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New York Mets History

1963 New York Mets: Meet the last team to play at the Polo Grounds

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29 Aug 1998: A general view of New York Mets helmets during a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. The Mets defeated the Dodgers 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Donald Miralle /Allsport
29 Aug 1998: A general view of New York Mets helmets during a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. The Mets defeated the Dodgers 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Donald Miralle /Allsport
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We take a look back at the 1963 New York Mets and their attempt to climb away from the historically poor 1962 campaign.

The 1963 New York Mets were not as bad and not as memorable as their 1962 predecessors. They went 51-111, eleven more wins than in 1962, but still finished in tenth place in the ten-team National League.

Trivia question: In what year did the Mets win the second-fewest games in their history?

At the end of the 1963 season, the team exited the Polo Grounds in upper Manhattan in the style to which fans were accustomed, by playing terrible baseball with an entertaining flair.

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Managed again by the inimitable Casey Stengel, they cycled through 40 mostly mediocre players. Ten of these players were 24 and under, and eleven were 30 years and older. Unfortunately, most of the ones in the middle were the most mediocre of them all.

Expectations were low starting out in April 1963. They were met. Poor pitching (9th best of 10 teams) and offense (9th best of 10 teams) were the team’s strengths. The weakness was horrible defense (last of 10 teams).

The lowest point of the season was around the All-Star break when the team managed to lose 15 straight games from June 28-July 14.

Highlights

“The most exhilarating [moment of the season] occurred when tens of thousands of Mets fans invaded Yankee Stadium for a charity exhibition game against baseball’s defending champions, had their banners confiscated and then went berserk anyway when the Mets actually won,” from a recent New York Times article.

From May 5-May 10, the Metropolitans won five straight games, putting them a season-high two games under .500.

Hints of things to come

In the calendar year 1963 they signed Cleon Jones, Ron Swoboda, and Bud Harrelson. Ed Kranepool, the first member of the 1969 Mets to play for the team was already there.

Key additions

The Mets purchased Duke Snider from the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 1, 1963 and sold him to the San Francisco Giants about a year later. Snider was the team’s best hitter of those who qualified for a batting title in 1963 with a slash line of .243/.345/.401/.746.

The Mets traded for Pumpsie Green in a four-player trade with the Boston Red Sox in the offseason. Green was the Mets best offensive player overall with a slash line of .278/.409/.426/.835. Green was the first African-American player to play for the Red Sox. The Red Sox were the last team to integrate their roster.

Starting pitcher Tracy Stallard was also acquired from the Red Sox in the above trade.

Cleon Jones was signed as an amateur free agent before the 1963 season and made a cameo appearance that season at the age of 20.

Key subtractions

1962 starting third baseman Felix Mantilla was part of the trade with the Red Sox for Pumpsie Green, Al Moran, and Tracy Stallard.

1962 Mets All-Star Richie Ashburn retired after the 1962 season.

Key bench player Gene Woodling retired after the 1962 season.

Oddities

Grover Powell (2.72) was the only pitcher with a sub-3.00 ERA. Most of his games were in relief, but he started four games and one was a four-hit shutout. His entire major league career lasted from July 13, 1963-September 29, 1963. Powell died at age 44 of leukemia.

The coaching staff other than manager Casey Stengel averaged just 45.5 years of age.

Pitcher Carl Willey led the team with 4.3 WAR, which accounted for more than half his career total of 7.8, even though he pitched for a total of eight years and threw 865.2 innings.

Jimmy Piersall hit one home run for the 1963 squad and it was his 100th career homer. He ran the bases backwards as he promised he would. I used to think that meant he ran to third base, then second, then first, but no, he actually rounded the bases facing the wrong way the whole time. He was only on the Mets for two months, but he will never be forgotten.

Al Jackson won 13 games for the 1963 team and lost 17. He was the only player who played for the 1962 and 1969 Mets, although he was released in June 1969, and did not get to participate in the miraculous parts of the championship season.

Links and bibliography

Amazin’ Era Updated YouTube video of the New York Mets history from conception through the late 1980s. It’s 1:28:16 long, so please set aside an evening to watch this with your friends and family

The Amazin’ Mets 1962-1969, by William J. Ryczek. Enjoyable book full of interviews and stories of the early years. Worth reading just for quotes by pitcher Don Rowe

The Polo Grounds: Essays and Memories of New York City’s Historic Ballpark, 1880-1963, by Stew Thornley

THE LEAN YEARS: 1963-68: A Heap of Losses, a Hint of Hope, the New York Times

Franchises at Birth: The Colt .45s and the Mets (Part One), Hardball Times analysis of the 1962 National League Expansion Draft including a review of the 1963 Mets, by Steve Treder

A look back at the 1986 Mets. Next

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Trivia answer: 1981. The Mets were 41-62 in the strike-shortened season.

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