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The History of the New York Mets: Part 1

By Scott McCarthy

Welcome to the first part of an ongoing retrospective series looking at each year of the Mets existence, we will begin with the foundation year of 1961 with the expansion draft that the New York Mets and Houston Colt .45’s took part of in the fall of 1961.

The New York Mets came into existence to fill the void left by the departed Dodgers and Giants, in fact while today’s owners try and recapture the teams roots from New York’s golden era of baseball with the new stadium resembling the old Ebbets Field, living of the New York’s baseball past is something that has been done since the very beginning of the franchise. The Mets roots actually go back to July 1959 when Attorney William Shea announced the formation of a third major league, the Continental League, that would begin play in 1961. However the leauge disbands in August 1960 on the condition that four of it's teams would be accepted into the National League and American Leauge expansion draft, and by March 1961 the New York Metropolitan Baseball Club is formally a member of the National League.

Joan Whitney Payson who was a minority owner of the New York Giants, and voted against them moving to San Francisco, was the first majority owner of the Mets and the early days of the team were indeed rooted in the Dodgers and the Giants, starting with the team colors which were mostly blue and orange colors that were taken from each of the previous franchises, and it did not stop there in the expansion draft held in October 1961 the franchise decided to focus mostly on past their prime, but well known commodities like Gil Hodges & Dom Zimmer.

The draft was held in two phases the regular phase where players were taken for $50,000 or $75,000 and the premium phase that had players valued at $125,000, below is a comprehensive list of who the Mets selected from each group.

$50,000 Players
Sherman Jones Pitcher Cincinnati Reds
Jim Hickman Outfielder St Lois Cardinals

$75,000 Players
Hobie Landrith Catcher San Francisco Giants
Elio Chacon Infielder Cincinnati Reds
Roger Craig Pitcher Los Angeles Dodgers
Gus Bell Outfielder Cincinnati Reds
Joe Christopher Outfielder Pittsburgh Pirates
Felix Mantilla Infielder Milwaukee Braves
Gil Hodges First Base Los Angeles Dodgers
Craig Anderson Pitcher St. Louis Cardinals
Ray Daviault Pitcher San Francisco Giants
Joe DeMerit Outfielder Milwaukee Braves
Al Jackson Pitcher Pittsburgh Pirates
Sammy Drake Infielder Chicago Cubs
Chris Cannizzaro Catcher St. Louis Cardinals
Choo Choo Coleman Catcher Philadelphia Phillies
Ed Bouchee First Base Chicago Cubs
Bobby Gene Smith Outfielder Philadelphia Phillies

$125,000 Players
Jay Hook Pitcher Cincinnati Reds
Bob Miller Pitcher St. Louis Cardinals
Don Zimmer Infielder Chicago Cubs
Lee Walls IF/OF Philadelphia Phillies

Then on November 16th 1961 the circular Mets logo is unveiled, the logo has many symbols. The stitching represents baseball, The bridge represents the Mets bringing National League Baseball back to the five boros, the skyline has a church spire to the left that represents Brooklyn, known as the boro of churches, the second building is the Williamsburgh Savings Bank, the tallest building in Brooklyn, followed by the Woolworth Building, then a general midtown skyline ending to the right with the Empire State Building and the United Nations.

Other Notable transactions in the 1961 that laid the foundation of the inaugural Mets roster was the July 20th, 1961 amateur free agent signing of Paul Blair as well as the November 28th, 1961 trade with the Milwaukee Braves that brought Frank Thomas with a player to be named later (Rick Herrscher who came over in a May 21st 1962 trade to complete the deal) in exchange for cash and a player to be names later (Gus Bell who was sent in the same May 21st 1962 trade)

On Deck: Come back on January 11th when we take a close look at the 1962 Mets, who are more commonly known as the worst team to ever play the game, AKA: The Loveable Losers.


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