On November 14, 1966, Bing Devine, the unsung architect of the 1969 World Series Champions three years later, succeeded the retiring George Weiss as president and de facto GM of the New York Mets. As an executive for the Mets, Devine had earlier that year talked a reluctant Weiss into forking over $50,000 to enter the Tom Seaver sweepstakes.
His first trades as president in December 1966 were initially unpopular, though ultimately rewarding, sending their most popular player, Ron Hunt, and longest-tenured Met Jim Hickman to the Dodgers for the much-needed power bat of Tommy Davis. Then he swapped their best pitcher, Dennis Ribant (11-9, 3.20 ERA), and utility man Gary Kolb for rookie center-fielder Don Bosch and veteran pitcher Don Cardwell. The overhyped Bosch was a monumental failure, but Cardwell proved to be both a capable arm and a valuable veteran presence on a young, evolving pitching staff.
In 1967, a trio of less heralded but significant transactions netted the Amazin’s catcher J.C. Martin, third baseman Ed “The Glider” Charles, pitcher Cal Koonce and first baseman-outfielder-hitting machine Art Shamsky.
Despite his keen baseball acumen, Devine was never in synch with the Mets top brass. In December of 1968 he chose to return to the St. Louis Cardinals, for whom he had built his first World Championship team in 1964 (ironically fired that September as the team appeared to be foundering).
Before he left the Mets he set in motion a deal, at the urging of new Mets skipper Gil Hodges, that would send Davis and pitcher Jack Fisher to the White Sox in exchange for Tommie Agee and Al Weis. The rest, as they say, is history. It should be noted that while he coveted Gil Hodges and recognized him as the best man to lead a promising young Mets team forward, the principled Devine was uncomfortable with the ethics of going after a manager still firmly under contract to another team (the Washington Senators) and let other team execs handle the negotiations—but that’s another story for another day.
Happy 83rd birthday to Jim Piersall. In his brief tenure with the 1963 Mets he hit his 100th career home run and celebrated by running the bases backwards (in correct order but facing the wrong way). The stunt did not amuse his manager, Casey Stengel, nor the Phillies pitcher off whom he hit the homer—Dallas Green.
Darrell Sutherland, who turns 71 today, had a promising sophomore year for the 1965 Mets (3-1, 2.81 ERA, 1.04 WHIP), but was gone after a mediocre ’66 season.
Tim Hamulack, 36, is proof that if you are left-handed, throw hard and post good minor league numbers, there’s always a team who will take a chance on you. The Mets were the sixth of eight teams to do so and the first to throw him into a major league game. He was part of the deal that brought Duaner Sanchez, the linchpin of the 2006 bullpen, to the Mets.
Speaking of Sanchez, he will forever be linked with Xavier Nady, who is 34 today. When Sanchez was badly injured in a Miami taxi accident in 2006, Omar sacrificed the popular and productive Nady to obtain a replacement reliever, Roberto Hernandez, and an intriguing “throw in,” Oliver Perez. Nady’s eventual replacement in right field, Shawn Green, proved a significant downgrade.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Reggie Jackson won the American League MVP Award on November 14, 1973. A few weeks earlier he had been named that year's World Series MVP, helping the Oakland A’s defeat the Mets by slugging .586 and driving in six runs--including two with a HR off Jon Matlack that provided the A's with the margin of victory in Game 7. The Mets famously (or infamously) had first dibs on Reggie in the 1966 MLB June Amateur Draft, but instead selected catcher Steve Chilcott who, largely because of injuries, never made it to the major leagues.