The 1962 Mets
Most teams that finish 40-120-1 are quickly forgotten, but not the 1962 Mets. The 2012 season marks the 50th anniversary of the famed "Lovable Losers." In this gallery, you can "Meet the '62 Mets."
Compiled by Jim Mancari
CASEY STENGEL, Manager
Casey Stengel was a legend long before he accepted the job of being the first manager. He led the Yankees to seven World Series titles from 1949-1958. The "Old Professor" always had a memorable saying ready for the media, especially after the Amazin's continued to lose games. He once uttered the phrase, "Can't anybody here play this game?," which became the theme for '62 Mets.
RICHIE ASHBURN, Centerfield
Ashburn already had a Hall-of-Fame resume before suiting up with the '62 Mets. The 35-year-old led the team in hitting at .306 in 135 games. Ashburn, who experienced plenty of winning early in his career with the Phillies, retired after playing one season for the "Lovable Losers.”
ELIO CHACON, Shortstop
Numbers: 2, 7
Elio Chacon was the '62 Mets shortstop who barely spoke a word of English. He and centerfielder Richie Ashburn used to collide frequently on short pop-ups because neither could understand when the other called for the ball in his native language. Chacon made 22 errors that season, but he also led the Mets in stolen bases with 12. After allegedly getting into a brawl with Willie Mays, he never appeared in the Majors after 1962.
MARV THRONEBERRY, First base
After parts of five seasons with the Yankees, Kansas City Athletics and Baltimore Orioles, "Marvelous" Marv Throneberry worked his way into the Mets lineup as the team's starting first baseman after being acquired for catcher Hobie Landrith. He clubbed 16 home runs but recorded a .981 fielding percentage — the worst for any first baseman until Houston Astros' Cesar Cedeno matched that mark in 1979.
CHARLIE NEAL, Second base
Neal was one of several former Brooklyn Dodgers selected in the expansion draft. Though he had been a three-time All-Star and World Series champion (1959), Neal was approaching the end of his career upon returning to New York. He had a decent year as the Mets’ No. 3 hitter (.260, 11 home runs, 58 RBIs).
HOBIE LANDRITH, Catcher
Veteran catcher Hobie Landrith broke into the big leagues as an 18-year-old with the Cincinnati Reds. By the team he reached the Mets at age 32, his best days were behind him. However, the Mets used their first pick in 1961 expansion draft to select Landrith. Manager Casey Stengel remarked: "You gotta have a catcher or you're gonna have a lot of passed balls." Landrith started on Opening Day, but he only played in 23 games before being traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Marv Throneberry.
JOE PIGNATANO, Catcher
Pignatano made his Brooklyn Dodgers debut in April 1957 and instantly became a fan-favorite. It was a no-brainer for the Mets to bring him back home for the '62 season. The team gave the bulk of the playing time to their young catchers Chris Cannizzaro and Choo-Choo Coleman, but Pignatano played in 27 games.
CLIFF COOK, Utility
Cook started the '62 season with the Reds but was traded to the Mets with left-handed reliever Bob Miller for Don Zimmer. He played 40 games that season split between third base and the corner outfield positions. Cook remained with the Mets in 1963 and spent parts of both his Mets seasons in the minor leagues.
GUS BELL, Right field
The Mets selected Cincinnati’s four-time All-Star outfielder Gus Bell in the expansion draft before the '62 season. The 33-year-old Bell started the Mets’ first game in right field, but only appeared in 33 total games (with a .159 batting average — before being traded midseason to the Milwaukee Braves as the player to be named later in the trade that brought Frank Thomas to New York.
ED BOUCHEE, First base
Number: 3, 11
Back-up first baseman Ed Bouchee appeared in 50 games during the '62 season. Based in his .161 batting average, Bouchee had a respectable .302 on-base percentage. He drew 18 walks and was out of baseball after that year.
JIM MARSHALL, Utility
Left-handed hitting first baseman Jim Marshall only played 17 games, but he hit .344 with three home runs. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates midseason where he finished up his five-year playing career before eventually becoming a big-league manager.
CHRIS CANNIZZARO, Catcher
Chris Cannizzaro was only 24 when he was selected by the Mets off the St. Louis Cardinals’ roster. He batted .241 in 59 games as the team's part-time catcher. He remained with the Mets through the 1965 season.
JIM HICKMAN, Outfield
Hickman played all three outfield positions for the '62 Mets and finished the season third on the team with 13 home runs. Hickman was the first Met to ever hit for the cycle (Aug. 7, 1963) and hit the last home run at the Polo Grounds later that season. He was also the first Met to hit three homers in one game (Sept. 3, 1965). Finally, he was the longest tenured member of the Mets ‘62 Opening Day roster, lasting through the 1966 season.
ROD KANEHL, Utility
Kanehl was the definition of a utility player. During the '62 season — the first professional season of his career after eight minor league seasons with the Reds — Kanehl played every position except pitcher and catcher. Fans appreciated "Hot Rod's" all-out hustle, despite the team's losing ways. He hit the first grand slam in Mets history on July 6, 1962.
