The New York Mets Encyclopedia|
by Peter C. Bjarkman
Sports Publishing, Inc., 2001 | Buy the book
1962: FIRST FRANCHISE GAMES
True ball fans are always gripped by the lure of arcane trivia. And franchise
"first" games are one of the richest sources of such cherished, if useless,
data. Especially the very first franchise games of an inaugural season, or
first games held in a new ballpark. Who collected the first base hit? Who
stroked the first-ever homer? Who scored the first-ever run for the home team?
Who recorded the first strikeout, balk, or triple? These are the fodder of
years of future barroom debates.
The first scheduled Mets game, of course,
never actually happened. The new franchise was rained out of its inaugural
match in St. Louis on opening day 1962 in what had to be taken as a
foreshadowing of the depressing events to follow throughout the remainder of
the team's first lengthy season stuffed with countless disasters. When the
debut game of the 1962 NL season was finally played a day late, the actual
franchise opener was about what might have been expected. Roger Craig, former
Dodgers journeyman and projected Mets staff ace, opened the proceedings for
the visitors in the home half of the first when he allowed the first-ever run
scored against the newest NL club by balking home a Cardinal runner from
third. The final count was 11-4 in the Cardinals' favor, and three Mets
hurlers called upon to relieve Craig, Bob Moorhead, Herb Moford, and Clem Labine; all found other employment before the first month of the season had
run its course. The first pair of franchise round trippers by another pair of
ex-Dodgers - Gil Hodges and Charlie Neal - were the night's only bright spot.
The Mets' home opener two days later also ran true to expectation. It was
another loss, but much closer in its final count. Yet it was a loss of the
kind that would haunt the team all season long, one booted away by a whisker
with the help of a series of infield and outfield defensive blunders. Two
late-inning wild pitches by Ray Daviault provided a 4-3 victory for the
visiting Pittsburgh Pirates. The loudest crowd response of the afternoon came
in the form of raucous booing that greeted lineup introductions, when it was
announced that Jim Marshall would man first base in place of an injured Gil
Hodges. Only 12,000 turned out to watch the homecoming for National League
baseball in New York City, and those who did attend had to endure the most
uncooperative type of April baseball weather. There were snow flurries and
bitter winds throughout the contest. But if the nasty springtime conditions
were inappropriate for baseball, the calendar date for the affair was
nonetheless absolutely perfect. League schedule makers had displayed an
inspired flair for the ironic by penciling in the Mets' first-ever Polo Grounds game for Friday the 13th.
A first franchise victory, on the other hand, had plenty of tantalizing
buildup. It had indeed begun to appear to the hordes of new Mets fans during
the first couple of weeks of franchise life that this hastily assembled
collection of big-league pretenders might actually be so bad that they would
never actually win a game. By the end of week two, the club had reeled off
nine straight failures and were now matched up on the season's second weekend
with a hot Pittsburgh Pirates outfit that had themselves burst out of the gate
with 10 straight wins. Then on April 23 in Pittsburgh's ancient Forbes Field,
the New York bats finally came to life with a 14-hit outburst that was good
enough for nine runs. And this time out, there was some pitching and defense
to actually support the run production. Promising right-hander Jay Hook (an
18-game loser two years earlier in Cincinnati and now launched on a season
that would eventually bring 19 setbacks) lasted the full nine frames of the
historic and surprising 9-1 Mets rout.
From The New York Mets Encyclopedia by Peter C. Bjarkman.
Copyright © by Peter C. Bjarkman. Excerpted with permission.