“1961 Mets Prequel” Set, Part 4: Sammy Taylor and Cliff Cook

For those who missed the beginning of this series – it’s been a while since those parts – the general idea of this series is that I’m building a sort of “prequel team set” of anyone on a 1961 Topps card who played in a game for the expansion 1962 Mets.

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).

SAMMY TAYLOR – C

How he came to the Mets: Acquired from the Cubs in a trade for outfielder Bobby Gene Smith, April 26, 1962
How he left the Mets: Sent to Reds with infielder Charlie Neal for catcher Jesse Gonder, July 1, 1963


Sammy Taylor was a catcher who played 68 games in 1962 after being acquired from the Cubs, and 22 games in 1963 before being traded to the Reds. Over his 90 game Mets career (with 34 as a pinch hitter) he batted .228 with 15 runs and 26 RBI. While with the Cubs, he was the starting catcher in 1959, but lost his starting job the following year. In 1962, Taylor was with the Reds for just 3 games in the month of July and then got flipped to the Indians where he played in 4 games. He spent two more seasons in the minors before retiring.


He appeared as a Cub in the 1962 Topps set, and never appeared on a baseball card with the Reds or Indians

CLIFF COOK – 3B/OF

How he came to the Mets: Acquired from the Reds along with “Lefty” Bob Miller in a trade for infielder Don Zimmer, May 7, 1962
How he left the Mets: Played all of 1964 with the Mets’ top farm team in Buffalo before retiring from pro ball


Cliff Cook put up big numbers in the minors, hitting 30 homers and 100 RBI three times and winning the 1961 International League MVP, but couldn’t replicate that in the Majors. Had rookie prospecting been a thing at the time, there would’ve been people who lost money on buying up Cliff Cook cards. Cook batted .201 for his career and .188 during his time with the Mets

“1961 Mets Prequel” Set, Part 3: Landrith, Marshall and “Righty” Bob Miller

For those who missed the beginning of this series – it’s been a while since those parts – the general idea of this series is that I’m building a sort of “prequel team set” of anyone  on a 1961 Topps card who played in a game for the expansion 1962 Mets.

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).

HOBIE LANDRITH – C

How he came to the Mets: Selected from the Giants with the Mets first pick in the regular phase of the 1961 Expansion Draft (2nd pick overall), October 10, 1961
How he left the Mets: Sent to Orioles as the player to be named later from an earlier trade for Marv Throneberry, June 7, 1962

There’s no Renata Galasso “20 Years Of Mets Baseball” card of Hobie Landrith, so I’ll share a 1961 Post card of the Hobinator:

 

“The first thing you have to have is a catcher. Because if you don’t have a catcher, you’re going to have a lot of passed balls and you’re going to be chasing the ball back to the screen all day.” — Casey Stengel on why the Mets took Hobie Landrith with their first expansion draft pick, 1962

Hobie Landrith played several seasons as a Reds backup, and spent time with the Cubs, Cardinals and Giants. A highlight of his short time with the Mets came on May 12, 1962: The Mets were down 2-1 to Warren Spahn & the Milwaukee Braves and down to the final out; With Rod Kanehl on first (pinch running for Gil Hodges), Landrith hit one out to beat the Braves 3-2. After his stint with the O’s, he had a short stop with the Senators and then quit playing and became a coach for Gil Hodges’ Washington team.

Landrith was the first player to wear #5 for the Mets; the number would be worn more famously by John Olerud and David Wright.

Since Hobie was with the Mets for just a couple of months, there are no mainstream baseball cards which show him in a Mets uniform. He’s capless in this 1962 Topps card, and with the Orioles in 1963 Topps.


JIM MARSHALL – IB/OF

Gotta love that San Francisco logo airbrushed on a Cubs cap…

How he came to the Mets: Purchased from the Giants, October 13, 1961
How he left the Mets: Traded to the Pirates for Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell, May 7, 1962

Before this project, Jim Marshall was best known to me from his thumbnail photos in 1974 through 1976 Topps, as he was a coach for manager Whitey Lockman and then would take over the team.  Marshall was one of those players who had success in the minors – he hit 202 minor league home runs – but couldn’t translate it to the Majors.  After he was released by the Bucs after the 1962 season, Marshall would go to Japan and play three seasons for the Chunichi Dragons.

