & another in August.

On June 23rd, he threw the first of two straight complete game wins. That night he allowed two runs as the Mets gave him run support, beating Houston 13-2. In his next start on June 29th, at Dodger Stadium, he allowed four runs but went the distance in a 10-4 Mets win. 

On July 4th in San Francisco, he didn't get out of the 1st inning, as the Giants scored three runs on five hits off him in an 11-4 loss. 

Another notable win came on August 24th in front of 39,741 fans at the Polo Grounds. Hook beat Don Drysdale & the Dodgers 6-3. Hook allowed three run on six hits, striking out two & walking five in the complete game win. Drysdale gave up six runs including HRs to Cho Cho Coleman, Hot Rod Kanehl & Marv Throneberry.

Marvelous Marv
Marvelous Marv:
One of the first Mets folk heroes was Marv Throneberry, who eventually had his own fan club. Throneberry approached Hook one day, knowing he was an engineer asking if he could print him up a card saying "Marvelous Marv" to hang on his locker. Hook did & Throneberry became forever known by that moniker.

For 1962, Hook finished up the season with five straight losing decisions. 

He ended the year at 8-19 (4th most losses in the NL he struck out a career high 113 batters, posting a 4.84 ERA. 

In 213 innings pitched, he gave up 230 hits, 71 walks & 31 HRs (4th in the league). He appeared in 37 games leading the staff with 34 starts & 13 complete games.

1st Mets All Star Richie Ashburn & Jay Hook
At the plate he was one of the Mets best hitting pitchers, a natural left-handed hitter, Hook hit .203 with five RBIs & six runs scored.

That season the Mets voted the educated Hook, the team's player rep.

1963: He started out the year losing his first five decisions. On May 8th, he pitched a complete game allowing two runs to the Phillies in a 3-2 win. On May 30th he had his best start of the season, allowing one run in a two hitter over the Chicago Cubs. In that game he struck out seven & walked two.

On June 2nd, he came in relief of Roger Craig in the 10th inning of a tie game with the Pirates. He earned the win when Jim Hickman hit a walk off HR off Roy Face.

From there he lost five straight decisions & was moved to the bull pen for most of the second half of the season.

Jay Hook Day: That season when the Mets came to Chicago to play the Cubs, his hometown of Grayslake, Illinois honored him with Jay Hook Day. 

He & his teammates were invited to a parade downtown & banquet at the country club.

 For the 1963 season he went 4-14 with a 5.48 ERA. Hook made 20 starts & appeared in 41 games
overall earning one save. He struck out 80 & walked 53 in 152.2 innings of work.

 He had another good year at the plate and was one of the teams' better hitters' overall, batting at .237 with an RBI & four runs scored.

1964:  Hook started the ninth game of the season for the Mets, he gave up three runs to the Pirates & took a no decision. He made a relief appearance & then one final Mets start, where he took a loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

On May 8th, he was traded along with Wayne Garrett’s brother Adrian to the Milwaukee Braves for shortstop & future Mets coach Roy McMillan. 

He soon retired never pitching for the Braves.

Career Stats: In his career Hook was 29-62, with a 5.23 ERA. He posted 396 strikeouts & 275 walks in 752 innings pitched in 160 career games (112 starts). 

In his Mets career he was 12-34 with a 5.22 ERA.

At the plate he batted .151 with one double & ten RBIs in 225 career at bats.

Retirement: After his playing days, Hook received a master's degree in thermodynamics. He went to work for the Chrysler Motor company. 

He then went to Rockwell International, where he was involved with the business operations for truck parts and subway undercarriages.

Hook later was a senior executive at Masco Corp. 

When he retired from corporate work, he taught manufacturing management at Northwestern
University before retiring to his farm in Michigan.

Family: He & his wife Joan, bought a farm in Maple City, Michigan where they reside. They have four children & 13 grandchildren.

Honors: Jay Hook returned to New York for the 2022 Mets Old Timers Day at Citi Field.
Hook appeared in the Mets Film "An Amazing Era" in 1986 & with a one on one with Howie Rose in 2020.


Anonymous said…
My family met Mr. Hook at Sleeping Bear National Shoreline in Michigan today. He and his family were very friendly and helpful. FYI...We made it back up the dune.
SNAP said…
He wrote wrote an article in Sport magazine on how a curveball curves. To which Casey responded: "If he could only do what he knows."

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