The New York Mets knew that they were not going to win many games when they joined the National League in 1962 and therefore they also knew that they needed someone who would help them attract fans to the ballpark. That was the main reason they tabbed Casey Stengel to be their first manager. Casey Stengel had managed the New York Yankees form 1949-1960, winning seven World Series titles and ten American League Pennants. However, he was unceremoniously let go after losing the 1960 World Series. Even though he was 71 years old, he still knew the game and was still a very popular figure in New York having also played for the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants. Casey was known for his funny comments or ‘Stengelese”as the reporters called them and was always good for a quote which also helped divert attention from the inept play on the field.
During the Mets first Spring Training in 1962 Casey Stengel was looking to draw support for the team and was quoted as saying, “Come see my Amazin Mets.” The phrase stuck and the Mets would be forever known as the “Amazin Mets.” However, the only thing that was truly amazing about the Mets first year in the National League was their amazing ability to find new ways to lose games. They set a record for futility losing 120 games while winning just 40. Over the next two seasons, the Mets improved but still managed to lose over 100 games each season. However, with Casey leading the way, the fans still packed the ballpark as the Mets came to be known as “Lovable Losers.” However, in 1965 Stengel broke his hip and was forced to step aside as manager on August 30th.
Despite posting a dismal 175 and 404 record Stengel is still a beloved figure in Mets history as evidenced by the fact that the organization not only retired his number 37 but also inducted him into the Mets Hall of Fame as a charter member in 1981. In 1966, he was also inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Some of Casey’s most memorable Stengelisms while with the Mets
“Been in this game one-hundred years, but I see new ways to lose ’em I never knew existed before.”
“You have to have a catcher because if you don’t you’re likely to have a lot of passed balls.”
“You look up and down the bench and you have to say to yourself, ‘Can’t anybody here play this game?’”
The Mets purchased the contract of right-handed pitcher Galen Cisco from the Boston Red Sox on September 7, 1962. Two days later he made his Met debut against the Houston Colt 45’s when he relieved starter Craig Anderson in the first inning after Anderson gave up three runs to the first five batters. Cisco would pitch four innings and allow two runs and five hits. The game became memorable because it turned out to be a tie. The game was suspended after 8 innings due to a curfew, back in 1962 no inning could start after 7:00 PM on a Sunday night. Cisco would appear in three more games and posted a 1-1 record and 3.26 ERA. His only victory came on September 21 when he pitched a complete game four-hitter against the Chicago Cubs.
Cisco returned in 1963 and pitched in 51 games, 17 as a starter and 34 out of the bullpen. He finished with a 7-15 record and 4.34 ERA. His best game occurred on August 2 against the Milwaukee Braves. He pitched 10 innings and allowed one unearned to earn the victory.
In 1964 he appeared in 36 games, 25 as a starter, and posted a 6-19 record and led the team with a 3.62 ERA. He pitched five complete games and two shutouts. His first occurred on June 5 against the defending World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, the second came on July 12 against the Cincinnati Reds when he outpitched John Jay and won the game 1-0.
He once again split time between the starting rotation and bullpen in 1965. He finished with a 4-8 record with a 4.49 ERA. His best outing came on July 29 against the Chicago Cubs when he pitched a 4-hit shutout as the Mets won 14-0.
Cisco started the 1966 season in the minors where he appeared in five games for the Jacksonville Suns before the Mets sold him back to the Boston Red Sox on June 6. In 126 games over four seasons, 61 as a starter, Cisco posted an 18 and 43 record with a 4.04 ERA.
While with the Mets Cisco wore number 26.
Galen Cisco also played for the following teams:
Boston Red Sox – 1961,1962, 1967
Kansas City Royals – 1969
When the Mets were looking to fill their roster at the 1961 expansion draft instead of going for youth they decided to select as many former stars as possible, especially those with ties to their forbearers the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants. One of the players selected was first baseman Gil Hodges who was one of the most popular players in Brooklyn history.
Hodges was penciled in as the Mets Opening Day first baseman in 1962 and fittingly enough he hit the first home run in franchise history. But a bum knee limited him to just 54 games for the season. He hit .252 with 9 home runs and 17 RBIs. The only other highlight of his season occurred on May 12 when he hit a walk off home run during the second game of a doubleheader against the Milwaukee Brewers. It was memorable day for the Mets in an otherwise dismal season, as Hobie Landrith won the first game of the doubleheader with a walk-off home run of his own.
Hodges returned for the 1963 season but was traded to the Washington Senators for Jimmy Piersall after just 11 games where he became the Senators new manager. At the time of the trade Hodges was hitting just .227.
In 65 gamed for the Mets over two seasons, Hodges hit .248 with 9 home runs and 20 RBIs.
Hodges would return to the Mets in 1968 as their manager and would lead them to their first World Series title in 1969.
While with the Mets Hodges wore number 14.
Gil Hodges also played for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1943 and from 1947-1957 and the Los Angeles Dodges from 1958-1961
Drafted from the Milwaukee Braves in the 1961 expansion draft, Felix Mantilla was the starting 2nd baseman in the first game in franchise history on August 11, 1962. As the number two hitter he went 1 for 4. His 7th inning double was the first in Mets history. He would go on to appear in 141 games for the original Mets and was one of the few bright spots on what was a rather abysmal team. Playing most of his games at 3rd base, he hit .276 (2nd to Richie Ashburn’s .306) with 11 home runs and 59 RBI’s.
Mantilla hit safely in 21 of his first 25 games and enjoyed 3 different 4 hit games. His most productive day came on May 25 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He went 4 for 4 with 4 RBIs, but as was the case through most of the 1962 season the Mets lost 17-6. On May 20 against his old team the Milwaukee Braves his 3-run home run in the 7th inning help propel the Mets to a 9-6 victory.
