Casey Stengel received a pleasant surprise on this date in 1966. Told his presence was required at an award ceremony for Mets' president GM George Weiss, Stengel found himself ambushed by Veterans Committee chairman Ford Frick, who informed Casey, before a crowd of Mets players and brass, he'd been unanimously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Part of the surprise was due to the fact that Stengel was the first beneficiary of a Cooperstown rule change that was implemented pretty much just for him. Or, more specifically, the Ole Perfessor's increasing infirmity. At the time of his retirement, forced from the Mets dugout on August 30, 1965 due to a broken hip, Stengel was 75. Given that all-time great manager would be, at best, an octogenarian by the time the Hall's customary five-year waiting period elapsed, the Veterans Committee voted to reduce the interval to six months for any manager, executive, or umpire over the age of 65. In a fitting bit of absurdity for a man who reveled in it, Stengel officially became eligible on February 30, a date that last appeared in 1712 and only on Swedish calendars, to boot.
Never at a loss for words, Stengel had this to say about the honor:
When you're alive at the present time, it is nice to know you've done something in your life that people though was worthwhile.
Willard Hunter turns 79. Few Mets have made a less auspicious debut than this southpaw. Brought on to relieve Roger Craig in the sixth inning of an early June game against the Giants, Hunter hit the first batter he faced, then walked the next. A timely tapper back to the mound helped Hunter escape the frame unscathed, but he wasn't as lucky in the seventh. Here's the batter-by-batter breakdown: single, single, K, RBI single, walk, grand slam, single, sac bunt, walk, strikeout. In Hunter's defense, that was as bad as it got during his Mets tenure. Unfortunately, it never got much better, either. Hunter got into 68 games for New York between 1962 and '64, posting a 4-9 record and 5.06 ERA.
Game of Note
Former Met Al Leiter made his lone appearance World Baseball Classic play on this date in 2006. Al failed to bail starter Dontrelle Willis out of a third inning jam, allowing two runs on three hits, the biggest being a double off the bat of Canada's Justin Morneau. Combined, the two lefties were charged with eight runs, which represented all the scoring our neighbors to the north would do in a 8-6 win over Team USA. Perhaps burned with the shame of letting down his country, Leiter retired after the WBC, bringing his otherwise successful 19-year career to a close.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
President Millard Fillmore was born on this date in the year 1800. As such, it's celebrated as Millard Fillmore Day by such organizations as the Millard Fillmore Society, a group that was founded in 1963 to "perpetuate the memory of the 13th president, holding his actions as exemplary examples of inconsistency." According to what little information about the Millard Fillmore Society exists online, MFS used to hold an annual charity event at Shea Stadium with the stated purpose of raising money to buy Mets tickets for institutionalized children.
Unfortunately, the Millard Fillmore Society has been defunct for quite some time (since at least 1976, according to a Straight Dope column from that year), but if anyone out there wants to hit up Citi Field this summer to chat about the Mets and what America would be like today if there had been no Millard Fillmore (an actual theme from an MFS national essay contest), hit me up.