Jim McIsaac / Getty Images
Despite a brief scare, the Mets got what the Dodgers and Giants couldn't on this date 52 years ago: taxpayer money for a new stadium.
The fledgling New York Mets franchise received good news from the New York State Legislature on this date in 1961, as the deliberative body authorized a bond issue for the construction of a 55,000 seat stadium on the old 1939-40 World's Fair grounds in Flushing Meadows Park.
The welcome word came one day after a revolt by a group of Queens representatives temporarily left the future of the stadium, and the Mets, hanging in the balance. Citing concerns about traffic congestion and calling the project a "giveaway" since it used government funds to subsidize construction for a private business, the Queens Democratic delegation initially voted against approving the bond. In doing so, they jeopardized the existence of the Mets, as one of the stipulations for the new team joining the National League was that the city would build it a stadium. Still, Mets president M. Donald Grant seemed unconcerned by the no vote. As he told the New York Times, "I've been reassured that they're working hard on the passage of the bill right now and will get it through when it comes up again in about ten days." As it turned out, his estimate was off by nine.
- Don Florence is 46. Don's big league career consists of 14 relief appearances for 1995 Mets, during which he went 3-0 thanks to some opportune late-inning outbursts by the offense. Apparently, Florence was no slouch with the stick himself. Ten years later, as a member of the Concord Senators in New Hampshire's over-30 Men's Granite State Baseball League, Florence cracked a three-run homer to help win Game Five of the GSBL Championships.
- Catcher Hobie Landrith, the man the Mets took with their first pick in the 1961 expansion draft, is 83. Manager Casey Stengel said of the selection, "You gotta have a catcher or you're gonna have a lot of passed balls." Landrith stopped all the pitches thrown his way on Opening Day 1962, though he struggled to get playing time after that. On June 7, the Mets sold Landrith to the Baltimore Orioles despite a solid .289/.389/.422 line that was good for a 117 OPS+. For perspective, Choo Choo Coleman, the second-best backstop offensively, posted an OPS+ of 97.
- Abraham Nunez turns 36. The former Pirates, Cardinals, and Phillies infielder finished his career with two unsuccessful pinch hit appearances with the Mets in June 2008. According to Baseball Reference, the at-bats resulted in, respectively, a "weak" grounder to short and pop up.
- Finally, Rich Puig is 60. The 14th overall pick in the 1971 June amateur draft, Puig joined the Mets system straight out of Tampa's Hillborough High School. Three years later, he appeared in four games at the end of the '74 season. His 0-for-11 performance was such an inauspicious debut that those hitless at-bats wound up being the only ones he'd receive at the major league level.
Game of Note
In perhaps the LOLiest of LOLpen performances, Mets relievers allowed ten runs in the ninth inning of a spring training game against the Red Sox on this date in 1967, turning a 18-13 lead into a 23-18 loss. Thirteen different Sox players came to the plate in the final frame. Six of them reached base via hit, six by walk, which means only one of the baker's dozen worth of batters failed to make a trip to first. Mets pitcher Jack Hamilton got the crookedest number hung on him, allowing the bulk of the runs while failing to record a single out. Incidentally, as the big league squad was experiencing its meltdown, the Mets' B-team battled the Phillies to a 1-1 tie.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
On March 16, 1802, Congress authorized the establishment of a military academy at West Point, New York. The alma mater of two presidents, numerous generals, and 74 Medal of Honor recipients, West Point has only graduated one MLB player: Walt "Piggy" French, who played for the Philadelphia Athletics from 1923 to 1929. Back in 1979, the Mets hoped cadet Craig Jones might become the second, as the team made him their third round pick in the June draft, but the righty chose to remain a member of both the Black Knights's pitching staff and the U.S. armed forces.