On this week's podcast, Paul and I did a deep dive on the 1962 Mets. They are a famous—or infamous—team for a couple different reasons. First, it was the first season in franchise history. Two, they are considered by many the worst baseball team in modern history. I found my research into that squad to be quite interesting, so I thought I'd share it with you.
After the completion of the 1957 season, the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers moved to California. Leaving with them were young stars Sandy Koufax (21) and Willie Mays (26). This resulted in New York being an AL-only city for the next four seasons.
Prominent New York City lawyer William Shea was the driving force that brought a second team back to the city. He, along with Branch Rickey (retired at the time), threatened to start the Continental League by 1961 in an effort to force the AL and NL to expand. Both leagues became concerned, so they brought the California Angels and Washington Senators to the AL in 1961 and the Mets and Houston Colt .45s (later changed to Astros) to the NL in 1962. Fun fact: the colors of the Mets logo served as a compromise: Dodgers' Blue and Giants' orange.
To supply the Mets and Colt .45s with players, an expansion draft was held in October 1961. Each National League team (eight at the time) had to make 15 players form their 40-man roster available with seven of those having to be on the 25-man roster. The two expansion teams had to draft 20 players from that pool for amounts ranging from $75,000-$125,000. The results of this first draft were so poor that after two seasons, another draft for the two teams was held.
Alright, let's get to the 1962 Mets. They went 40-120. 120 is the second most losses of all-time, only trailing the 1899 Cleveland Spiders (20-134). Their run differential of -331 is the third worst since 1900.
|Boston Red Sox||1932||43-111||-349|
|New York Mets||1962||40-120||-331|
The Mets went 22-58 at home (Polo Grounds) and 18-62 on the road. Making matters worse for New York fans, the Mets faired poorly against the Dodgers (2-16) and Giants (4-14). Even against their fellow expansion parter in Houston, the Mets went 3-13-1. They suffered through separate losing streaks of 11, 13, and 17 games; the Mets longest winning streak in 1962 was three games. The offense was terrible (19th of 20), but it was the pitching staff and defense that really struggled.
1962 Mets Starting Pitchers
Up until 1969, there were no divisions within the AL and NL; the top team from each league during the regular season would simply play for the World Series. Of course, the 1962 Mets finished dead last, 60 1/2 games back of first. Again adding insult to injury, the Giants and Dodgers tied for first with a 101-61 record (the Giants won a three-game tiebreaker series). Despite their poor record, the Mets drew close to one million fans in their first year—more than nine other clubs. The Giants and Dodgers were hits on the west coast, drawing 1.6 million and 2.8 million respectively. By 1964, the Mets were up to second in baseball at 1.7 million. And as their popularity continued to soar, the Mets led baseball in attendance for four straight years starting in 1969.
The Mets manager in their inaugural season was baseball legend Casey Stengel. Stengel came to the Mets as a seven-time World Series champion—all with the Yankees. Stengel managed the Mets' first four seasons (1962-65) and finished last every year. Somehow, Mets fans loved him enough to retire his number 37 jersey in 1965—five years before the Yankees followed suit.
First Four Seasons as Manager
|Yankees||388-228||.630||WS Champs 4x|
|Mets||175-404||.302||Last in baseball 4x|
If you'd like more knowledge on this terrible team, there is a very well-regarded book you should read: Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game? (Jimmy Breslin).