The New York Mets will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the franchise this year. Earlier this week, longtime New York Times reporter George Vescey wrote a tribute to the National League franchise, sharing never-before heard stories and memories. Below are three short excerpts of Vescey’s story.
The losses came after the Mets were cobbled together in the manic spring of 1962 and supported by a built-in fan base of New York’s brokenhearted National League fans. In this round-year anniversary — it has been 60 years since that inaugural season — it is safe to say that never has an American sports team begun with an aura like that of Stengel’s Amazing Mets — bedsheet banners, lusty chants and ancient blood loyalties, all touched off by the Ancient Mariner of a skipper.
Some of us can still remember how this all began, when Stengel assembled his pitchers at home plate on a funky lakeside practice field in St. Petersburg, Fla., in February 1962 and commanded them to run to first base, because that was the essence of baseball.
As the team filled its roster with players other clubs did not want, Stengel was creating the Mets, an image-building act worthy of a high-grade advertising agency — whisking back and forth from his home in Glendale, Calif., to wherever there were note pads and cameras and microphones in New York.
In January 1962, Stengel materialized in Manhattan to hold a no-news conference. Jacobson reported in Newsday that Stengel had drawn photographers and even Gabe Pressman, the peripatetic radio news reporter, away from “the president and the mayor” — that is, John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Wagner.
Stengel waved a paper roster detailing the culls and rejects the Mets had accumulated — geezers named Hodges, Ashburn, Bell, Zimmer, Thomas, Labine, Neal — to attract nostalgic National League fans … The Old Man said he wore out a roster every day, brandishing it to writers and fans and prospective ticket buyers.