Monday, October 7, 2013

1968 Mets Fantazy Card Opening Day Line-up

The Mets had never won on Opening Day coming into 1968, but this time it looked like they would break the streak.
They jumped out to a 4-0 lead against Juan Marichal, something that seemed impossible given Marichal's dominance over the Mets through the years.

Tommie Agee singled with two outs in the first and stole second, and Ron Swoboada drove him in with a single. Next time up in the third, Swoboda hit a three-run homer and the Mets had a four run lead with Tom Seaver on the mound.

The Giants got an unearned run back in the bottom of the third on a single and two Met errors. Willie McCovey homered leading off the seventh but Tom was still in control, having allowed just three hits through eight innings.

The Mets still led 4-2 in the bottom of the ninth. Willie Mays led off with a single and after McCovey popped out, a passed ball and a Jim Ray Hart single made it 4-3. Gil Hodges went to Danny Frisella but Danny couldn't get an out. Nate Oliver singled to put the tying run in scoring position and the winning run on base, and then Jesus Alou doubled to left bringing in the tying and the winning runs.

The season was supposed to open on Tuesday the 9th but Martin Luther King had been assassinated. The reason I remember this game is because it was Gil Hodges' first game as manager. Seaver started against Marichal who the Mets never could get a loud foul off, and they knocked him out but the late Danny Frisella blew it in relief.

OUCH! That was a tough loss. On with the line-up:

Leading off to start the 1968 season for the New York Metropolitans is the shortstop, Derrel McKinley Harrelson. We know him better as Buddy. 

Harrelson led off for the Mets 123 times in 1967. He still was the primary leadoff man in '68 (71 games) sharing the spot mostly with Tommie Agee (33 games). Harrelson made a decent lead off hitter. He was fast, made contact, good bunter, and he could steal a base. If he could just have gotten his batting average up to .270+ he may have been a lead off hitter his whole time for the Mets. The best his bat could produce was .254 in '67. He tailed off in '68 batting only .219 in 111 games. As the Mets options expanded Buddy eventually found himself batting 8th, 7th, or 2nd, to which he seemed more suited.

Batting second and playing second is Ken Boswell. Ken made his MLB debut in September of 1967 for New York. He played 11 games. Now at the start of '68 the rookie Boswell will split time with Phil Linz at second. He will play second base for 69 games (Linz played 70). Bozz batted .261. Kenny was a right handed fielder and a left handed batter. A nice thing to have in a second baseman.
Boswell went 2 for 4 with a run scored this opening day game.

In the third slot is centerfielder Tommie Agee, acquired from the Chicago Whitesox after the 1967 season. This was the season Tommie was plunked by Gibson in spring training and spent much of the season in a funk. Gil tried him batting 3rd only nine times. His slump got so bad that by the end of the season he found himself batting 7th and 8th a total of 46 times. As stated above he did bat lead off 33 times in 1968.
In 4 at bats this opening day of '68 Tommie had 2 hits, scored 2 runs, and stole a base.

Batting clean up is the right fielder Ron Swoboda. Swoboda was falling into place as part of a platoon set up with Art Shamsky in right. Big bad Ron had a great opening day game. He singled in Agee in the 1st and smacked a 3 run homer in the third.

Ed Kranepool will man first base and bat 5th. Ed had a horrible year at the plate in 1968, batting .231 with 3 home runs in 127 games. That's a far cry from leading the team in 1966 with 16 taters.

Batting sixth and playing left field is Art Shamsky. From Wikipedia:
Shamsky was traded to the New York Mets for Bob Johnson before the 1968 season. Originally he was unhappy with being traded to the Mets, as New York City "was really big. It was kind of intimidating." Eventually he "fell in love with the energy, got to know the city a bit. My life changed." He became a favorite of Jewish fans in New York.

The catcher J.C. Martin will be batting 7th. Martin arrived though the trade that sent Ken Boyer and Sandy Alomar to the Chi-Sox. Quick quiz: Can you name the other player the Mets got in that transaction? You'll find the answer on another page around here somewhere. I apologize for using this photograph only showing J.C.'s back, but good quality pictures are hard to find sometimes.

Batting eighth is the third baseman Ed Charles. Charles came over from the Kansas City A's for Larry Elliot and $50,000 early in the 1967 season. Ed would lead the team in long balls for the '68 season with 15. He had the bulk of third base work at 109 games.

And batting 9th, all-star pitcher Tom Seaver. The Mets finally had a real ace just approaching his prime in George Thomas Seaver. In 1968 he would win 16 games and record over 200 strikeouts for the first of nine consecutive seasons.


I should make available the colorizations and photoshops done for this entire project (not just this page) so others can make use of them.

This is a colorization of an Ed Charles picture from the team promotion set.

The Seaver is a combination photoshop of an image of him at spring training and a backround shot of the stands at Shea. The backround from Seaver's card was from  Baseball Fever.

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