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Old Time Mets - Rod Kanehl

Barry DuchanSunday, December 30, 2007
By Barry Duchan


With all the posts I've done on the early days of the Mets, I never once mentioned the name of Rod Kanehl, who in his way symbolized the 1962-64 Mets as much as anyone. If Marv Throneberry and Choo Choo Coleman represented Mets' ineptitude, then Kanehl was the embodiment of the everyman quality that helped to popularize the Mets.

For those of you too young to remember Kanehl, he was the all-purpose utility man for the early Mets, who played every position except pitcher and catcher, and no doubt, would have played those, too, if only he was asked. How good a ballplayer was Rod? Well, let's just say if he was a better hitter, a better fielder with a better arm, and a better base runner, he might have been Joe McEwing. That might be a little unfair, because Kanehl was actually a pretty good base runner. But so are a lot of guys who never get the chance to play pro ball.

Rod Kanehl Rod's "best" position was second base. Unfortunately, he never mastered the double play pivot, which is fairly important for a second baseman. He also played a lot in the outfield where he would pursue flyballs with reckless abandon. In fact, that's what made Casey Stengel notice him in the first place.

Kanehl spent several seasons in the Yankees' organization, mostly at the lower levels, but one year in training camp, he impressed Casey with his constant hustle. So, it was on Stengel's recommendation that the Mets drafted Kanehl for their AAA team prior to the 1962 season. Every knowledgeable baseball man, including Mets' President George Weiss saw Kanehl as no more than minor league fodder, but he hustled his way on to the roster with Casey's support and hung around for three seasons.

What endeared Kanehl to Mets' fans was his genuine "regular guy" quality. Today, with even utility infielders making a million dollars a year, it's tough for the average fan to identify with any big league player. But Kanehl, who was probably making no more than the average school teacher, cop, or truck driver, was truly the ordinary guy who happened to be playing in the big leagues. Kanehl would ride the New York subways and buses, and converse with fans on a man-to-man basis without any condescension whatsoever. Rod would hang out with fans all the time. He appreciated their support and they appreciated his hard work, hustle, and desire, even if you got the feeling that maybe the fellow who played shortstop on your weekend softball team was just as good a ballplayer as Rod Kanehl and maybe he was.

Kanehl was certainly grateful for the opportunity to play in the big leagues. Had Stengel not brought him north, he no doubt would have been doomed to a lifetime in the bushes. In appreciation, Kanehl attended Casey Stengel's funeral, reportedly the only ex-Met player to do so. In spite of his limited ability, Kanehl will always have a place in Mets' lore.

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 (9)

Great story!!! Where is he now and can we get him to coach first base???

you hit the nail on the head with saying he was like the guy who played on your softball team. that was my feeling of Rod. Didn't they call him, Hot-Rod Kanehl.Boy thats when you loved the Mets for not so much of what they did, but how they did it. It was a team effort of everybody really trying to win, and in those days a win, any win, was headlines in the news.

Hot-Rod Kanehl!! He was one of my favorite early Met players because of his hustle, love of the game, and his obvious appreciation of the fact that he was in the major leagues. In fact, when Super Joe came to the Mets, Rod was the guy I immediately thought about! And, with Rod hitting .248, .241. and .232 in his 3 years with the Mets, Joe would have liked to have those numbers during some of his years in the majors. I was young, but I do remember Kanehl running around like a crazy man whenever he played, but as you say, not playing particularly well! Thanks for the memories.

1934 - 2004 R.I.P. He was a great utility player on those 1st Met teams.

I was a Mets fan from day one (starting with the player draft), and appreciated Rod's play.

One day last year, for kicks, I computed the putouts per inning by year for every Met outfielder who played at least 100 innings a year, broken down by rightfield, centerfield and leftfield. Kanehl led Mets centerfielders in putouts per inning for several seasons, which suggests that his hustle, speed and positioning resulted in his getting to balls that other guys couldn't.

When the Mets cut him after 1964 I could not understand it, he seemed to have better range than many of the other Met centerfielders, and on that basis might have been worth keeping.

At second base, my research showed that Kanehl had a higher ratio of chances per inning than most or all of the other Mets second basemen, when compared by year. This again suggests that he had very good (maybe even superior) range. I remember the Mets announcers and newsmen who wrote about the team commenting that the best infield combo during 1962 was Charley Neal at shortstop and Rod Kanehl at second.

For those who dig stats, the following detailed are provided for Kanehl's comparative range. The stats are for all Mets players who played at least 100 innings in a given year at the specified position:

1962

Second Base
Kanehl .740 chances per inning
Neal .605

Third Base
Zimmer .436 chances per inning
Kanehl .406
Neal .393
Mantilla .354
Cook .305

1963

Centerfield
Hicks .296 putouts per inning
Carmel .287
Kanehl .284
Hickman .237
Piersall .217

1964

Sceondbase
Kanehl .664 chances per inning
Klaus .664
Hunt .619

Thirdbase
Kanehl .433 chances per inning
Hnnt .431
Smith .394
Samuel .372
Klaus .333

Centerfield
Kanehl .323 putouts per inning
Hickman .286
Elliot .257

While fielding ratio's are dependent on many variables and cannot be used as a hard and fast determinant, when Kanehl played at least 100 annual innings at a position he showed good range compared to all of the other fielders at that position. While Neal and Hunt were acknowledged as good fielders at second base, it is interesting that Kanehl's were better during 1962 and 1964.


The computed ratio's of chances or putouts per inning in my last post are based on my analysis of data found on baseball-reference.com regarding annual innings played at a position and the associated numbers of chances or putouts.

See http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/NYM/1963.shtml for a sample year's fielding data by position.

Regarding Kanehl's ability to turn a double play and the benefits of the Neal-Kanehl combo at short and second, consider the following:

While playing second base for the '62 Mets, Charley Neal participated in 54 double plays in 727.3 innings, while Kanehl helped turn 53 double plays in 529.3 innings, On a comparative basis, when Kanehl played second there were 35% more double plays per 9 innings than when Neal played second. The difference might be due to Neal at short as well as Kanehl's possibly greater range at second.

The information on 1962 Met secondbasemen innings and double plays from taken from the baseball-reference.com site and the information used here was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by Retrosheet. Interested
parties may contact Retrosheet at "www.retrosheet.org".

The info on putouts and chances used to derive per inning ratio's was taken from the same source.

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