New York Mets
The New York Mets are based in Flushing, Queens and belong to the Eastern Division of the MLB’s National League. The Mets joined the National League in 1962 and the Eastern Division in 1969. They have been at their current location of the Shea Stadium since 1964, but they will make Citi Field their new home in 2009.
The name ‘Mets’ comes from the New York Metropolitans who were a major baseball team in the 1880s. They are often referred to as the Amazin’ Mets or the Kings of Queens.
In 1957 the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers left the bright lights of New York City for California, leaving NYC without a National League franchise. In 1959 it was decided that four new teams, two in each League would be added; one of these was to be in New York.
Attorney William Shea called upon the Mayor of New York, Robert Wagner Jr. to ensure that a new park would be built. There were many suggestions for a name for the new team, including the Jets, Bees and Skyscrapers.
The Mets was finally chosen because of its links with the corporate name, New York Metropolitan Baseball Club, Inc. and because of the old Metropolitans team. The New York Mets were to appeal to those who did not like the New York Yankees and those who still supported the Dodgers and Giants.
Indeed, their strip shows this: it is a mixture of the orange and blue that was representative of the Giants and Dodgers respectively. The New York Mets finally came into being in 1962. For their first two years as a professional baseball team they played at Polo Grounds, before the Shea Stadium was completed in 1964.
The Mets coaxed past Yankees manager Casey Stengel out of retirement and signed a variety of players to try and bring their League dreams to life, including ex-Dodgers, Giants and Yankees players rather than new younger players with potential.
This lack of judgement was reflected in the scores with the Mets losing their first nine games, which later led to a 40-120 record. This was the third worst season since the 20th century, and the fourth-worst in baseball history. Their bad run of luck continued and the Mets became famous for their lack of talent at the sport; despite this, they were still much loved by New York citizens.
1960s – A new stadium and an improvement in fortunes
In 1964 the Mets moved to the Shea Stadium in Queens, with a 55,300 capacity. During their first season at Shea they faced the Philadelphia Phillies and the infamous pitcher, Jim Bunning. He threw a perfect game against the New York Mets; the first in the National League since 1880.
Later that year the Shea Stadium played host to the All-Star Game, and this brought greater prosperity to the team, with them beating the Cardinals on the Friday and Saturday. Despite this, New Yorkers began to get frustrated with the Mets’ lack of good results, but by the end of the decade, things started to take a turn for the better.
Pitcher Tom Seaver joined the Mets and later became ‘Rookie of the Year’ in 1967. The Mets also welcomed catcher Jerry Grote and shortstop Bud Harrelson; the youthful three seemed to lift the hopes of the team and this showed in the 1968 season.
Gil Hodges joined the team as manager and they raced to 19 victories, although they still finished the season in 9th place.
The 1969 season began badly with an initial loss 11-10 against Expos, but they then raced to 21-23 by the end of May. By August the Mets were in third place, ten games behind the Chicago Cubs. The scores from the Chicago team took a major turn for the worst, while the Mets went from strength to strength, winning 38 of their final 49 games.
On September 9 they took first place and stayed there for the rest of the year. They finished with a 100-62 record; 8 games ahead of the Cubs. Following this fantastic season the Mets became known as the ‘Miracle Mets’ or the ‘Amazin’ Mets’.
Despite their amazing play, they were still not considered as a threat in the National League Championship Series. They managed a three-game sweep against the Atlanta Braves, led by Henry ‘Hank’ Aaron. In the 1969 World Series the Mets again showed their fantastic talent beating the Baltimore Orioles 4-1 and allowing just nine runs over all five games.
Disappointment in the 1970s
By the 1970s their fantastic spell seemed to have finished; this was not helped by some bad trades including Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi. Ryan went on to be one of the best ever pitchers and was induced into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.
Fregosi, however, played just 146 games with the Mets after a string of injuries. Tragedy struck in 1972 when manager Gil Hodges suffered a heart attack and died, he was then succeeded by the legendary Yogi Berra. By the end of August 1973 the Mets were in last place with a record of 61-71, but thanks to relief pitcher Tug McGraw the team won 21 of their last 29 games.
