Due to budge cutbacks in school language programs, fewer children than ever are fluent in Stengelese. (Jim McIsaac / Getty Images)
A very happy birthday to original Mets manager Casey Stengel, the Old Perfessor, who would have reached the incredibly old age of 122 today. A fixture in New York baseball for decades, Stengel started his long association with the city as a player, putting in time with the Brooklyn Dodgers (1912-17) and the New York Giants (1921-23). Casey returned to Brooklyn as a manager when his playing days were over, but it wasn't until the Yankees hired him in 1949 that he found much success. Then again, almost anyone would have been a success with a team that had Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Joe Dimaggio, and Phil Rizzuto on the roster and two more in Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle stashed away in the minors. To Stengel's credit, he seemed to know this, saying, "There is less wrong with this team than any team I have ever managed."
There couldn't have been more wrong with the teams Casey managed for the Mets. In three-plus seasons at the helm, he amassed a 175-404 record, good for a .302 winning percentage. That's easily the worst mark in franchise history. Stengel took it in stride, tirelessly championing the fledgling ball club, even when his teams were filled with tired veterans and fledgling rookies who never seemed to take off. "Come see my Amazin' Mets", he exhorted, giving the team its most indelible nickname (and, by the transitive property, gave this site its name, too).
- Todd Haney is 47. Haney finished out his big league career with three hitless at-bats as a September call-up for the 1998 Mets.
- Clint Hurdle (1983, 1985, 1987) is 55. The current skipper of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Hurdle's first managerial job was helming the St. Lucie Mets in 1988.
- Ellis Valentine (1981-1982) is 58. Thought to have one of the strongest throwing arms in the game, Valentine patrolled the Mets' outfield for a season and a half in the early '80s. These days, Valentine spends his time throwing down to classic funk rather than throwing out runners. You can check out an annotated playlist of his favorite jams here, if you're the type of person who enjoys getting more bounce to the ounce.
One of the more infamous trades in team history, on this date in 2004, the Mets sent Scott Kazmir and Jose Diaz to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato. Kazmir's recent struggles with injuries and ineffectiveness makes this swap look better in retrospect than it did at the time, though eight years on, it's still pretty bad. For Mets fans of a certain age, the name "Victor Zambrano" will forever trigger a Pavlovian gnashing of teeth and cause their vision to go red. To his credit, Zambrano pitched about as well as a man whose elbow tendons had all the tensile strength of spaghetti could be expected to pitch.
Jose Bautista was also momentarily the Mets property eight years ago today. The slugger came over from the Kansas City Royals, but was immediately flipped to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Kris Benson for Ty Wigginton deal. As long as members of Art Howe's staff were volunteering to fix players in ten minutes, it sure would have been nice if hitting coach Don Baylor had spent a moment or two talking shop with Bautista.
Game of Note
Richie Ashburn became the first Met ever to appear in an All-Star game on this date in 1962. Pinch hitting for pitcher Turk Farrell in the bottom of the seventh inning, Ashburn singled to left and eventually came around to score the second of four runs the NL would tally in a 9-4 defeat.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
On this date in 1729, the town of Baltimore, Maryland was founded. The Mets would pay a visit to Charm City 240 years later for Games 1 and 2 of the 1969 World Series.