Monday, June 6, 2016

62 Mets

A New York buddy of mine likes to sign his e-mails with the name of someone famous or infamous.  He's coming up in June to see a Red Sox game.  I wrote to him earlier today telling him that I had secured the tickets.  He responded with a thank you and signed it Choo Choo Coleman.  This made me laugh.

When the Giants and Dodgers left New York, National League fans were starved for baseball for four years.  We would go reluctantly to the hated Yankee games. Some would travel to Philadelphia to watch the Dodgers or Giants when they were nearby.  Many would stay up late at night and listen to recreated broadcasts of the Giant games on the radio.

Then, in 1962, the Mets started playing baseball--or something equivalent to it.  The Mets were really terrible. The first year they won only 40 games losing 122, which might still be a record of some sort. Nevertheless the Mets were fan favorites in New York because New Yorkers liked national league baseball. So despite the fact that the Mets were, as my father would say, "from hunger" we would go all the way into Manhattan to watch the Mets in the Polo Grounds.

I did not realize until a moment ago that Coleman actually played on the original 62 Mets.  I remember him playing later when the Mets moved to Queens and played in Shea Stadium.  Regardless I remember him.  He was billed as a catcher who was good at catching pitchers who had sinkers and an unusually fast player for a catcher that, as a group, tend to be slowpokes.  But like the rest of the Mets he really wasn't that good. I just read a quote from the original manager of the Mets Casey Stengel.  About Coleman's speed he said that he'd never seen a catcher so fast at retrieving passed balls.  

How do I remember an obscure catcher from fifty five years ago?  I just do.  There was a story going around about how one of my little kid cronies had bumped into him on the subway after a game.  We thought that was cool.  

I remember where I was when the Mets won its first game after nine consecutive losses.  The headline over the Daily News box score, I'm not making this up, was Mets win. Mazel Tov. The winning pitcher was an Engineering student turned professional baseball player named Jay Hook. Since he was an engineer, and since Hook really was not that good despite his getting the first win, some sports scribe commented that Hook could explain how a curveball works better than he could throw one.  

The 62 Mets had old timers who were on their way out plus babies who couldn't throw or hit. Gil Hodges, Bob Cerv, Roger Craig, Richie Ashburn--all good players in their prime--were collecting social security by the time they got to the Mets. Then you had the likes of Choo Choo Coleman and a jack of all trades named Rod Kanehl who one day would be at short and the next day at first and maybe the next day selling hot dogs.

Still, I remember the Mets so fondly.  My brother and I would watch and listen to the games despite the fact that they nearly always lost and found remarkable ways to do so.  Once Casey Stengel, after a difficult loss was asked if he believed what had just happened. Stengel's response, "Do I believe that? No I do not."

Brings a smile to my face.

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