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Trades from the Past: Ken Boyer

Barry DuchanSunday, February 18, 2007
By Barry Duchan


Editor's Note: We will publish a post from Barry Duchan every Sunday covering some aspect of Mets history. This piece was originally published in September 2005. - M.S.

Ken BoyerA couple of days ago, I read an article about how Ken Boyer should be considered for the Hall Of Fame. I had almost forgotten about Boyer's brief time as a Met and what a major acquisition it was considered at the time. Of course, it didn't work out for the Mets or Boyer and in my opinion, considering Boyer for the HOF ahead of Keith Hernandez or Gil Hodges to name just two others with Met connections, is ludicrous. Anyway, let's look at the deal.

In 1964, Ken Boyer was the NL MVP and led the Cardinals to the World Series. A year later, after a somewhat disappointing season, the Mets got him in a trade for Al Jackson and Charley Smith. Jackson was arguably the Mets' best pitcher in their early years. The term "crafty lefty" fit Al to a T. But, it seemed that he'd have to pitch a shutout to win a game. It wasn't quite that bad, but somehow Jackson managed to post 8-20 records for the Mets twice in 4 seasons. Al was without a doubt one of the all-time hard luck pitchers. Every Met fan knew he was a lot better than his record and he was bound to do better with another team, but the bottom line was that the Mets could throw just about anybody out there who could equal (or hopefully, better) that 8-20 mark, so he was expendable. As for Smith, he struck out way too much to be considered anything more than a stopgap at third base, even if he was one of the team's few power hitters.

So, Jackson and Smith for a player one year removed from MVP and still in the prime of his career seemed like a can't miss deal for the Mets. Of course, like the majority of Mets' trades, this one didn't work out at all.

Boyer was mediocre at best for the Mets, batting about .250 over a season and a half with the Mets, showing little of the clutch hitting, great defense, or leadership qualities that were his trademark with the Cardinals.

Smith was no great shakes for the Cardinals either, but a year later they traded him even up to the Yankees for Roger Maris in a deal that may have started the Yankees decline from powerhouse to cellar dweller. Jackson turned in one decent year as a Cardinals starter before moving to the bullpen. He eventually returned to the Mets briefly, but was cut during the 1969 season, so he never got to be a part of the Miracle Mets, which could have been a nice reward for his years of suffering with a team that didn't give him any support.

So, unlike several other deals that backfired on the Mets, this one wasn't so bad because of the players the Mets gave up, but rather because they thought they were getting a bona fide star and a team leader and instead, got an aging veteran who really did nothing that his predecessor (Smith) couldn't have done.

The Mets eventually dealt Boyer to the White Sox, where he didn't do much, either. J.C. Martin came to the Mets in that deal which seemed at the time to be another dud of a deal for the Mets - a player who was still thought of as a star for a backup catcher. I hesitate to say this was a GOOD deal for the Mets, but Martin's memorable contributions to the 1969 World Champions certainly helped to erase the memory of Boyer's disappointing tenure.

Note: More of Barry Duchan's writings can be found on his own Metscentric blog.

About Barry Duchan: I've been following the Mets since 1962. Have to admit I was a Yankee fan as a kid, but I found it to be so much more interesting to see how a young team could build itself up rather than following a team where the season didn't really begin until October. I remember them all - Casey, Marv, ChooChoo, Don Bosch, The Stork, etc. As the years went on, I became more and more of a Mets fan, and a Yankee hater once Steinbrenner and Billy Martin entered the picture.   Read More -->

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Comments (5)

Boyer was a good guy who may have been the first still-in-his-prime star player the Mets ever had, excluding the over the hill guys like Snider and Hodges from the first few years. The 1966 team was the first Mets team to escape the NL basement and Boyer's 61 RBI led the club.

I remember how excited I was when we traded for Ken Boyer. He was, as Mark said, the first still-in-his-prime star player the Mets ever had. I thought the Mets would now be able to claim at least a little bit of respectability. But this was really the beginning of that awful Mets pattern of trading for a veteran who would have been a great acquisition a few years earlier, but now was just a name. In this period, the Mets also traded their best and most exciting young player, Ron Hunt, for Tommy Davis, another barely still-in-his-prime "name." That really upset me because I loved Hunt so much. There was something of the same logic. Davis worked out better than Boyer, but he wasn't around long, and he didn't bring us respectability either. His main claim to Mets fame of course is that they traded him for Tommy Agee.

Ahh Tommy Agee, I remember I took off from work to watch a spring training game, just to see our new C/F player. There I was all set up in front of the tv,and now batting for the N.Y.Mets center fielder Tommy Agee. Yes I jump up and yelled come on Tommy. He gets beaned and goes down is removed to be checked out. I felt the season was over, same old same old we never get a break...TOMMY was o.k. and so was I and we went on.

I grew up in St. Louis during the '60's and was a big Ken Boyer fan. . .the thing some of you may not be aware of is that Ken suffered a back injury in '65 that severely limited his offensive production. The Cardinals knew his back wasn't going to get any better and dealt him while they could still get something for him. Give him a break though, he was playing for the Mets with a bad back. . .that's the major reason his numbers as a Met were disappointing. Just a little history for you to help clarify why he wasn't able to help the Mets more. After the injury to his back his numbers went down by almost 50%. . .immediately! Obviously, he just couldn't get around the back problem. With today's medical advances, he might have been able to have something done that would have allowed him to play up to his natural abilities. Give him some slack though, he was a good guy who always gave 100% and just had an unfortunate injury that hurt his career.

Ken Boyer was my childhood baseball hero.
Along with the 1965 back injury he was severly kicked by one of his horses before spring training 1966 which healed slowly. It later came to light that he was a multi-pack-per-day cigarette smoker which shortened his career and led to his untimely death.
Anyone who followed his career would know that he was a HOF caliber player. Read Halberstams "October 1964" and you will learn that MLB writers of the 1950s-60s considered Ken the best all-around player in the game.
You had to see him play to appreciate his greatness. If you did not see him in his prime then you missed out.
Auggie

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