Saturday, January 13, 2007

Mets Memories - 1964

In 1964, their third year of existence, the Mets moved from the dilapidated old Polo Grounds to brand new Shea Stadium in Flushing Meadows. This was especially good news for me, because while getting to the Polo Grounds meant taking a bus and 2 subway lines, Shea Stadium was either a long walk or an easy bus ride down 108th Street for me.

I went to a lot of games that year, most notably the Father's Day doubleheader against the Phillies who looked pennant-bound at the time, where Jim Bunning pitched a perfect game in the opener and then, almost equally surprising to me, 18-year old Rick Wise beat the Mets in the second game. And then there was the all-star game, the only one I've ever attended, where the Phillies' Johnny Callison won the game with a 9th inning home run. Also significant about that game was that the Mets' Ron Hunt was the starting second baseman, the first Met to legitimately make the all-star team. And if you think it was a hometown vote, Hunt was also the all-star 2nd baseman on the 1964 post-season team as chosen by the Sporting News.

1964 may have been Hunt's best year wih the Mets, but it was a really disappointing one for the team. They won only 53 games, 2 more than the year before despite adding proven major leaguers like George Altman and Jack Fisher, getting a solid .300 year out of Joe Christopher, and fielding much more of a set lineup than they ever had before.

Two names, since lost to history, stand out in my mind in conjunction with the disappointment of 1964: Bill Haas and Bobby Klaus. Next post will discuss Klaus. Here's the story on Haas.

Following the 1963 season, the National League, realizing how badly they had treated the Mets and Houston in the original expansion draft, decided to hold a "special draft" where once again each of the established teams could protect a set number of players in their organization and all the rest were subject to selection by the Mets and Houston.

The buzz leading up to the draft was that there weren't a whole lot of good players to take, but there was one gem that both the Mets and Colt .45's/Astros (I'm not sure exactly when the name change occurred, so I'll keep calling them Houston) couldn't wait to get their hands on. After the Mets won the coin toss and got to pick first, Houston reportedly offered all of their other picks in exchange for the right to pick first. The Mets stood their ground and made the pick - Bill Haas.

And who was Bill Haas ? Well, he was a first baseman in the Dodger organization, who had hit over .300 with power at both the A and AA levels in 1963 and was considered a future star. There was even some speculation that Haas would start the 1964 season for the Mets at first base. But Haas never made the majors, hit in the low .200's in AAA ball for the Mets, hit around .250 with middling power in AAA the following year and was soon out of baseball. Not the first failed prospect for the Mets, nor the last, but other than seeing his face on a Topps rookie card, I never saw or heard about Haas again.

And the rest of that special draft ? Houston took Claude Raymond, the Mets took Jack Fisher and that was it. In retrospect, Haas may not have been regarded as a can't miss prospect after all, but the point was that he was indeed a prospect with "star potential" whereas most of the other available players were proven mediocrities. Raymond was a decent major league relief pitcher, both before and after he was picked by Houston and Fisher was a competent starter. But both second division teams were looking for a future star and Haas was considered the one player who just might be it. Of course, he wasn't. Not even close.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

very interesting commentary,
I have in my possession a booklet issued to prospective "new" players encouraging them to join the team and become a Met. There can't be very many of these in print since they were intended for player use and not the interesting piece of Met History...Oh yea, I also have a signed letter from VP John Murphy on 1964 Met stationary. Good Stuff

Good Luck Mets!

8:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes you have finally found that Bill Haas you mentioned here and he now preaches the doctrine of Jesus Christ and the Apostles online for about 12 years now.

8:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to grade school with Bill Haas. On the same basketball team we competed, yes, competed. He had 50 points in one romp in the LaSalle Tournament, I had 24 assists. He was usually the high scorer; I wanted to be Tom Gola, playmaker. I did win a scholarship to LaSalle High School and LaSalle College, though.
Bill always seemed to have a contentious attitude. He alledgedly punched a teacher at Germantown Academy, got thrown out in senior year, went to North Catholic, then dropped out, went into the Dodger organization, punched (allegedly) Duke Snider, was quickly traded to/drafted by the Mets, married Miss Teenage America (saw photo in the Inquirer), won the silver bat for highest average in minors, hit .316 in spring training, lost job to Ed Kranepool, then quit baseball. This is the story I tell, though it might be rough around the edges. I have him living and working near Atlantic City right now (2010)

9:26 AM  

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