In terms of mainstream cards, this is Marshall’s only one that lists him with the Mets.  I wish I had a 1963 card of Jim Marshall to share with you, because the only one listed on Trading card Database is a Japanese Menko.  While I’m talking about his other cards, I’ll mention that Marshall’s 1960 card lists him with the Red Sox, but he never played for them, having been traded to the Giants halfway through spring training.


“RIGHTY” BOB MILLER – P

How he came to the Mets: Purchased from the Cubs, December 8, 1961
How he left the Mets: Traded to the Dodgers for Larry Burright and Tim Harkness, November 30, 1962

Bob L Miller – “Righty Bob Miller” – was the Mets’ first pick in the “Premium” phase of the draft; “Premium” meaning that the Mets paid $125,000 for his contract and got a somewhat better player in return. I referred to him as “Righty Bob Miller” because there were two pitchers named Bob Miller who pitched for the 1962 Mets; this one is Robert Lane Miller who pitched until 1974 and did two stints with the Mets.  I’ll close out the post with more about “Lefty Bob Miller”.

Righty Bob Miller went 1-12, 4.89 for the season mainly as a starter, but he also has the interesting combination of having pitched a complete game and, in another game, gotten a save (although that wasn’t an official stat at the time).

Bob Miller was also the first Met to wear #24, a uniform number with an odd Mets history that I’ll write a full post about someday, but here’s the story in a nutshell: In 1972, when the Mets were trying to convince Willie Mays to give his approval to a trade from the Giants, Mets team owner Joan Payson promised Willie that no one would wear #24 after the Say Hey Kid. However, the number never officially got retired and Payson passed away in 1975, so while #24 has largely been out of circulation for the past 45 years, players like Rickey Henderson and Robinson Cano have worn it.

Righty Miller was also the first pitching coach in Toronto Blue Jays history, and that got him a small spot in the 1977 O-Pee-Chee baseball set.

Since I’m sharing card images, here’s Bob’s 1974 card where he was originally photographed with the Pirates and then airbrushed.

Both Bob Millers appeared in the 1962 set; “Righty” on the left and “Lefty” on the right.

SInce “Lefty” didn’t have a 1961 Topps card – before 1962, he hadn’t played in the Majors since 1956 – I’ll give him a quick run down to end this post.  “Lefty” was Robert Gerald Miller who made 6 relief appearances for the 1962 Reds before a May 7th trade where the Reds sent him and 3B/OF Cliff Cook to the Mets for Don Zimmer.

Lefty Bob finished 1962 with a combined 10.17 ERA and then never pitched again after the season… Whether he retired or wasn’t given a choice is not clear from the information I could find.

Naturally, the two Bob Millers were roommates with the Mets.

 

 

 

 

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.

My Latest Vintage Project: A 1961 “Mets Prequel” Team Set

Vintage projects have become a dicey proposition for me. 1973 Topps is currently my oldest non-oddball complete set, and for the foreseeable future I’ve given up on completing any sets before that. I have a hard time justifying the high price of some of the key cards, especially when those funds could be used towards one of my numerous other goals… plus, I have to admit, I’ve generally cooled on the whole concept of set collecting.

The thing is, I still love to pick up vintage cards, so I’m always looking for achievable vintage projects.

This latest project mutated out of a failed blog post idea regarding players who were selected in the various expansion drafts without ever playing for those teams. For example, the Mets drafted IF/OF Lee Walls from the Phillies, and he was traded to the Dodgers before Spring Training began. Despite the intriguing concept, I didn’t find enough interesting examples to get me to finish the research.

It did, however, get me revisiting the numerous players who played for the 1962 Mets, and I got the idea of collecting any 1961 cards of the 1962 Mets. Aside from giving me an affordable vintage project, the idea resonated with me because I started organizing my cards by the current rosters when I was a kid, so had I been collecting in 1962, I probably would’ve had a stack of 1961 cards representing the Mets.

Another benefit of this “prequel team set” is that it would make it fun to explore where each player came from, where they went after they played for the Mets, and how well they performed in 1962 (Hint: generally speaking, the answer to this last one is “not well”).

Unless I missed something in my research, this prequel team set looks to be 30 cards – 29 1961 Topps cards plus one 1961 Post card (which I’ll explain when we get to it later in this post).

In this series of posts, I’m also going to make use of a Renata Galasso “20 Years Of Mets Baseball” set which features the 1962 Mets, and which I got from CommishBob of the Five Tool Collector blog.  (Thanks, Bob!) If available, I’ll also feature a relevant Topps card.

