Starting Fresh: The Expansion of 1962
In part two of my six part series on major league expansion drafts, I examine the second expansion draft in major league history, the 1962 expansion draft for the newest members of the National League, the Houston Colt .45s and the New York Mets.
The rules were similar to the American Leagueâ€™s expansion draft the previous year. After the first two players were taken at $75,000 apiece and the third at $50,000, the existing teams had to take two more players on top of the original seven, and they were valued at $125,000 each (the expansion teams were not required to draft these players.)
THE FIRST PICKS
The Colt .45s had the first pick in the draft and selected San Francisco shortstop Eddie Bressoud. Bressoud was traded to Boston before he ever played game in a Houston uniform for fellow shortstop Don Buddin. Buddin played 40 games for Houston and batted a mere .163 before being traded to Detroit for cash. Buddin retired following the 1962 season.
The Mets took a Giant as well, veteran catcher Hobie Landrith. Landrith didnâ€™t last too long with the Mets either, getting dealt to Baltimore in June to complete a trade in which the Mets acquired Marv Throneberry. Houston took Bob Aspromonte with the third overall pick and he would be their starting third baseman for seven consecutive years. The Mets then selected infielder Elio Chacon, who lasted one season in the majors and will most likely be remembered for engaging Willie Mays in a fight.
Houston took shortstop Bob Lillis next.Â He played in Houston for the next six seasons and also served as the Astros’ manager between 1982-1985. With the sixth pick, the Mets took Roger Craig, who won three World Series with the Dodgers in the â€˜50s. Craig lost 20 games in both of his two seasons with the Mets before being let go.
IMMEDIATE CONTRIBUTORS (1962 SEASON)
Reggie Mejias, Houstonâ€™s sixth selection, led the Colt .45s in most offensive categories. In his first season as a starter, Mejias posted a line of .286-24-76, leading the team in those three statistical groups. Al Spangler, a premium selection from Milwaukee, posted a .285 average for Houston. Aspromonte was the only other expansion pick who was a consistent offensive contributor.
The rotation workhorse was former Dodger Turk Farrell. Despite losing twenty games, Farrell was an all-star, posting a respectable 3.02 ERA in over 240 innings. Farrell appeared in two more all-star games in his six seasons in Houston. Ken Johnson was the only other starter who had a sub-4 ERA. The Colts 15th pick, Johnson is the only pitcher to lose a game despite throwing a no-hitter, doing so while with Houston in 1964.
The Metsâ€™ offense was putrid outside of outfielder Frank Thomas, who was acquired via trade, and former Phillies great Richie Ashburn, who posted a .308 batting average. Second baseman Felix Mantilla, their sixth pick from Milwaukee, was probably the best offensive player acquired in the draft with a line of .275-11-59.
Craig wasnâ€™t the only twenty-game loser on the Mets staff. Ex-Pirate Al Jackson, the 11th selection, finished 8-20, despite being a reliable rotation workhorse. Jay Hook, who was the winning pitcher in the Mets’ first win in franchise history, threw over 200 innings that season and was one loss away from making the twenty-game loss duo a trio, going 8-19. The records werenâ€™t entirely the pitchers’ fault as the Mets scored only 3.83 runs per game.
The Mets took 8-time National League all-star Gil Hodges in the draft, making Hodges one of the better players, if not the best, ever to be moved in an expansion draft. While Hodges played in only 65 games over parts of two seasons with the Mets, his legacy with the organization will likely be as the manager of the 1969 â€˜Miracle Metsâ€™ who went on to become world champions. Another future manager and all-star at the tail end of his career, Don Zimmer, was drafted by New York as well.
While neither team really picked any future stars, other interesting players were chosen. Joe Christopher, a draft pick from Pittsburgh, was the first native of the United States Virgin Islands to ever play in the major leagues (However, ex-big leaguer Valmy Thomas was raised in the Virgin Islands and really was the Virgin Islandsâ€™ first homegrown player. He was born in Puerto Rico only because his mother sought better medical attention for her son.)
Also, pitcher Bobby Shantz became the first player to be picked in two expansion drafts. Washington selected Shantz the year before in the American League expansion draft of 1961 and, this time around, Shantz was taken by Houston.
The Mets were absolutely putrid. The team lost their first nine games and would end the season with 120 losses altogether, setting records for ineptitude along the way. The club lost 100 games in five of their first six seasons before Hodges took control of the team. The club posted its best record in 1968, Hodges’ first season at helm, at 73-89. In 1969, New York shocked the baseball world by defeating the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles in five games to win the World Series.
Houston went 64-96 in 1962 and definitely had a better team then the â€™62 Mets. While their records were an indication of who had a stronger club, the head-to-head match up was as well, with the Colt .45s winning 13 of the 16 meetings between the National Leagues’ two newest additions, while outscoring New York 90-62 in their games. Turk Farrell was the only NL all-star in a Houston uniform in the 1962 midsummer classic.
1963 SPECIAL DRAFT
Due to the Mets’ and Colts’ lack of competitiveness after two seasons, another draft was held for the teams. The other existing National League clubs made four players from their 40-man roster available at $30,000 apiece and only eight players could be selected between the two clubs.
Only two players were drafted; the Mets took pitcher Jack Fisher and Houston took pitcher Claude Raymond. Raymond is well remembered by Montreal Expos fans. On top of being a Quebec native and finishing his career with the Expos, Raymond was the French color broadcaster for Expos games for almost 29 years and was a coach on the Expos for their final three seasons from 2002 to 2004.
“They have shown me ways to lose I never knew existed.” – Casey Stengel on the 1962 Mets.