GENE WOODLING, Outfield
Woodling was best known as the platoon partner with Hank Bauer on Yankees teams that won five straight World Series titles from 1949-53. Woodling was reunited with his old manager Casey Stengel after the Mets acquired him from the Washington Senators during the '62 season. Woodling hit a respectable .274 in 81 games. His 17-year career spanned eight different teams.
SAMMY DRAKE, Infield
Infielder Sammy Drake came to the Mets from the Chicago Cubs via the 1961 expansion draft. In 25 games, he managed more strikeouts (12) than hits (10) in what became his last season. He and his brother Solly Drake (Cubs, Dodgers and Phillies) were the first African-American brothers to play in the big leagues.
GIL HODGES, First base
Hodges was a baseball legend in New York for helping the Brooklyn Dodgers win the 1955 World Series. The Mets brought back Hodges to be their first baseman despite knee problems that had plagued him the previous few seasons. Hodges hit the first Mets home run on Opening Day in 1962. He played a total of 54 games and hit nine home runs. Seven years later, he became the "miracle worker" that led the Mets to their first-ever World Series title.
AL JACKSON, Starting pitcher
After a brief stint with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Jackson was thrust into the Mets’ rotation for the '62 season. Don't let the 8-20 record fool you. The 26-year-old threw four shutouts, led the team with a 4.40 ERA and tied for the team lead with 118 strikeouts. As the saying goes, you have to be a good pitcher to lose 20 games, since the team continues to give you the ball. Jackson is still involved with the Mets as a minor-league pitching instructor.
BOBBY GENE SMITH, Outfield
Bobby Gene Smith lasted eight games. The outfielder was traded to the Chicago Cubs for catcher Sammy Taylor. He hit just .136 with the Mets.
SAMMY TAYLOR, Catcher
Though the Mets had catching prospects Chris Cannizzaro and Choo-Choo Coleman, the team tried a variety of players behind the plate. Early in the '62 season, the Mets sent outfielder Bobby Gene Smith to the Cubs for catcher Sammy Taylor. Taylor wound up appearing in the most games (68) of any Mets catcher during their inaugural season. He hit .222 with three home runs and 20 RBI.
CHOO-CHOO COLEMAN, Catcher
Casey Stengel referred to Clarence "Choo-Choo" Coleman as "the best low-ball catcher in baseball," and as a result, the Mets selected Coleman from the Phillies in the 1961 expansion draft. He hit .250 in 55 games that season. Coleman was a man of few words, and Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner always had trouble interviewing him. When Kiner asked him how he got the nickname "Choo-Choo," Coleman responded tersely: "I don't know, Ralph."
DON ZIMMER, Third base
The Mets used the No. 5 overall pick in the 1961 expansion draft on former Brooklyn Dodgers third baseman Don Zimmer. He started at third base on Opening Day, but after just 14 games, he was traded to the Reds for Cliff Cook and Bob Miller. Zimmer spent more than 50 years in baseball, including serving as Yankees bench coach under Joe Torre for the four World Series teams from 1996-2000. Zimmer is currently a senior advisor for the Tampa Bay Rays organization.
FELIX MANTILLA, Third base
Mantilla was a solid role player for the Milwaukee Braves in the mid-to-late 1950s before the Mets selected him in the 1961 expansion draft. After Don Zimmer was traded, Mantilla became the Mets’ regular third baseman. Though he made 20 errors at the hot corner, he set career-highs in batting average (.275), home runs (11) and RBI (59). The Mets traded him to the Boston Red Sox for Pumpsie Green and Tracy Stallard after the season.
KEN MACKENZIE, Relief pitcher
The Canadian hurler Ken MacKenzie was a regular in the '62 Mets bullpen. He led Mets relievers with a 1.51 WHIP. With a 5-4 record on a team that lost 120 games, he was the only Mets pitcher to finish the season with a winning record.
CRAIG ANDERSON, Relief pitcher
Righty Craig Anderson was a favorite of Casey Stengel. He led all Mets pitchers with 50 total appearances in 1962. However, he finished the year 3-17 with a 5.35 ERA.
ED KRANEPOOL, First base
Ed Kranepool is likely best remembered for his role with the 1969 World Champions Mets, but he was actually part of the '62 team as well. At age 17, he appeared in three games in September — making him the youngest Met by six years. Kranepool spent his entire 18-year career with the Mets and is still the franchise leader with 1,418 career hits.
JOE CHRISTOPHER, Right field
Originally a Pittsburgh Pirate, Joe Christopher was the Mets' fifth pick in the 1961 expansion draft. He took over Gus Bell's starting right field job and hit .244 in 119 games. His best season as a Met came in 1964 when he hit .300 with 16 home runs and 76 RBIs.
BOB L. MILLER, Starting pitcher
Miller, a right-hander, went 1-12 for the '62 Mets. His 12 consecutive losses was a Mets record until Anthony Young lost 27 straight decisions from May 1992-July 1993. After spending time with eight other teams, Miller finished his career with the Mets for the 1973-74 seasons.
