Friday, March 17, 2006

My Favorite Mets - Part 3 Hunt and Christopher

In 1963 and 1964, it seemed that everybody's favorite Met was 2nd baseman Ron Hunt, and for good reason. Hunt came to the Mets in a deal with the Braves with no AAA experience, grabbed the 2nd base job early in the 1963 season, finished 2nd to Pete Rose in Rookie of the Year balloting and had an even better season in 1964. Fans voted him as the very first Mets' all-star starter in '64, a game played at Shea Stadium, the first, last, and only All-Star Game I ever attended (or probably ever will - you can't get tickets to an All-Star game for $2.10 anymore).

Hunt was the consummate hustler, down and dirty type of player. If you're a younger Mets fan who's unfamiliar with Hunt, but can remember Wally Backman, you get the picture. Definitely a fan favorite, but not quite MY favorite Met, probably because I had the impression that if I ever met up with Hunt in person, he'd be as likely to spit tobacco juice on my shoes as sign an autograph. Hunt later became famous for his skill at getting hit by pitched balls, but he hadn't yet developed that talent as a Met. To be a real favorite of mine, you had to be a good guy as well as a good ballplayer.

Joe Christopher was used mostly as a pinch-runner in his brief tenure as a Pittsburgh Pirate. When he came to the Mets in the expansion draft, he was probably expected to be a good defensive outfielder who might not hit too much. But it turned out, he wasn't much of an outfielder and his first 2 years with the Mets included some more minor league time and rather disappointing play all around. Then, in 1964, he put it all together and had a solid year - batting .300 with 16 HR's, 76 RBI's, improved defense and a continuous positive outlook on baseball and life in general. He just seemed like the kind of guy who'd gladly sign an autograph with a kid or sit down and talk hitting with any fan who'd ask. Joe faded the next year, was dealt to Boston for Eddie Bressoud, where I felt sure he'd duplicate Felix Mantilla's success and tattoo the green monster on a regular basis, but it wasn't to be. Joe had exactly 1 hit in 13 at bats with Boston and his big league career was over. Joe had one shining season sandwiched between a bunch of miserable ones. Why do things like that happen ? I certainly don't know, but for one season, Joe was my favorite Met.

For more on Joe, go here :


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