Owner Joan Payson died at the end of the 1975 and her husband, Charles Payson, gave ownership authority to their daughters. They soon gave the Mets over to M. Donald Grant, but problems soon began regarding the contracts of pitcher Tom Seaver and slugger Dave Kingsman.
Both players were traded on June 15, nicknamed ‘The Midnight Massacre’ and six new players were drafted in, but they failed to stay the distance. The Mets were at the bottom of the table again in 1978 and consequently Charles Payson fired Grant at the end of the season. Play did not improve until the 1980s when both the Mets and the Yankees were on good form.
Success in the 1980s
The Paysons sold the Mets to Doubleday publishing company for $21.1 million in early 1980. Baltimore Orioles executive, Frank Cashen, was hired as manager to try and bring about a change for the better.
He brought in slugger Darryl Strawberry and hurler Dwight Gooden in 1980 and 1982 respectively. They both went on to win Rookie of the Year awards in 1983 and 1984. In 1984 Davey Johnson was brought in as manager and led the team to a 90-72 record.
The 1985 season was a further improvement with the entrance of catcher Gary Carter, now in the Hall of Fame, who helped them to win 98 games.
Compared to their earlier league wins in 1969 and 1973, the Mets of 1986 began their winning spell early and remained at the top of the table. They were victorious in 20 of their first 24 wins and had won the East Division title by September 17. They eventually finished the year 108-54. Later that year the Mets won their second World Series title against the Boston Red Sox in dramatic fashion.
However, their brilliance on the pitch was marred by controversy off it. Both Strawberry and Gooden suffered from various personal problems and substance abuse; despite this Strawberry still remains the Mets’ all-time leader in runs batted in and home runs.
1987 began badly with the loss of Ray Knight to the Orioles and Dwight Gooden’s admittance to rehab. However, the year ended with a fight against St. Louis Cardinals for the division title, but it was not to be and the Cardinals left victorious.
The 1988 season saw the Mets win the division again with 100 victories. Their luck ran out the following year, however, when they lost the title to the Chicago Cubs. Strawberry continued to have legal and alcohol problems and eventually left to join the Dodgers in 1990.
The following year the Mets dropped to 5th place and signed Vince Coleman for $2 million, this was just the first of many mistakes throughout the 1990s.
Troubled times in the 1990s
At the beginning of the 1991 season, the New York Mets were a force to be reckoned with and were close behind the Pirates. But nearer the end of the year the team fell apart and manager, Harrelson was fired a week before the end of the season. He was replaced by Mike Cubbage; it was too late to win the season, but David Cone pitched a one-hit shut-out against the Philadelphia Phillies, striking out 19 batters.
To try and improve their play the Mets signed Eddie Murray for $3million and the free agent slugger Bobby Bonilla for $6 million. However, play did not improve and there was further controversy with sexual abuse allegations brought against Coleman, Gooden and outfielder Daryl Boston. Although charges were later dropped, it put a dampener on team spirit.
The 1993 season was one of the worst in memory, with the Mets losing 103 games. Controversy off the pitch continued to rage with injuries and attacks with bleach and firecrackers. The following year play improved slightly, but off-field problems continued. Gooden’s cocaine abuse ended in him being banned for 60 days and later for a year, ending his Mets career.
1994 saw a massive improvement with Bonilla and Saberhagen entering baseball maturity. The Mets were in 3rd place when strikes called an end to the season in August, but when the 1995 season began they finished in 2nd place behind World Series champions Atlanta. The Mets’ luck ran out by 1996 and they were not at all on form.
By 1997, however, they were back to their former magic with a triumphant win over the New York Yankees at the Yankee stadium on June 16th. 1998 was not so successful: by the season close the Mets could not win a single game against the Montreal Expos or the Atlanta Braves. At the end of the season the Mets signed Robin Ventura and Rickey Henderson.
