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!

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