1961 Mets “Prequel” Set, Part 2: Thomas, Woodling And Chiti

For those who missed the first part of this series – or forgot about it because over two months have unintentionally passed since that first part – the general idea of this series is that I’m building (and am almost finished with) a sort of “Prequel team set” of anyone who played in a game for the expansion 1962 Mets and appeared on a 1961 Topps card.

Had I been born… oh… 15 years earlier and kept my collection organized by every teams current roster (as I have since I was a kid), then my stack of “Mets” would’ve been something like the end result of this project.

In addition to providing me with a fun and achievable vintage project, it also gives an insight into how the 1962 Mets had been assembled and tweaked during the course of the season.

For each player featured, I’ll share his 1961 card, his card from the 1982 Renata Galasso “20 Years Of Mets Baseball” set (if there is one) and a Topps card showing him with the Mets (again, if there is one).

FRANK THOMAS – OF/1B/3B

How he came to the Mets: Traded by the Milwaukee Braves, November 28, 1961; Cash and two Players To Be Named Later were involved… On May 21, 1962, the deal was completed when the Mets sent outfielder Gus Bell to the Braves in exchange for infielder Rick Herrscher.

…Since the 1961 Topps card doesn’t match the transaction, I’ll mention that Thomas started out his career with the Pirates but after 8 years in Pittsburgh he became something of a journeyman; he was with the Reds in 1959 and the Cubs in 1960 and early 1961. On May 9, 1961 the Cubs traded him to the Braves for IF/OF Mel Roach.

How he left the Mets: Traded to the Phillies for IF/OF Wayne Graham, P Gary Kroll and cash, August 7, 1964

While the Mets lost a record 120 games in their famous first season, that does not mean that the team was bad across the board. There were players who did put up respectable numbers during that long season, and one of them was “The Original Frank Thomas”. Thomas ranked 6th in the league with 34 home runs, which of course lead the team as well. He also lead the Mets in games (156), runs (69), hits (152), doubles (23), RBI (94) and slugging (.496).


GENE WOODLING – Outfield

How he came to the Mets: Purchased from the Senators, June 15, 1962
How he left the Mets: Released by the Mets, March 8, 1963 (which would be the end of his career).

Although Woodling’s 1961 card lists him with the expansion Washington Senators, it appears that he is wearing an Orioles cap. Woodling had been selected from the O’s in the December, 1960 expansion draft by the “New Senators” (the team which would eventually become the Texas Rangers).

Gene Woodling was the type of player who was fairly common on the 1962 Mets: An older player who had name recognition in New York. Woodling played for six years with the Yankees, and appeared in five World Series, four of which were against the Dodgers and Giants. It’s probably not a coincidence that his manager during those five World Series was 1962 Mets manager Casey Stengel.

Woodling would turn 40 years old during his 81 games with the Mets, and batted .274 with 18 runs and 24 RBI.

Bonus 1954 Red Man card and ‘Fun Fact’:

In late 1954 Woodling was part of a 17-player trade between the Orioles and Yankees. Among the other players changing teams were Don Larsen, Bob Turley and Gus Triandos.


HARRY CHITI – Catcher

How he came to the Mets: Purchased from the Cleveland Indians, April 26, 1962
How he left the Mets: Returned to the Cleveland Indians, June 15, 1962

Just as I was about to start this post, I found a note I’d written to myself which said ‘ELEANOR – FIND CHITI’.  It was at that point I’d realized that… No, no, wait a minute.  That’s a plot point from the TV show “The Good Place”.

Sorry.  I’ll start over.

Harry Chiti made his major league debut with the Cubs as a 17-year-old in 1950. He also played for the KC Athletics, Tigers and Orioles.  After the 1961 season he was sent to the Indians, and then early in the 1962 season he was acquired by the Mets.  In 15 games with the Mets he batted below the Mendoza Line with 1 double and 2 runs scored. After being returned to the Indians, Chiti would play in AAA through the 1964 season before hanging ’em up.

The popular story has Chiti being traded to the Mets for a player to be named later, with that PTBNL ending up being Chiti himself, but I’ve seen enough inconsistencies in that story to wonder if it’s technically true. It’s certainly true that the Mets got Chiti from the Indians and then sent him to the Indians AAA team after it was decided that he wasn’t the Mets’ solution behind the plate.

There are no baseball cards which show Chiti as a Met; in fact, his 1962 card shows him with a blacked-out cap and listed with the Cleveland Indians, a team he never played for (Zero-year card!). I’m thinking I might add that card to my collection as an unofficial Mets card. With the wood grain border and Chiti’s blank cap, it would certainly fit in with the rest of my Mets team set.


This post kinda sorta fell together, and while I was wrapping things up I realized that none of the three players featured had been acquired in the expansion draft, and that two of the three had played in the American League the previous season; these two facts are not completely unrelated, as the player pool for the expansion draft consisted only of National League players.  Also because of the NL-only draft, the majority of the players came on the 1962 Mets roster came from National League teams.

Maybe next time – which I promise you will be sooner than two months – I’ll focus more on players taken in the draft.

4 thoughts on “1961 Mets “Prequel” Set, Part 2: Thomas, Woodling And Chiti

  1. Fascinating to learn all of this. Of course, the 1962 Mets were a fascination all to themselves due to their futility and collection of cast-off players. As an avid collector of early 60’s baseball cards, some of this I already knew. But reading the back story — especially Chiti’s short tenure and, ostensibly, his PTBNL outcome, it makes for a terrific story. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks, Jeb! Being a Mets fan of 45 years I sometimes think “Aw, everybody knows about this”, but then I remember that not everybody’s read the same books and magazines I have, so I go ahead and share. There’s plenty of stuff in here that I’m learning as well, which makes it fun for everybody!

  2. The Harry Chiti story was one of my favorites when I was first learning about baseball oddities as a kid. I still like to believe it’s true even if, like you, I’ve discovered some holes with the actual history of it in the years since.

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