The 1999 season began well with a 17-9 record, but they then suffered an eight-game losing streak resulting in the Mets firing all the coaching staff, except for manager Bobby Valentine. Later that day they beat the New York Yankees 7-2, proving they had made the correct decision. The Mets went on to the 1999 National League Championship Series, but lost out to the Atlanta Braves.
The team enjoyed moderate play for the whole year, but the icing on the cake was the win over the Atlanta Braves on June 30 in front of a packed Shea Stadium. They won the National League wild card and went onto Championship victory, dismissing the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals on the way. They continued onto the first all-New York World Series since 1956, but lost out to the Yankees in a series of closely-fought games.
Slow progress since 2000
Following the excellent play in the 2000 series, they have not yet got back up to the same standard. 2001 was moderate, but there were a few good moments in 2002. Al Leiter became the first major league pitcher to have a defeat of all thirty major league teams to his name, following a win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Despite this, the Mets still finished last in the National League East Division. Their 2003 record of 66-95 was the fourth worst in baseball and, following a few more poor trades, they finished 71-91 in 2004.
In the 2004 season Omar Minaya joined as general manager and quickly appointed Willie Randolph as manager. He also made a few changes to the line-up, bringing in Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran. The Mets started the season slowly with a score of 0-5, but they finished 83-79: their first season over the 500 mark since 2001.
Minaya’s trading decisions resulted in the franchise being headed by six All-Stars (Beltran, Lo Duca, Reyes, Wright, Glavine and Martinez) and the team won the division title for the first time in 18 years. They finished the season 12 games ahead of second-place Phillies. The team later won against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2006 National League Division Series, but then lost to the St Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship series. The Cardinals later went on to win the 2006 World Series.
The season began well in 2007 and the Mets had a 7-game lead by September. Yet they then went on to lose 11 of their next 16 games, leading them to a tie with the Phillies. The Mets lost their final game to the Marlins, whereas the Phillies won against the Nationals. The Mets and Phillies will again fight it out for the National League Eastern Division title of 2008.
- Yogi Berra only played for the New York Mets for one year in 1965 and is most famous for his time with the New York Yankees. He managed the Mets from 1965 until 1972. This included a World Series win in 1969 and he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.
- Gary Carter represented the Mets from 1985 to 1989 and scored 32 home runs in his first year and 24 in his second. Over his entire career he hit 324 home runs and notched up 1225 RBI. He was an All Star six times and won the Most Valuable Player award in both 1981 and 1984. He joined the Hall of Fame in 2003.
- Nolan Ryan made his career debut for the Mets in 1966 and returned to them again from 1968 to 1971. In 1970 he struck out 15 batters in one game, this record was later broken by his team mate Tom Seaver. Ryan holds the record for the highest number of no-hitters. He pitched seven no-hit games – his nearest rivals have recorded just four.
- Tom Seaver – played with the Mets for ten years from 1967 to 1977 and then again in 1983. He was named Rookie of the Year in 1967 and played a big role in the Mets’ World Series win in 1969. He joined the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992.
- Darryl Strawberry – played with the New York Mets from 1983 to 1990 and helped them to their 1986 World Series win. He was part of the All-Star Game eight consecutive times from 1984 to 1991. He consistently scored dozens of home-runs and was feared by the opposition, but his off-field behaviour was as famous as his playing. While he was with the Mets they never finished below second place in their National League division.
- National League Champions 1969, 1973, 1986, 2000
- World Series Champions 1969, 1986
- Highest number of runs – 662 – Darryl Strawberry
- Highest number of home-runs – 252 – Darryl Strawberry
- Highest number of strike-outs – 2,541 – Tom Seaver
- Highest batting average – .315 – John Olerud
- Highest number of runs – 127 – Carlos Beltran (2006)
- Highest number of home-runs – 41 – Todd Hundley (1996) and Carlos Beltran (2006)
- Highest number of strike-outs – 289 – Tom Seaver (1971)
- Highest batting average – .354 – John Olerud (1998)