50 Years Later, Remembering The Mets' Hopeful, Awful Inaugural Spring Training

The great Robert Lipsyte has a story in today's New York Times remembering the Mets' first spring training, in 1962. Those Mets, as strange as it is to comprehend, were far more hapless than modern iterations—they went 40-120 and inspired a book called Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?—and as such yielded great stories, even in the spring.

Lipsyte brings us stories of Rodgers Hornsby, hitting and life coach:

By night, when I wasn't at Stengel's elbow, I'd be in the hotel lobby with Hornsby. Lobby sitting was his hobby, according to The Baseball Register. Sitting tall, his double-breasted suit open to starched white shirt and tie, his icy little eyes, supposedly the sharpest in the game, missing nothing. He'd see two young women trolling the lobby and mutter to the players around us, "Try not to go for bad balls."

He was a font of personal advice couched in ballspeak. He was big on getting a good night's sleep. "If I don't get the pitch I want between 7 p.m. and midnight," he would say, "forget it. I'll always get another chance to go to bat."

We get Casey Stengel stories:

Once, while I was talking to Stengel, a middle-aged man approached, dragging a sullen teenager. This was clearly a troubled son and dad. The man claimed to have played for Stengel years ago in the minors. Stengel took his time, regaled them with tales of the father's prowess and promised the kid a Mets contract if he got as good as his old man. As they left with arms around each other, Stengel rolled his eyes at me and shrugged. He had no memory of the man.

There are also many stories about skinny-tie-wearing ad men who hung around the team, offering players a pittance to shill for various now-apocryphal products—Viceroy Cigarettes, Bromo-Seltzer—and these stories are more interesting and evocative than the ones you find on that TV show with the dude who's always on SNL.

Plus, Stengel paraded his two worst rookies before the media and anointed them the faces of the franchise a few days before they were cut. Which is to say: LOLMets has a long, storied history.

Spring of '62: Revisiting the Dawn of the Mets [NY Times]