Learn about New York's fabled National League franchise with this brief history of the New York Mets.
When talking about New York, the New York Mets will inevitably come up. The New York Mets is a professional baseball team that plays in the Eastern Division of the National League of the Major League Baseball Association. As of 2009, the team will play at Citi Field in Queens, New York, but many will always feel the team's home is nearby Shea Stadium, closed and torn down in 2008.
Many Hall of Fame players have spent the best part of their careers with the New York Mets, helping them win two World Series Championships in their more than 40-year history. That history is rich with colorful and talented players, unexpected victories and an exciting brand of baseball.
The New York Mets franchise was born of the city's despair when the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants left the city for the West coast in 1957. New York fans could not imagine their city without a National League franchise. It took five years to return National League baseball to New York, and the fans warmly welcomed the Mets on opening day, April 13, 1962.
According to The Baseball Almanac, in its early years, the Mets was one of the worst teams in baseball's history. In 1962, with a team filled mostly with veteran players well past their glory days, the hapless Mets finished with a record of 40 wins and 120 losses. Seven losing seasons followed. Despite their dismal performance, the fan-proclaimed "lovable losers" were extremely popular. Colorful manager Casey Stengel and player-coach Yogi Berra were always quick with a witty quote, and the cadre of lovably inept ballplayers provided great entertainment, if not great baseball, for their fans.
Mets fans were rewarded with a World Championship team, dubbed the "Miracle Mets" in 1969. Led by a superb pitching staff anchored by future Hall of Fame pitchers Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver, along with the power-hitting Cleon Jones and Tommie Agee, the Mets finished their second half of the season winning 44 of their last 62 games, including a remarkable 17 shutout victories. Following a three-game sweep of the favored Atlanta Braves in the play-offs, the underdog Mets defeated the powerful Baltimore Orioles in five games to win the World Series title.
In 1973, the lackluster Mets were in last place at the end of August. They rallied to win 21 of their last 29 games to win the National League's Eastern Division championship. The Mets stunned the heavily favored Cincinnati Reds to win the National League pennant, only to lose to the Oakland A's in a close seven-game World Series. Manager Yogi Berra described his team's amazing comeback with one of his legendary sayings: "It ain't over till it's over."
"Ya Gotta Believe" became the Mets' slogan in this improbable championship year of 1973. Coined as a rallying cry by the eccentric left-handed reliever Tug McGraw, it is widely credited by loyal Mets fans as providing the magic that turned a last place team into a champion. "Ya Gotta Believe" sums up not only the amazing comeback season of 1973, but the whole spirit of New York Mets baseball. "Ya Gotta Believe" is now the trademarked slogan of the Tug McGraw Foundation, an organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for children and adults with brain tumors.
The Mets returned to glory in the 1980s with a stellar pitching staff led by Dwight Gooden and Ron Darling and powerhouse hitters Darryl Strawberry and Mookie Wilson. In 1986, the Mets won another miracle World Series championship against the favored Boston Red Sox. The Series is best known for the infamous and unlikely error by Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, which led the Mets to a surprising upset victory in Game Six. With the series tied at three games apiece, the Mets beat a demoralized Red Sox team in Game Seven to win the Series.
The Mets played in Shea Stadium until 2008. Originally named Flushing Meadows Stadium, the field was located in the borough of Queens, New York. The stadium was renamed Shea in honor of attorney William Shea, an instrumental figure in the arduous process of securing the Mets franchise. Shea stadium opened on April 17, 1964, after 29 months of construction. Workers were still painting fences and laying sod in the outfield as the players were taking batting practice on opening day.
Shea Stadium had five seating tiers to accommodate 55,601 fans. Shea was the first stadium built with an extensive network of 21 escalators and 24 ramps to provide easy access to seating. Shea stadium was also the first stadium to utilize motorized rotating stands to adapt seating for both football and baseball. Shea Stadium experienced very few changes to its basic structure over the years, and many fans considered it one of the most enjoyable places to watch a baseball game.
Shea stadium is scheduled to be dismantled upon completion of Citi Field, a new ballpark located in the parking lot behind the left field bleachers of Shea Stadium. According to the New York Mets, Citi Field is expected to open in April 2009.