2016-05-26 / Sports

Baseball’s best

The 1962 N.Y. Mets lost many games
By LAMAR GARRARD
Baseball historian

Can’t anybody here play this game?” – Casey Stengel

Charles Dillion Stengel in 1962 probably felt like he was on the wrong train.

When the conductor for the train destined for nowhere called “all aboard,” Casey must have con­fused that with his former “World Champion Express Train” the N.Y. Yankees.

Maybe he signed to manage the Mets just to stay in the game or maybe he was coaxed by his for­mer boss and general manager of the Yankees, George Weiss, who at the time was the new GM of the fledgling N.Y. Mets. Whatever the reason, it became a real challenge and adventure.

The ’62 team finished with a 40-120 record 69-plus games out of first place with a winning per­centage of .250. This was the most losses by a team since 1899. Sten­gel, who had put together a string of five straight World Champions with the Yankees, tried everything in his power to keep this team out of the cellar.

This team had some big-name players like Richie Ashburn, Gil Hodges, the original Frank Thom­as, Gene Woodling, and Felix Mantilla. Marv Thornberry, the big first baseman, kept them from being more embarrassed by hitting 16 home runs. Frank Thomas had 34 homers with 94 runs batted in and his effort coupled with those of Charlie Neal and Jim Hickman accounted for most of the team’s offensive output.

The team pitching and defense allowed 948 runs which was the highest in the majors. With a team batting average of .240 and with only 59 stolen bases, it is easy to see how they finished last in bat­ting average and last in hits. It takes hits to score runs and you need speed and some power to manufacture base runners.

This Mets team was in good company for several years as the franchise played below 500 ball for it’s first seven years in exis­tence.

In 1969, the “Miracle Mets” led by manager Gil Hodges, be­gan to play winning baseball. That team won 100 games while losing only 62 and went on to defeat the San Francisco Giants 4-3 to take the World Series crown.

A few days ago our own Atlanta Braves high-level management forecast that the Braves would be coming back in time, and maybe by next year. He urged the Braves fans to be patient with this year’s team, the worst team in baseball so far and doing their best not to let the Minnesota Twins take this honor away from them. Braves management made another strange observation when it asked the fans to reflect back over the years at how well Atlanta had done and to recall their winning streak of 14 National League titles.

My optimism and my ability to look back at the “good years” be­comes a little cloudy when most of us struggle to understand the trades of Andrelton Simmons, Craig Kimbrel, Alex Wood, Brian McCann, and others The top man­agement keeps referring to the fu­ture.

I checked on the Gwinnett Braves and they are not exactly a house on fire. My patience gets a wee bit thin when I see that the Braves franchise is a money-mak­ing machine and with the salaries being paid today the Atlanta fans deserve something better. It is painful to watch the 2016 Braves continue to perform at the level of a high minors team. Please do not say: “wait till next year.”

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