Remembering Mets History (1963) Jimmy Piersall Rounds the Bases Backwards as the Mets Sweep a Doubleheader

Sunday June 23, 1963: In the first game of a sunny afternoon Sunday double header at the Polo Grounds, Casey Stengel’s young New York Mets (27-44) were in ninth place. 

Today they hosted Gene Mauch’ eighth place Philadelphia Phillies (31-39).

Trivia: Gene Mauch was in his fourth season as manager of the Phillies. He would manage the club from 1960 - 1968, finishing with a winning record six times. 
Mauch would manage in the big leagues for 27 years. He has the distinction of being the winningest manager that never got to a World Series. In his career Mauch also managed the Montreal Expos (1969-1975) Minnesota Twins (1976-1989) & California Angels (1981-1987).

The starters were the Mets Carl Willey (5-6) & the Phils Dallas Green. Green of become a successful manager with the Phillies (1979-1981) winning a World Series in 1980. He also managed the Mets (1993-1996) & AL New York team (1989).

Carl Willey started the game by retiring the first ten batters. In the 4th inning Johnny Callison tripled, for the Phils first hit. In the 6th he gave up another triple, which was the only other hit he gave up on the day.

Willey tossed a complete game two hit shutout, striking out six & walking no one. He bested his record to 6-6 with a 2.62 ERA, best on the Mets staff. 

In the home 3rd inning, Dallas Green issued a pair of one out walks to Tim Harkness & Ron Hunt. Hall of Famer, Duke Snider then hit an RBI single to right field, scoring Harkness with the Mets first run. 

The game went smoothly until the 5th inning when a strange but funny event took place.  

The Mets had acquired outfielder, Jimmy Piersall on May 23rd. He came from the Washington Senators in exchange for Gil Hodges who was to manage their team. Piersall was certainly a character & a troubled soul. 

Piersall led off the 5th inning with a HR to right field. It was a milestone HR for Piersall, being the 100th HR of his career. 

Piersall dropped his bat, turned his body around & went to circle the bases running backwards.

The Phillies team & pitcher Dallas Green were not amused. Neither was the MLB Commissioner Ford Frick who was in attendance that day. 

The Mets fans may have gotten a kick out of it, but manager Casey Stengel & the organization didn’t like it either. Piersall was gone from the team in less than a month.

Jimmy Piersall Trivia: Jimmy Piersall was born in Waterbury ConnecticutHe was diagnosed with a nervous breakdown due to emotional exhaustion, he related back to his father, who had pressured him in becoming a pro ball player.

Piersall overcame his problems & made it in the big leagues taking over centerfield in Boston after the Dom DiMaggio era. He made two All-Star teams & won a gold glove. He played with the Boston Red Sox (1950-1958) Cleveland Indians (1959- 1961) & Washington Senators (1962).

But Drama always followed Piersall, as he fought with opposing players as well as his own teammates. In one huge brawl on the field, he beat the hell out of troublemaker Billy Martin. 

In another game he sat in the stands to heckle an umpire. In 1960 he was ejected from six different games. 

In 1964 at the height of Beatlemania, he came to the plate wearing a Beatles wig & playing air guitar on his bat. 

Piersall was the subject of the 1957 baseball movie “Fear Strikes Out” starring Tony Perkins.

Piersall said he had watched teammate Duke Snider hit his 400th career HR, just a few weeks earlier without any fanfare.  He vowed when he hit his 100th HR, he would do something to make it festive. 

He sure caused a stir of excitement, the Polo Grounds Mets fans loved it, as he trotted around the bases backwards. Even some of his teammates laughed. Amazingly, he never stumbled & even shook third base coach Cookie Lavagetto's hand on the way home.

The game went on with the Mets leading 2-0 into the 7th inning. John Boozer had taken over the Phillies pitching for Dallas Green. He started the inning striking out Piersall. Boozer then walked Tim Harkness who stole second base. After Ron Hunt grounded out, Duke Snider was walked intentionally. 
"Hot Rod" Kanehl came in to run for Snider. A wild pitch advanced the runners & an error at third base by Ruben Amaro brought in Harkness. 

Gene Mauch went to his bullpen & brought in Jack Baldschun to pitch for the Phillies. Mets slugger Frank Thomas singled scoring "Hot Rod" Kanehl. Then a wild pitch from Baldschum scored Jim Hickman with the Mets fifth run, as they went on to a 5-0 win. 

The Mets took both ends of this double header, winning the nightcap 4-1. Ron Hunt homered Duke Snider drove in two runs & Sammy Taylor added an RBI as well. The Mets Tracy Stallard allowed just a run in eight innings striking out a season high nine batters.


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