The 1963 returned their second season better, at least in the win-loss column, but were only marginally better than the year before. Playing their second and final season at the Polo Grounds, the Mets compiled a 51-111 record, finishing in 10th place in the National League.
Despite similar results on the field, the franchise began a shift to cultivate young, talented players. “I’ve stopped looking for old names,” said Mets general manager George Weiss. “This time we’re younger.”
Ron Hunt led the Mets youth movement. At age 22, Hunt represented the hard-nosed, scrappy talent the franchise hoped to develop. Much like Tom Seaver in later years, Hunt deplored losing. He would shout at teammates when they blew a play or failed to hustle. Hunt added a spark to the roster.
In addition, Ed Kranepool turned heads too.
“At the plate he acts like a player who has five or six years experience,” manager Casey Stengel told The Sporting News. “He knows the strike zone as well as any of my veterans and better than most.” But Kranepool’s hot spring didn’t bear fruit during the regular season. In 86 games, he batted .209 with two home runs and 14 RBI.
The Mets opened the 1963 season losing eight straight games and seemed on there way to their ninth straight loss. Trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth to the Milwaukee Braves, Choo Choo Coleman singled, followed by back-to-back doubles by Jim Hickman and Hunt to beat win the game, 5-4. Mets owner Joan Payson was so thrilled by the comeback she sent a bouquet of roses to Hunt’s house. Unfortunately, the Mets infielder suffered from asthma, hay fever and allergies. The flowers kept Hunt awake most of the night before he finally put them in the trash outside the house.
On June 14, Duke Snider of the Mets hit his 400th home run off Bob Purkey of the Cincinnati Reds. Snider became the ninth player to reach 400 homers. Afterwards, Mets outfielder Jimmy Piersall told Snider that he could get more publicity for his 100th home run. Nine days later, on June 23, Piersall ran the bases backward after hitting the 100th home run of his career off Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Dallas Green.
Piersall’s antics cost him his job. A few weeks later Piersall was released. “There’s only room for one clown on this team,” said Stengel.
The Mets struggled to stay competitive over the long season, losing 15 straight from June 28-July 14 and 10-in-a-row from July 18-28, finishing the month of July with a 4-25 record. The team was shutout 30 times during the season; the most by any team in major league history.
In a July start, Roger Craig switched from number 38 to 36 to change his luck. He lost and went back to 38. A 2-1 loss to the Braves on August 4 tied him for the NL record with Boston’s Cliff Curtis, who had done it in 1910. On August 9, Craig switched to number 13 and picked up a win when Hickman hit a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth. Craig would finish the season 5-22.
The Mets played their final home game at the Polo Grounds (and final game at the old ballpark) on September 18. In typical 60’s Mets fashion, the team dropped a 5-1 decision to the Philadelphia Phillies in front of a modest 1,752 fans
The season recap published above (in bold) 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.