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My Favorite Mets - Ron Hunt and Joe Christopher

Barry DuchanSunday, April 22, 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.

In 1963 and 1964, it seemed that everybody's favorite Met was 2nd baseman Ron Hunt, and for good reason. Hunt came to the Mets in a deal with the Braves with no AAA experience, grabbed the 2nd base job early in the 1963 season, finished 2nd to Pete Rose in Rookie of the Year balloting and had an even better season in 1964. Fans voted him as the very first Mets' all-star starter in '64, a game played at Shea Stadium, the first, last, and only All-Star Game I ever attended (or probably ever will - you can't get tickets to an All-Star game for $2.10 anymore).

Ron Hunt and Joe ChristopherHunt was the consummate hustler, down and dirty type of player. If you're a younger Mets fan who's unfamiliar with Hunt, but can remember Wally Backman, you get the picture. Definitely a fan favorite, but not quite MY favorite Met, probably because I had the impression that if I ever met up with Hunt in person, he'd be as likely to spit tobacco juice on my shoes as sign an autograph. Hunt later became famous for his skill at getting hit by pitched balls, but he hadn't yet developed that talent as a Met. To be a real favorite of mine, you had to be a good guy as well as a good ballplayer.

Joe Christopher was used mostly as a pinch-runner in his brief tenure as a Pittsburgh Pirate. When he came to the Mets in the expansion draft, he was probably expected to be a good defensive outfielder who might not hit too much. But it turned out, he wasn't much of an outfielder and his first 2 years with the Mets included some more minor league time and rather disappointing play all around. Then, in 1964, he put it all together and had a solid year - batting .300 with 16 HR's, 76 RBI's, improved defense and a continuous positive outlook on baseball and life in general. He just seemed like the kind of guy who'd gladly sign an autograph with a kid or sit down and talk hitting with any fan who'd ask. Joe faded the next year, was dealt to Boston for Eddie Bressoud, where I felt sure he'd duplicate Felix Mantilla's success and tattoo the green monster on a regular basis, but it wasn't to be. Joe had exactly 1 hit in 13 at bats with Boston and his big league career was over. Joe had one shining season sandwiched between a bunch of miserable ones. Why do things like that happen ? I certainly don't know, but for one season, Joe was my favorite Met.

For more on Joe, go here:
http://members.aol.com/vibaseball/christopher.html

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)

Barry,

In 1963, Hunt and Christopher were my favorite players too. Hunt's rookie season and Christopher's .300 season were pretty much the first fun and encouraging things ever to happen to the Mets. Thomas's 34 home runs in 1962 were appreciated but you always thought of them as a distraction in the middle of the worst season of modern times. The Mets were younger and better in 1963 than they were in 1962 and Hunt and Christopher suggested to us that the Mets would keep getting better and better and eventually climb out of the cellar. It's a shame how younger fans only seem to know that the team was originally lousy (Throneberry, blah, blah, blah) and then Seaver and Koosman came along and there was the miracle of 1969. But hey, there were six seasons in between 1962 and 1969 and there were millions of us getting excited about the likes of Ron Hunt and Joe Christopher.

One possible correction/question: I seem to remember that in 1964, the players and not the fans elected the All-Star starters. As I recall, that gave even more meaning to the fact that Hunt was the first Met chosen for the All-Star team. Hunt was the first Met that other teams really respected and coveted.

I enjoyed reading about ron hunt and Joe Christopher. In 1963, the second and last year at the Polo Ground, the Mets had started the season my losing the first eight games, a marked inprovement over the previous year when they had lost the first nine. I attended the ninth game of that season, at the Polo Grounds against the Braves. The Mets won that game in the bottom of the ninth on a single by Ron Hunt. Hunt and Pete Rose were both rookies that year and were often compared to each other, although Rose went on to greater fame and greater infamy.

Joe Cristopher once gave me his autograph while comning home on the number seven train coming back after a game. Can't imagine that happening these days.

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