CRAIG ANDERSON AND THE ORIGINAL METS

Every now and then, rather than looking at the fascinating stats and the anecdotes that go along with them of today, those of us at Billy-Ball.com like to take a look back (it’s how I got the job title “newstalgist”).

Today, May 12, I want to reminisce about Craig Anderson and the original Mets. No, that’s not the name of a 1960’s singing group or a children’s story, it’s a tale that began so nicely on May 12, 1962 and had a never-ending ending.

Disclaimer: The Craig Anderson addressed in this story has nothing to do with the Ottawa Senators’ goalie who recently helped break my heart against the New York Rangers.

The 1962 New York Mets

The original New York Mets were most likely the worst team of all-time winning a grand total of 40 games in their entire initial season. To give you a little perspective, the 2016 World Champion Cubs won their 40th game of the season on June 6. When a team wins just 40 games, it can be assumed, and in this case correctly, that there will be pitchers who accrue many losses. Craig Anderson, the star of our story, had 17 losses, undoubtedly a large number, but his loss total was fourth on this Mets squad. That fateful season, Jay Hook lost 19 games (Jay Hook picked up the very first win for the Mets. Manager Casey Stengel called him “Professor” because he attended Northwestern University during the offseason), Al Jackson lost 20 games (original Mets announcer, the great Bob Murphy, always called him “Little Al Jackson from Waco, Texas. Al briefly pitched for the 1969 World Champion Mets as well.)”, and Roger Craig (who was the greatest teacher of the split-fingered fastball as a pitching coach) lost 24 games (the following season he lost another 22). Yes, the 1962 Mets had two pitchers named “Craig” who lost a total of 41 games.

It should be noted that the 1962 Mets pitching staff also featured two pitchers named Bob Miller, one a lefty who called it a career after his one season with the Mets and is still with us at 81 and then there was Bob Miller the righty, who went 1-12 in his first season with the Mets and starting in 1963 pitched effectively for the Dodgers after that and returned to the Mets in 1973 and 1974 to end his career. He passed away in 1993.

They also had Wilmer Mizell, who was known as Vinegar Bend Mizell and not because he was born in Vinegar Bend, Alabama. Mizell was born in Leakesville, Mississippi but Leakesville Mizell was nowhere near as cool a nickname as the one from the neighboring town across the state line for the future U.S. Congressman. Mizell went 0-2 in 1962, his ninth and final season in the majors.

The Mets staff also had the French-Canadian Ray Daviault who went 1-5 in his only big league season (his one win came in July on a walkoff homer and I mention it because it was hit by Marvelous Marv Throneberry, the most (in)famous player on this team) and the Canadian who went to Yale, Ken MacKenzie (Stengel liked him and said of him, “He’s a splendid young fella with a great education from Yale University. His signing with us makes him the lowest paid member of the class of Yale ’56.”). The Mets also had Sherman Jones with the great nickname “Roadblock.” Jones career hit a roadblock with the Mets, he went 0-4 in 1962, his third and final season in the majors. Bob Moorhead went 0-2 for the ’62 Mets, his first season in the majors. Moorhead then spent time in the minors, returned to the Mets in 1965 going 0-1 and finished his career never winning a major league game. Galen Cisco joined the Mets from the Red Sox mid-season and went a respectable 1-1 (Stengel call Cisco “Ohio State” because that’s where he went to school and played in the Rose Bowl). And they had the old Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodger pitcher Clem Labine who went 0-0 for Stengel before being released on May 1 and called it the end of his 13-year career.

Craig Anderson – May 12, 1962

While I could gleefully go on recounting players and stories about the 1962 Metsies, we must return to the inspiration for this trip down memory lane: Craig Anderson and the events of May 12, 1962.

Entering play that day, the Mets were 5-17 (.227), no big surprise there. The shock was they were in ninth place in the 10-team National League as the Cubs were 6-21 (.222). The Cubs finished 59-103, 42.5 games behind the NL Champion San Francisco Giants, but 18 games ahead of the Mets. But, I’m digressing (again).

On May 12, Emilio Estevez was being born to Janet Sheen and her husband actor Martin Sheen in Staten Island and in upper-Manhattan, the Mets were hosting the Milwaukee Braves at the Polo Grounds for a Saturday double-header.

In the opener, Roger Craig faced off against future hall of Famer, Warren Spahn, who ended up in 1965 pitching for the Mets at the age of 44 (in one of his starts he was caught by Yogi Berra who said, “I don’t know if we’re the oldest battery, but we’re certainly the ugliest.”). The Braves took a 1-0 lead in the 2nd inning on a Del Crandall homer and upped it to 2-0 in the 5th on a single by Spahnie. The Mets cut the lead in half when Frank Thomas (no, not the Hall of Famer, but this Thomas hit 34 homers that season) doubled in the bottom of the 6th. In the bottom of the 7th, catcher Harry Chiti singled (Harry you might remember was the player who ended up getting traded for himself) and Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn, playing in his final season, pinch-ran for him. In the top of the 8th, Craig Anderson came in relief of Roger Craig and with him came a new catcher, Hobie Landrith (Hobie was the Mets first pick in the expansion draft because according to Stengel, “You gotta have a catcher or you’re gonna have a lot of passed balls.”). In two innings Anderson allowed just a Spahn double and a walk to Hank Aaron (not that you should care, but Hank’s brother Tommie Aaron was also in the lineup that day). But with two outs in the bottom of the 9th, Landrith hit a two-run walkoff homer off Spahn and the Mets won, 3-2. It was the very first walkoff homer in Mets history.

Game two had the Braves’ Carl Willey (he ended his career in 1965 with the Mets) facing off against Bob Moorhead. Neither starter had much that day and by the time the bottom of the 9th inning came around the score was 7-7 and the Braves were using their fifth pitcher of the game, Hank Fischer (born in Yonkers, New York), and Craig Anderson, who relieved Vinegar Bend and was the Mets sixth pitcher, was back on the mound. And thus it was Craig Anderson who was the beneficiary of the Mets second walkoff homer of their existence, this one by the great Gil Hodges.

So today, 55 years later, we celebrate two wins by Craig Anderson both by walkoff homers.

And now, the rest of the story…

Following that doubleheader sweep, Anderson was now 3-1 on the season with a 2.16 ERA. Anderson appeared in 40 more games for the Mets that season, starting 13 of them, and went 0-16 with a 5.81 ERA.

Anderson pitched three more MLB games for the Mets in 1963 and went 0-2.

Anderson pitched four more MLB games for the Mets in 1964 and went 0-1.

The twenty-five year old Anderson never pitched in the majors after that.

Which means that after the two wins on May 12, 1962, Anderson pitched in 47 additional major league games and never won another. He ended his Mets career going 3-20 with a 5.56 ERA.

Here’s wishing a Happy Mother’s Day to one and all.