By Barry Duchan
Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of new articles Barry will be writing on Mets second basemen for this site. - M.S.
Going back to 1961, the expansion draft left the Mets without a solid candidate to pencil in at second base. Of course, you could pretty much say that the draft left the Mets without much hope at any position, but the Mets thought they had found a good one at second base when they sent expansion choice Lee Walls, and the then-substantial amount of $100,000 to the Dodgers for recent all-star Charlie Neal who was still just 30 years old. Neal was the regular second baseman for the 1962 Mets and statistically, his production wasn't bad, but it was clear that his range was limited and he wasn't going to be the long-term solution.
Prior to the 1963 season, the Mets acquired Larry Burright and Tim Harkness from the Dodgers in exchange for pitcher Bob Miller, coming off a 1-12 season with the Mets, but still young enough to show promise of a good career. Miller became a solid reliever for L.A. The Mets thought that Burright could supplant Neal as their regular second baseman and he did open the season as the starter. Fortunately, the Mets had also purchased Texas League all-star Ron Hunt from the Braves, and of course, it was Hunt who ultimately won the second base job and the following year became the Mets' first elected all-star. So, the Mets should have been set for years to come with Hunt at second base, and Hunt did, in fact, have a solid career after leaving the Mets, playing for the Dodgers, Giants and Expos as their regular at second base until the 1974 season, but for reasons I never understood, the Mets seemed determined to replace Hunt.
Just weeks after starting at second base for the NL All-Star team at Shea, the Mets traded for Pacific Coast League All-Star Bobby Klaus, installed him at second base and moved Hunt to third. It didn't take long to see this was a mistake and soon Hunt and Klaus shifted positions. Klaus never hit enough to make it as a regular at any position, although the following season, he played a lot of second base when Hunt was injured as did the newly acquired veteran, Chuck Hiller, a good hitter, but poor fielder. Hunt remained the starter for 1966 before being dealt to the Dodgers in the Tommy Davis trade.
For 1967, with Hunt gone, Jerry Buchek was acquired in a trade with the Cardinals and became the more-or-less full time second baseman. Jerry was a below-average defensive player, but better than Hiller, who had a little pop and struck out a lot. It was clear that he was only going to fill the position for the short term as the Mets had a couple of prospects in Ken Boswell and Bob Heise who figured to compete for the regular job the following year. Hiller and Phil Linz also got some time at second for the '67 Mets.
In 1968, Boswell played against most righthanders and had a decent year with Linz and Al Weis as the righty hitting half of the platoon. Neither Linz nor Weis hit much. Boswell was better at the plate than in the field, but it appeared that he would eventually become the regular at the position.
In the championship year of 1969, Boswell got most of the playing time with Weis playing against some lefties. Heise never hit enough to get a good shot and wound up as a part-timer with several other teams.
The Mets ended the '60's with Boswell expected to be the long-term solution at second base. But more importantly, they ended the '60's as World Champions. In my next installment, I'll take a look at the 1970's and 1980's.
Part 1 - A History of Mistakes
Part 2 - The Sixties - Current Article
Part 3 - The Seventies and Eighties
Part 4 - Gregg Jefferies
Part 5 - Jeff Kent
Part 6 - The Carlos Baerga era/error
Part 7 - Roberto Alomar
Part 8 - 2004 - 2005
Part 9 - 2006 - 2008
Part 10 - The Future