On the eve of the New York Mets first game in franchise history, general manager George Weiss was asked what his goal was for the fledgling franchise.
“We are aiming for .500 and we will be pleasantly surprised if we go above .500,” he told the media. “(Casey) Stengel will not let the men coast and he will get some good from our young pitchers with good arms who never had real opportunities to pitch regularly before.”
Weiss was referring to Al Jackson (26), Jay Hook (25), Bob Miller (23) and Craig Anderson (23) who, by season’s end, combined to record 20 wins and 68 losses. Even veteran ace (for lack of a better word) Roger Craig was ineffective, finishing 10-24 with a 4.51 ERA in 42 appearances (33 starts).
Ralph Kiner and Bob Murphy have been broadcasting since Night One. “You thought they’d hit a little, and they did,” said Ralph Kiner. “But the pitching …”
But “the pitching” is right. The Mets staff finished last in wins, ERA, hits allowed, runs, home runs and strikeouts.
“We knew they were going to be bad, but not that bad,” added legendary Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy years later.
On April 11, 1962 in front of a modest crowd of 16,147, the New York Mets took the rain-soaked field at Busch Stadium in St. Louis for their first regular season game in franchise history.
Cardinals starter Larry Jackson wasted no time exploited the Mets’ weaknesses as Richie Ashburn, Felix Mantilla and Charlie Neal went quietly in the first inning. The Cardinals jumped on Roger Craig early, on three consecutive hits and a balk by Craig that set up a two-run first.
The Mets made history in the second inning when Gus Bell collected the Mets first-ever hit, a line drive single to center field off Jackson. The Mets tied the game an inning later, scoring two runs. Ashburn scored the first run in franchise history and Charlie Neal recorded the first RBI. The Cards scored three runs in the bottom of the third, cruising to an 11-4 win.
The Mets committed three errors, left seven runners on base and grounded into two double plays. Craig, the Mets starting pitcher, allowed five runs and eight hits in three innings including a balk, marking the first loss in a season he would pile up 24 losses which is still a franchise record.
In hindsight, the Mets inaugural game was a foreshadowing of things to come. The Mets held their own through mid-May (12-19) before the wheels fell off. New York dropped 17 straight games from May 21-June 6. The Mets suffered through two more long losing streaks that season losing nine of 10 from June 12-June 20 and an 13-game losing streak from August 9-21. The ’62 Mets lost 120 games and recorded only 40 wins, finishing 60 1/2 games behind the National League champion San Francisco Giants.
MORE FROM 1962
Nineteen sixty-two, the inaugural season of the New York Mets, marked the return of National League baseball in New York for the first time since 1957 when the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants moved some 3,000 miles west to California.
Breslin would win a Pulitzer Prize in 1986 for “columns which consistently champion ordinary citizens.” That makes his 1963 book about the “amazin’ Mets” all the more exceptional. The gravedigger at Arlington may have been an ordinary citizen. But New York Mets of 1962 were no ordinary ball club. They weren’t nearly that good.
Dubbed “the Amazin’s” and “lovable losers,” the expansion New York Mets set a modern record for baseball futility in their first season in the National League.
The glove I took to spring training in 1962, hooked through the handle of my portable manual typewriter, saw service only once, which was enough. Early one morning in St. Petersburg, Fla., while the scrubs were batting against a hung-over bullpen coach, I slipped into right field and settled under what broadcasters call “an easy soft fly.” It exploded in my hand. My palm still stings at the memory.
A new day was dawning for New York baseball fans. After the Dodgers and Giants had left town, 4 years had passed without a National League team in New York. Now National League fans had one. The New York Metropolitan Baseball Club had been formed in March of 1961 and quickly became known as the Mets.
Shea Remembered is a series featuring 10 memorable Mets moments by decade. This feature is intended to stir great Mets memories at Shea Stadium throughout franchise history. This list is not exhaustive, nor is it recorded in any order of importance. Finally, the moments are exclusive to baseball and does not include non-Met events (i.e., concerts, other sports, etc.). We hope this content triggers great memories for you.
The New York Mets stayed at the Chase Park Plaza in St. Louis the night before the season opener. After the team was rained out on the scheduled April 10 date, players went back to the hotel. After having dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, a group of Mets players piled into the elevator. “We were going up to our rooms, and I was in the elevator with a bunch of other players; it was packed, and Harry Chiti jumped in there. That’s what did it,” Rod Kanehl told Peter Golenbock in his book, Amazin‘. “The elevator went about three floors, and it stopped.” The players were stuck in the elevator for nearly 30 minutes before help arrived.
METS FIRSTS RECORDED ON OPENING DAY 1962
- First Game: vs. St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium
- First Batter: Richie Ashburn
- First Hit: Gus Bell (single, second inning vs. Cardinals)
- First Home Run: Gil Hodges (vs. St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Larry Jackson)
- First Run: Richie Ashburn (third inning)
- First Walk: Felix Mantilla (third inning)
- First Strikeout: Roger Craig (third inning)
- First Batter Faced: Curt Flood (flied out to CF)
- First Run Allowed: Julian Javier (first inning)
- First Hit Allowed: Julian Javier (first inning off Roger Craig)
- First Batter Walked: Stan Musial (fifth inning vs. Bob Moorhead)
- First Batter to Strikeout: Gene Oliver (second inning vs. Roger Craig)
- First Error: Charlie Neal (groundball hit to second base in sixth inning)
- First Pinch-Hitter: Ed Bouchee (fourth inning, walked for Roger Craig)
- First Relief Pitcher: Bob Moorhead (fourth inning)