FRANK THOMAS, Left field
Thomas was traded to the Mets from the Milwaukee Braves late in 1961. Despite being unhappy suiting up for the lowly Mets, Thomas led the team in home runs (34), RBIs (94) and games played (156) and was the team's primary cleanup hitter.
GALEN CISCO, Pitcher
Curveball specialist Galen Cisco joined the '62 Mets after beginning the season with the Boston Red Sox. He appeared in just four games, but he spent his next three full seasons in the Mets bullpen.
VINEGAR BEND MIZELL, Relief pitcher
Wilmer Davis Mizell, best known as "Vinegar Bend," appeared in 17 games for the '62 Mets. His last season was '62 after spending eight years split between the St. Louis Cardinals (seen above in 1953) and Pittsburgh Pirates. After baseball, Mizell spent three terms as a Republican U.S. Congressman from 1969-75.
HERB MOFORD, Pitcher
Moford, pictured here in 1959 with the Boston Red Sox, played four seasons in the big leagues, each with a different team. His final season was in '62 with the Mets. Moford only saw action in seven games, but one of them was Opening Day.
DAVE HILLMAN, Pitcher
Number: 27, 34
Hillman joined the Mets during the '62 season after coming over from the Reds. In 13 games, he made one start and 12 relief appearances — eight of which were games finished. Before becoming a Met, he was involved in the first inter-league trade without waivers when he was sent from the Boston Red Sox to the Reds.
JOHN DEMERIT, Outfield
DeMerit was a member of the 1957 World Series champion Milwaukee Braves before closing out his career with the Mets in '62. He only had 18 plate appearances that season and hit just .188.
ROGER CRAIG, Starting pitcher
Roger Craig pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers and started Games 1 and 4 of the 1959 World Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Yet, his most notable start came on Opening Day in '62, when he pitched the first game in Mets history. Craig took the loss that day (and 23 more times that season), but he also led the Mets with 10 wins. The following season, Craig went 5-22 for the Mets.
CLEM LABINE, Pitcher
Clem Labine won a career-high 13 games for the 1955 World Series champion Brooklyn Dodgers. He returned to New York as a free agent with the '62 Mets, but by that time, he was 35. It was more of a symbolic signing for Labine to suit up in a Mets uniform, since he only pitched in three games all season, including Opening Day.
HARRY CHITI, Catcher
Chiti spent 10 years bouncing around between the Chicago Cubs, Kansas City Athletics (catching in above photo) and Detroit Tigers. He was traded to the Cleveland Indians prior to the '62 season but was purchased by the Mets on April 25 for a player to be named later. He played so poorly in his time with the Mets (.195 batting average in 15 games), the Mets sent him back to the Indians. Chiti was therefore the "player to be named later" in the previous trade and thus became the first player ever traded for himself.
JAY HOOK, Starting pitcher
After posting a 7.76 ERA in 1961, Jay Hook was left unprotected on the Reds roster, and he was drafted by the expansion Mets. In his second start of the season on April 23, 1962, Hook recorded the first win in Mets history. Of course, it came in the team's 10th game. Hook finished 8-19 with a 4.84 ERA and led the Mets with 13 complete games and 34 games started.
RICK HERRSCHER, Utility
Herrscher was a player to be named later sent from the Braves to the Mets in the trade that brought slugging outfielder Frank Thomas to Flushing. Herrscher's only Major League experience came in the last two months of the season. He hit .220 in 35 games.
JOE GINSBERG, Catcher
Ginsberg caught for six other teams and was 35 years old before signing with the Mets in January 1962. The Manhattan native only played in two games and was 0-for-5 at the plate. He retired after the season.
BOB MOORHEAD, Relief pitcher
The Mets selected relief pitcher Bob Moorhead off the Reds roster in the 1961 expansion draft. He was brought into 38 games and finished 11. He closed out the season 0-2 with a 4.53 ERA — the lowest of any Met reliever that season.
LARRY FOSS, Pitcher
Foss spent parts of two seasons in the big leagues, the latter of which came with the '62 Mets. He appeared in five games (four as a relief pitcher and one as a starter) and posted a 4.53 ERA.
WILLARD HUNTER, Relief pitcher
Hunter started the '62 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he finished it with the Mets. The lefty went 1-6 with a 5.57 ERA in 27 games (six starts) for the Amazin's.
RAY DAVIAULT, Relief pitcher
Ray Daviault from Montréal spent the only season of his big-league career with the '62 Mets. In 36 games, he was 1-5 with a 6.22 ERA out of the bullpen.
SHERMAN JONES, Pitcher
Sherman Jones went from pitching in the 1961 World Series for the Reds to pitching for the Mets — the losingest team in MLB history. Jones appeared in eight games for the '62 Mets and was 0-4 as a starter and reliever. He later served in the Kansas state House of Representatives and Senate.
BOB MILLER, Relief pitcher
A lefty reliever, Miller capped his five-year career with the '62 Mets. To distinguish the two Bob Millers on the team, manager Casey Stengel called Bob L. Miller "Nelson." This Bob Miller went 2-2 with a 7.08 ERA in 17 games that season.