New York Mets

Fri, 07 Nov 2008 20:06

The history of the New York Mets

Information about the MLB team New York Mets.

Based in Flushing, Queens in New York City, the New York Mets are a professional baseball team under the Eastern Division of the National League of Major League Baseball. They were founded in 1960, as an expansion franchise, although the original Mets dated back to 1880 as a baseball club.

The New York Mets play at Shea Stadium until the end of 2008. They are set to be based in Citi Field by 2009. Shea Stadium has been their home since 1964. Prior to that, they played at Polo Grounds.

The New York Mets were founded when both the Dodgers and the Giants left Brooklyn and New York, respectively, to play for California. This left New York without a National League franchise. By 1959, William Shea announced the creation of the Continental League that was supposedly going to be another major baseball league. None of the National League teams wanted to join the new league. The Continental League, by then, had one team that was based in New York City. This team was owned by the former Giants minority owners Charles Shipman Payson and Joan Whitney Payson, as well as George Herbert Walker, Jr.

The National Leagues responded to the move by adding two teams to each league. One of the teams was offered to New York’s Continental League front runners. A deal was brokered and the New York Mets was born. The Mets owners wanted the team to bring together disgruntled Dodgers and Giants fans, and even went as far as incorporating the two teams’ colors in the Mets uniform.

Since its foundation, the New York Mets won two World Series, four National League playoffs, and five National League East playoffs.

The New York Mets in the 1960s

The National League had an expansion draft held in 1961 to help the new teams with acquiring players. The New York Mets picked 22 players, some of whom were older players from the Dodgers and Giants. Supposedly, this was to appeal to the fans’ sense of nostalgia. They even hired then retired Yankees manager Casey Stengel. But even his talent could not salvage a team that was lacking new blood and more talents.

This began the New York Mets’ reputation as one of the “losing-est baseball teams” in the 20th century. Their record was only beaten by the Cleveland Spiders in 1899, and the Detroit Tigers in 2003.

In 1962, the New York Mets lost their first nine games and finished the series with a dismal 40-120 record. Some of their players had even become icons of baseball incompetence.

In 1963, they found a winner in pitcher Carlton Willey. He had four shut-outs that season before succumbing to injury.

By 1964, the New York Mets were out of Polo Grounds and in their new home, the Shea Stadium. 1964 was the year when fans at the stadium found themselves cheering for the visitors – that is, the Philadelphia Phillies as their Jim Bunning pitched a perfect game.

The images of the New York Mets as losers began to change when Yankee legend Yogi Berra signed with them to work as player and coach. Berra played four games total and coached the rest of his stay with the Mets. His influence would mean a lot to the younger players that would join the New York Mets back then, such as Jerry Grote.

In 1967, the New York Mets again acquired another key player in Tom Seaver. This was also the year that Bud Harrelson and Jerry Grote joined the team. Gil Hodges joined the team as manager, as with Jerry Koosman as pitcher, Celon Jones as batter and Tommie Agee as center fielder. By 1968, they played a much-improved game.

The year 1969 was nothing less than a miracle for the New York Mets and their fans. In a season ender flourish, the Mets came back from a third place ranking – behind by 10 games – to finish first place. Thus, they won their first ever National League East Division championship. The young bloods, Seaver, Koosman and Jones, led the team.

When the New York Mets met with Atlanta Braves for the National League playoffs, they rallied with such aplomb that they were called the “Amazin’ Mets.” The Amazin’ Mets made it to World Series to face the powerhouse team Baltimore Orioles. As the underdogs, many thought that the Mets had very little chance to with the 1969 World Series. Some said that Seaver could only take his team so far in the game, predicting a win in the opening game and nothing more. Many predictions and naysayers were disappointed as the New York Mets walked away with their first World Series win.

The New York Mets in the 1970s

The magic of that 1969 win unfortunately didn’t follow into the 70s. The start of the decade saw the New York Mets trading off players for lackluster performers. As soon as the players were traded, they shone and played their best in their new teams. At the same time, the sudden death of the New York Mets’ long-time manager Gil Hodges put a damper on the team’s spirit. Berra took Hodges place. And even with Berra’s experience and skills, as well as the positivity of the team members, the rest of the 70s was dismal for the New York Mets.

A major blow to the team had been dubbed by the press as the “Midnight Massacre.” With the death of owner Joan Payson and the disinterest of her co-owner husband, as well as their three daughters who were heirs to the team, management of the team was left Grant, who was club chairman. Over contract disputes, he traded key players Seaver and Kingman on the trading deadline June 15. For the two, the New York Mets received six players, none of whom measured up to the skills and contributions of the traded players.

The New York Mets in the 1980s

By 1980, the Paysons sold the team to Doubleday Publishing for $21.1 million. Chairman Nelson Doubleday, Jr. immediately made minority Fred Wilpon club president. Baltimore Orioles executive Frank Cashen was hired as general manager and his major task was to rebuild the New York Mets.

Cashen began making small changes, with impacts that later would become so apparent. He was responsible for selecting Darryl Strawberry, right out of high schools, in the 1980 amateur draft in 1980. He also chose Dwight Gooden in the 1982 draft. These two would play key roles in the team, and they started this off by winning rookie of the year in 1983 and 1984 (Strawberry and Gooden, respectively). Cashen also traded for Keith Hernandez in 1983 and Gary Carter in 1985. Davey Johnson was also hired as manager in 1984.  

By 1986, the New York Mets had such a powerful team that they won 20 of their 24 games. They made it to the National League Championship games, this time against the Houston Astros. They played off against former Mets players Mike Scott and Nolan Ryan. After a 2 to 1 lead at the start, they finish off the Astros in the sixth game, walking away with their second World Series

Like in the past, the New York Mets’ World Series win was followed by a dip in their performance. They refused to re-sign Ray Knight, a World Series MVP. Management also traded in Kevin Mitchell. Another major shocker was Gooden being admitted into a drug rehabilitation clinic for cocaine addiction. Gooden made a comeback, so did the New York Mets. However, this did not get them any significant wins for the rest of the decade.

The New York Mets in the 1990s until today

The start of the 90s was another low point for the team, with issues upon issues hurled at the New York Mets. Harrelson was fired for dismal performance in the 1991 season. The team also spent a lot to recruit experienced players. They experimented with free agents. Both recruitment strategies resulted in hits and misses. 1993 was a particularly bad year when Gooden injured his shoulders, Saberhagen threw a firecracker near reporters, and Anthony young broke records for the most dismal pitching statistics. Coleman would throw yet another firecracker out of a team bus window onto pedestrians, causing injury to three people and ending his Mets career. Saberhagen would also spray bleach on reporters. 1993 and the New York Mets were eventually dubbed as the Worst team Money Could Buy.

The New York Mets jumped back up in 2000 with hitter Derek Bell at the helm. The New York Mets won the 2000 National League playoffs to face the New York Yankees in the World Series face-off. The New York Mets lost but it was a great enough start for 21st century baseball.