Birthday boy Wally Backman, probably either moments before or after yelling at someone. (Rick Stewart / Getty Images)
Just over 10,000 fans spun the turnstiles at the Polo Grounds on this date in 1962 thinking it was going to be the last professional baseball game held in the old park. According to Mets official Tom Meany, "only a series of blizzards of some other unforeseen trouble" would keep the team from moving into a new home in Queens come the following season.
Jinx. The winter of 1963 wound up being one of the worst in history, leading to record snowfalls from the United Kingdom to Alaska. Two of the subcontractors working on the Flushing Meadow stadium went bankrupt, too, which, while troubling, seems like it should have been foreseen.
That said, even though those in the stands on September 22, 1962 missed out on being part of New York baseball lore, the Mets treated them to a pretty good game. The right-handed Bob Miller struck out nine Cubs over eight innings, while Frank Thomas won it in the bottom of the ninth with a walk-off single. Fans even got to witness a piece of Mets history in the eighth, as a young Ed Kranepool laced an opposite field double for the first of his franchise-record 1,418 hits.
Celebrating 53 grissiony years on earth today is Wally Backman. The fan favorite has spent a large chunk of his adult life in the employ of the Mets. Backman was the team's first round draft pick in 1977, made his debut three years later, and was a regular at the keystone until the 1988 season. Given the pace at which Wally has been climbing the ranks of the Mets' minor league system as a managerial prospect, it wouldn't be too surprising to see him offered a coaching position on the big league team, should one open up this offseason. Whether he'd accept anything short of a managerial post is another question.
There are plenty more birthday wishes to dole out after the jump...
- Not to be confused with the man who co-wrote girl group hits like "Be My Baby" and "Chapel of Love", the Mets' Jeff Barry, seen here straight chillin' at Shea, is 43. Barry spent a month with the team in 1995 before being traded for the other Pedro Martinez. Though the other Jeff Barry for THE Pedro Martinez would have been a very interesting deal.
- I try to say something, if not nice, then at least not too disparaging about every Met on his birthday, but, man, does Vince Coleman (1991-1993) ever test the limits of that policy. Anyway, he's 51 today.
- Mark Guthrie turns 47. In 2002, the LOOGY teamed with ROOGY Steve Reed to make a moderately effective two-armed, four-first named bullpen platoon pitcher.
- Mets, Blue Jays, Indians, Yankees, and Mets farmhand Chris Schwinden is 26. Hopefully he's spending a relaxing birthday at home in whatever city that may be.
Game of Note
Let's flashback to 366 days ago. The Mets trailed the Cardinals 6-2 going into the ninth inning at the third iteration of Busch Stadium. Willie Harris led things off against Redbirds closer Jason Motte by drawing a walk. A nice start, but to bring the tying run to the plate, the Mets would need to load the bases. Thanks to an error and another walk, they did just that. Justin Turner coaxed a third base on balls out of Motte to force in a run, at which point Tony LaRussa had seen enough and decided to start playing match ups. Neither of his next two moves worked, as Jose Reyes and Ruben Tejada laced RBI hits off of lefty and righty pitchers respectively. This failure certainly had to be due to factors beyond LaRussa's control and not the fact that Reyes and Tejada don't have severe platoon splits. Two batters later, Willie Harris returned to the dish for his second at-bat of the inning and broke the stalemate with a two-run single. Final score: Mets 8, Cardinals 6.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Joan Whitney Payson seems like she was a classy lady. An avid supporter of the arts and baseball, she funneled her wealth into the Met and the Mets, which should make her one of Pack Bringley's favorite people. Anyway, when Payson founded the New York Metropolitans Baseball Club, Inc., she became the first woman in North America to own a professional sports team outright. That is, she didn't inherit it from the death of a dude. That's the type of legacy worth remembering on September 22, which is American Business Women's Day.