Saturday, January 21, 2017

2017mfc•4-MH-0•METS FIRST WIN• Jay Hook

(Text originally published by the Daily News on Tuesday, April 24, 1962, written by Dick Young)

Pittsburgh, April 23 - The Mets had just won the first game of their young life tonight when Casey Stengel led them, with jaunty step, into the clubhouse and said, cavalierly, "Nutin' to it!" He was a new man; suddenly he was 72 years young. The cross had been lifted from the manager's back - the burden that had grown heavier and heavier, day by day, through the nine-game, record-tying getaway slump, until he thought it would never end.

Daily News front cover 4/24/62
THEN, SUDDENLY , all the pent up frustration in the Mets exploded in a burst of base hits and base-running - and they won, 9-1. What's more, they beat the unbeaten Bucs, who had rolled through 10 straight to tie a big league record of quick getaways.
(mfcNOTE:The Pirates would go on to beat the Mets 16 times during the 1962 season, tied with the L.A. Dodgers for most wins vs. New York)

The explosion came early: six runs in the first two frames. Never before had the Mets scored six runs in an entire contest. Never before, as they did in the second stanza, had they batted around during an inning. Never before, as they did to Tom Sturdivant this night, had they kayoed a pitcher.

ALL THIS they did, and there was laughter in the clubhouse and wisecracking usually seen only in winning clubhouses of World Series teams.

"Break up the Mets!" roared Joe Ginsberg - and they laughed.

A photog snapped a picture of winning pitcher Jay Hook. Stengel grinned and said: "If you want to get a good picture, follow us the next 26 days! We're going to win 26 straight!"

IT IS IRONIC that Hook should be the first winning Met pitcher; that he should be the first to go the distance. He was the young man who was pounded so mercilessly in exhibitions this spring, and who had wept from sheer shock after one such beating. Tonight, after holding the Bucs to five hits, he almost wept from joy. He giggled nervously as he spoke to the large knot of newsmen around his locker, and he couldn't think straight.

"I got through the seventh," he said, describing the mounting pressure, "and I said to myself, 'Well, that's only seven. I got three left.'"

A REPORTER stared at the man who holds a degree in mechanical engineering, and who is nearing his masters. "Seven and three is 10," said the newsman.

"I mean two," giggled Jay.

Daily News back cover 4/24/62
He had been helped by the big park. There were numerous Pitt shots that drove the outfielders to the walls; others, liners that hummed directly at infielders. Throughout the losing streak, Met pitchers had been tormented by pop flies dropping among torpid outfielders, and topped balls which infielders couldn't make plays on. Jay let them hit the ball hard enough to be caught - proving the value of a college education.
HOOK FONDLED the ball that had been hit on the ground for the last out - the historic out that clinched victory.

"Are you going to send the ball to Cooperstown?" said a newsman.

Again, the nervous giggle. "No," said Hook. "I'm going to give it to my dad for his office. He keeps them for me." The office of the senior Hook, a pharmacist, is in Grayslake (Pop: 3,000), Ill., Jay explained.

Over to the side, Stengel said: "That Chacon! He played like he owned Venezuela!"

Chacon had set the pattern for the Mets' audacious base-running during the decisive first two frames. He and his roomie, Felix Mantilla. They got on, tagged up, and they ran. Five men, in the first two frames, advanced on fly balls as the exhilarated Mets played Stengel's favorite, entitled: "Run, Sheep, Run!"

MANTILLA OPENED with a hit and buzzed to second as Virdon momentarily bobbled the ball in left-center. Chacon followed with a bloop single to center, putting Felix on third. With Bell up, one of Sturdivant's knucklers danced, half-blocked, past the catcher, and Chacon dashed to second. The wild pitch was too short for Mantilla to move, but when Bell lined out to left, Felix tagged and scored - and Chacon tagged and moved to third. Then Thomas flied out to left, and Chacon tagged and scored.

NEXT STANZA was the Mets' supreme moment. They batted around. They kayoed Sturdy. They built up a 6-0 bulge. They were the Yankees and the Gashouse Cards, all at once. Neal started it with a double to right-center. Then Hickman walked and Cannizzaro walked - and Sturdivant took a walk, mumbling at the plate ump as he departed.

