5.21.2007

The Worst Team Ever

Because I am a fairly opinionated person, and because I generally consider my opinions to be pretty much on-target, I’ve decided to start a semi-regular series of blog posts entitled Best and Worst.

Every week/month/undetermined random period of time, I’ll crank out one of these little jewels which will describe the best or worst of all time in a given category.

The first post in the series centers on one of my favorite topics of baseball history: the Worst Team Ever, the 1962 New York Mets.

A brand new team in 1962, the New York roster was a perfect storm of inexperienced and untalented youth, incompetent utility players and over-the-hill stars who united to amass an appalling record of 40-120, the worst in Major League history.

Just how bad was this team?

Sit back and enjoy.

Starting catcher Harry Chiti was acquired from Cleveland in a trade for a player to be named later. Chiti proved so inept at handling pitchers and a baseball bat (he hit only .195) that he was sent back to Cleveland after 30 days—the first player in Major League history to be traded for himself.

Clarence “Choo Choo” Coleman served as Chiti’s replacement at catcher, and while he proved to be a marginal offensive improvement (Choo Choo hit .250 in 1962), he also struggled behind the plate, and according to baseball writer Roger Angell handled outside curves “like a man fighting bees.”

The manager was Hall of Famer Casey Stengel, but by 1962, Stengel was in his 70s and routinely fell asleep on the bench during games.

Outfielder Richie Ashburn was a bright spot; he led the team with a .306 average. Unfortunately, he was also 35 and retired at season’s end.

The Mets’ top three starters combined for a 26-63 record.

But of all the Mets’ players, perhaps no story better illustrates their hapless plight than that of shortstop Elio Chacón. An eager 25-year old from Venezuela, Chacón kept running into the outfield and knocking down center fielder Richie Ashburn as he was about to catch a fly ball.

Chacón didn’t speak any English, so fellow outfielder Joe Christopher explained to Ashburn that if he was going to catch a fly ball and saw Chacón coming out to get it, all he had to say was “¡Yo la tengo!” (“I’ve got it!”), and Chacón would pull up.

So Ashburn practiced the phrase and memorized it, and a game came along where a shallow fly ball was hit towards him. As Chacón came sprinting out, Ashburn shouted “¡Yo la tengo, yo la tengo!” and put his hands up to catch the ball—and was bowled over by Frank Thomas, his left fielder.

Stengel summed it all up this way, “Come and see my amazin’ Mets. I been in this game a hundred years, but I see new ways to lose I never knew existed before.”


Honorable Mention: The 1994-95 Happy Hollow Tomahawk 6th grade basketball team went 0-9 with two losses of at least 40 points. We had a chance at victory in the last game of the season, but I missed a layup as time expired. Oops.


Sources for this post include Baseball-Reference and Ken Burns’ Baseball.

2 comments:

Jared Dockery 5/22/07, 1:36 PM  

I'd like to point out that the coach of the Tomahawks was not nearly so senile as the Mets' coach was.

Luke 5/22/07, 2:34 PM  

At least, he wasn't then.

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