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 1966, in the days before Seaver, Koosman, Gentry, and Ryan, when the Mets' young pitchers were named Selma, Rusteck, Sutherland, and Gardner, the Mets tried to provide some veteran presence on the staff to help carry the team to respectability while the young pitchers developed.
In the early '60's, you could make up a pretty good core of a major league rotation with the likes of Bob Friend, Bob Shaw, and Ralph Terry - all workhorses who each had one outstanding season, and some other pretty good ones. Couldn't they help the Mets? Well, Shaw and Friend did, but only in the short term and when a team goes on to lose 95 games, maybe it would have been better to look at some younger pitchers. Still, it made sense to take a chance on these veterans to help stabilize the pitching staff. After all, the Mets were willing to pay the "big" salaries that came along with these pitchers, even though their best years were behind them. They were each acquired in cash transactions, so no prospects (or non-prospects) were sacrificed to get them.
On June 10th of 1966, the Mets purchased Bob Shaw from the Giants. The previous season, he had gone 16-9 with San Francisco, but was off to a shaky start at 1-4 in '66. Shaw was 34 years old at the time but proved he still had one good season left in him. From the time he arrived, he was arguably the Mets' best starting pitcher, going 11-10 in 25 starts. After a 3-9 start in 1967, Shaw was sold to the Cubs. Shaw always seemed like the type of guy who had to be doing a good job in order to keep his place on any team. I don't remember exactly why, but I seem to recall that he was pretty set in his ways and not exactly the easiest person to get along with.
Five days later, the Mets purchased veteran Bob Friend who had previously starred with the Pirates, but at the time was with the Yankees. At age 35, having thrown a ton of innings when he was in Pittsburgh, his career was at its tailend. He managed to post a 5-8 record with the Mets that season, but the Mets were 6-6 in the games Friend started, not bad for a team that would finish 66-95.
On August 6, 1966, the Mets purchased former Cy Young Winner Ralph Terry from Kansas City. A 23-game winner for the Yankees in 1962, Terry was never quite the same after that, with unsuccessful stints with Cleveland and Kansas City. The A's gave him 10 starts in 1966, where he went 1-5. By the time he came to the Mets, he was little more than a mopup man, although the fans and the organization were probably hoping for a lot more, since Terry was still only 30 years old. Terry made the Mets' roster again in 1967, but appeared in just 2 games and was released in May. That was the end of his baseball career.
Of course, throughout their history, the Mets (and in general, every other basebll team), tried to mix in some veterans along with younger pitchers. For the Mets, it finally clicked in 1969, when pitchers like Cardwell, Taylor, and Koonce were integral parts of the staff along with younger arms like Seaver, Koosman, Gentry, Ryan, and McGraw.
The 1966 edition was nowhere as successful, but the Mets did manage to escape the cellar that year for the first time and certainly part of that could be attribued to the contributions of Shaw and Friend.