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McCovey an Original Met? Gil Hodges as the Mets' FIRST manager?

Barry DuchanSunday, September 9, 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.

Using the online Sporting News archive that I wrote about in my last post, I accessed the issue of September 20, 1961 just before the Mets made their choices in the expansion draft. In this issue, NY writer Joe King speculated on who might be chosen by the Mets and Colt .45's as well as who the Mets might select as manager. (Interestingly, a year before, TSN printed the ACTUAL lists of players made available in the AL expansion draft, but no such list was ever published for the NL.)

Although the player lists were only about half accurate, few of those who didn't get chosen would have made much of a difference. But certainly one name mentioned as a possible Met choice would have made QUITE a difference. King wrote matter-of-factly that the Mets could wind up with Willie McCovey as their first baseman. No doubt, the Giants came to their senses and substituted the likes of Sherman "Roadblock" Jones and Joe Amalfitano as available talent. Looking back, McCovey certainly stands out among the players listed as potential choices. Presumably, King decided that with the Giants having two natural first basemen in Orlando Cepeda and McCovey, they could afford to part with one of them. The Giants would make some dumb moves like trading Cepeda for Ray Sadecki as well as giving up on slugging outfielders like George Foster, Felipe Alou, Leon Wagner, and Willie Kirkland, but I don't think they were dumb enough to put up McCovey. Had they done so, I'd like to think the Mets would have grabbed him with the first pick.

The other very interesting item in this issue (same page) stated that "with all indications that Casey Stengel will not return to managing, signs point to Gil Hodges as the No. 1 choice to be manager of the Mets". There was even speculation that there would have to be an arrangement allowing the Mets to pick Hodges in the draft for the purpose of being their manager, so Houston wouldn't take him.

Had the Mets opted for Hodges to lead them, it's very likely they would have taken more young players. Or maybe they knew they would be taking mostly older ones, so Hodges was not the best choice as manager. Whatever the case, a 1962 Mets team with Gil Hodges as manager and Willie McCovey at first base would have probably put this team on a whole different course.

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 (3)

Barry, that would have been tremendous! It's hard to believe, being an original Met fan, that McCovey was actually available. Looking at the list of players available at the time, there were no players of McCovey's caliber available. Sounds like the NL owners might have played a few games behind the scenes, especially since they didn't publish the list of players ahead of time. Too bad, that certainly would have been a major improvement to our "Amazin Mets"!

After I wrote this, I realized that Houston had first pick in the expansion draft, so if McCovey had been available, Houston might have taken him. So as bad as the expansion draft turned out, imagine if Houston got McCovey and the Mets had to settle for Hobie Landrith. That would have been a whole lot worse.

Actually, it is incorrect that there is no official list of the players made available to the two expansion teams. The New York Times ran the list in early October 1961. You'd have to go to their archive to dig it up. The New York Library has the Times on fle.

I came across it in the early 1970s while examining NYT microfilm. Each team made a few players available, "unprotected." The system was totally rigged by the NL owners. The minor leagues were off-limits in that draft, so teams hid players in the minors, then shifted them to the majors after the draft. Houston and the Mets were stuck with the dregs of baseball.

Willie McCovey was NOT on the list. However, there was one mistake made by one team, a mistake neither Houston nor the Mets took advantage of. The one true impact player on the list was the Philadelphia Phillies Richie Allen, then 19 years old. Why the Phillies would make such a blunder is anyone's guess, but remember the Phils were a poorly run orginization in the late 1950s.

Richie Allen hitting in the Polo Grounds in 1962? Probably would have lead the league in Strike outs and Home Runs.

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