Hook, a righty pitcher who bats lefty, smacked reliever Diomedes Olivio, a southpaw, for a two-run single to right-center - perhaps the most important hit of the game. Mantilla flied out to center, and Cannizzaro tagged and scored. Hook, who had taken second when his hit was thrown to the plate, tagged and went to third.

CHACON SINGLED to right-center, scoring Hook, and Bell followed with a bloop hit that sent Chalky to third. Then Bell, swept up by the tempo of the game, tried a delayed steal of second - and was out from here to Christmas.

Illustration by Charlie McGill

That was just about the ball game. It was 6-0, and all Hook had to do was hang on. It was the most pressurized big lead in history. The kid kept thinking about the first win, about the horrible spring, about his momentary wildness in the sixth, when the Pitts scored their run on two singles and a groundout.

Geegee Smith, lol.

BY THEN the lead was 7-0, and Hook had scored that extra run after getting on via Groat's throwing error. The wrap up two, in the eighth, off Jack LaMabe of Farmington, L. I., resulted from Geegee Smith's triple, delivering Mantilla and Chacon. Mantilla had stroked his third hit. Chacon, who already had three hits, had walked.

That's the way it happened. You'll just have to believe it, because it wasn't on TV. Imagine, the first Met victory - and the first game not televised. Somebody goofed.


The following excerpt is by Robert Lipsyte, former N.Y. Times sports journalist.
Pitcher Jay Hook told me he expected to do well with the Mets because he would finally have a chance to play. The previous season, his last with Cincinnati, he caught the mumps and mononucleosis and sat out the pennant drive and a World Series loss to the Yankees.

This time, Hook got his playing time. He started and lost the Mets’ first spring training game, at Al Lang Field against the St. Louis Cardinals. He pitched three seasons for the Mets, failing in his childhood dream of being a 20-game winner (he lost 19 in his first season as the Mets lost 120), but he got credit for the team’s first victory (in its 10th game).

Hook and his wife, Joan, had decided to get out of baseball in 1964.

“I was 28, an average player, and our oldest was just starting school, so the family wouldn’t be able to travel with me,” he said. “Also, we didn’t make the kind of money current players do, so I thought I better start a career in business. It was the right decision.”

Hook, who had worked on his master’s degree in thermodynamics as a Met, was remembered for explaining Bernoulli’s Law, which describes how planes stay aloft and baseballs curve. When the diagrams he drew appeared in The New York Times, Stengel said, “If Hook could only do what he knows.”

“I’ve dined off that line for years,” Hook said recently. “It has great business implications. But the biggest thing I learned from Casey that spring was to always take care of my customers. I watched the way Casey kept you sportswriters entertained so you would write about the team for his customers, the fans.”

Hook took care of his customers. After Chrysler, he rose to senior management positions at Rockwell International and Masco before retiring to become a professor in Northwestern’s M.B.A. program. He always played down his baseball career. He thought it would distract people from teaching him what they knew.

It was only recently, after retiring from academia, that he began reaching out to those who remembered him as a Met. When he asked me six years ago for a copy of his Bernoulli’s Law story, he said that he didn’t want his 13 grandchildren to think he was merely a science geek.

Last month, in New York, with the former Mets teammates Al Jackson and Frank Thomas, Hook attended the Baseball Writers Association of America dinner as part of a Mets 50th anniversary celebration.
 He got a big laugh recounting Stengel’s response to Bernoulli’s Law. Hook also went to several card shows and awards lunches. He sounded excited to have met the Tigers’ ace, Justin Verlander, and to have talked baseball with Joe Girardi, Don Newcombe and Tommy Davis. He felt reconnected to the game, now and 50 years ago, a prospect again on a brand-new team.

“I’d forgotten what a good time I had,” he said. “Casey was so terrific, he used to play with my kids. The fans and sportswriters were nice. Maybe I’m just getting to the age when the past means more, but I remembered what fun it was being there.”

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