The 1961 MLB Expansion Draft was held by Major League Baseball on October 10, 1961 to fill the rosters of the New York Mets and the Houston Colt .45s. The Mets and the Colt .45s (later renamed the Astros) were the new franchises which would enter the league in the 1962 season. The pool of players out of which they could select was limited to the existing National League ball clubs.
The 1962 New York Mets season was the first regular season for the Mets, as the National League returned to New York for the first time since 1957. They went 40-120 and finished tenth and last in the National League, 60 1⁄2 games behind the NL Champion San Francisco Giants, who once called New York home. The Mets’ 120 losses are the most by any MLB team in one season since 1899.
The Mets Opening Day Lineup looked like this:
1. Richie Ashburn, CF
2. Felix Mantilla, SS
3. Charlie Neal, 2B
4. Frank Thomas, LF
5. Gus Bell, RF
6. Gil Hodges, 1B
7. Don Zimmer, 3B
8. Hobie Landrith, C
9. Roger Craig, P
The Old Professor, Casey Stengel was talked out of retirement after one season to manage the New York Mets, at the time an expansion team with no chance of winning many games. Mocking his well-publicized advanced age, when he was hired he said, “It’s a great honor to be joining the Knickerbockers”, a New York baseball team that had seen its last game around the time of the Civil War.
The Mets proved to be so incompetent that they gave Stengel plenty of fresh Stengelese material for the New York City newspaper writers. “Come see my “Amazin’ Mets,” Stengel said. “I’ve been in this game a hundred years, but I see new ways to lose I never knew existed before.” On his three catchers: “I got one that can throw but can’t catch, one that can catch but can’t throw, and one who can hit but can’t do either.” Referring to the rookies Ed Kranepool and Greg Goossen in 1965, Stengel observed, “See that fellow over there? He’s 20 years old. In 10 years he has a chance to be a star. Now, that fellow over there, he’s 20, too. In 10 years he has a chance to be 30.” Kranepool never quite became a star, but he did have an 18-year major league career, retiring in 1979 after playing his entire career with the Mets and becoming their all-time hits leader. (Goossen did in fact turn 30 in 1975, five years after leaving the majors.)
The Mets played their home games at the Polo Grounds, which was their temporary home while Shea Stadium was being built in Queens. They are rather infamous for their futility, and were one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball history. The pitching staff allowed the most runs (948) in the majors.
Despite the futility of the team, fans came out in droves. Their attendance of 922,530 was good enough for 6th in the National League that year.
The season was chronicled in Jimmy Breslin’s humorous best-selling book Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game? The title came from a remark made by Manager Casey Stengel expressing his frustration over the team’s ineptitude.b