This Date in Mets History: February 17 - Happy Birthday to Roger Craig

Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

The man who started (and lost, naturally) the very first game in Mets history turns 83 today.

Fly out to center, single, single, RBI single, balk, RBI groundout, pop out to catcher.

That's how the first inning went for Roger Craig, 83 today, on April 11, 1962. Just 30 months prior, the lank right-hander from Durham, North Carolina been on the mound for the Dodgers, striking out seven Chi Sox over seven innings in Game Four of the 1959 World Series. An arm injury and an expansion draft later, he was a member of the New York Mets. The ace of the pitching staff, according to manager Casey Stengel. As such, he earned the honor of facing the St. Louis Cardinals in the first game in Mets history and the displeasure of watching helplessly as said St. Louis batters redirected his splitter toward the empty expanses of Sportsman's Park outfield.

Craig lasted just two more innings on April 11, 1962, allowing another three Cards to cross the plate before getting pulled for a pinch hitter in the top of the fourth. By game's end, the run differential was 11-4 in favor of the Birds and Craig found the first of many Ls next to his name in the box score. In the two years he anchored New York's rotation, Craig lost 24 and 22 games respectively. Both were league-worst marks. Not that he pitched poorly. During one especially brutal stretch, Craig was on the short end of 18 consecutive decisions. Looking for a bright side, Casey Stengel pointed out that "you've got to be good to lose that many." If the Old Perfessor really wanted to cheer up his ace, he could have mentioned that, during Craig's 18-game slide, the Mets were shut out 11 times.

Mercifully, the Mets and Craig parted ways after the 1963 season. During the winter meetings, GM George Weiss traded the reigning NL loss leader to St. Louis for OF George Altman and P Bill Wakefield. Craig had what was easily his best season since injuring his arm for the Cardinals in 1964. Serving as the team's swingman, he posted an ERA+ of 118...albeit with a losing record.

Other Birthdays
Juan Padilla is 36. The reliever surprised everyone in 2005 by contributing 36 innings of 1.49 ERA ball for the Mets after putting up a 10.67 mark for the Reds earlier in the season. Unfortunately, Padilla never got a chance to prove if the improvement was real or not, as he underwent Tommy John surgery prior to the 2006 season and never pitched in the majors again.

Game of Note
On February 17, 1976, junior Mike Scott led Pepperdine University to its first win of the college baseball season by throwing a perfect game against rival Cal Lutheran. Scott struck out seven and allowed just two balls to leave the infield. It was dominating performances like this one that led the New York Mets to take the right-hander 37th overall in that summer's amateur draft. Ten years later, as a member of the Astros, Scott no-hit the San Francisco Giants on September 25 to clinch the NL West for Houston and put them on course to face the Mets in the 1986 NLCS.

Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
The U.S. Senate passed the Blaine Act by a 58-to-23 vote on this date in 1933, a crucial first step in ending Prohibition. The handiwork of Wisconsin Senator John J. Blaine, this small piece of legislation empowered the world's greatest deliberative body to officially take up the issue of repealing the 18th Amendment and, inadvertently created Mets fans, as it's likely none of us could have been able to follow this team closely without the aid of a stiff drink or two. Dozen.

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