The book: “New York Mets: 50 Amazin’ Seasons — The Complete Illustrated History”
The author: Matthew Silverman
The vital stats: MVP Books, 208 pages, $30
The pitch: While not fielding a team until 1962, this would be the New York Mets’ 50th season. Do the math. It’s as good a time as any to break out this amazing-size scrapbook of memories that even a non-Mets fan can appreciate. To an extent.
Silverman, who runs his own Mets fan website (www.metsilverman.com) culls the files of the New York Times, famed baseball writer Jack Lang and other team fansites such as Centerfield Maz, Faith and Fear in Flushing and Mets Police to flush out the team’s history in a real neat kind of way, one that kids and adults can appreciate.
The cover alone is unique — a pull tab at the top allows you to change the four photos on the front, from Seaver, Kranepool, Stengel and Kingman to Gooden, Hernandez, Piazza and Wright.
Since it’s Mets’ history we really after here (but we do enjoy the eye candy), consider these gems you have have forgotten:
== Joan Whitney Payson, owner of the expansion team, wanted to name them the Meadowlarks. Of the 9,613 suggestions made by fans, cut down to 644, and then down to a top 10, Meadowlarks didn’t make it. It could have been Avengers, Bees, Burros (get it?), Continentals, Jets (too soon), NYBs (?), Rebels (without a cause?), Skyliners or Skyscrapers, but Metropolitans won out. With is about the only thing the Mets won that first season.
== Hobie Landrith was the first Met picked in the expansion draft, a catcher of the San Francisco Giants’ roster. “You gotta have a catcher or you’re gonna have a lot of passed balls,” said manager Casey Stengel, let go by the Yankees after they lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1960 World Series. The Mets also picked a couple other catchers with more staying power: Chris Cannizzaro and Choo Choo Coleman. From the Dodgers’ roster, the Mets took pitcher Roger Craig (who would be their opening day starter, and loser) and legendary first baseman Gil Hodges (who would hit the franchise’s first homer, and later be their manager for the Miracle ’69 season).
== Ted Lepcio became the team’s first signed player under contract on Oct. 26, 1961. A 10-year-veteran infielder, 32 years old, was coming off a season when he hit .167. On April 6, 1962, as the team broke spring training camp in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., they released Lepcio, and he never played pro baseball again. As Silverman notes: “The Mets saved him from the ultimate humiliation.”
== After the Mets’ 0-9 start, 9-year-old Billy Grady was quoted in the New York Times: “I got two words for the Mets. They are lousy.”
And Silverman doesn’t let it go until he picks the Top 50 Mets of all time. Where does Mike Piazza fit in? We’ll let you find that out. But Ron Reed also made the list. A few of them are even given a cool display in a flapped page, so you see the created baseball card in their honor on the front, and the back.
How it goes down in the scorebook: A well-crafted package of memories for any true Mets fan. You need to see, and hold it, to appreciate it.
== Mets Journal: Year by Year & Day by Day with the New York Mets Since 1962
by John Snyder (linked here)
== The Story of the New York Mets by Michael Goodman (linked here)
== Pedro, Carlos (and Carlos) and Omar: The Rebirth of the New York Mets by Adam Rubin (linked here)