Remembering Mets History: (1963) Jimmy Piersall Rounds The Bases Backwards


 
Sunday June 23, 1963: In the first game of a sunny 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 manager the big leagues for 27 years & is the winningest manager to have never been to a World Series. He managed the Montreal Expos (1969-1975) Minnesota Twins (1976-1989) California Angels (1981-1987)



New York Mets pitcher Carl Willey had a fine outing, as he threw a complete game two hit
shutout. Willey struck out six & walked no one. He bested his record to
6-6 with a 2.62 ERA, best on the Mets staff. That day he earned the win over Phillies pitcher & future Mets manager, Dallas Green.

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

The game went smoothly until the 5th inning. Here's where a strange but funny & classic thing happened. Jimmy Piersall a character in his own right, led off the inning with a HR. It was a milestone for Piersall, being the 100th HR of his career. 

Piersall dropped the bat, turned around & went to circle around the bases. But he did so by 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 organization didn’t like it either, Manager Casey Stengel was so angry, he cut Piersall from the team two days later.

Trivia: Jimmy Piersall was born in Waterbury Connecticut. He was a veteran two time All Star & gold glove outfielder from his days with the Boston Red Sox (1950-1958).

He was diagnosed with a nervous breakdown due to emotional exhaustion. He related it back to his father, who had put a tremendous amount of pressure on him in becoming a pro ball player.

He made a successful comeback taking over centerfield in Boston after the Dom DiMaggio era. Drama always followed him, Piersall fought with opposing players & his own teammates. Once in a huge brawl on the field he beat the hell out of troublemaker Billy Martin. 

In one game he went to the grandstand to heckle an umpire. In 1960 he was ejected from six games. In 1964 he came to the plate wearing a Beatles wig & playing air guitar on his bat. 

The Red Sox had enough & traded him to the Cleveland Indians. Three years later he was dealt to the Washington Senators He then came to the New York Mets in exchange for Gil Hodges. 

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

Piersall said he had watched 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 tripped and even shook third base coach; Cookie Lavagetto's hand on the way around.

The game went on, in the 7th inning John Boozer had taken over for Dallas Green. He started the inning striking out Piersall. He then walked Tim Harkness who stole second. 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 by Ruben Amaro scored Harkness. 

Gene Mauch brought in Jack Baldschun to pitch for the Phillies. Frank Thomas singled scoring "Hot Rod" & wild pitch from Baldschum scored Jim Hickman with the Mets fifth & final run. 

The Mets took both ends of the double header, winning the first game 5-0 & the nightcap 4-1.

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