The 1966 New York Mets season began with a number of changes. After the 1965 season, the interim tag was removed from Wes Westrum’s managerial title. It didn’t take long for Westrum to begin overhauling his field staff, hiring Harvey Haddix as pitching coach and Whitey Herzog as third base coach.
Throughout the offseason the Mets made roster moves in hopes of fielding a roster of young and veteran talent. The team acquired Ken Boyer (3B), Ed Bressoud (2B), Dick Stuart (1B), Jerry Grote (C) and Jack Hamilton (P).
The Mets infused a handful of exciting young new players to the roster including Cleon Jones, Bud Harrelson, Ron Swoboda, Ed Kranepool, Tug McGraw, Nolan Ryan and Grote, all who would play key roles in the team’s future success.
Just days before Opening Day, on April 3, 1966, the Mets won the rights to sign Tom Seaver in a special lottery.
“George Weiss (then Mets GM) was against it,” Bing Devine told Peter Golenbeck in Amazin’. “Let’s be honest, he didn’t know anything about him.” Joe McDonald and Devine knew Seaver. He could help the Mets win – soon. “… I had to make a case, a big case, and I remember George Weiss finally shook his head and said, ‘If you people make such a big case of it, go ahead.’”
Westrum saw an opportunity to change the franchise’s trajectory, both on the field and off the field. He encouraged the team to believe they could win. Westrum had signs in the clubhouse that read, “If you think you can, you can.”
The Mets were scheduled to open the season at Crosley Field in Cincinnati but were rained out three days straight. The team returned home to play their season opener in New York against the Atlanta Braves.
Cleon Jones homered, but the Mets couldn’t hold the lead, losing 3-2, and their fifth consecutive loss on Opening Day. As the season began to hit full stride the Mets showed improvement, winning 14 games in June, setting a franchise record. In July, the Mets won 18 games and began flirting with the .500 mark.
The Mets fizzled in August and September, finishing the final two months with a 19-40. The Mets finished the season 66-95 in ninth place, setting franchise highs in wins. Westrum was so giddy, after the final game of the season, he led a champagne celebration in the team clubhouse.
The season recap published above is written by David Russell and published in his book, Fabulous to Futile in Flushing: A Year-by-Year History of the Mets. Do you love Mets history? Pick up this book online at your favorite bookseller and enjoy season-by-season historical recaps, Mets highlights and challenging trivia that will send you on a fun journey through the Mets rich franchise history.