According to the announced attendance figure, a mere 5,005 fans showed up to Shea Stadium on April 13, 1967. That means the three-year old arena was at less than ten percent capacity when Tom Seaver, the man who'd later become "the Franchise", stalked out to the mound to make his major league debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Presumably, Seaver was received warmly by the sparse home crowd, then less so by Bucs leadoff batter Matty Alou, who opened the game with a double to right. He'd wind up pinned at second, however, as Seaver induced groundouts from the next two batters and close the frame with his first MLB strikeout, a whiff of future teammate Donn Clendenon.
In the second, second baseman Jerry Buchek staked the Mets rookie starter to a lead with a two-run homer off, though Seaver would give both back. Roberto Clemente and Maury Wills touched him for an RBI singles in the third and fourth respectively. Seaver faced further threats in both innings, but escaped thanks to his swing and miss stuff. Manager Wes Westrum let his young starter work out of both jams, but lost patience in the sixth after Seaver gave up a one-out double to Pirates pitcher Vern Law and then hit Matty Alou with a pitch. Westrum brought on reliever Chuck Estrada who extinguished the fire by inducing a double play that closed the book on Seaver. His final line: 5.1 IP, 6 H 4 BB, 8 K and a game score of 52. That score might seem low compared to insanely high career standards Seaver would later set, but at the time, thanks to the insanely low quality of Met pitching prospects up to that point, Seaver's 52 was actually the second highest game score posted by an Amazin making his first big league start.
As for the rest of the game, Chuck Hiller drove home the game winner for the Mets in the bottom of the eighth with a pinch hit double. Closer Ron Taylor, also making his New York debut, tossed a 1-2-3 ninth to secure the victory.
- Ricardo Rincon turns 43 today. The longtime LOOGY ended his big league career by throwing four innings for the Mets in September 2008. Of the eight appearances Rincon made down the stretch, his last one was probably the most memorable, although not for a good reason. On September 25, Rincon relieved Pedro Martinez with two on and nobody out in seventh inning of a a 3-3 game against the Cubs and promptly gave up a three-run homer to Micah Hoffpauir on his first pitch.
- Johnny Stephenson is 72. The Mets originally signed Stephenson as an outfielder, but turned him into a backstop upon joining the system. In 1965, Mets scout Red Murff stuck Stephenson behind the plate to catch a hard-throwing Texan high schooler the team had interest in signing. The pair got crossed up on a pitch and Stephenson took a fastball off the collar bone, forcing him out of action for a week. Just over a year later, a fully healed Stephenson again got behind the plate to catch the Texan, named Nolan Ryan, in his major league debut. The two had their signals down this time, as Ryan struck out two of the first three batters he faced.
Game of Note
National League baseball officially returned to the five boroughs after a four-year hiatus on this date in 1962 as the Mets took on the Pittsburgh Pirates in their first-ever home opener. Sherman "Roadblock" Jones got the start for the Amazins and he pitched decently. In five innings work, Roadblock allowed just two runs, one of which scored on Bill Mazeroski's catchable fly ball that somehow found some real estate between outfielders Frank Thomas and Gus Bell and dropped in for an RBI "triple". Richie Ashburn halved the lead in the bottom of the frame with a run-plating single, but Mets relievers Herb Moford and Ray Daviault each allowed a tally. Perhaps trying to atone for his fielding miscue, Frank Thomas got those runs back with a sixth inning solo homer and RBI single in the eighth, but that's as close as the Mets could get. Final score: Pirates 4, Mets 3.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Today marks the 270th birthday of patriot, president, and founding father Thomas Jefferson. As the author of the Declaration of Independence and numerous other influential documents, there's no shortage of Jeffersonian aphorisms floating around America's collective consciousness. That said, let's go obscure when tying one back to the Mets. In collection of private papers published after his death, Jefferson is quoted as saying, "I have ever deemed it more honorable and profitable to set a good example than to follow a bad one." Sage advice to heed when one's dreams of seeing, say, Zack Wheeler and Rafael Montero instead of Jeremy Hefner and Aaron Laffey struggle in early April starts.