New York Mets History

Mets History: Looking back at the first game in franchise history

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 29, 1962: A general view of the stadium as workers prepare the Polo Grounds on March 29, 1962 for the Opening Day game for the New York Mets in New York, New York. (Photo by: Kidwiler Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 29, 1962: A general view of the stadium as workers prepare the Polo Grounds on March 29, 1962 for the Opening Day game for the New York Mets in New York, New York. (Photo by: Kidwiler Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images) /
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On April 11, 1962, National League baseball returned to the Big Apple with the first game in New York Mets history.

April 11, 1962. Five years after the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants had left the east coast for California, National League baseball returned to New York with the dawn of the New York Mets. William Shea, a prominent New York lawyer, had been instrumental in bringing National League baseball back to the Big Apple.

The team’s full name was the New York Metropolitan Baseball club, though other possible names for the club had been considered, such as the Burros, the Bees, and even the Avengers. But as per the owners’ choice and an extended public vote, New York Metropolitans it was. We know them better as the Mets.

When the baseball season began that year, there were two new teams, the Mets and the Houston Colt .45s, later renamed the Astros. The club’s home stadium in 1962 and 1963 was the Polo Grounds, the former home of the New York Giants. However, their very first game ever was actually played in St. Louis at Busch Stadium, against the St. Louis Cardinals.

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As many devoted fans know, the first manager in franchise history was Casey Stengel, famous in the baseball world for managing the great New York Yankees teams of the 1950s.

At age 71, he was certainly no spring chicken, but he had a certain excitement about this new ballclub that quickly resonated with New York baseball fans.

Lesser known among fans, however, might be the actual players who started that first game. The 1962 Mets were a combination of aging castoffs from other teams and journeymen who had never made a name for themselves in the big leagues.

Despite the team’s cobbled-together nature, the Mets’ lineup for that first game featured some prominent baseball names, such as Don Zimmer, future manager Gil Hodges, and future (Phillies) Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn.

The Cardinals lineup that day also featured many famous players, including the legendary Stan Musial, true baseball hero Curt Flood, and established stars Ken Boyer and Minnie Minoso.

The starting pitcher for the Amazins that day was Roger Craig, who was less than stellar. He only lasted three innings, surrendering five runs, all earned, and eight hits. He also committed the first balk in Mets history in that very first game, in the first inning. Craig faced off against Larry Jackson, who went the distance and allowed four runs on eight hits for the full game. In all, the Metropolitans ended up losing to the Cardinals, 11-4.

Offensive highlights for the Mets included home runs by Hodges and starting second baseman Charlie Neal. Frank Thomas (no relation to the Hall of Famer of the same name) had the other RBI for the Mets in that game.

Unfortunately, the Mets’ defense was already in midseason form on that April evening. They committed three errors in their inaugural game, which led to four unearned runs for the Cardinals. However, right fielder Gus Bell did have a few flashy moments, with three outfield assists to gun down the Cardinals as they circled the basepaths looking for more runs.

The Mets would not win a game until their tenth game of the season, against the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 23. Starting pitcher Jay Hook got the win that day, which was in Pittsburgh at Forbes Field. The Mets did not secure their first home victory until April 28, which came at the expense of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Finally, on that Saturday afternoon, New York baseball fans witnessed the first victory for their brand-new National League franchise. A new generation of fans was quickly materializing, though they’d have to endure the “Lovable Losers” for several more years until the team emerged from the National League basement.

Next. Greatest defensive teams in Mets history

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Very few had high expectations for the team in 1962, but on April 11, with the team’s entire future in front of it, anything was possible.

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