Despite his success the Mets parted ways with Mantilla in the offseason by trading his to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for Tracy Stallard, Pumpsie Green and Al Moran.
While with the Mets Mantilla wore number 18.
Felix Mantilla also played for the following teams:
Milwaukee Braves – 1956-1961
Boston Red Sox – 1963-1965
Houston Astros – 1966
The Mets purchased the contract of Brooklyn born Joe Pignatano from the San Francisco Giants on July 13, 1962. Pignatano or “Piggy” as he was affectionately known finished out the season serving as the Mets backup catcher. He appeared in 27 games and hit .232 with 2 RBIs. His most famous at-bat occurred during his final plate appearance of the season and of his career when he hit into a triple play. Cubs 2nd baseman Ken Hubbs caught his pop fly and then caught Richie Ashburn and Sammy Drake on the bases.
Pignatano played the next two seasons in the minors before retiring in 1964. He returned to the Mets in 1968 as a member of Gil Hodges coaching staff and served as a Mets coach through the 1981 season. He was known for maintaining a tomato garden in the Mets bullpen. He started the tradition in 1969 when the Mets won the World Series and continued it throughout his tenure as Met coach.
While playing for the Mets Pignatano wore numbered 5.
Joe Pignatano also played for the following teams:
Brooklyn Dodgers – 1957
Los Angeles Dodgers – 1958-1960
Kansas City A’s – 1961
San Francisco Giants – 1962
The Mets drafted right-handed pitcher Bob Moorehead from the Cincinnati Reds in the 1961 Rue 5 draft. He made his Major League debut in the first game in Mets history when he relieved starting pitcher Roger Craig in the 4th inning, He pitched 3 innings and allowed 6 hits and 5 runs (2 earned) as the Mets lost 11-4 to the St. Louis Cardinals. He would appear in 38 games for the Mets in 1962, 31 out of the bullpen and 7 as a starter. As a starter he went 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA. Overall his record was 0-2 with a 4.53.
Moorehead spent the next 4 seasons in the minors and would not appear in another Major League game until 1965 when he as brought up at the end of August. He appeared in 9 games for the Mets, all out of the bullpen, and posted a 0-1 record with a 4.40 ERA.
He spent one more season in the minors before retiring from baseball. In 47 games his record was 0-3 with a 4.51 ERA.
While with the Mets Moorehead wore number 22 in 1962 and number 21 in 1965.
Infielder Sammy Drake was drafted from the Chicago Cubs in the 1962 expansion draft. He spent most of the 62 season on the minors playing for the Syracuse Chiefs before he was promoted to New York in August. He made his Mets debut on August 1st as a pinch hitter for pitcher Bob G. Miller against the Philadelphia Phillies. He popped up to 3rd base as the Mets lost 11-9. He recorded his first hit as a Met on August 7 against the Los Angeles Dodger, a pinch hit single that also drove in a run, unfortunately it wasn’t enough as the Mets lost 7-5. He would go onto appear in 25 games for the Mets, hitting .192 with 7 RBIs. His most productive day occurred in a doubleheader loss to the Houston Colt 45’s on September 18. In the first game he went 1 for 4 with an RBI and in game 2 he went 2 for 5 with a 3 RBIs.
Following the season Drake returned to the minors where he spent the next 3 seasons before retiring.
While with the Mets Drake wore number 12.
Sammy Drake also played for the Chicago Cubs in 1960 and 1961.
Right-handed pitcher Ray Daviault was drafted from the San Francisco Giants during the 1961 expansion draft.He made his Major League debut with the Mets on April 13, 1962 against the Pittsburgh Pirates.He pitched 2 innings and allowed 1 run in the Mets 4-3 loss.He would appear in 36 games for the Mets in their inaugural season, 3 as a starter, and posted a 1 -5 record with a 6.22 ERA.His only win came on July 7th against the St. Louis Cardinals when he pitched the final two innings.Though he gave up the tying run in the 9th inning the Mets batters bailed him out and won on a walk off hit by Marv Throneberry.
1962 would be his only season in the majors though he did remain in the Mets organization.He pitched the entire 1963 season with the Buffalo Bisons, the Mets top farm club before being forced to retire due to arm injuries.In 50 games for the Bisons he went 5-6 with a 3.62 ERA.
As a bit of trivia Daviault was the first Canadian born played to play with the Mets.
The Mets acquired catcher Harry Chiti from the Cleveland Indians on April 26, 1962 in exchange for a player to be named later. He made his Met debut two days later as a late inning defensive replacement against the Philadelphia Phillies, he struck out in his only at bat. Chiti would go on to appear in 15 games for the Mets before he was sent back to the Indians on June 15, thus becoming the first player ever traded for himself. At the time of the trade he was hitting .195.
While with the Mets Chiti wore number 44.
Harry Chiti also played for the following teams:
Chicago Cubs – 1952,1955,1956
Kansas City A;s – 1958-1960
Detroit Tigers – 1960,1961
The Mets purchased the contract of right-handed pitcher Dave Hillman from the Boston Red Sox on April 26, 1962. He made his Met debut two days later when he pitched the 6th inning in their 8=6 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, he allowed one run and one hit. He would go on to appear in 13 games for the Mets, all but one out of the bullpen posting an 0-0 record with a 6.32 ERA. His one start came on May 21 against the Houston Colt 45’s, he lasted just 2 2/3 innings and gave up 4 hits and 2 earned runs.
His stint with the Mets would be his last in the Major Leagues.
While with the Mets Hillman wore number 34.
Dave Hillman also played for the following teams:
Chicago Cubs – 1955-1959
Boston Red Sox – 1960,1961
Cincinnati Reds – 1962