The Mets wrapped up their most recent successful series in Philadelphia this afternoon, so today on Glory Days we’ll take a look at the greatest New York game for a man best known as a Phillie: original Met Richie Ashburn.
Dateline: June 23, 1962. The Mets were…well, the ’62 Mets. They were 18-48 at this point and had just been blown out of the water by the other National League expansion franchise, the Houston Colt .45s, 16-3 the night before. Casey Stengel’s bunch was looking for revenge, and behind their future Hall-of-Fame leadoff man, one of the few men here who actually could play this game, they would get it in the sweetest way.
Things didn’t look so promising when Jay Hook served up a leadoff home run to Houston’s Al Spangler. But the Amazin’s responded in the bottom of the 1st when Ashburn singled, Charlie Neal doubled, and Frank Thomas drove them both in two batters later. Mets 2, Colts 1. At this point, fans would’ve walked away satisfied: the Mets actually led today! Oh, would they get their thrills over the remaining two and a half hours.
In the bottom of the 3rd, Hook did his best impression of Matt Harvey by picking up a base hit. Ashburn then did something he had only done 25 times previously in his 15-year career: he hit a home run. This made it 4-1, enough to equal the current Mets’ run total for just about all of last week. But there was even more in that half inning: Marvelous Marv Throneberry hit a two-run triple to right (remembering to step on first and second base along the way) and later came in on Sammy Taylor’s double. Taylor then scored on Elio Chacon’s base hit, and suddenly the New York ballclub was up 8-1.
In the very next inning, Ashburn led off and was looking for a proper encore. He got it in the form of a solo home run, his second in a game for the 3rd and final time in his career. It was now 9-1, and even that first Mets team could hold on to a lead like that. Jay Hook finished what he started, allowing just two Colt runs and leading the Mets to their 19th win of 1962, 13-2, to send the 6,425 Polo Grounds faithful home happy for once. Ashburn finished with a career day, even for his illustrious career, going 3-4 with those two homers, a walk, and four runs, including the last one of the game in the bottom of the 8th.
The ’62 Mets, of course, were just about half finished with winning for the year after this one. They finished at the dismal mark of 40-120, but has any team ever been as lovable? As for Richie Ashburn, the team’s only All-Star, his first season in New York would be his last, as the 35-year-old retired at the end of the season. He would hit two more home runs to finish with a career total of 29 (15 of which came at the Polo Grounds), 2574 hits, and a lifetime batting average of .308 to go along with his five All-Star Game appearances and two batting titles. He never gained much support during his time on the BBWWA Ballot, but in 1995 he was finally inducted (as a Phillie) into Cooperstown by the Veteran’s Committee.
June 23. A good day for Ernie Shore in 1917 (retired 26 straight batters and the man Babe Ruth walked before he was ejected from the game) and Roger Maris in 1984 (opening of his own museum in Fargo, North Dakota). Also a good day for women’s athletics in 1972 (Title IX, banning discrimination on the basis of sex in educational opportunities, including athletics, is enacted). A bad day for Richard Nixon in 1972 (the “Smoking Gun” tape, a conversation about obstructing the Watergate investigation, is recorded) and the stress levels of aspiring college students in 1926 (the first SATs are given by College Board). A great day for Richie Ashburn in 1962.