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Mets Memories 1964 - Ron Hunt, Pete Rose and Bobby Klaus

Barry DuchanSunday, August 12, 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 the 1963 NL Rookie Of The Year voting, the top two were both second basemen - Pete Rose of the Reds and Ron Hunt with the Mets. Neither had been expected to even make it to the big leagues that season. Rose had just finished a great season in the minors, but it was at Class A Macon. Hunt was a conditional purchase from the Braves after a good season in the Texas League. Going into the 1963 season, veteran Don Blasingame was the incumbent for the Reds and Larry Burright, who had just come over from the Dodgers was expected to win the Mets' 2B job.

In 1964, Hunt surpassed Rose (very temporarily) when he was voted as starter on the NL All-Star team which was played at Shea Stadium. Hunt had an outstanding year, finishing the season at .303, and being named the second baseman on the post-season Sporting News All-Star team as well. Hunt and Rose remain forever linked for another less-remembered reason. Despite their great rookie years, both were briefly supplanted by Bobby Klaus.

Bobby Klaus Klaus had been the All-Star second baseman in the Pacific Coast League and certainly seemed ready for the majors, but the Reds weren't yet prepared to move Pete Rose to another position. Klaus had a reputation as a great defensive second baseman and a decent hitter. Rose began the 1964 season struggling to get his average above .220. So the Reds gave Bobby Klaus a brief shot at the job. But on June 27th and 28th, Rose had 8 hits in 9 at bats, raising his average from .214 to .240 and although he did go back into a slump for a while, it was clear that the Reds were sticking with Rose.

Meanwhile, Klaus still seemed like a pretty good prospect. Now, the Mets of 1964 certainly needed a lot of help. But if there was one spot that seemed to be in good hands, it was surely second base. Yet less than 2 weeks after Ron Hunt started the All Star game, the Mets purchased Bobby Klaus from the Reds, immediately installed him at second base, and moved Hunt (who had played some third base in the minors) over to third. I'm not sure how Hunt took this, but to Met fans it seemed like a pretty stupid move at the time. The experiment lasted about a week, at which time, Hunt moved back to second and Klaus moved to third. Even though he hit around .220, pretty bad no matter how good his defense may have been, Klaus hung around for another season and filled in when Ron Hunt suffered through an injury-filled season in 1965, but was eventually dealt away when Hunt returned. Bobby Klaus had a fairly brief and undistinguished major league career, but in one season he was given a shot to replace both Pete Rose, who of course, went on to become baseball's all-time hit leader, and Ron Hunt, the Mets' all star second baseman and their best and most popular player of that era.

Was this a case of scouting reports being given more credence than on-field performance ? Did the Mets really think that Hunt's future was at third base? Was Hunt really a much worse fielder than I remember? If anyone can recall more about this move, please leave a comment.

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, I remember this move but my grasp of the reasons behind it was somewhat limited by the fact that I was nine years old. I certainly had the impression that Hunt was considered an excellent defensive second baseman. I remember him making a lot of good plays. But I think that this Hunt-Klaus thing was something like the Kaz Matsui - Jose Reyes misadventure a few years ago. Sometimes people get it into their head that if you can play one infield position, you can play another, and they ignore the impact that a switch in position will make on someone's comfort zone. I remember being really ticked off when Rose beat out Hunt for Rookie-of-the-Year, but I suppose I will have to swallow that one.

I was ten at the time and wasn't so into the Mets to be aware of all that. I remember Hunt's crucial bunt in the All Star game (why was there never another one at Shea?) and I can just about remember Bobby Klaus's baseball card. After reading your description of the situation I'm inclined to put it down to some Stengel-Weiss senility.

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