janet wyman Coleman
 

The Worst Team Wins

  

    The year 1962 was a tough one for the Mets. The New York Metropolitans were a brand-new club playing in an outdated stadium, the Polo Grounds, with the oldest manager in baseball, Casey Stengel, age seventy-two. The team was made up of eager rookies and old veterans. Fans came to games and watched in disbelief as two runners ended up on the same base and two outfielders collided with each other and dropped the ball. “I been in this game a hundred years,” Casey Stengel said, “but I see new ways to lose I never knew existed before.”  When the catcher, “Choo Choo” Coleman, tried to catch curve balls, he looked “like a man fighting bees.” Stengel asked, “Can’t anybody play this game?”

    The odd thing about the Mets was that the worse they played, the more the fans loved them. “Let’s go, Mets!” they shouted. Huge crowds showed up at the Polo Grounds and blew their horns for players like “Marvelous Marv” Throneberry, the first baseman who often dropped balls and missed the base when he rounded second. One sign in the crowd said, “We don’t want to set the world on fire--we just want to finish ninth. At the end of the first season, the team had lost 120 games (and won 40), the worst record in the twentieth century.

    In 1968, the Mets did finish ninth, out of ten teams, as accomplishment for “one of the worst teams in baseball.” They had a new stadium and a new manager, but they kept losing--seven of the first ten games in 1969. Then something happened, as it often does in baseball. Sportswriters analyze great plays and great players, but no one can explain what makes a team come alive and win. In September, the Amazin’ Mets took the Eastern Division title by eight games. In October, they won the World Series against the Baltimore Orioles. Suddenly, they were the “Miracle Mets”! Many fans felt that the Mets’ win was as surprising as the other major event that summer: a man walking on the moon.

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COLLECTION OF GARY GREEN

George Sosnak (1924-1992), an umpire, collected autographs on baseballs, then added his drawings in india ink. He produced more than 800 spectacular balls.