August 15, 2022

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Jay Hook and the ‘62 Mets look again on the franchise’s first win: ‘It began one thing in New York’

After Jay Hook beat the Pirates for the primary victory in Mets historical past, Casey Stengel urged his pitcher to speak to the newspaper reporters protecting the staff so long as the scribes needed. Stengel, whose sense of theater and PR served the Mets as properly or higher than any diamond stratagem he devised, knew the milestone was a superb story, particularly since his growth membership had began its baseball life with 9 straight losses.

However the lengthy interviews led to a short feeling of awkwardness, blended with the afterglow of a 9-1 victory, for Hook. By the point he was completed speaking, the visiting clubhouse at Forbes Subject was empty and the Mets wanted to hop a airplane to Cincinnati.

“The embarrassing factor was, everybody else had showered and dressed,” Hook recollects now. “I felt unhealthy as a result of everybody was on the bus and ready for me to bathe.”

However there was no scorching water left. So Hook hopped into the whirlpool for an impromptu tub, an unlikely post-game ablution for the evening’s pitching — and hitting — star. “It labored out wonderful,” Hook says with fun. “I’m certain they emptied the water out of the whirlpool after. Not less than it was heat.”

In fact, there can be an amusing anecdote glued to the primary victory in Mets franchise historical past, which got here on April 23, 1962, precisely 60 years in the past Saturday. Whereas they’re identified for probably the most losses by any staff since 1900 — the ‘62 Mets have been a woeful 40-120, a yardstick for any dropping staff since — they have been additionally the form of membership that produced delight and, properly, storylines.

Earlier than their first recreation, a gaggle of Mets obtained caught in a lodge elevator in St. Louis. That very same recreation was later rained out. Earlier than they even performed a recreation in New York, there was a ticker-tape parade up Broadway to welcome them and Nationwide League baseball again to New York. At their exercise on the Polo Grounds the day earlier than the house opener, their spikes weren’t delivered. The date of that dwelling opener? Friday the thirteenth, after all.

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They’d loads of enjoyable, too. One time, reliever Craig Anderson recollects, Stengel referred to as as much as the clubhouse through the first recreation of a doubleheader. Roger Craig was there as a result of he was slated to pitch the second recreation. Craig, a jokester, in line with Anderson, answered the cellphone and Stengel stated, “That is Casey.”

“Casey who?” Craig barked. Then he hung up.

It was a uncommon second the place Stengel couldn’t get in various phrases. He was, in any case, a quote machine, even delivering the lament that turned the title of Jimmy Breslin’s humorous best-seller in regards to the staff: “Can’t Anyone Right here Play This Recreation?”

The gamers, together with “Marvelous” Marv Throneberry — sarcasm font on “Marvelous,” except you’re speaking about his potential to entertain — have been colourful. In addition they had just a few well-known former metropolis stars, comparable to Gil Hodges, and their finest slugger, Frank Thomas, set a report for dwelling runs by a participant on an growth staff, busting 34. Richie Ashburn, the longer term Corridor of Famer, batted .306 and pitchers comparable to Craig, Hook and Al Jackson delivered some respectable begins.

Getting their first victory, nonetheless, proved tough, a stark distinction to their fellow expansion-ites, the Houston Colt .45s, who gained their first three video games.

The Mets gave up 16 hits and made three errors of their first-ever recreation, an 11-4 loss in St. Louis. Heavy, moist snow worn out one tilt wherein the Mets had jumped to a 2-0 lead towards the Pirates. Of their fifth loss, the Mets tied the rating within the backside of the ninth inning on Gus Bell’s two-out solo homer, however fell within the eleventh when Herb Moford gave up a three-run shot to Don Buddin.

On the finish of their first homestand, the Mets stood at 0-7. Dick Younger wrote within the Each day Information: “The Mets accomplished their profitable dwelling stand yesterday; no person obtained killed.”

Two losses later, they’d tied a report for many losses to begin a season. However it all got here collectively, oddly sufficient, towards a Pirates staff that had matched the then-mark for many consecutive wins to start a yr (10), first held by the Brooklyn Dodgers.

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In entrance of 16,176 followers, Hook, who had missed a part of the 1961 season with Cincinnati due to the mumps, throttled the highly effective Bucs, throwing a five-hitter. He additionally delivered one of many largest blows of the sport, a two-run single within the second inning that expanded the Mets’ result in 4-0.

“As soon as we jumped out, Jay was simply in management,” says Anderson, 83, who roomed with Hook that yr. “It was a contented evening, I’ll let you know. We weren’t comfortable about dropping 9 video games like that. I used to be within the dugout that evening, so I felt the entire environment. Casey was excited. I’m glad we gained one, someday.”

Anderson provides: “Jay was bragging about his hit — all pitchers are that means.”

It was an evening of different firsts, too. Earlier than that first win, the Mets had by no means scored as many as even six runs in a recreation. They’d not despatched 9 males to the plate in an inning or knocked out an opposing pitcher, which they did to Pirates’ starter Tom Sturdivant within the second inning. Within the eighth, Bobby Smith hit the primary triple in Mets’ historical past off Farmingdale native Jack Lamabe.

On the entrance web page of the Each day Information the following day, there was an image of Stengel together with his arms raised. The caption under ended, tongue-in-cheek, we hope: “Now for the pennant!”

That, after all, was hype. However after limping to a 3-16 report by Could 5, the Mets did start to play a bit higher. They gained nine-of-12 to get to 12-19. George Weiss, the previous Yankee GM who was working the Mets, had talked hopefully of a .500 mark earlier than the season. Perhaps it wasn’t too late?

Alas, the Mets misplaced their subsequent 17 video games. The ‘62 staff’s destiny as lovable losers was sealed. Not that it’s been a nasty journey.

“That first win, as I look again, it’s much more particular now than it was then,” Anderson says. “It began one thing in New York. I by no means thought a dropping staff like that might get a lot notoriety. I’m astounded by the eye we’re getting. We get super autograph requests now.

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“I get requests to signal ‘Unique Met,’ so I put ‘1962 Unique Met’ on all the things I signal now. I by no means thought that might occur.”

“I can’t consider it’s been 60 years,” provides Thomas, who’s now 92. “Sixty years glided by fairly quick. You understand, we weren’t so unhealthy. Hodges obtained damage and if he hadn’t, we’d’ve been that significantly better of a membership. However when the Mets got here into existence, we have been cherished as a result of we had the NL recreation again in New York. All of them cherished us, it doesn’t matter what we did. And all of us cherished it.”

For years, Hook had a recreation ball from the primary win. He had stuffed it into the within pocket of his sports activities coat after the sport. In 1967, whereas he was working for Chrysler, he had a glass case made with a plaque for the ball and gave it to the Mets in a ceremony at dwelling plate earlier than a recreation at Shea. After the Payson household bought the staff, Hook says, they’d the ball and it was finally given to Rusty Staub for use in an public sale to learn Staub’s in depth charity work.

“It ended up with the Mets, which is nice, as a result of that’s what I needed within the first place,” the 85-year-old Hook says. The ball now sits on show within the Mets Corridor of Fame and Museum at Citi Subject.

Hook as soon as requested one in all his 13 grandchildren to take an image of the ball and textual content it to him when she attended a Mets recreation. He’s wanting ahead to seeing it once more himself on Aug. 27, the Mets revival of their Outdated Timers Day. Thomas, Anderson and 88-year-old reliever Ken MacKenzie are planning to be there, as properly.

“All of the grandkids need to see it, too,” Hook says.

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