Welcome to the show: The Mets' first game

Casey Stengel, covered in ticker tape, tosses plastic

Casey Stengel, covered in ticker tape, tosses plastic baseballs from his open car during a welcoming parade in New York City, Stengel returns as manager of the New York Mets, which will play its home games in the Polo Grounds. (April 12, 1962) (Credit: AP)

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ST. LOUIS - How Newsday covered the story of the Mets' inaugural game on April 11, 1962.

There is no Santa Claus, the meek shall not inherit the earth and the Mets will not win all their games.

The brutality of their own limitations was so evident in the Mets' 11-4 opening game loss to the Cardinals last night that the weak-hearted might fear for their losing all their games. But that's only because first impressions are so damning.

Things became so painful in the late stages of this long-awaited debut of New York's new team that it was hard to remember that the Mets actually made a fight of it for five innings. There were noble blows in the form of Gil Hodges' home run -- a most fitting of the Mets' first -- in the fourth inning and Charley Neal's homer in the fifth.

That put them at a deficit of only 5-4, but then their limitations started showing. In addition to the little mistakes that don't show up in the boxscores, there were the big mistakes: three errors, three stolen bases for the Cards and 16 hits off four Mets' pitchers. Cardinals manager Johnny Keane tried to think of a nice word to say for the famous old man in the other dugout. "Actually, I was too busy thinking about my own team to feel sorry for Stengel," Keane said.

Casey Stengel agreed that Stan Musial's three hits were "Pretty good but weren't the only thing." He said the Mets' hitting was encouraging. The closest thing he came to recognizing the disappointment of losing the first game was, "We didn't have a good day out there"

Stengel wasn't shocked: So someone asked, "Were you shocked that it was so bad?"

He didn't blink. "Shocked? No, I could tell it was going haywire in the first innings when the ground balls went through [a grounder past Hodges that the first baseman thought he should have caught) and the other one fell in left,'' the manager said, referring to a soft fly by Musial that leftfielder Frank Thomas vainly pursued like a man running in a quagmire.

"Damn," Mets centerfielder Richie Ashburn said. "The thing was that we'll probably never see Larry Jackson pitch so badly again."

After they fell behind, 2-0, in the first inning, the Mets got second-inning hits by Gus Bell (the Mets' first) and Don Zimmer, but they went to waste. The Mets tied it in the third. After Ashburn hit a one-out single and Felix Mantilla walked Neal knocked in Ashburn and moved Mantilla to third with the first of his three hits. Mantilla scored on a sacrifice fly by Thomas, tying the score at 2.

The next time the Mets came to bat they were behind 5-2 as the Cardinals scored three more runs off Mets starter Roger Craig.

Hodges hit his 362nd homer, moving him ahead of Joe DiMaggio into 11th place in the all-time standings, and Neal's homer brought the Mets withoin one before the Cards put the game out of reach with a run in the fifth and four in the sixth.

The thing took on a bloody carnage aspect in the eighth. . . As it turned out, Clem Labine got out of it with only one run. If he hadn't the brutality might have set those with weak stomachs to forget boxing and cry for the abolishment of baseball -- at least the kind the Mets may be involved in too often this year.

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