A week and a half ago, the Mets family lost one of its founding fathers: Ed Bouchee. Unsung before joining the Amazin’ squad and out of baseball by the end of the year, Bouchee will never be mentioned in any sort of conversation about the greatest in the game, but his legacy lives on as an original 1962 New York Met. Today on “Glory Days” we pay tribute to a man who, like most of the ’62 Mets, had his time in the game come before his talent did.
Dateline: April 19, 1962. New York’s newest National League franchise, in its seventh game as a team, was still looking for its first win against the late Stan Musial and the St. Louis Cardinals. The day before in a 15-5 loss, Ed Bouchee made history in the 5th inning with a three-run homer, the Mets’ first-ever home run with men on base. The 1961 expansion draftee from the Chicago Cubs, who finished second in the voting for 1957 Rookie of the Year as a Philadelphia Phillie, had spent the first six games coming off the bench to hit. But his blast in game six opened the eyes of Casey Stengel, and the Old Professor rewarded Bouchee with his first start at first base.
Al Jackson was on the hill for the home team, while Ray Washburn took the mound for the visiting Redbirds. The two traded three scoreless innings to start the game, but their staring contest ended quickly in the 4th as Jackson was the first to blink. Ken Boyer led off with a home run and after a single and wild pitch put Gene Oliver on second base, a 6-hole-hitting Musial (really?) singled him home.
The New Yorkers would respond in the next half-inning as Gus Bell led off with a walk. After Frank Thomas fouled out to third base, Bouchee brought his team back even again with a big two-run home run, the second multi-run shot for both him and the Mets.
Now, if this particular game was played to just four innings and the tie went to the home team, the Mets would have been made. Unfortunately, there were five more innings to go, and Bouchee’s game-tying blast was as much as the 9,060 fans at the Polo Grounds would get to celebrate. The Cardinals tagged Jackson for four runs in the top of the 5th, half of them driven in from Musial in the 6-hole (again, really?).
New York almost got the ball rolling again in the 6th when Thomas hit a solo home run and Bouchee doubled on a line drive to third base, but groundouts by Charlie Neal and Felix Mantilla killed the rally. St. Louis tacked on three more runs in the 8th and Thomas’s second solo shot was far from enough. Final score: St. Louis 9, New York 4. Ed Bouchee’s final line (3-4, 2B, HR, 2 RBI) was the silver lining for a Mets team that was still in search of its first victory.
It would take till April 23 for Stengel’s squad to chalk up its first win, and if you’re reading this on Rising Apple, you know already that the ’62 team would only win 39 times the rest of the way. Bouchee was only there for 11 of those Ws: after hitting his third home run on April 27 his stats fell off a cliff deeper than dead center at the Polo Grounds, hitting .106 with 2 RBIs and a .362 OPS in 79 plate appearances. The 29-year-old made his last appearance for the Mets on July 29, grounding out to end the second game of a doubleheader. He never played another game in the major leagues, ending his seven-year career with a .265 batting average for three different teams.
The Pride of Livingston, Montana’s career may not have ended the way he wanted it to, but he was one of the first to join the privileged fraternity that is the New York Mets. And so we here at Rising Apple bid you a fond farewell, Mr. Bouchee. May you forever get to play the game you loved so dearly.
April 19. A good day for Yankee Stadium in 1949 (monuments of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Miller Huggins are erected in center field) and Roger Maris in 1960 (goes 4-5 in his Yankee debut). Also a good day for Grace Kelly in 1956 (becomes Princess of Monaco after marrying Prince Rainier). A bad day for Mae West in 1927 (sentenced to 10 days in jail for obscenity.) A great day for Ed Bouchee in 1962.