The Expansion Draft
Now that the Mets had a franchise, it was time to fill the roster with suitable players, if only suitable in the sense that they would occupy blue and orange baseball uniforms.
The first Expansion Draft in NL history was “held by the National League on October 10 of 1961 at the Netherland-Hilton Hotel in Cincinnati,” per this post by Thad Mumau from the Seamheads blog.
“The Mets spent $1.8 million to draft 22 players. They used their first pick to take San Francisco Giants catcher Hobie Landrith. Stengel justified the selection of Landrith – a lifetime .237 hitter with 28 home runs in more than 1,600 at-bats – by saying, ‘You have got to start with a catcher or you will have all passed balls.'”
This was one of manager Casey Stengel‘s most famous of many quotes about this team.
“Old Case was hired to provide entertainment and to keep the Mets in the headlines even if their performance on the field did not. He was a delightful distraction, and he uttered one of his more famous quotes after watching a typical performance by the Mets: ‘Can’t anybody here play this game?’ Jimmy Breslin used the quote as the title for his book on the Mets’ first season.”
Casey wasn’t the only quotable person around the Mets. “When notified that his contract had been purchased by the Mets, [Billy] Loes said, ‘The Mets is a good thing. They give everybody jobs. Just like the WPA (Works Progress Administration).’”
More on the 1961 NL Expansion Draft, this time from the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). The collection of draft picks for the Mets and Houston Colt .45’s were nothing to write home about.
Maybe more interesting than the players picked is this chart of players the two teams could have picked in the optional $50,000 phase who went on to have at least five more seasons in the major leagues after 1961.
The Mets could have drafted superstar Dick Allen for only $50,000 when he was only 19 years old!
Transactions before, during, and immediately after the inaugural 1962 season
The Mets were not content to go into their first season with the players acquired in the Expansion Draft. They acquired 35 players between the Expansion Draft and October including notable names such as Frank (not the Big Hurt) Thomas, Galen Cisco, Ron Hunt, Clem Labine, Marv Throneberry, Vinegar Bend Mizell, and Ed Kranepool.