Among the 65 former players and managers scheduled to be on hand Aug. 27 when the Mets hold their first Old-Timers’ Day since 1994 are five of the 15 living members from the franchise’s inaugural season of 1962.
“The Mets had to start somewhere,” pitcher Craig Anderson said last week in a telephone interview, “and we happened to be the ones that started the franchise.”
Anderson will be joined at Citi Field by 1962 Mets teammates Jay Hook, Ed Kranepool, Ken MacKenzie and Frank Thomas.
The 1962 Mets, who went 40-120 under colorful manager Casey Stengel, still hold the MLB record for losses in a season.
They also hold a special place in Mets fans' hearts, even 60 years later.
“Even though we lost 120 games, the fans were outstanding, and I don’t see that changing when we come back this time because we still are a part of the organization, at least from the historical standpoint,” Anderson, 83, said from his home in Dunnellon, Florida. “With Stengel and [Gil] Hodges being a part of it, that was an amazing experience for me as a younger player, and I think the fans bought into us. I don’t see it changing. In fact, I’m getting a lot more autograph requests, a lot from the New York and New Jersey area, so they know this is going to happen. I think we’re going to be well-received.”
The 1962 Mets had some memorable moments. Anderson was the winning pitcher in both games of a doubleheader against Milwaukee on May 12. He led the Mets that year in appearances (50) and saves (four).
As Anderson said, everything has to start somewhere, and the franchise started with nine consecutive defeats. The first victory was a 9-1 five-hitter thrown by Hook, Anderson's roommate, on April 23 in Pittsburgh.
Hodges, who would go on to manage the 1969 World Series champion Mets and will be posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame next month, had two of his 32 hits for the 1962 Mets in that game.
Hook, 85, kept the ball from the final out of that victory and gave it back to the Mets in a home-plate ceremony in 1967. Through a circuitous route, the ball — signed and dated by Hook — ended up in a 2019 Sotheby’s auction with a suggested price tag of $30,000 as part of the estate of the charitable foundation of the late Mets great Rusty Staub.
When Hook heard about it, he said he exclaimed: “I’ve signed hundreds of baseballs. None of them are worth that kind of money.”
As it turned out, the Mets bought the ball back for a donation to the Staub foundation and it is on display in the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum at Citi Field.
Hook, who led the 1962 Mets in starts (34) and complete games (13), expects to have about 30 family members joining him on Old-Timer’s Day. That makes sense; the Traverse City, Michigan, resident has four children, 13 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
He said a lot of them want to see that ball on Aug. 27.
Hook retired from baseball in 1964 to finish his master’s degree in engineering at Northwestern and went on to a successful career in business and academia. He said earning the first victory in Mets history is something “I hear about fairly frequently.”
He’s going to hear about it again on Aug. 27, when he is introduced as an honored guest of the Mets and an important part of their history.
“For most of the fans, the guys that have only been out of baseball for 10 years or 20 years, they’ll be remembered very well because the fans were around when they were playing,” Hook said. “There aren’t a lot of people around that were there 60 years ago.”
Some fans might be more interested in seeing the more recent Old-Timers. But there will be a segment of the crowd that is excited to see the five members of the 1962 Mets.
Two members of that team recently passed away within a day of each other. Catcher Joe Pignatano died on May 23 at age 92. Pitcher Bob G. Miller died the next day at age 86.
Anderson said the last time he was at a Mets Old-Timers’ Day was in 1986, when the introductions took place but the scheduled Old-Timers’ game was rained out.
This year’s ceremonies are expected to begin at 5 p.m., with the Old-Timers’ game taking place before the Mets host the Rockies at 7:10 p.m.
“I’m just about booked on every part of this trip,” Anderson said. “I’m very happy to be able to come back for at least one more time, anyway.”