Let’s get into the players, starting with the sole HOFer involved…

RICHIE ASHBURN – OF/2B

How he came to the Mets: Purchased from the Cubs, December 8, 1961
How he left the Mets: Retirement after the 1962 season

Richie Ashburn’s HOF qualifications come mainly for what he did in his 12 years with the Phillies, rather than his two seasons in Chicago and one with the Mets. Ashburn lead the Mets with a .306 batting average and a .424 OBP, and tied Elio Chacon for the team lead in stolen bases (a whopping dozen). He was also the Mets’ sole representative at the two 1962 All-Star Games.  Despite his relative success, Ashburn retired as a player after the 1962 season and took a job as a Phillies broadcaster, a job that would last 35 years.

This autographed 1963 Topps card also came from CommishBob.


JOE CHRISTOPHER – OF


How he came to the Mets:  Selected from the Pirates with the 10th pick in the Expansion Draft
How he left the Mets: Traded to the Red Sox for Eddie Bressoud, Nobember 30, 1965

Joe Christopher was the fourth outfielder with the Pirates in 1961 before being taken in the expansion draft. He’d play with the Mets for four seasons, and was the starting right fielder in 1964.  After leaving the Mets, Christopher would play 12 games with the Bosox to wrap up his Major League career.

Joe Christopher was the first Major Leaguer born in the U.S. Virgin Islands (although Valmy Thomas was a native of the Virgin Islands who was born in Puerto Rico); other players from the Virgin Islands include Horace Clarke, Elrod Hendricks, Jose Morales, Jerry Browne and recently Akeel Morris and Jabari Blash.


WILMER “VINEGAR BEND” MIZELL – P

How he came to the Mets: Traded by the Pirates for Jim Marshall, May 7, 1962
How he left the Mets: Released, August 4, 1962

“Vinegar Bend” (whose nickname came from his hometown of Vinegar Bend, Alabama) must not have renewed his contract with Topps at some point, because his last Topps card came in 1958 even though he was an All-Star in 1959 and won 14 games in 1960.

Before being acquired by the Mets he split his 1962 time between Pittsburgh and the AAA Columbus Jets.  With the Mets he pitched in 17 games, going 38 innings with a 0-2 record, 7.34 ERA and 1.921 WHIP. His baseball career ended with his release by the Mets – I don’t know that there’s any coming back from being released by the ’62 Mets – and he would later represent North Carolina in Congress from 1969 to 1975.


SHERMAN JONES – P

How he came to the Mets:  Selected from the Reds with the 34th pick in the Expansion Draft
How he left the Mets: Assigned to minors, never pitched in Majors after 1962.

Sherman “Roadblock” Jones was the starting pitcher in the Mets’ 1962 home opener against the Pirates.  He pitched a 1-2-3 first inning, getting Bill Virdon, Dick Groat and Bob Skinner out, but he gave up two runs in the 2nd and would ultimately take the loss.  The above card is his only mainstream baseball card; he actually pitched for the Reds in 1961 and got two outs in the 1961 World Series against the Yankees.

There are some “oddball” cards which show Jones in a Mets uniforms, but somewhat suprisingly the Renata Galasso set is not one of them.


We’ll wrap up this first post with…

“MARVELOUS MARV” THRONEBERRY – 1B

How he came to the Mets:  Traded by the Orioles for a player to be named later, May 9, 1962 (Hobie Landrith was sent to Baltimore on June 7, 1962)
How he left the Mets: Retired after a salary dispute

Marv Throneberry started 1961 with the Kansas City Athletics, but was traded to the Orioles in June, 1961.  Marv became a fan favorite in New York, and also became emblematic of the team itself, not least of which for his 17 errors in 97 games… Half of his career totals, by the way. On the plus side, his 16 home runs and .426 slugging percentage were second on the team to Frank Thomas.

Marvin Eugene Throneberry’s initials were MET… What more could a Mets fan ask for?

Throneberry started out with the Yankees as a highly-regarded slugging prospect, but he never put up the same number of homers in the Majors as he did in the minors.  He was the first player to play for both the Mets and Yankees.


So that’s the first of a planned six posts on my “1961 Mets” project. Does anybody have any suggestions about the project or the blog posts? I’d love to know your thoughts on it!