Friday, September 07, 2007

Old Time Mets - Felix Mantilla

Felix Mantilla, not to be confused with Felix Millan, was an original expansion draft choice of the Mets. He had been a utility infielder for the Milwaukee Braves for the previous six years, and had that tag when the Mets drafted him.

Mantilla might have been a better choice for the Mets at third base than Don Zimmer, or Cliff Cook, who came to the Mets early in 1962 in exchange for Zimmer, but Mantilla quickly established himself as a poor defensive player and it wasn't until all the other options proved unsuccessful that Felix got his crack at the third base job. His offensive numbers with the Mets in '62 weren't all that shabby - 11 homeruns, 59 rbi, and a .275 average, all career highs to that point. But at the end of the season, no one was too excited about Felix's future with the Mets. So, when the Mets were able to deal him to the Red Sox for 3 players in December of 1962, it looked like a good trade.

Coming back to the Mets were Tracy Stallard, best known for giving up Roger Maris' 61st homerun in 1961, who was regarded as a hard thrower and still a prospect at the age of 25, Pumpsie Green, Boston's first black player who hadn't accomplished much with the Red Sox but who seemed likely to take Mantilla's spot as the Mets' semi-regular third baseman, and a minor league shortstop, Al Moran, who was reputed to be a good-field, no-hit type.

Stallard was decent for the Mets. Actually he was brilliant at times, and awful most of the time, but he did sort of establish himself as a regular starter with the Mets before being traded away. Moran became the regular Mets' shortstop, almost by default, and batted .193 with 1 homerun in over 300 at bats for the Mets in 1963. Green was a huge disappointment who didn't make the Mets out of spring training and spent most of the year in AAA. He never became a major league player of any note.

But Mantilla surprisingly had 3 pretty good years for Boston. In 1963 he was a utility player who got only 178 at bats, but hit .315. In 1964 and 1965, he was more or less a regular player, In '64, splitting his time between the outfield and second base, he batted .289 with a remarkable 30 homeruns and 89 rbi's. In 1965, as Boston's regular second baseman, he went 18,92,.275 and made the all-star team for the first and only time in his career. He took advantage of Fenway's Green Monster, constantly pounding hits over or against the wall. Yet, surprisingly, at season's end, he was dealt away for light hitting shortstop Eddie Kasko.

So, Mantilla, like Jim Hickman was an original Mets' draft pick who eventually managed to live up to his potential, if only for a short time. Unfortunately, for Mets' fans, it came too late to help the Mets.


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