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WHAT IF? Turning Back The Clock To 1966

Barry DuchanSunday, March 18, 2007
By Barry Duchan

Editor's Note: We will publish a post from Barry Duchan every Sunday covering some aspect of Mets history. - M.S.

It's June of 1966 and the Mets have already experienced the good fortune of getting their name picked out of a hat to win the signing rights to Tom Seaver. Seaver goes directly to AAA Jacksonville where manager Solly Hemus is calling him "Wonder Boy" and projecting him as a star of the future. Now, draft day is approaching and the Mets have the Number One Pick.

There are 2 prime choices for the pick. Slugger Reggie Jackson of Arizona State is probably the consensus choice, but there is also sentiment for Steve Chilcott, a lefthanded hitting high school catcher out of California. Of course, we all know which way the Mets went, but what if they had taken Jackson instead ? After all, the Mets had a quality defensive catcher in Jerry Grote and Greg Goossen still had potential. So, why take another catcher ? Although there has always been speculation that there were non-baseball reasons for the move, I won't go into that here.

Reggie JacksonLet's just change history and say that the Mets decided they needed a power-hitting outfielder with the potential to make the big leagues quickly more than they needed a catcher who was a few years away, at best. So they take Jackson. No doubt, Reggie would have gotten at least a cup of coffee in 1967 and by 1968 would be the talk of spring training, favored to unseat Ron Swoboda in right field. Assuming that Jackson would have put up the same numbers for the Mets that he did in Oakland, during the period 1968-1975, a few more Met pennants would not have been inconceivable. Imagine that great pitching staff led by Seaver and Koosman with a legitimate slugger and cleanup hitter to anchor the offense. Also,the Mets would have had much more trade leverage trying to fill their other holes instead of always looking for a power hitter.

Of course, no one will ever know. Maybe Jackson would have turned down the Mets' offer and gone back into the draft the following year, when the Yankees had first pick, so Reggie could have spent his whole career as a Yankee. Imagine that.

It's just painful to look back at this move. The difference between selecting a Hall of Fame slugger who was also one of the most colorful baseball personalities of his time as opposed to a catcher who never came close to making the big leagues. No doubt, the Mets have made other big mistakes, but this one has to be at the top of the list.

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 (2)

That nonbaseball reason you declined to mention probably does deserve a mention, if my own memory is correct. Jackson was seen in an unfavorale light because he had dated a white gal on the Arizona State campus.

Why it deserves mention is the lovely passion play the Mets delivered when Cleon Jones got caught with a lady not his wife. That stuff is damaging to a franchise.

I mean, we probably do wish that the players were all good citizens. But sometimes they are not, on the Mets and on the other teams. Players have had affairs; for that matter players have had affairs with teammates' wives. Two players even swapped wives on one occasion.

If you own a ball team you don't have to love any action that you believe shows your company in an unfavorable light; but is the answer to punish yourself and the fans? You might as well go ahead and trade Tom Seaver, fer Chrissakes.

Obviously the 69 Mets didn't need Reggie Jackson, so any additional championships would have come in the 70's and I can't believe Reggie would have lasted that long under the moronic regime of M Donald Grant. Therefore the only positive from selecting Reggie would have been that the Mets probably would have shipped him out in the Jim Fregosi or Joe Foy trades and maybe held onto Amos Otis or Nolan Ryan. Oh yeah, and unless they traded him to the A's, he wouldn't have been there to homer in Game 7 of the 73 Series, so there's at least one more championship.

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