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My Favorite Mets - The Very Early Years

Barry DuchanSunday, April 15, 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.

Frank Thomas (for those of you under 30, I'm not talking about the one who's been playing for the White Sox for the past 10 years) was easy to like. For one, he was easily the Mets' most productive hitter in 1962, and while his defense was below average, he gave it his best in left field, third base, or first (where he probably should have played more, but the Mets had plenty of guys who could ONLY play first, so Thomas did his thing mostly in left field). He was also a big, friendly guy who, just for fun, liked to catch anyone's hardest fastball in his bare hands. Frank ThomasFortunately, there was no incident of this practice damaging his career in any way. He was also, apparently, quite a cutup, the Roger McDowell of his day, as opposed to someone like Marv Throneberry, who was taciturn, but became a joke. Thomas had the bad luck to play with the Pirates until they finally got good in 1960, then was shuttled among several losing NL teams until winding up with the 1962 Mets. As awful as the first-year Mets were, imagine how much worse they could have been without Frank and his 34 HR's and 94 RBI's. And he was NOT part of the expansion draft, but a trade acquisition from the Braves.

After being a good soldier with the Mets for 2 1/2 seasons, he got what looked like the break of his life by being dealt to the pennant-bound Phillies in mid-1964 for Gary Kroll (see failed prospects) and Wayne Graham (great college coach, washout as major league player). Thomas did his best to help the Phillies coast to the pennant, and I rooted for him all the way, with the Mets, of course, nowhere in the race, but Gene Mauch's squad managed to blow what looked like an insurmountable lead and it was disappointment once again for big Frank.

To me, Frank Thomas was just the kind of guy you have to root for, and easily my favorite Met from the early years.

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 (4)

Barry, except for my all-time sentimental favorite (and my father's favorite player) Gil Hodges, Frank Thomas was easily my favorite (and most productive) Met in those first years too. I look forward to your weekly column, so that I can remember back to those early days that not many Met fans can relate to. Thanks for the memories.

Frank Thomas was a Met legend. His home run record lasted all the way to 1975 when Dave Kingman broke it. He was a teammate of Ralph Kiner with the Pirates in the early 50's and was hands down the Mets MVP in 1962. After the Mets dealt him to the Phillies in 1964 he broke his thumb and didn't really contribute.

The thing I remember most about him was his fight with Richie Allen in 1965 which immediately got him thrown off the team. Eventually in a few years, Allen himself would get run out of town by Philly fans.

Wow. I wasn't here to watch Frank Thomas play, guys -- but I was alive when he was active, and I must say I have a very different image of the man than you.

-Item: several teams were willing to trade him for practically nothing in return.

-Then there are the words Jim Brosnan put in the mouths of two of his teammates, right after a short meeting with Thomas:

"Frank's all right."

"He's all right, but what a disposition! Tell him it's a nice day and he'll want to know what you mean by it!"

-And then the Richie Allen incident, toward the end of his career. Thomas was riding Allen during a batting practice session, reportedly called him "boy" which led to a serious, heavyweight fistfight, and, since Allen was the team's offensive star, led to Thomas being released. Probably Allen's response was out of proportion to the offense, and once he saw what was happening Allen tried to talk the team out of releasing Thomas; but I am guessing that it wasn't simple teammate needling that led to that fight.

I am sorry to speak against an early Met, and as I said my knowledge on the subject does not rival yours. In fact I am glad to have read your piece, it levens my notion of the man a bit. Nonetheless, that is the impression of Frank Thomas that I have had for all these years: of a power hitter with a powerful ability to rub people the wrong way.

Frank Thomas was also my favorite Met in the first year and one thing I've been complaining about for years is the fact that when people talk about the 1962 Mets all they talk about is Marv Throneberry and his mishaps, Stengel and his malapropisms, etc. The team was not good, but it was not a total joke and it was a baseball team trying to win games. A player like Thomas, who hit 34 home runs, so many more than any Met would for decades, gave us a lot to cheer about. So did Ashburn, and Craig, and Jackson. There were good players on the team. I was just a kid and I didn't know anything about Thomas and any problems he may have had, but boy did his homers thrill me. Thanks for these memories.

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