My semi-recent COMC shipment contained the last couple of cards needed to complete my 1964 Topps Mets team set… the last card acquired was a high-numbered Ed Kranepool that I largely paid for by selling a 2018 Topps Heritage Ichiro variation.
In recognition of completing my oldest team set (an honor previously held by my 1965 Topps Mets team set), I decided to do one of my “Team Reviews” of the 1964 Mets.
The 1964 Mets finished in last (10th) place with a record of 53-109-1… But, they also opened the sparkling new Shea Stadium and finished 2nd in the league in attendance, pulling in 1.7 million fans. Only the Dodgers 2.2 million was higher in the National League.
The Mets were managed by Casey Stengel, who would turn 74 years old during the 1964 season. This would also be his last full season as the Mets manager, as he would retire after breaking his hip during the 1965 season.
Normally when I do one of these Team Review posts I list the best players and best rookie cards, but keep in mind that with the 1964 Mets this is all relative. However, I will start with a category that people can appreciate:
HOFers in the set (other than Casey Stengel)
Duke Snider was with the Mets in 1963 and was the team’s All-Star representative… however, his contract was sold to the Giants on opening day of the 1964 season.
Best Position Player
In 1964 Ron Hunt became the first Met to start an All-Star Game, plus he lead the team with a .303 average so I feel like I have to go with him
Second-best Position Player
Joe Christopher lead the team with 163 hits, 78 runs and 76 RBI, plus batted an even .300, so I feel like I should give him some credit as well
Wow… The 1964 Mets had four pitchers who had 16 or more losses, and Tracy Stallard lost 20. Galen Cisco lost 19 against 6 wins, but he had the best WHIP (1.231) and his 3.62 ERA was the best of any Mets starter so I’ll go with him.
Best Rookie card
This is a tough one, because none of the rookie cards in this team set were particularly noteworthy… Guys like Larry Elliot, Steve Dillon, Ron Locke, Jerry Hinsley and Bill Wakefield are known only to some Mets fans. John Stephenson had the most notable career, paying in 451 games over 10 seasons.
Notable rookie card for other reasons
Grover Powell pitched in 20 games in 1963 but would suffer an injury playing winter ball after that season and would not pitch in the Majors again. The reason he’s here is because he’s one of the handful of players to wear #41 for the Mets before Tom Seaver (the others being Clem Labine, Dennis Musgraves, Jim Bethke and Gordie Richardson)
Best Subset card
The Last Card I Got
Ed Kranepool is a favorite among long-time Mets fans, and why wouldn’t he be? He’s a New York native, was drafted out of James Monroe H.S. in the Bronx and appeared in each of the Mets’ first 18 seasons, starting with a September callup in 1962 when Kranepool was just 17. He held many Mets career records until David Wright came along, and there was a time when I felt the Mets should’ve retired his #7.
Weirdness In the 7th Series
Interesting thing about the Mets in the 7th (high-numbered) series is that there’s a lot of them: 9 Mets out of 81 cards. If that kind of ratio existed through the entire set, there would be 65 Mets in 1964 Topps instead of the 33 that there are.
There’s also a string of Mets that are numbered 10 apart:
536 Larry Elliot / John Stephenson
546 Joe Christopher
556 Steve Dillon / Ron Locke
566 Ed Kranepool
576 Jerry Hinsley / Bill Wakefield
The Original Frank Thomas
This Frank Thomas had been a 3-time All-Star in the 1950s but by 1964 he was a utility man who split the season between the Mets and the Phillies
Other 1964 Mets Who Were (Relatively) Good Enough To Be Included In 1964 Topps Coins, Tattoos, Stand-ups or 1964 Bazooka
Jesse Gonder was the Mets starting catcher and had been named to the 1963 Topps All-Star Rookie team. His defensive struggles behind the plate lead to him being traded to Milwaukee and then fading from the Majors
Duke Carmel played 104 games in 1963, split between the Cardinals and Mets, and 20 additional games scattered over three seasons. He spent all of 1964 with AAA Buffalo and the Mets would go from two Dukes to no Dukes.
Carl Willey was a former Braves prospect who had a good year for the Mets in 1963 — 9-14, 3.10 ERA, team-leading 1.191 WHIP — before injuries derailed his career.
Al Jackson was a good pitcher with some awful Mets teams, and had identical 8-20 records in 1962 and 1965. His .433 winning % in 1963 was the best a Mets starting pitcher would have from 1962 to 1965. Jackson would later be traded to the Cardinals as part of a 3-player trade for former MVP 3rd baseman Ken Boyer
George Altman was one of two players acquired when the Mets traded Roger Craig to the Cardinals. He patrolled left field for one season before being traded to the Cubs.
Jim Hickman was a regular with the Mets in their first five seasons and would be an All-Star and the Comeback Player of the Year with the 1970 Cubs
The card from my recent COMC shipment that I want to feature because I’ve already scanned it
Larry Bearnarth was a local kid – he went to high school on Staten Island and then went to St. John’s University – who was a reliever in four seasons with the Mets. In 1964 his three saves was second on the team to Willard Hunter’s five.